Charlie in forbidden chair

A Jack Russell Terrier in the height of his powers is anything but temperate. Inside the adorably innocent exterior, resides a razor sharp brain wrapped in a chaos of planning his next adventure. Though his DNA includes the destruction of unwelcome rodents, Charlie cannot be bothered with the effort, instead he chooses to share the wealth of fallen fruit with all comers.

To say that Charlie is a dog of many talents is an understatement. He is a fast learner and as a puppy he learned a few tricks to show off, and mastered a few household chores as long as the treats kept coming. As he ages we find that his ideas frequently take precedent over ours, and as we age along with him it sometimes seems easier to let him do it his way.

As dogs have their own way of aging, it is hard to determine just where they are in the human scale of things. It seems to vary between breeds. We have been blessed to have several different breeds in our lives. Healthy small dogs as a rule live longer than their larger companions and we have had both, sometimes two at a time. A miniature dachshund with some health problems, stuck it out for 17 years, while a supposedly healthy German Shepherd dog developed cognitive problems at ten, as did a lovely quiet Old English Sheepdog at the age of eleven.

As with we humans, it’s a mystery that we, along with the medical profession, are determined to solve. Which brings me to the subject of today’s veterinary services.

Though we have been able to handle most veterinary problems through the years, save the annual vaccinations and occasional surprise injuries, we chose to enroll Charlie in a Wellness program when he came to live with us. For this privilege I pay approximately $50 per month. It entitles him to two big visits a year “free” of charge. Complete exams, dental cleaning and vaccinations. Charlie has been well cared for in exchange for the joy he has brought us.

Last week I discovered a roughness behind one of Charlie’s ears, and since he was due for an exam and tooth cleaning, I mentioned that there might be “something” to look at. When we collected him later in the day, the vet gave me the breakdown of his visit. The rough spot was a tumor, which when addressed, would come to approximately $600. and put him in the famous plastic head cone for some time while it healed.

Today we went in for the second part of the annual check up. On the way home he seemed pretty lethargic and lay in my lap in the car, where I cuddled him and stroked around his ear which showed no sign of roughness or a mass. That was good because we had already decided not to pursue a surgery at his age. When we got him home I looked over the papers which showed the results of his visit.

A small liver problem: a daily pill. Possible eye issue: we had already noticed his hesitation on coming through a partially open door: a paw reaching out to make sure it was open. Possible ear issue: no problem there, Charlie hears a footstep on the front porch long before I know they were there. Lately Charlie has been hesitant upon jumping up onto places he shouldn’t be anyway. I no longer tap dance.

For each of these things there were suggestions of tests to be given. No test for my dancing however.

For those of you familiar with the medical profession, does this sound familiar? We are grateful for the strides the medical profession has made, both human and animal, but as with humans, there is only so much which can or should be done regardless of the cost. We come, we are young, and then we age. and suddenly we aren’t as good in many ways. Nothing is perfect and maybe it never was. Enjoy it all while you can and play the hand you drew.



Throughout history the ubiquitous female breast has been exposed, exploited and envied. From the under dressed native women in the Polynesian islands to actress Jane Russell, for whom Howard Hughes is said to have designed a bra, the breast is a subject of interest. Those who do’t have them, want them. Those who have them, want them bigger.

Olivia de Haviland, star of “Gone With the Wind”, while living in France for a time, wrote a humorous book, “Every Frenchman Has One”. I read her book with interest because a cousin now lives in the house de Haviand resided in during the filming of “Gone With the Wind”.

Apparently the difference between the French and the American view of the bosom can be summed up this way: the American philosophy is of the Bosom Rampant, while the French subscribe to the principle “The Bust Trussed.”

This attitude became clear to her, expressed in the world of couture. She was faithful to the House of Dior as it went through a series of three head designers. She found it a question as to which one tried the hardest to flatten her bosom. Not permanently, just under a dress.

She wrote “The whole thing started at my first fitting on my first Dior dress. There I was standing in the fitting room, half undressed, in merely my stockings, my slip and my bust, and the next moment I was fully clothed and bustless. At first I couldn’t think where I’d gone to. Then I was struck rigid by the idea that some sort of instantaneous and lasting transformation had occurred and that I’d suddenly lost forever what is every girl’s pride. Springing out of my paralysis and into action, I looked frantically down m,y decollete to see what had happened to me. Fortunately I was still there, both of me. But bound and gagged. By a framework of net and bone. The dress’s basic foundation.

“You mustn’t think, here, that I have one of those overexuberant superstructures that really needs lashing to the decks to keep it from going overboard. No, no not at all. It is, rather the sort that you might call appropriate, quite becoming, so it’s been said. Neat but not gaudy. But try as I may, I have never been able to convince the French that the American way is better, and they have always won the War of Containment.

“Of course, I know just as well as you do, that back home in the States, if a girl’s got a delicate, elfin 32, she has no chance but to commit suicide. If she has a tender, swelling 34, she can however, enter a nunnery. If hers is a warm and promising 36, there’s hope. On the other hand, with a cummbersome 40, Hollywood is bound to find her. And with anything over 42, national adulation is assured.”


“But I must say I do look darn well dressed. And I’m beginning to accept the French notion that a girl’s bust is really more important when she’s got her clothes off tan when she’s got them on.’



I seem to be checking in more often these days with gentle reminders. You will have noticed another new arrival last week when Roberta Gullick joined your flock of angels. She preferred to be called Birdie. We were all lucky she stayed here for 93 good years. But she got a little tired at the end and just lay down and went to sleep. She was always good at making decisions.

She was Dr. Advice’s big sister, and the advice gene ran in the family. She may find better ways to handle things up there, and she was more often right than wrong so you can take it under advisement.

“She hated to have her picture taken so this is the best I can do. This is her brother with her, but he is NOT coming yet.

If you can fix her up with a bridge group, she would sure appreciate it. It has been awhile since she could see the cards. Her eyesight has been failing for awhile which took away her pleasure in watching the college football games on TV as well. She wasn’t hot on the pro games but she did love the college ones, especially her beloved Cal Berkeley.

She found a real fit while at Cal during the War when they started the Cadet Nurse program. She looked real smart in her uniform and later in the white uniform and cap of a registered nurse. Later on, she also did some nursing after her family arrived.

She left a great family down her which she started with a perfect husband for her. I don’t know how you managed to get them together but it surely worked out well.

She was pretty shy and quiet, but still managed to involve herself in her kids activities and in the community, including the successful Halloween Ghost House here. It took awhile for her to make friends, but when she did, she was a good one.

She took swimming lessons as a girl, but was afraid of water. But she made sure her kids learned to swim and they all swim well.

She got interested in sports as a girl when her father took her to baseball games in Oakland. She rowed as part of a crew when she was in junior high, later she played tennis until an accident on the court finished that.

She was not one for “show”, choosing to stay in the background more often than not. She had her own ideas and wasn’t shy about sharing them whether you wanted to hear them or not. Her daughter in law would sometimes say softly “Now Roberta”. Maybe we all need such a reminder.

I first met her when I was sixteen years old, and wasn’t sure what she felt about me at that time. If you had asked me I would have thought she thought very little. As I began thinking more about others than myself, I realized that some people have trouble sharing their feelings. Why is that God?

She was my “sister” for nearly 72 years and I will surely miss her, so be sure to take good care of her God. Have a chat now and then, you will like her. She likes a vodka tonic in the evening.



I am attached to a seven year old computer who has given as much as taken through the years. It has suffered from hiccups on occasion, as we too have suffered. It has awakened in a black mood now and then, and haven’t we all? It has even decided I was on its hate list and refused to listen to wiser heads. But through it all, it has performed graciously.

Ingrate that I am however, I parked him in a rear closet and bought a new and unfamiliar model. Things were perking along famously for a week or so, though certain programs were gone forever or drastically misplaced. Suddenly without warning, it refused to open, and once opened, it refused to close.

My homesick button craved the return of the old silent computer, so the new one went back to the store with regrets. Thinking it might be beneficial to diagnose the old fellow, he paid a visit to the computer doctor where everything checked out fine.

Settling down to work, I discovered the diagnosis had removed my browser. Now a car cannot operate without gas, and a computer performs better with a browser. It has been a week trying to get the old one back with no success.

I’ll keep you posted.



“RUSS ANDERSEN, Cattleman ” Watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

“CORRALLED” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

In the mid to late 1800s, some 10 million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, in the greatest forced migration of animals in human history. It was the birth of the American cowboy.

Though romanticized in book and movie, the life of the men and boys who drove cattle was dirty and hard, sweating in the heat of the day and freezing at night. The miserable conditions in rainstorms bear no description, and certainly take the romance out of the working cowboy.

Cattle had been trailed from Texas to Missouri as early as 1842, and to California as early as 1854. Although the maps depicting these routes suggesting an orderly branch of roads, on the ground the paths taken were often circuitous as the drovers needed to provide water and grass for the herd along the way. This meant following rivers and creeks and tracing the routes of old Indian and buffalo trails.The earliest endpoints were the railheads of the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific railroads, which were gradually extending their tentacles of track westward now that the Civil War was over and capital was available for their expansion.

But nothing about this trail driving scheme turned out to be quite as easy as it looked on paper. The first challenge: a cattle drive required horses, but freely roaming mustangs needed to be roped, corralled and broken by a skilled broncobuster.It typically took five to six days to properly break a wild mustang. And to trail cattle north, a journey that could take three to six months, drovers needed four to six months, drovers needed four or five horses per cowboy.

Cattle drive

The second challenge: the behavior and temperament of the wild Texas Longhorn itself. It was a challenge for cowboys to round up these wild cattle. Texas Longhorns hid in the brush during the day and did most of their foraging during the night. Only briefly in the summer, when the tormenting mosquitoes were out in force, did they spend the daylight hours in open areas, where they hoped to find a breeze. Most of the time the cowboys were compelled to ride into the thorny brush to flush the cattle out. But a cow with a young calf was prepared to gore a horse to protect her offspring and the Longhorn bull was notoriously ornery, sullen, morose, solitary and pugnacious, as one cattleman put it; “The longer he lived the meaner he became.”

“HOME ON THE RANGE” oil painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Once a herd was assembled, the profit-seeking Texan faced his most grueling challenge: the trail drive itself, since railroads throughout the south had been badly damaged during the Civil War and had never ventured far into Texasl It required a minimum of eight men to drive a thousand head of cattle. The trail boss usually rode a few miles ahead, scouting out water holes and good places to graze the herd. The cook followed on the mess, or chuck wagon. Two cowboys were positioned at the point of the herd, and two along each swing, or flank. The two most junior cowboys brought up the rear and were known as drag riders. Their job was to keep the slow and lame cattle moving along. They were constantly subjected to dust and spatterings of the herd’s manure. They took the full brunt of its noxious odors. One staple of the diet was known as son-of-a-bitch stew, concocted from leftover cattle parts.

On a good day, a trail drive would cover fourteen or fifteen miles, usually with a break at midday for lunch. The greatest threat facing the drovers was a stampede. It didn’t take much to spook the jumpy Longhorns: lightning, the appearance of a wolf, the snap of a towel.

In the spring of 1867, some 35,000 headed up the trails,the next year, 75,000, the year after that 350,000, and in 1871, some 600,000. The great migration of Texas Longhorns, the largest forced migration of animals in human history, had begun in earnest. In all, some ten million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, accompanied by half a million horses and some 50,000 cowboys.

Exerts from “Cattle Kingdom” by Christopher Knowleton



We live in what I like to think of as an average upper middle class neighborhood. Most houses sport green lawns, and carefully trimmed trees and bushes. Therefore it is somewhat of an anomaly to see a large horse trailer setting up shop in the middle of a lawn around the corner. less than half a block away.

Dr. A came in from his walk in the rain yesterday asking me to come see our new “neighbor.”

We were faced by a large attentive Border Collie dog sitting in the open garage. The large horse trailer. with bits of hay protruding under the door, sat in the middle of the rain soaked lawn, which would never look the same again.

The owner, a young man who lived in the house, and whose family had farmed the hills above us in Niles for many years, came out with a friendly smile. “We came to meet the new neighbor”, said Dr. A.

The handyman, an elderly fellow named “Okie”, and owner of the dog, emerged from the garage. Seeing my cane, he commented that he had a better solution, as he raised his pant leg to reveal an artificial prosthesis.

Meanwhile, Pete opened the door in the trailer and we looked in on two adorable baby calves, one of whom was one day old and pure white in color. Their sweet faces quietly surveyed these new friends without any sense of alarm.

We learned that the white bull calf was a Charolais breed who would remain the white color, would become large and was a fine meat bull. The mothers of the calves had died and they were brought here to be fed by bottle, and kept for about 2 months until they could rejoin their herd.

Though turning a neighborhood front yard into a farm scene may not be ideal, people make do when they can, and saving the lives of two charming baby bulls seems worthwhile.



Not even a week into the new year and I find myself already running behind. I haven’t figured out why old people are so busy with their lives. Viewing the old people in my life from the past, I seem to remember them having a lot more time than we have. Was there a different time bank in those days? What we do is really not all that important, but it certainly seems to take more time. We move slower of course, and do a lot of talking at each stop along the way.

We have accumulated all kinds of tech devices which seem to need expert advice occasionally to run properly. Those are things our forebears never dreamed of. Dr. A’s iPad never seems to pop back into his library with a tiny tap of his finger. We both sit and pound away while it sneers at us and remains where it is. When we take it into the expert, he waves his finger over the top of it and it magically shows all the books in his library. Dr. A has become an inveterate reader so there are many more books in his cloud. If only he could reach them!

Christmas brought me an incredibly large monitor which has allowed me to see some things I haven’t seen for ages. Along with it I graduated to a Windows 10 computer which needed a bit of advice today. All of these trips to the expert take time.

I remember My grandparents and/or parents taking a lot of scenic drives, and having dinner out. We don’t do either. Though we eat out at lunch time, driving after dark is dangerous to failing eyesight. The traffic in our area is so bad any time of day it sometimes is more satisfying to simply stay home.

All in all, having a lack of time is not bad. It keeps the grey cells active, and whatever you don’t have time for today, can be accomplished tomorrow. I find that being an old person is quite comfortable.