Wednesday, October 30, 2013



             Deer Haven Rescue                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

              When a Paradise Valley highway led us here I was sure these horses had to be owned by a Hollywood Star.  They are legion in Montana--Bill Pullman, Kevin Spacey, Jane Fonda, Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, to name a few.   If not someone among the rich glitterati, then at the least some cowboy breeder of million-dollar Quarter Horses.  Please remember that it's hard to shake years of metro west Boston's real estate prices out of my head.  When I returned to Massachusetts, I hopped on the Internet and learned that the animals at Deer Haven Farm are not equine superstars, and that their owners are neither Hollywood Walk-Of-Famers nor prosperous Montanans.  In fact, the horses in the photo above are rescues, and their owners a warmhearted couple from the northeast.  In a former life Al Feldstein was editor of Mad Magazine for thirty-five years, and Michelle was a race car driver and hospital administrator.

       Deer Haven is a retirement home but not just for horses.  A variety of elderly or injured animals otherwise sent to slaughter have found refuge there.  And from what I read, the level of care the residents enjoy is superior to some of the places our human seniors find themselves.  Michelle kindly gave me permission to write about her farm and provided an update on the current rescue population.  Deer Haven is home to ninety-three horses, five of whom are blind; eight donkeys; twenty llamas; four alpacas; fifteen sheep; twenty-three goats; three flightless ducks; thirty dogs; and thirty cats.  The Feldsteins foot what must be an astronomical bill themselves.  They also rent out a guest house on the property.   The  money from this enterprise helps defray costs, as do Al's lovely paintings.  Michelle has invited me for a tour, so on my next visit to Big Sky that guest house is where I'm hoping to hang my hat.

         I can't resist relaying a touching Deer Haven story.  Blind, fifteen-year-old mare Sissy and friends, five goats and five sheep, arrived when the rescue where they'd previously been went under.
Sadly, in these recent, tough economic times this has been the case with many rescues, equine and others.  When the animals were turned out in a pasture, the Feldsteins witnessed something extraordinary.  Animals we normally associate being shepherded--the goats and sheep--became shepherds.  They placed themselves in full charge of Sissy, directed her to hay and water, and angled her into her run-in shelter when the weather turned bad.  One could argue, I think, that these ruminants were morally superior to human shepherds:  they had neither profit nor meat consumption as the motive for their care. 

      Please check the sources and websites listed at the end of this entry to learn more about Deer Haven and to view Al Feldsteins's  paintings.

               Deer Haven                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Space in Montana?
Just Ask This Bozeman Gentleman

    Jim, Kezia, Alec, Loren and Evelyn Acton                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Pictured from left to right are my husband Jim, Kezia, my son Alec's stunning lady friend, Alec, and Loren and Evelyn Acton.  How did Jim and I come to find ourselves at the home of this wonderful couple?  The answer is in the center--our son Alec, who, as I mentioned, is studying for his doctorate in solar physics at Montana State University (MSU).  

       Loren Acton is a solar physicist who, in addition to being a revered member of the MSU faculty emeritus (and who helped found the solar physics program), is a former NASA astronaut.  He flew as a payload specialist in Spacelab 2--housed in the Shuttle spacecraft--in 1978 and 1985.  Dr. Acton's work involved observing and analyzing our nearest star, the Sun, as well as other celestial objects.  (I really want to say "beings" rather than "objects" but then you might think NASA had gone over to Age of Aquarius, which would be highly misleading.)    

        In just under eight days--both trips included--Dr. Acton orbited the earth one hundred and twenty-six times.  It took nearly twice that time for the Yugoslav freighter I booked passage on in 1974 to travel from Yokohama, Japan, to Vancouver, British Columbia!  (Well, to be fair, our freighter Korotan's progress had been impeded by the crew whose May Day celebrations devolved into what Russia's President Putin would call hooliganism.  (We were somewhere just south of the Aleutian Islands.) 

        We remember where we were on important, often traumatic, dates.  When John F. Kennedy was shot, I was in my ninth-grade Earth Science class.  When the infamous New York blackout occurred, I was in New York cantering a horse in a lighted outdoor arena that suddenly went dark.  The day the Challenger shuttle went down, I was drafting a political scenario for a war game at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.  Dr. Acton, who had traveled on that same shuttle just months earlier, stood on a stage in front seven hundred students in the auditorium of a Wyoming middle school, just about to give his talk on what being an astronaut is all about, when a member of the faculty whispered in his ear that Challenger had just exploded.  

       Both Montana natives, the Actons are very involved with church, community, and local schools.  Their daily life, their house and surrounding land, are living testaments to that fact.  The interior of their house is home to a marvelous collection of bird art--paintings, photographs, and carvings.  Over coffee and a delicious home-backed plum cake, I asked Evelyn if she'd  ever seen a mountain lion.

       "Why yes," she said, pointing through one of the large-paned windows, "Just last week I saw one chase a fox into that draw."  

        For those of you who didn't grow up reading Zane Grey--my brothers did but I didn't--nor watching Roy Rogers--my brothers didn't but I did--a "draw" is a small ravine or gully.  Though I harbor twin sympathies for both predators and prey animals, in this case they tipped in favor of the fox.  I was relieved to hear from Evelyn that he'd gotten away, and I hoped that the hungry cougar soon happened upon a deer, preferably one already dead. 

      The Actons also mentioned the church to which they belong.  I wondered what they, a couple of both faith and science, thought about creationism.   We were soon expected in the nearby town of Livingston, so there was no time for that of discussion.

        On our return home, however, I once again turned to the internet.  Here is a YouTube of Loren Acton speaking on evolution and God.  In addition to commenting on creationism, he proves that Joni Mitchell is correct when she asserts in her song Woodstock:

       "We are stardust, we are golden"


The Bozeman Symphony

         Much our time in Montana was  spent in the company of our son's friend Kezia, beautiful in all sorts of ways.  For one thing she is a talented bassist in the Bozeman and other Montana symphony orchestras.  Jim and I attended a performance of the Bozeman Symphony, truly extraordinary, especially for a city that size.  The program featured works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and a composer I'd not known, Tomas Svoboda, a Czech-American born in 1936.  The orchestra played his Overture of the Season, opus 89.  I was transported!  I'd hoped to find at least a sample of it on YouTube so you could hear it too, but sorry to say, I couldn't find it, not even on iTunes, though iTunes has other music by him.  But if you get a chance to hear it I hope you will enjoy the rhythmical rounds of  chimes, cymbals, strings, woodwinds, and tympani as much as I did.
        Sadly, I just learned that Mr. Svoboda suffered a stroke in December 2012.  His right leg and arm remain paralyzed, his speech impaired, and he has difficulty remembering the compositions he wrote.  However, on a recent visit, a friend noticed Mr. Svovoda moving the fingers of his left hand along a coverlet, not feebly picking at it but as if playing the piano.  
        "What are you doing?" asked  the friend. 
        "I'm hearing music," he replied slowly.
        "What kind of music?" asked the friend.
        "My next composition," he replied. 

         I very much want to hear it.

Of Wolves and Wasps

       Citing decreasing numbers of elk as well as threats to humans and livestock, Montana has increased the length of wolf hunting season.  The number of wolves hunters are permitted to "harvest" -- a disgusting word, I think -- has been increased to five.  And the permit fee has been lowered to fifteen dollars.  Trap lines may now be set for a period of two and a half months.  If a hunter sets five traps he could possibly get five wolves in one day.  As I said in an earlier blog (, traps are often preferred to guns in order to keep the pelt undamaged.  If the wolf is still alive, the preferred method of kill is simply to bash his head in.  You and he might get a little messy, but the the blood can be rinsed off later.  

       Hunters are now permitted to use electronic calls to summon wolves by mimicking the call of a lonely wolf, a wolf in distress, or wolf pups in distress.  They are all odious, and I hate to imagine how the devices that carry recorded calls of live wolves may have been made.   The worst of the worst would be if captured pups were hurt in any way to make a recording of them in distress. 

       Wolf packs love their pups.   The entire pack helps in the raising of them so an entire pack may come running if it hears pups in distress.  Coyotes don't form packs but live in family groups and will likewise respond to the distress call of one of their pups.  .  This is not fair chase but a disgusting means of seduction.

       There are a number of pro-wolf individuals who take to the woods in order to prevent this carnage.  They follow hunters' tracks in the snow, sound horns, and set off any traps they find.   They also undertake the dangerous job of freeing wolves who are still alive from their traps.   There is a pamphlet which details this on the Internet, and it's listed in the sources at the end of this entry.

       While we were in Livingston, Kez took us into a shop where wolf skins hung in the corner.  They were, indeed, beautiful, but as I stroked the fur, I could only imagine how magnificent the original wearer had been.   Prices ranged from three to six hundred dollars.

     It's interesting to note that in the past year wasps and bees have caused fifty-three human deaths in the United States.   Wolves, many of whom are being actively pursued by hunters with guns or bows, not one.

A Walk Where the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and the  Chippewa Roamed

    Former Native American Lands                                         Ainslie  Sheridan copyright 2013

                       Kezia                                 Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013 

       Here again and up close is beautiful Kezia whose high cheekbones reflect those of some of her ancestors--the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and ChippewasA lover of animals both wild and domestic, Kez vigorously opposes the hunting of wolves.  

       She has also taken our son Alec's Staffordshire terrier Digby into her heart as has her own dog Max:

           Digby and Max      Alec Engell/Kezia Vernon copyright 2013

                     Alec and Digby                                       Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013


          A Thousand Pound Pit Bull?!

    Digby has spotted a herd of Black Angus and doesn't know what to make of them.  They are rather on the large size to be a 
fellow Staffie.   But he's determined to meet one:  Alec picks him up so that Digby doesn't put a strain on his leash:

    Alec and Digby                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

        Then Dibgy is laid down and encouraged to relax:
      Laying on of the hands                                                              Ainslie  Sheridan copyright 2013

       Reassured and told all is well:

                   A Loving Hand                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Montana and Pit Bulls
       Engaging in pit bull fighting with dogs that you own or harbor or maintaining a kennel for the purpose of engaging in such activity is a felony offense in all fifty states.  Attending a pit bull fight is a crime in every state except Montana and Hawaii.  There have been attempts to make spectating illegal, but to date all legislation has failed to pass.  There is a strong contingent working to bring Montana in line with the other forty-eight states, and I hope it happens soon.  It will not eliminate dog fighting--it hasn't anywhere else--but it will reduce attendance and betting.  I find it odd, don't you, that when police in Montana raid a fight there is usually no one who admits to owning a single pit bull on the premises.  Hmmm, I know.  These dogs so love to fight that the Montana pit bull population has developed the ability to communicate state-wide telepathically.  They send around an extra-sensory invite to each other, directions included, and call upon St. Francis, patron saint of animals, to let slip the battleship chains from their necks, so that they may become the dogs of war that they are dying--literally--to be.

      By the way, this week I will release a short entry with an update on Quarterback Michael Vick, who now legally may own a dog.
And he does.  He just bought a female puppy named Angel.  (She'll need to be one!)  Details soon.

Fall At Windflower

       Yes, autumn has arrived and, while some of the colored leaves still cling to branches, most have fallen and are doing a good job  insulating my rye grass seeds against frost.  Others have already turned into dessicated skeletons skidding and rattling along roads and pavement.  It was a pretty fall, and the red, yellow, and orange leaves, despite the winds, lasted longer than usual.  The horses detect the seasonal change in the lengthening of shadows, the chill in the air,  and the absence of flies and mosquitoes.  The horses are more energetic than usual, and I need to take care that they're well warmed up before we head out on the trails.

       Here are some pictures taken this past week here at Windflower which I hope you will like:

                    Firefly at Windflower                                            Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Firefly                                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

              Firefly                                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 213

            Elementa and Firefly                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

      Elementa                                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013   

         Dolly at Sunset                                                                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

    Dolly's Trot                                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

    Dolly                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013                        

                    Dolly                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

                       Dolly  Nagog Pond                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

          Firefly at Sunset                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Here's to a beautiful fall and, hopefully, a moderate winter.

       See you soon and thank you for reading The Windflower       

                    --- Ainslie 

Links you may find interesting or helpful 

To view wolf hunt sabotage pdf please google:  "The Earth First Wolf Hunt Sabotage Manual"












Saturday, October 12, 2013



  Paradise Valley                                                             Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

        Stunning, isn't it?  Just a couple of weeks ago, Jim and I flew to Bozeman, Montana, to see our son, Alec a graduate student in solar physics at Montana State University.   It was my second trip to a place whose mountains surely must have inspired the lyrics, "For purple mountain majesties--"  Well, not quite:  it was Colorado's Pikes Peak that sparked Wellesley professor Katharine Lee Bates when she penned America The Beautiful.  But what the hey?  Montana's Granite Peak and Pikes Peak are part of that same range, the magnificent Rocky Mountains.   While Bozeman is one of the world's premier places to study solar physics (MSU), it is also the premier place to view multiple mountain ranges--the Gallatins, Bitterroot, Tobacco Root, and the Absaroka, to name some.

Paradise Found

    Alec and Kezia took Jim and me on drive through Paradise Valley.   This gorgeous place was forged by tectonic plates and made habitable by the Yellowstone river.  And then there were horses, too!

                           Quarter Horses                                                       Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

    Deer Haven Ranch                                                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

     Deer Haven Palomino                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

                                                                                                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013                                   

         I couldn't imagine a place I'd rather be.  Isn't that just how you should feel when you've entered Paradise?  

      A number of ranches had various livestock--horses, cattle, llamas, and flocks of sheep with one or two donkeys standing sentry duty against any lamb-loving predators.

                    Herd Along Road                                 Ainslie  Sheridan copyright 2013

                        Palomino/Grey Quarter Horses                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Cattle Drive

        We had an actual destination on this remarkable drive, Chico Hot Springs, but just before we got there we were halted in our tire tracks by this:

   Moving Cattle                                                                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

      A cattle drive!  Not one that goes on for miles but something like the real thing.  These cattle were probably just changing pastures yet it was exciting to me.  This was the first time I'd seen a border collie working cattle.  The dog clearly loved his work, and was he trained!  He responded like lightning to the various whistles the cowboy and cowgirl made.  I jumped out of the car camera in hand:

     Border Collie and Cattle                                                                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013


     Working the cattle                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

         Herding through the gate                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013


And there was time for a pat:

      A Cowboy And His Dog                                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Chico Hot Springs 

       Back in the car we drove the short distance to Chico.  Dating back to the 1860s, its clients were primarily miners who came to soothe their aching bones.  I grabbed a brochure at the front desk of the lodge.  The first sentence introducing their hot springs read: "Chico Hot Springs would not be Chico Hot Springs without our natural hot springs pool."  The multiple uses of the phrase "hot springs" must be for emphasis.                                                 
       But now Chico hosts bathers from near and far, and from all walks of life.  Many stay overnight in the lodge, conveniently located a short thirty miles from Yellowstone National Park.  Of course, no one at the resort would be contemplating a trip there at the time of this writing.  As this blog goes out, all national parks are closed due to the government shut-down.  Congress floated a proposal that would allow state governments to open national parks within their borders if they picked up the tab.  Wyoming and Montana governors said no way, so Yellowstone is as it once was, a place for creatures great and small, but not people.

       To get to the hot springs pool we had to pass through the luncheon grille restaurant and the "The Cavity Cave," a shop  that offers all sorts of toothsome treats.  We were going to one of Kez's favorite local restaurants after our soak, so I remained strong.  We changed into our bathing suits and immersed ourselves in the comforting warmth of Mother Earth's many huge hot springs.  The water was 96 degrees (35.5C).  Though, as a child, I did all my swimming at New York's Jones Beach, a tour of duty in Hawaii wrecked any tolerance I have for water under 76F (24C).  So, this was great, but what was even greater was the neighboring smaller pool fed by a different spring.   That was 106F (41C).  

       Hot springs have long been thought to be therapeutic but there is no scientific evidence that this is the case.  Nevertheless, Chico sure made us feel better.  These pools are open all year round, and I would love to soak during a snowfall.  I had this pleasure once with Alec and Jim in Stowe, Vermont, but the pool was artificially heated so there was an incredibly high energy cost to seeing those great white flakes disappear into the chlorinated and tolerably warm water.  A soak in Chico's springs was guilt-free--and warmer!  

       Chico's offering didn't stop with its hot springs.  In winter you can go dog-sledding, in summer rafting or  horseback riding.  Before we left Kez and I took a peek at the stables.  What we saw was in sharp contrast to the happy horses in their Paradise Valley pastures and the two horses working cattle:

      Some of these animals were standing on gravel, pieces of which can get wedged between a horse's hoof and its show.  Other horses stood on what surely had to be several months of accumulated manure.  That needed to be front-loaded out of there and replaced with sand for health and comfort.  A number of horses had hooves that cried out for a farrier.

              Chico Appaloosa                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

         I left a note about the conditions at the front desk.  I later learned that the stable and its horses had been bought recently by a young couple.  Perhaps they are in the process of improving conditions.  I hope so.

       While at the front desk I noticed Chico Hot Springs shares a zip code with a nearby town called Pray.  A name like that begs to be Googled.  This is what I found out.  Pray (pop. 681) wasn't named so because its citizens had prayed to ward off some disaster, nor were they particularly reverent.  Pray was named in the early twentieth century after Judge Nelson Pray.  Why?  The enterprising townsfolk knew Mr. Pray was in charge of approving new post offices.  In the early 20th century people living in the vicinity wanted to cash in on the increased tourism in nearby Yellowstone.  Unfortunately, a bigger, more direct road was built to the Park and Pray fell upon hard times.  However, it is the continued political connections of Pray that have allowed the town to maintain its post office and zip code despite its economic decline.  Additionally, I was told that Montana politicians don't want to deprive a town called Pray of its earthly communication.

       Here's another little piece of news I learned about five-acre Pray.  It will be auctioned off with a starting price 1.4 million dollars.  The current owner Barbara Walker is weary of wearing so many hats--postmistress, mayor, landlord, garbage collector, and dog catcher.  There is a general store, a small trailer park, and, of course, the post office.  She's hoping to take her money and start a billiard school in Bozeman.  

Off To Lunch

           The Old Saloon                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

           Here you see Kez chatting with some Old Saloon regulars. 

        "You picked a very bad time to come in here."  Wrestling a strand of Halloween lights was obviously taxing this lone employee's patience, not to mention his maitre d' skills.   One reason Kez chose this place was the woman who usually ran it, but she was not there that day.  Oh well, the hamburgers were delicious, and Kez thoughtfully punched in a Joni Mitchell tune for me on the jukebox.  This large, mounted square of blue and green light coupled with its digital keyboard was so incredibly different from the jukebox my brothers and I regularly played at a general store in the town of Ronkonkoma on Long Island.  My father always stopped there on our way back from swimming at either Montauk or one of the Hamptons.  We got three plays for a quarter and it was pure magic to see the little metal lasso travel down the line of forty fives and select the correct one.  I could even hear the sound of the vinyl record, by then out of sight, when it dropped onto the turntable.  "Travelin' Man", "Telstar," and "Blue Moon" were our favorites.  The jukebox in the Old Saloon--built over a hundred years ago--sported an advanced computer touchscreen a yard or more high and at least two feet across. 

       By the way, do you know who put the "juke" in jukebox?  No one is exactly sure, but the word "juke" or "joog" itself comes from the Gullah language.  So who are the Gullahs?  They're descendants of African slaves who inhabit some of the coastal plains and islands of Georgia and South Carolina.  And the Gullah language?  It is English-based but with many African words, sentence structure, and grammar.  The word "juke" in Gullah means disorderly, rowdy or wicked.  That, doubtless, was the attitude of the older set when jukeboxes made their debut in the 1940's.

       For your listening pleasure here is a YouTube I found of a lady  from South Carolina speaking in Gullah: 

       If any of you understood any of this, hats off to you!  And please send the translation.  I could only understand the odd word.

       Meanwhile, back to Montana, where deer, buffalo, and so many other creatures roam.  Here's a little humor that was hanging on the wall of the Old Saloon.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out what part of a poor elks's anatomy this crazy critter is:  

                                                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       At the Old Saloon they haven't yet got word regarding gender equality for humans or horses.  The following sign directs one to open the appropriate toilet door:

                                                                                                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

                                                         Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

           In addition to burgers, fries, fish, and deserts, the menu also offered a "Filly Cheese Steak Sandwich."  All words that begin with the letters "Ph" are Greek in origin.  "F" words--and here I mean all common "F" words--are Latin in origin.  Of course, they both sound the same, and of course, the Old Saloon is really referring to the Philly Steak Sandwich.  At least, I hope it is, or I'm calling the Montana Humane Society.

       The next entry will continue with our Montana sojourn and include a visit with a former astronaut, a beautiful bass player playing in a captivating concert, a wayward  llama, and some heart-warming details I learned about the ranch, Deer Haven Ranch, that owns the lovely horses in the first six photos of this entry. 

       See you then, and thank you for reading The Windflower
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