Our layover days in the little red ranch house were filled with relaxation, mundane chores, and glimmers of excitement. In my last travel post I told of my invigorating ride on Matia, the young gelding who we saddled and rode for the first time during our rest days at the cabin.
That was my closest brush with death on our trip so far, and it was about time that Brother Rob got his glimpse of mortality.
As I mentioned, this ranch was our layover station. We were going to have a chance to relax for a couple of days and since there was water available we would have the chance to do some laundry.
We all looked forward to having clean clothes, though the way we achieved that was, um, somewhat rustic.
Here Diane works on getting her spare riding jeans clean.
I scrubbed everything I had with a bar of Ivory soap. I’m not entirely sure I got them any cleaner, but it felt good to make the effort. I did mention I didn’t have room for makeup, right?
When our laundry was all finished, we laid it out across a fence to dry.
The drama of this event began about halfway through the first full day in camp. Jenny, our camp cook and hostess, said after breakfast that she felt there was a strange taste and smell to the water inside the house. The water, by the way, that she had been using to cook with and wash our dishes. I could not really discern anything unusual, but then again I had never been to that house before.
I had just been happy to be able to wash my face and brush my teeth with water from a tap for a change.
Lawrie climbed up on top of a very rickety old ladder and lifted the top off of the cistern, which collected rain water and supplied the house taps.
When he lifted off the lid, he made this pronouncement. The cistern must be cleaned.
I had the feeling that this was not a brand new discovery. Having my strapping and willing brother Rob at his disposal probably just enabled Lawrie to do something he had needed to do for awhile.
I sat back with a cup of coffee and my camera to watch the proceedings.
Lawrie procured the old ranch tractor, which took some time to get started and did not look all that trustworthy to my uneducated eye.
After some maneuvering he got the tractor situated so that the bucket reached the top of the stand that the cistern rested on. My beloved baby brother was in the bucket.
Then Lawrie scrambled up the ladder and joined him.
The tipped and shifted the heavy box to try to empty it enough to slide it onto the tractor.
Their situations were precarious at best, downright crazy at worst.
Finally they managed to get the corner of the cistern wedged into the bucket and Rob balanced like a monkey on the bucket arms, holding the cistern steady as Lawrie began to lower him to the ground.
The hydraulics on the tractor weren’t what they probably once were, and the bucket bounced and jostled as it slowly moved toward the ground. I had this awful vision of my little brother falling to the grass and being squashed like a bug beneath the metal cistern.
He didn’t though. Fall, I mean.
When they finally got the cistern back on the ground they tipped it over and out poured a bunch of slimy brown stuff.
And a dead black bird.
I didn’t take a picture of the bird because I was too busy scrubbing out my mouth with the piece of Ivory soap that I had left over from my laundry. I was disgusted and horrified, and I could suddenly imagine a foul dead-bird taste in my mouth. I’m sure it was my imagination.
When the cistern was all scrubbed out with water supplied from the outside pump for the livestock, they repeated the whole process to put it back on the stand again. Just backwards.
Although they assured me that the water in the house was now clean and truly potable after filling the cistern back up from the livestock pump, I brushed my teeth with the hose outside for the rest of the stay.
And that is how I named the ranch Dead Bird Station.