Monday, June 18, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch

We are on our favorite site here at Hart Ranch. We spend a lot of time last Sept driving around looking for the perfect one. Last year, we just took what was assigned, and because I was officially a workamper, working for 20 hours for the site, we got to stay put. This year, I am full time. This means we have to do an extremely complicated schedule of making reservations. You can’t reserve sooner than 60 days ahead, so on that date any number of people are jumping on the phone or running up to the front desk to hold onto their site.

The other event here of note is that our previous Maintenance Supervisor quit this spring, in the middle of two serious construction projects: a big new “Comfort Station”( bath house) with new Housekeeping area, and 5 new cabins. He was inclined to cut things or otherwise go the cheapest way, and that tendency along with poor supervision and virtually no specifications for the projects has made a lot of work for us.

There is more than enough work to do in a normal start up in the spring around here. And this spring has been very wet so the grass is nice and green, the cattle are up to their bellies. This means that the mice are reproducing at an alarming rate, and also the rabbits. The wildlife here on the “ranch” is often too much for some of our guests who apparently believe that we can actually keep the mice out of the cabins. One poor lady had a candy bar as a bedtime snack and threw the wrapper on the floor. Naturally, in the middle of the night, a mouse discovered this treat and started rustling the paper. The lady fled the cabin and spent the night in her car.

We usually go to the cabin armed with traps and sympathy, but the mice are making babies faster than we can remove them. The guests’ reactions vary from gratitude to outrage that we can’t remove the mice RIGHT NOW.

The new supervisor seems nice, and I have sort of been promoted to having an elderly pickup of my own , my own set of keys, and my own radio, and get to do projects all by myself. This is gratifying, although there is no raise in pay to go along with the promotions. The other innovation is that I work the normal day of 7:00 to 3:30, while Don works 12:30 to 9:00. That means we have someone on duty in the evening and saves the supervisor from being always on call in the evening. Kind of breaks up the old D & D “destruction” team of last year, but it is a good change for me.

We dragged out the Airstream this weekend for a boondocking trip up into the Black Hills. It was a local Geocacher get together and we had a merry time. It’s much easier to meet new people when you have something in common. The Airstream came through the winter find except for the toilet. I stepped on the flush pedal a bit too hard and broke some plastic thing in the guts. Our local RV guru was prepared to sell us the repair part, but cautioned us that the adjustment on the flush and rinse cables was difficult and time consuming. I though about that and the fact that this is a 15 year old plastic toilet, and decided to just get a new one, which Don put in after we got up there, no problem.

It was really great to be back in it. I was so sad to leave it behind last fall, I wondered how I would feel about it. It was just fun and comfy. There was one other trailer at the event, and the rest were in tents. None of that for us anymore.

One of the facets of geocaching is what are known as travel bugs. These are usually small toys or objects with a special aluminum tag attached. The idea is that they travel from one hidden box of stuff to another, and sometimes they have a mission, such as a place to get to, or to see all the national parks or to Disneyworld or whatever. When you find one, you enter the number on the tag in the website ( and it tells you what the deal is. A lot of them have pretty good stories behind them and we are encouraged to write a note when we take or drop one off. I have made my first one, which is our dog Pepe, ‘specially for the get together, so people can collect her number, and log it in. We don’t, of course, want them to actually take her, like a real travel bug. It was a good conversation starter, and I have gotten a lot of nice notes in her log.

Travel bugs usually have some sort of goal or mission, and since she can’t actually go anywhere by herself, I decided to give her an educational mission. When we were hiking, we had an unpleasant experience with a pair of dogs that were off leash. This is something that makes me crazy. It is so rude to everyone to let your dog run free ( cue music from the movie Born Free ). I guess it is some sort of anthropomorphic foolishness: the owner imagines what he would feel like on a leash and frees his beloved dog. This particular pair of Golden Retrievers ran up to us, accosted Pepe and then one actually attacked her. You can imagine what my reaction was. The man’s wife looked terrified (of me), and he admitted that dog was a bully. What was he thinking? I hope he will stop that. It is posted all over the place that dogs must be leashed in the National Forest. But, of course, the National Forest belongs to all of us, doesn’t it, and I’m an American so I can do what I want.

So her mission is to remind geocachers to keep their dogs leashed on the trail. Dunno if it will do any good, but it makes me feel better. If there was something like Social Services for dogs, those “Born Free “ owners would all have their dogs taken away. Just what the world needs, more homeless pets. Grump grump.

We had a pretty fair sized water pipe burst here in the park, way underground, probably from uneven settling of the dirt around it. In the process of digging that up, the guy running the back hoe snagged and broke two of the three major power lines which also run under ground to each campsite’s electrical pedistal. Over the radio, the story began with someone reporting low water pressure, then there was a fair amount of traffic about where the leak was, and how to turn it off and where and so on. Then the power problems came. The Hart Mart, the little store, lost some of its power, then the housekeeping department chimed in and finally they shut off all the water and power and called the electric company to come and a construction guy with real power equipment instead of our elderly (and now disgraced ) backhoe.

Don took my generator and his big work light down when it got dark and they worked until 11:00 PM in the mud to get a patch on the pipe, and another patch on a nearby sewer pipe injured in the fray. The power company stitched the lines back together and reminded the locals that it would be a good idea to call before we dig.

I will try to write more often, sometimes I am just too pooped, and many days it is same old, same old.