Last night as I walked the trash can out our long driveway, I was amazed at how bright the stars were. I had not seen such brightness in the stars since I was last at Harlan.

I walked very slowly back to the house enjoying the view of the sky. I saw both the big and little dippers. I have never been able to recognize any of the other constellations. I just enjoyed the brightness of the little points of light contrasted against the cold black sky.

Back in the yard in the dim light of the icicle lights still n our front porch, my dog Smash took on a sudden playful urge. I had tried to get him to play chase with me when I first got home in the afternoon, but he was not interested then. I almost walked on into the warmth of the house and ignore his playfulness.

But inspired by the stars, I zipped my coat and began chasing Smash around the yard. He was very playful. He would drop the stuffed sheep and pretend to look away. They just as I reached for it he would scoop it up and run off in a circle around me. We played until I could no longer catch my breath.

Later that evening as I was getting ready for bed, I decided to sit up and read a bit. Just as I picked up my book to read, Smash started barking and whining.

I went down to see if he wanted out. He has been staying in the garage on cold nights but he often wants out to go puppying. But instead he went back to the rear bedroom. I lay down on the bed and picked up the book. Smash began barking at me. So, I went back to petting him.

In a few minutes he began to get antsy again. He paced around the room and then put a paw up on the bed. I tried to get him to jump but he would back away. I finally scooped him up and placed him on the bed beside me. He settled right down as I continued petting him. He calmed right down and went to sleep.

I was beginning to drift off to sleep when I felt the bed move. I looked up and saw the cat crawl up o the foot of the bed. Soon I was snoozing between the dog and the cat. It was very peaceful just laying there enjoying the warmth of my furry friends. All my cares, worries and fears seemed to melt away in to their fur.

I lay there a while before Janice finally came to check on me. She laughed when she saw me snuggled up between the cat and the dog.

Life in a haunted house.

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, we moved into a rental property in Greenwood Springs Mississippi. It was very convenient for us as it was just a mile or two down the road from property Dad had just bought where he planned to build us a house. In the evenings we would go and work on clearing out the house place and such.

My grandfather, Daddy Straw spent a lot of time with me during the time we lived at this place. He would take me hunting and teach me other skills that a boy my age needed for life in the country.

We had lived there a few months before we started noticing strange things happening. One of the first things I remember out of the ordinary was when I gave my mother a magnolia blossom as a gift. Normally these seem to wilt quickly once cut from the tree but for some reason, this one just never withered. I set it in a bowl of water on the dining room table and it stayed fresh for over a week. We finally got tired of it and threw it out but it still looked as fresh as the day I cut it from the tree.

The next strange thing happened one evening when we were all sitting around the dining room table after dinner. We heard a noise in the kitchen and we all looked up in time to watch the doorknob turn and the kitchen door open. We were expecting it to maybe my Grand Daddy Straw as he sometimes came in the back door instead of the front.

But to our surprise, the door simply closed on its own and no one was there. Then our attention turned to the other door to the dining room. This door led to the rest of the house. Just as before, the doorknob turned and the door opened on its own and then closed again as if a person had just walked through the room from one door to the next.

After a while, we got accustomed to sharing the house with our invisible roommate. We knew to look for missing shiny things under a certain board in the closet and to expect small items to move around when no one was looking. We even decided that our dog was not crazy for jumping on and playing with an invisible friend in the yard.

Never did any of us ever feel threatened by the ghost. We felt she was female and began calling her She. Once, my mother was ill and sleeping alone at the house. She said she felt a presence wake her up and as she awoke, she saw a white figure at the foot of the bed gently shaking her to wake up. Once she awoke, the figure was gone but she realized that the pilot light had gone out on the gas heater and the room was slowly filling with gas. The ghost had protected her.

The only scary time I ever experienced was one day after hunting rabbits with my Grand Daddy Straw; I went inside to put up the butcher knife I had used to clean the rabbits.

I tossed the knife onto the counter near the sink and turned to go back outside to get the rabbits. As I turned around, I heard the knife fall on the floor. I did not think anything about it, I just figured I had missed when I tossed it on the counter. I was more careful as I set down the knife by the sink and turned to go back out.

Again as I turned and headed out the door, I heard the knife hit the floor. Still, I thought nothing of it as the countertops were not quite level and I assumed it had slid off after I set it down. So this time I picked up the knife and carefully placed it on the countertop. I put it all the way back against the backstop near the sink. As I lifted my hand away I made sure it was stable and was not going to slide off again.

This time however as I turned to go back outside, the knife flew across the room and landed near the door on the opposite side of the room. This time, I decided to leave the knife on the floor and go back outside. I am not sure why she did not want the knife on the counter, but she made it very clear she did not want it left there.

Lost and Stuck in woods

Lost and struck

Ruts from where Jenny's Jeep was stuck
Ruts from where Jenny's Jeep was stuck

Late one afternoon last week I decided to make a test run on Scuffy to see how the new tie rod worked. It was really dark when I headed into the woods behind the barn. I had not run this trail in a while and I don’t think I have ever run it at night.

This trail consists to two intersecting loops. I had started at the far loop and was looking for the intersection of the trails to head back up to the barn. Right before the intersection there is a gully that has to be crossed. Somehow; in the dark, I crossed the wrong gully just before the intersection. I thought it seemed a bit steeper but I was not sure until I ran out of trail just a few feet up the bank. I managed to get turned around, but in the dark, I was not sure where I was.

I decided to walk up the hill to get my bearings. As I walked up the hill in the dark, I saw a light and started walking toward it. As I got closer I realized from color of the light, this was the light from my neighbors house and not from my barn. Suddenly I heard my dog Smash barking as he had been waiting for me by the barn. I turned and walked toward the barking. Soon I made it to the driveway not at all where I expected to be. I thought I was behind the barn when I got lost but I came out in front of the barn.

I went in and got a flashlight. Then Smash and I went back to look for the Jeep. I had thought about leaving it in the woods for the night but since the trail I was one runs along the property line, I considered the possibility that I might have been on my neighbors property instead of mine. As I walked down the hill, Smash took off in a different direction. I shined my flashlight over where he was and saw the reflection of my Jeep glint through the trees.

Smash knew where the Jeep was before I did. Thanks to Smash I took a much shorter route back to the Jeep than I did coming to the house.

Once I looked around and had a good laugh about what I had done, I was able to easily get back to the trail and drive back up the hill to the barn. The new tie rod worked well too.

On Friday when Jennifer came to visit, Janice told me to show her where I got lost because she was still laughing at me for getting lost in my own woods. I made a quick run around the trail in Scuffy and let Jenny laugh at me for getting lost.

As Jenny was getting ready to leave, her son Caleb wanted to see the spot also. I had already put Scuffy away so I took him in Jenny’s Jeep Princess. Just like Scuffy her Jeep has a three-inch Rough country lift, a Lock Right Locker and Maxxis Bckshot tires. The big difference being that hers has 31” and Scuffy’s are 33”. That two inch difference turned out to be more critical than I imagined.

I stopped on the trail to show Caleb where I got lost. Then I proceeded to cross the gully just before the trail intersection. The gully has gotten a bit deeper due to the recent rains and was still a bit mushy on the bottom. Unlike Scuffy, Princess also still has her stock front bumper and air dam. I entered the gully gently so as not to stuff her bumper into the far side of the gully. My fatal mistake was not powering on from that point. I was a bit concerned about hitting her back bumper as the rear wheels dropped into the gully.

It turned out my concern was valid. As I dropped into the gully, the rear bumper hung on the bank and held both the back tires up out of the mud just enough to keep them from getting traction. Working the front back and forth just got me more stuck. Eventually, I gave up and Caleb and I walked back to the house. We had no trouble following the trail in the daylight.

Jenny and I went back in Scuffy to pull Princess out. I expected a quick tug on the strap would have her free. It took quite a bit of maneuvering in the tight confines of the trails. After scraping a couple of trees and popping off a piece of trim, I finally got the strap hooked up. Jenny fired up Princess and Scuffy tugged. Scuffy went sideways and Princess stayed stuck.

I backed up and gave it a bump, but Princess stayed stuck. I bumped harder and slid sideways into a tree. Princess stayed stuck and maybe dug in a little deeper.

Now that it was dark, we decided to try the winch. It took even more maneuvering and running over some small trees to get Scuffy into a position to use the winch and be able to brace on a tree.

The winch slowly extracted Princess from the gully and she started up the hill on her own. However, just a few feet up she stared to spin again and slipped sideways. I rerigged the winch cable and pulled again. The angle was not quite right so the cable bound up in the side of the spool. I had to stop to respool the cable.

By this time Janice had called to see what was taking so long. She suggested that we just leave the Jeeps and let Jenny and the boys stay the night. We tried one last pull and got Princess up to the point where the two trails intersect. She should have been able to drive out at that point but for some reason not visible to us in the dark, she just went sideways into the tree instead of out onto the trail. Scuffy was blocked in by the trees and could not move until Princess was out of the way.

We gathered up their luggage and hiked back to the house. Also in the dark since one of her boys had stolen the batteries out of her flashlight.

Where the two Jeeps slept after getting stuck
Where the two Jeeps slept after getting stuck

The next morning, Jenny was feeling ill, so while Janice took care of her, I went down to check on the Jeeps. I strapped Scuffy to a tree and cranked him up to respool the winch cable.
Princess the jeep stuck
Princess the jeep stuck

After surveying the situation I saw why Princess was stuck. Her rear tire was against a root and the root was pushing her against the tree instead of letting her go up the hill. It did not help that her Maxxis Buckshots were still at full pressure.

Jeep Stuck on a root
Jeep Stuck on a root

I simply backed up a couple of feet and gave it a bump over the root and drove up the hill. Hunter and I then walked back down and drove Scuffy out as well.

I built these trails as a training ground to develop my off roading skills in a relatively safe environment. They sure served their purpose this week as I got to practice winching, rigging and various driving techniques to recover Jenny’s Jeep.

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Fleas are making me itch

Time to clean up the puppy dog
Time to clean up the puppy dog

For the first time since we moved to the woods in 1993, we have fleas in our house and both our dog and cat have fleas. I don’t know why this year is different, but these flea bites are making me itch. Smash spends more time scratching than he does playing. I am really glad we kept his broken leg as it works well to scratch his ear even if he has trouble controlling it. Here is an article that I hope will help me and maybe you if you also have to learn how to get rid of fleas:

Shop Flea & Tick Control at

External parasites and their treatments
External parasites are pretty common among dogs. A parasite is an organism that lives off the resources your dog has to offer: namely, fresh blood (which most parasites drink) and a warm place to stay (in and on the skin and fur).
What are the common parasites that might affect my dog?
There are a wide range of parasites that affect dogs:
– Fleas
– Ticks
– Mites
– Lice
All of these parasites cause adverse reactions in your dog: typically, itching and inflamed skin, a dull coat, and bald spots. In advanced cases, your dog may develop anemia (blood loss) and become generally debilitated (particularly if he or she is very young, very old, or suffering from another condition).
In addition to this, many parasites convey secondary and internal parasites to your dog – for example, fleas usually carry the common tapeworm (which causes constipation and flatulence), and ticks can cause a variety of much more serious problems like Lyme’s disease and paralysis.
In today’s newsletter, we’re going to be looking at fleas: what they are, how to tell if your dog’s affected, and how to get rid of them.
Fleas are without question the number-one most common external parasite affecting dogs. They’re small, jumping insects that are light brown in color, although humans generally can’t see them – they move much too quickly for that!
Fleas live off your dog’s blood. The life cycle of a flea moves very rapidly from stage one (egg) to stage four (adult flea), which means they’re capable of multiplying with staggering rapidity.
An adult flea lays hundreds of eggs per day. Each egg will then become an adult flea, which lay hundreds more eggs of its own. One flea becomes a major problem very quickly!
The symptoms of a flea infestation are unmistakable.
A dog with a flea infestation will scratch almost constantly, often at areas that fleas seem to favor: the ears, the base of the tail, the belly, and the stifle (the webbing of soft skin between the thigh and the abdomen).
It’s actually the saliva of the flea that causes the irritation, not the bite itself, and some dogs have a genuine allergy to this saliva (as opposed to a standard irritation). Dogs with allergies suffer much more significant negative reactions to a flea infestation, and usually develop “hot spots”.
These hot spots are areas of sore, inflamed, flaking, bleeding, and infected skin, caused by the flea saliva and your dog’s own reaction to it. Bald patches will sometimes develop too, from repeated scratching and ongoing inflammation.
If you think your dog has fleas, you can confirm your suspicions by taking a closer look at his skin: you probably won’t be able to see the fleas themselves, but you should be able to see what looks like ground pepper (a thin sprinkling of fine black grains) on his skin. This is flea dirt (poop).
If you groom him with a flea comb (which is like a fine-tooth comb), try wiping it on a paper towel: if red blotches show up on the towel, you know that your dog has fleas (on a white background like a paper towel, flea poop shows up red: since fleas subsist on blood, their poop is colored accordingly).
Because fleas only spend a small amount of time actually on your dog, and the rest of their time leaping through your house laying eggs and feeding on human blood, it’s not enough to just treat the dog: you also have to target his bedding, the entire house, all human bedding, and the yard (yes, fleas lay eggs all through the yard, too. Even if it’s cold outside, you’re not necessarily off the hook: cold weather doesn’t kill flea eggs, it just puts them into a state of hibernation. The eggs will hatch as soon as it gets warm enough outside.)
You’ll need a broad-spectrum treatment which kills not only the adult fleas (which are the ones that bite), but also any developing fleas, and the eggs.
Prevention is definitely the best cure – you should keep your dog’s flea treatments up to date with the use of a calendar, and use a treatment that’s prescribed by the vet. Off-the-shelf treatments aren’t recommended, since different dogs require different strengths depending on their size, age, and activity levels. A particular benefit of prescribed flea treatment is that most are also designed to prevent other parasites (like mites, ticks, and heartworm) from affecting your dog.
If your dog already has fleas, you have two options:
– You can ‘bomb’ the house and yard with a flea-pesticide. These come as foggers (which coat each room, and the yard, in a fine mist of pesticide) and sprays (which are applied manually to each surface throughout the house and yard), and although they’re very effective in killing fleas and eggs, there’s one major drawback: they’re highly toxic to humans, dogs, and the environment. Depending on your priorities, this is probably the quickest solution to a flea problem (and will effectively wipe out the eggs, too) but if you have anyone in the house with allergies or a health condition – including pets! – you might want to think again.
– A more health-friendly alternative is to target the dog with a topical anti-flea solution prescribed by the vet (like Advantage or Revolution), and to rigorously clean the house on a regular basis until the flea problem has gone. This means vacuuming each room thoroughly each day – put a flea collar in with the vacuum bag to kill any fleas that get sucked up – and wash all human and dog bedding in hot water as often as you can (once every day or every two days is recommended). You’ll be able to tell when the problem’s gone because your dog won’t be scratching, and his coat will be clear of flea dirt when you inspect it.
– Don’t use multiple products on your dog – it’ll make him sick, since you’ll be overloading his system with toxins.
– Don’t forget to treat all the animals in the house at the same time: cat and dog fleas are interchangeable, and if one animal has fleas, they all will have them, even if some are not displaying the symptoms.
– Flea collars are no longer recommended as a safe option for flea prevention, since the collars are highly toxic – vets have realized that placing a toxic material directly against your pet’s skin for long periods of time (flea collars have to be worn 24/7 to be effective) is detrimental to your dog’s health.
Fleas are just one of the many, many types of parasites that affect your dog. To find out more about the complete prevention and treatment of all types of parasites (external and internal), as well as a comprehensive guide to all aspects of dog health, take a look at The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health.
This book is an invaluable resource for the responsible dog owner, and will help you to ensure that your dog remains happy and healthy – just the way you want him to be!
You can check out the book by clicking on the link below:

Pet Supplies – Tick removal tool

Smash has been attracting a lot of ticks this season. Every time I sit down to pet him, I find more ticks.

I have even found a few on me this year. I guess that Louise Hay would say we are letting them suck all the joy out of our lives.

I have not gotten to the point where I am willing to coat Smash or me with pesticides yet. I am still looking for natural tick repellents.

In the mean time I have ordered the Tick Trix tick removal system. I will let you know how it works out when I get it.

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