New Horizons Writers’ Group

What I Hoped For: to Aaron, the North Acre of Tara Trace

Gary Rose

Beyond those 12 fir trees we planted, in such a straight line, was an acre set aside for the future. I had hoped, in my mind, that someday you could build a house there and live with your own family (even thought of how we could use the same driveway until it veered to your garage). I can only imagine the fun we could have with Seth and Noah out there as they grew up. Pitching tents in Ray’s woods and cutting a trail through the park forest and over the creek like you and I did when we first moved to Tara Trace.

Some of my fondest memories of Tara Trace was mowing that huge lawn together.

While you rode the tractor, I did the trimming (think you got the better of that). And I still don’t know how you backed up that small black wagon behind the tractor in a straight line. I never learned how; it always went the wrong way for me? Oh how I missed your mechanical expertise after you left for the Air Force.

Also, I remember the campfire pit we made from the stones we plucked from the park creek and hauled to our house in the S10 pickup truck. The wienie roasts with marshmallows (and smores for Mom) were great, and just sitting around the fire together transported us to oblivion as we watched the dancing flames.

I really wanted to build/actually buy, one of those assembly treehouses while you and your sister were young, so you could play in it with your friends or just have a place to go for yourselves. But I was too busy working overtime on night shifts at CAT and trying to establish the lawn, trees and bushes on the property. I should have made time. Then you and Jessica grew up so quick and the time was lost. Though I wanted to stay at Tara Trace at least until I retired from CAT, I became unable to maintain the place due to physical limitations, and you continued to move to different locations. That’s when we decided to move to a condo at Fox Creek.

My dreams out there were never to come true, but I’ll never regret and will always cherish the 14 years living at Tara Trace. Old Leroy and Rodney (our cats) still remain there together, buried under a huge oak tree, near where I figured we would pitch those tents with our grand boys.

Love never stops, even when dreams are lost and memories fade,



Bob Hirt

I’ve always had a love for cats, those mysterious, independent, sultry, vain bundles of sass and aplomb. It has been said that “Cats allow you to live with them in their home”! How very true!

I have especially loved the calico-colored variety; over the years we’ve had several cats, as well as dogs, but calicos and our family had a love affair with one another. I’ve seen them with the most unusual arrangement of colors, sometimes with a black circle of hair around one eye, another with a patch of orange on the front of the chest resembling the number seven.

When we moved into our new home we had our “Benji-type” dog but soon we were out shopping for a calico kitten. We were very fussy and we wanted a short-haired female since one of our daughters seemed to have an allergy of sorts in her early years.

We found her…our favorite color and we named her Mittens.

Our dog, Fuzzy, after a few days of trial acceptance, finally learned that cats are indeed unique…never to be intimidated by the likes of a dog or anything else for that matter.

Mittens asserted her rights and independence the first week and knew what a “hiss” was for and how to use it. Her size and her attitude grew steadily and within three months she assumed her position in the family “pecking order” as though she had been bequeathed as the Queen of the House.

We lived in a rural area and our neighbor had a Staffordshire terrier.

He was big and was aptly named: “Schreck.” Now, Schreck was never a “Mister-Nice-Guy”; he usually stayed home but on occasion he’d wander into our backyard and growled when first seeing one of us adults. He wasn’t particularly the engaging type, never backed away when challenged and seemed to dare us to shoo him off the premises. Other neighbors knew of him and his questionable manner. He evidently had killed one of the Smith’s cats and because of that his reputation was sullied even before we had any encounter with him. We were told of that several weeks after our encounter with him.

On one occasion I was in a trench covering a newly-laid water line and Schreck stood over the edge of the trench growling at me down below. I yelled at him, to no avail and then I finally pitched my shovel toward him. Not in the least scared, he grabbed the shovel and dragged it some 15 feet before giving it up.

One of our other neighbors, knowing I was a veterinarian, told the owner that he should have the dog neutered.

“Nah, he wouldn’t be a dog anymore!” he quipped. Schreck and he seemed to be meant for each other.

We took every measure we could to assure ourselves that Mittens would not get outdoors! On occasion she’d try to follow the dog out but we were there to thwart that attempt every time. Indoor cats are the safest and healthiest cats.

What we did not expect was Mittens’ determination to explore, as all cats are wont to do. She’d sit on the windowsill of the family room contentedly most of the time. But inside of her brain lurked a curiosity – the curiosity of a cat…all cats.

On September 7 of a Labor Day weekend Mittens decided that she would put her curiosity to a test and secretly leaped up to the partially opened upper sash of a window and jumped outside onto the patio. Some time later we heard her cries and went to retrieve her. As soon as she heard us opening the door she ran like crazy. She was not about to be captured and be returned to her “prison” inside. Our whole family searched for hours and finally gave up for awhile, intending to resume the search later. After lunch we had planned to leave for a parade in the next village, but first we needed to find Mittens.

Suddenly, we heard a large MEOW and we ran out to the front porch. There was Mittens, dirty, droopy with tail dragging behind her. She had been injured, how seriously I was about to find out. Picking her up I immediately discovered a totally limp tail, the result of separation of the bones of the tail. Her hair was matted and she was a mess, with bloody scrapes and missing patches of hair on her rear parts. Immediately we drove to the animal hospital and began intravenous fluid therapy and cleansed her rear parts as delicately as possible.

The parade was now a secondary event for us on that day; after several hours we just went home, distraught and all of us feeling her pain.

In the end we needed to amputate Mittens’ tail…something that made us harbor sad feelings for the rest of her life. Additionally, she had suffered damage to the nerves under the rear spine area that permanently caused incontinence.

For eight years we, at home or our technicians at the hospital, manually emptied her bladder and bowels daily. We dearly loved that kitty and we did what we could to make her more comfortable. We never had words with our neighbor but we just knew that Schreck was the culprit behind this tragedy. Needless to say, they were not the most loved people in our neighborhood.


Bob Hirt

Stuart, a local vet in the neighboring farming community, was questioning why he got into medicine in the first place; it seems that every farmer, horseman and dairyman he came across had his own opinion as to how or what to treat an animal with. And it really bothered him. It was frustrating him to the point of his just wanting to stay home and get into the woodworking projects that he so dearly loved. After all, he made some gorgeous cherry cabinets for his wife, he had all the woodworking machines and tools that he’d ever need and he’d love not having to run out in the middle of the night to treat some sick cow that should have been treated while the sun was still shining. Maybe he could get some sleep like a normal person and get up and languish in his shop amongst the shavings and aroma of the pine and cherry wood that he felt so comfortable around.

I had learned, from many years in practice, to just close my ears to it all, but still listen with one ear open for the sometimes logical things that were brought up by clients as well as the humorous stories that were sure to follow. And I sincerely hoped that Stu would settle down and fully accept the profession that he had chosen and was really good at. I recall him relating how, after performing a Caesarian section on a Holstein cow, his wife called and told him that he’d better be home soon because a little girl down the street had just called. She had a gerbil that had a tumor on its eye. The girl, only eight years old, was distraught because it was her first and only animal. The mother said she wouldn’t allow a dog or cat because she was allergic, and besides, “they’re smelly and they lose a lot of hair.” Stu got right down to business when he arrived home – told his wife that dinner can wait a bit and this little girl’s gerbil was really important to her. He had the heart of a giant even though physically he was a little guy, barely five feet-three inches tall. And he had a slight limp caused by a childhood case of polio. I often wondered how he could handle an 1800 pound uncooperative cow or, for that matter, even a small horse. But with his determination, once he set his mind to it he could do anything. And this gerbil was just another problem that he’d handle just fine. “No big deal,” he’d say, “just dilute the anesthetic by 10-to-one ratio, titrate it out precisely, and you’re all set.” He had done this in another practice and learned that some things are not always in the book. The surgery went well and to this day he’s reminded by the child’s mother that the gerbil lived its life happily ever after and the eye itself was not harmed, only the upper lid remained a bit uneven.

Stu, his wife Joanne, and my wife and I spent many an evening playing cards after dinner and relating to some of the silly things in our practices that almost made us roll on the floor in laughter. There was Fred, the local dairyman who wrapped his calf’s swollen lower front leg in a sauerkraut wrap because he’d heard it would bring the swelling down overnight. Four days later he ran out of sauerkraut and called me. Upon inspection the poor calf had a broken leg and sauerkraut would not have helped – ever. We needed to put a cast on the leg and, being a youngster, the animal’s leg would heal well.

And then there was Walt, with his German accent. “You haf to see vhat I found in za voods, Doc. Zis animal vill be famous vun day!” Walt was a former factory worker, married a German girl in the village and decided to buy a small farm. Only a few acres, but enough land and a barn in which he could putter around. So when I arrived we went out to the barn to see this magical wonder. It was an undersized calf, weighed about 35 pounds, staring directly at us. “Vatch zis, Doc,” he said, “As soon as I get ‘glose to him, he chumps up like crazy, goes in bik circles and falls down. Zen I touch him and he starts all ofer again. Vhat du you sink?” he said with a confident smile.

Walt had been out in his woods looking for mushrooms for his wife. She had trained him which ones to look for and which ones to avoid because some are deadly poison. He became rather good at it. On his way home with his mushrooms he found this small calf, hidden in a deeply isolated area of the woods, apparently abandoned by its mother, something that does not happen very often. He carried the animal home, fed it a commercial calf-starter from a nipple pail for the past two days and thought nothing else of it. Then, this morning his little circus act started and Walt smiled, thinking he was onto something big. Walter, of course, never heard about Circling Disease, or Listeriosis, a bacterial disease that invades the body of mammals and occasionally the brain, causing permanent damage and, in the case of this little calf, a disoriented kind of circling. The prognosis on something like this is very poor and the animal will eventually die. I advised Walter about this poor beast’s future and he, being a kind sort, wanted to immediately put it down, which I did.

Walter had a great sense of humor and he smiled, even laughed a little bit later on. “You know, I chust yesterday told za vife she’d vud have to start a new little bank account to keep track of za dollars coming in vhen ve take him to za carnival next year. Oh, vell, I buy her a nice chicken for za pot and she vill be okay. Vhat do you sink, Doc, no?”