Category Archives: Nature’s Beauty

Spring Bluebonnets

As predictable as spring calves in Texas are the coming of bluebonnets. These surprisingly hardy flowers grow along the roadside, in pastures, and even in bad soil. The bluebonnets and other wild flowers were once so widespread in Texas that a 19th century Texas Ranger once wrote that he could ride all day and never get off a carpet of wild flowers. The bluebonnets were said to be stirrup high and at times even to impede his progress. Forcing him to slow up and focus on nature’s beauty may have had behavioral benefits.

Considering that Texas Rangers were usually in pursuit of cattle rustlers, murderers, horse thieves, and Comanche on the warpath what an impact the peaceful bluebonnet must have had. Despite the violent ways of men, the hardy flower would grow and thrive and suggest a peaceful, calming effect for all.

Unsurprisingly, the bluebonnet became the official State flower of Texas. Rest assured this wild flower was around long before Texans. The Native Americans in this area, principally the Comanche, had a legend as to how the bluebonnet came about.

Since Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch derives from the “strong medicine” offered this area by this earlier culture, it only seems appropriate to share the Comanche legend on the origin of Bluebonnets here. It is as follows:

Comanche Long ago upon the great plains of Texas a young Comanche child named Stars-In-The-Sky lived with her family in her small Indian wicoti mitawa ( whi-coe-tee mi-tah-wah ), which means village. Each morning before the Wi ( wee ), sun rose in the Skan ( skhan ), sky Stars-In-The-Sky’s father, Mato’hota ( mahtoe’ – hoe -tah ), Grizzly Bear would leave their little village with the other warriors to go hunting for tatanka ( tah-tahn-kah ) buffalo. Lately when the warriors came back to the village in the han-yetu ( hahn-yeetoo ), nighttime no buffalo would have been sighted. Without the buffalo to provide for all their needs, Stars-In-The-Sky’s village slowly began to starve.Months passed and the summer days came into being. As is usual in Texas, summer drought dried up the rain and drove the smaller animals into the deep piney woods far from Stars-In-The-Sky’s village. With the smaller animals gone and the buffalo not yet returning to the area surrounding her tribe, the men turned to the guidance of Keema the Wicasa Wankan ( wih-cahsa wahn-kahn ) Holy Man of the village. Keema decided the warriors of the village must raise their voices together and pray to Nagi Tanka ( nahgee tahn-kah ), the Great Spirit, to ask for the rain to fall and the buffalo to come back.

One night later, when the moon was full in the sky, Keema gathered the men on a high bluff overlooking the village and plains. With one old, gnarled hand clutch around a burning cedar bow, Keema thrust the burning stick into a large pile of branches that had been gathered by the women and younger girls of the village earlier in the day.

The Holy Man stretched his arms to the sky and pleaded with the Great Spirit, ” Hey-Ay-Hee-Ee, Nagi Tanka! Bring back the rain, bring back the buffalo!” Deep into the night Keema prayed until his voice was rough and feeble from his freverent prayers and his eyes gritty and tired with unshed tears.

As Stars-In-The-Sky lay in her tepee listening to the sounds from the bluff, she wondered what she could do to help her family and the people she loved. She pondered what she, such a small girl, could give the Great Spirit to make him happy. Stars-In-The-Sky’s pride and joy was a small, handmade, leather doll her family had made her on her last birthday when she had turned eight years old. Stars-In-The-Sky’s father, Mato’hota (grizzly bear) had caught all the animals needed for the skins to make the doll’s body and dress. Her Ina’ ( eenah ) mother, had taken the time to dye and bead the small dress, and had used hair off her own scalp to make the dolly’s long, beautiful braids. Even her small brother Ki-ri-ki ( kee-ree-kee ), Bright Eyes had helped by donating a bluejay feather he had found last spring when the first bluejays had crossed in the sky. Stars-In-The-Sky was very proud of her doll.

With all of this running through her mind, Stars-In-The-Sky decided the best thing to do was to give her favorite thing to the Great Spirit. When she herd the men come back to the village and her father come into the teepee, she pretended to be asleep. As soon as her father fell into a deep, steady sleep Stars-In-The-Sky crept out of her sleeping furs and into the still night.

Her doll clutched in her trembling hand, she made her way up to the still glowing embers of the bonfire on the bluff. Holding her doll tightly to her chest and crying softly Stars-In-The-Sky started praying, “Hey – Ay- Hee- Ee, Nagi Tanka!

I am but a small, insignificant girl but I am trying wohitika (woah-hit-tih-kah ) to be brave. My younger brother is so hungry as is my whole village. Give me a So-an-ge-ta-ha ( soh- ahn – gee- tah- hah ) strong heart, Nagi Tanka. I beg you! Except my dolly as a gift in exchange for my village, my people, my family. I beg you! Pilimaya Nagi Tanka! ( pill- ah- mae- yah nahgee tahn-kah ) thank you, Great Spirit.”

As Stars-In-The-Sky finished her prayer she gave her beloved doll one last hug and then threw it into the fire. She turned away from the fire, paused to look over her shoulder one last time, saw the fire catch the dolly’s buckskin dress fire, and then walked proudly back to the village.

The next morning Stars-In-The-Sky was awakened by loud shouts outside her teepee. She crawled out of her sleeping furs and went to the tent flap to see what all the commotion was about. As Stars-In-The-Sky looked out she was amazed by what she saw. All over the prairie and covering the surrounding hills grew a strange, bright, blue flower the same color blue as a springtime bluejay feather.

For Stars-In-The-Sky and her village this flower was a blessing from Nagi Tanka. They found they could eat this flower and hold off starvation. With this flower as an ample supply of food small game came back into the area. When the buffalo came back, the large herds seemed to love this new blue flower.

The Comanche tribe called this flower Buffalo Grass in honor of the returning herds. When the wasichu( wah- sih -shoe ) white man came into this part of the country and made it into the state of Texas they renamed and adopted it as the state flower; The Texas Bluebonnet.


Spring- How Lovely You Are

Bluebonnets & Paints

Spring is my favorite season. How can it not be? It’s is a colorful rebirth following the grayness of winter. New fawns and calves on wobbly legs appear, baby birds fly tentatively from their nests, calves wear milky mustaches, bushes blossom, multicolored wild flowers including the locally favorite bluebonnets suddenly erupt, and the trees leaf out in spring green. All signal the yearly, joyous rebirth and infuses us with new found energy, hope, and ambition.

Along with such beauty comes a need to prepare the ranch for the season. In past weeks we’ve taken to whacking down thistle plants (weeds) choosing to grow in my pastures and crowding out grass my stock so greatly needs. The spring calves have needed working and the horses show new found friskiness.

Our paint horse Fancy and Doc’s nose

A foggy day at the ranch

Fences require mending and cedar needs lopping. The physical work feels good but also fatigues me now more than it used to.

Life seems more vivid, more intense, and hopeful in the springtime. It’s also busier and wearing. Gosh, I love it so and hope i can keep up with it all. A joyous spring to all!

A Farewell To…A Heron

I’ve written several blog pieces lately on a Great Blue Heron that has daily visited our stock tank. The heron and I have developed a predictable morning routine.  Initially I find it perched atop a tree on the opposite bank. Then I throw fish food into the pond. I backtrack to my pickup from where I watch the heron glide gracefully across the stock tank (what a sight with its immense six foot wing span), land, and creep to its protected spot alongside the water. There it stealthily awaits a fish meal to swim by. When this occurs and with lightning like reflexes, it dives into the water to retrieve a fish. Our routine has become part of my morning ritual and, frankly, I’ve come to enjoy and expect it.

This is not really my heron but a look alike. Mine is too camera shy to allow me to snap a good image of it.

This is not really my heron but a look alike. Mine is too camera shy to allow me to snap a good image of it.

Imagine my disappointment the past two weeks when the heron has failed to show up. Initially I shrugged it off as happenstance, as the heron had at times missed a single day. Now it seems all too clear that the heron has left our ranch for another lofty perch.

Spring has sprung in the Texas Hill Country. The Red Bud trees have blossomed and the Bluebonnets are up. The Live Oak trees are  changing over their leaves. Perhaps with the changing of the season, the heron has taken on new territory to fish. Alternatively, my heron may have fallen for a mate and been lured away by surging hormones- Spring is known to do that after all. I can only hope my heron has not befallen some worse fate, a consideration I’m loathe to even consider.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled each morning for the Great Blue Heron but fear it has departed the area or at least left my stock tank. If so,it leaves behind both good memories and hopefully good luck. To be sure, I shall miss its gorgeous flight, its prowess at fishing, its gorgeous appearance, its curious waddling gait, and the way it folds itself into a small package just at the edge of the water.

Come to think of it, The Great Blue Heron may just have tired of my bluegill! Why not for a change dine on Guadalupe bass or fat head minnows?

Farewell Great Blue Heron. You will be missed.

Heron Folklore

Great Blue Heron in flight

Great Blue Heron in flight

I recall the shiver of excitement coming over me like a blanket of wonderment the first time a Great Blue Heron flew just over me and landed nearby. Given its majesty, not too surprisingly a mythology has grown up around these impressive birds. Several weeks ago I posted “Chumming for Heron,” a piece describing daily visits to our ranch by a Great Blue Heron. Unwittingly I was aiding the heron by luring fish near to the bank and improving its prospects for fishing. This experience with the heron got me to wondering what myths might exist about these striking birds that are such incredibly good fish hunters, so I did a little research.
The Greeks believed the heron was a messenger from the gods. The heron was thought to have been sent by Athena and Aphrodite, the goddesses of wisdom and love. Athena, for example, once sent a heron to Odysseus during his odyssey as a sign that she was watching him. Celtic mythology had herons as messengers of the gods as well and thought the herons were imbued with superior intelligence.

Our ranch is named Medicine Spirit Ranch in honor of the original Native American inhabitants and their belief  the land was “strong medicine.” One myth from Native Americans is about the heron and the hummingbird who raced for possession of all the fish in the rivers and lakes. The birds had a long race with the heron flying slowly but never stopping while the hummingbird zipped ahead but slept each night. Because of this, the hummingbird lost the race and now has to eat nectar while the heron dines on fish.

Wolves and herons are the subject of another Native American myth. The story goes that a Blue Heron helped two weasels cross a river because they had asked it nicely. Along comes a rude wolf, demanding to be taken like the weasels across the river. The heron proceeded to fly the wolf halfway across the river and then dumped the wolf into the river to drown.

The symbolism of the heron varies by culture. It represents strength, purity and long life in China. In Native American tradition the heron symbolizes wisdom and good judgment. In ancient Egypt the heron was a symbol  of creation while in Africa and Greece the heron was a messenger of the gods.

Watching a heron fish also instructs us in patience. This is particularly a good lesson for our busy, rushed lifestyles these days. They watch and wait for long periods of time, remaining alert to the presence of fish. Ultimately the heron strikes with lightning like speed and precision.

Herons are also believed to be symbols of good luck, particularly when they land on your home or even shed a feather on your property. Not a bad way at all to start out a new year!greatblueheronusfwfrankmiles

2016: A Backward Glance

As we close out 2016, it’s worth spending some time for a backward glance. For Medicine Spirit Ranch and this blog, it’s been a great year. Today is a milestone for Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch, as this is our 100th post!! Since the inception of the blog, each year has shown increased readership. I thank you for your interest and your terrific responses. Please keep them coming.

On occasion we’ve  written about important and meaningful topics such as personal aspects of the civil rights struggles. In fact our most read blog piece has been Reflections on Greenville, Texas: The Blackest Land and the Whitest People. More frequently we’ve dealt with  ranch and retirement topics, for example the birth of cattle twins on our ranch, the bottle feeding of the rejected twin, a series of posts about Norman during his calf development and adolescence, and the birth of a freemartin.

Betty giving Norman his evening bottle while Cecil drinks his own libation

Betty giving Norman his evening bottle while Cecil enjoys his own libation

We’ve written about stocking our tanks with fish and the discovery that I was unwittingly  chumming for the hunting benefit of a Great Blue Heron! Also pictures of various landscapes and sunsets have appeared from time to time with the hope of sharing our little piece of heaven.

Looking off the hill of Medicine Spirit Ranch

Looking off the hill of Medicine Spirit Ranch

A waterfall at Hidden Falls Ranch, November 2016

A waterfall at Hidden Falls Ranch, November 2016

We’ve had great friends and our wonderful family spend time this year on the ranch including Betty and Cecil Selness from Minneapolis, La Nelle Etheridge and Madeline Douglas from Lubbock, Judy Wilkins from Lubbock, Katrina Jansky and son Chance, from San Marcos, Will and Claire Plunket from Austin, Dave and Amy Riley and their family from Dripping Springs, Roger and Marilyn Johnson from Horse Shoe Bay, Greg and Nancy Hocevar soon to be of Fredericksburg, along with lots of family including grandchildren Ramsey and Graham, and Katie’s fiance, Kevin, and his wonderful family from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Madeline and La Nelle wearing T-shirts thatread Tom's Ranch Hands

Madeline and La Nelle wearing T-shirts that read Tom’s Ranch Hands. You didn’t think the room and board was without strings did you?

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It has also been a great year for magnificent Texas sunsets, for breaking the drought with a bumper crop of hay, for the Super Moon rising over our barn in spectacular fashion, for fat cattle, for two lazy horses, for three always ready-to-travel dogs, and too numerous to count white tailed deer and other welcome animals e.g. painted buntings along with unwelcome ones e.g. skunks and porcupines that take considerable exception to our dogs.

A Texas sunset

A Texas sunset

Hay is (mostly) in the Barn

Hay is in the Barn

Also my book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales was published this year. What a treat not only to see it in print, but also to experience many gratifying reviews. I’ve had a blast speaking at libraries, book clubs, service clubs especially Rotary and Lion’s Clubs, and private book events. I welcome speaking invitations. My thanks to all of you who have helped me in this never ending crusade to have the book appear, succeed, and obtain visibility.Carrying the Black Bag book

Of one thing, I am certain. We’re blessed to enjoy the love of family and friends, and the ambience of Medicine Spirit Ranch, and the readership of this blog.

The dogs and reflecting on 2016 and pondering what might come about in 2017

The dogs and I reflecting on 2016 and pondering what might come about in 2017

Fall Rains Promise Spring Wildflowers

Beauty is everywhere, if we are not too distracted to look for it.

Recent rains increased the flow in Sugar Creek over “Hidden Falls” at our ranch with water cascading  over a rocky ledge into a foamy pool below. This welcome rain also promises a wonderful crop of spring wildflowers for the Texas Hill Country. Mother Nature is benevolent to us, all we have to do is stop and enjoy her gifts. These gifts may take the form of majestic cloud formations, striking sunrises and sunsets, beautiful autumnal colors, and inspiring landscapes.

A waterfall at Hidden Falls Ranch, November 2016

A waterfall at Hidden Falls Ranch, November 2016

Hopefully we will each take a few moments to allow the healing power of nature to soak into us  much like the warming rays of the sun, heightening out spirits and applying balm to our hurts.