Ribbons of sandhill cranes across the sky

I wake to the sound of sandhill cranes in flight.

Opening my eyes, head still on my pillow, I look up to the sky.  Ribbons of cranes, hundreds of them, ripple across the morning sky.  For once I’m the first to wake up.  Spike and Bridget haven’t moved a muscle.  I guess yesterday tuckered them out.

“C’mon, Spike, wake up.  Let’s get going!”

Where Spike and I go, Bridget is sure to follow.  I want to get outside to watch the cranes!  They’re flying low and their strange noise, not exactly a honk . . . more like a honk mixed with a gargle . . . rattles over the sleepy campground.  Like Canadian geese, the cranes fly in a V-formation at the front.  Unlike geese, their flight formation is fluid.  It’s like they’re diagramming sentences across the sky. 

I walk the crew with my head tipped back in amazement.

We meet a guy walking his big, black lab.  Soon we find out he knows a lot about the cranes.  He asks me, “Did you see them going in the other direction last night?”

“Yes, I did!  I was wondering why they were going the wrong way.”

He explains. “Right around nightfall you’ll see some of them flying northward.  They go to their favorite place for the night and find there’s no water there anymore, so they come back up to the lake.”

I’m curious how long the cranes fly overhead and he tells me about an hour every day for weeks!  I saw several hundred in just a few minutes!   

He asks me if I’ve seen any skunks yet.

“No, but I’ve already been warned.”

“Well, let me tell you, ” he continues.  “I’ve been coming here for seven years at this time of year to see the cranes.  In seven visits my dog has been sprayed nine times.”  Oh, no.  Not good to hear.  I ask him how he coped with that. 

It’d take an awful lot of tomato juice to wash his big lab.

“Tomato juice doesn’t work.  I take a quart of hydrogen pyroxide, mix it with a quarter cup of baking soda and some Dawn dish soap.  The chemical reaction makes sulfur dioxide.  It takes care of it.”

My limited knowledge of chemistry is enough to have my mind struggling to figure how you get sulfur dioxide from that mixture.  It’s too early in the morning for chemistry.  Whatever you say, mister.  If it works, great.

“There’s a lot of raccoons around here, too.  I caught one trying to get into my trailer . . . trying to operate the door latch.”  Gee, the nocturnal wildlife rule this campground once the sun goes down.  In the day, it’s cows and horses.

Our walk takes us to the far reaches of the campground and up the dam road.

(That’s the road next to the dam, folks, not a mood change.)  We cross an area of soft, black earth crusted over, causing instant dirty paws.  Back at our camp, I fill a dishpan with warm water, put it on the picnic table, and give the crew foot baths.  Once towel-dried, they go into the pen so I can fill the crockpot with chicken and barbeque sauce.  I didn’t make enough last time, and it was so good, I want more!

My neighbor, Joe, the Casita owner physicist guy, comes over.

We talk a long time about his career and my solar dreams and a ton of other stuff.   Nancy joins us for a bit.  Then they leave to drive over to Percha Dam, another state park a few miles south of here, just to see what it’s like.  I’m interested in hearing what they see.

Bridget and Spike have their afternoon walk, and Spike soaks in the river again.  Now they’re dozing on the bed beside me as I type.  The barbeque chicken is probably done.  I’m going to shred the chicken, and ladle it and the sauce over two slices of bread for an open-faced sandwich.  I already put a tablecloth on the picnic table in anticipation of my feast.  Maybe I should rephrase that . . . in anticipation of OUR feast!

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By God, life is good.



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
This entry was posted in Bridget The Widget, Casita, Simple living, Spike The CoPilot and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Ribbons of sandhill cranes across the sky

  1. Old Texan says:

    Having lived near the Bosque off the Rio Grand river in NM I can tell you from first hand experience.. DO NOT LOOK UP at the cranes as they fly over. One year there was green poop from one end of my white car to the other.
    I’m just saying………………….

  2. Steve says:

    How much does the folding dog pen weigh? I had one but got rid of it because it was kind of heavy.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Steve!

      It doesn’t weigh much because I can carry 16 sections and lift them into the van. My guess is less than 50 lbs. for 16 sections. Yesterday I walked over to the neighboring campsite holding the crew on leashes in one hand and 8 sections of wire pen in the other. It only takes a minute to fold up, accordian style, or to set up. I love it. One of the best purchases I’ve made.

      Mine is 30 inches high. You can get shorter or taller sections. I wrote about the pen in my May 16 entry, “Dog Exercise Pen.”

  3. Jool says:

    However can I thank you for sharing your wonderful life and amazing photos with us? Your posts are the highlight of my day! Thank you so much.
    – – – Jool

  4. Minnesota gal says:

    Thanks for great pictures !

    How about a mention of the temperature about the time you get up and what it warms up to in the afternoon.

    There is Red Tide on Padre Island, TX so I may take off for Southern NM……………for awhile.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Minnesota gal!

      Great suggestion! Now I need to get one of those sensor thermometers to put outside and read inside. The weather people say it’s going to get very cold on Wednesday, a high in the 50s.

      As I type this it’s 5:40 p.m., probably in the 70s and breezy. I’m in shorts and a tee shirt. I love the lack of humidity. I got enough of that back in Georgia.

  5. Ernie says:

    Long time reader… LOVE your Blog. Lots of photos and down to earth details. My house is up for sale and the 33′ Class A with my ’73 VW Toad & Mitzi (My 81 # Canine Co-Pilot) are “Ready to Roll”. You are doing exactly what I have dreamed of since my wife passed away in January this year…Camping in New Mexico Campgrounds for a year. Thanks so much for sharing.. You do a terrific job as a blogger… Kudos!!! Sorry it’s taken me so long to say Thanks 😦

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Gosh, Ernie, what beautiful compliments! You make me happy to be a blogger. Thank YOU for telling me. . . . very encouraging.

      My condolences on the loss of your wife. That’s a big adjustment for you.

      Sounds like you are all set for some great living on the road. New Mexico is a wonderful place to start. If you don’t like where you are, there’s a totally different place . . . different weather, different landscape, different appeal . . . just down the road.

      Good luck!

  6. Teri says:

    Ok…now I’m hungry. What brand of BBQ sauce do you use?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Teri!

      What sauce? Oh no, now I’m going to destroy the mystique of my crockpot barbeque chicken. It’s nothing fancy, just Kraft’s Honey Barbeque sauce. I add some cider vinegar, too. I think the crockpot works the magic. I can’t cook to save my life.

  7. Fred Wishnie says:

    There are 2 large crane refuges near you, Bosque del Apache in NM and Whitewater Draw is SE AZ that each get about 40,000 cranes that winter there. If you get a chance to visit either of them it is quite a treat.

  8. Hi Sue,
    Regarding skunks, the Dawn dish washing liquid combo definitely works. Take it from one who has had her dog sprayed in the middle of the night! The ratio is one quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon Dawn liquid dish detergent. Work it into hair and let sit for around three minutes. Then rinse. Repeat if there is a direct hit! The only problem we had was our black lab turned brown around his ears! I guess we needed to rinse more there. 🙂 At any rate, I always keep the above in the Casita just to be safe. I can’t imagine how it would be with a skunked dog and no supermarket nearby.
    Loving you blog!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Karen!

      So the guy knew what he was saying . . . What a mess to try to clean up in a campground.

      I’m typing this out by the picnic table, next to the crew in their pen. It’s 6:35 and starting to get dark. I’d better go give them their last walk of the day before the skunks come out!

      Thanks for writing .. .

  9. Donna K says:

    I bet the crane flyover was a sight to see. I love watching the Canadian Geese we get around here so I know I would enjoy seeing the cranes.

    I sure enjoy the pictures and tales (or tails!) of your crew…well actually, I enjoy everything you write about. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Donna.

      I’m like you. Whenever the geese would fly over, no matter what my age, I’d have to stop what I was doing, stand and stare.

  10. Reine says:

    Hi Sue
    Any chance you’ll be at City of Rocks or Rockhound state parks on Friday, Saturday or Sunday? We’re meandering toward Texas and those seem to be the New Mexico destinations on way.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Well, hello, Reine!

      I’ve been wondering where you and Paul are . . . Good to hear from you.

      I doubt I’ll make it down to those parks by then. I’m going back to Elephant Butte to have the heater installed (waiting for Chip to bag an elk and come home).

      I really don’t know . . . maybe . . who knows? . Whenever I say I’m going to be somewhere it seems like I don’t make it.

      • Reine says:

        No problem. We’re currently at Kartchner Caverns in AZ staying in the “high rent” area. Hookups here are $25 per night. Our budget likes boondocking at National Parks or Monuments for $3.50 to $9.00 way better.
        If we see you, we’ll enjoy it. If not we’ll keep in touch.

  11. KAREN says:

    Susan – Lovein your blog of daily adventures. I will never forget the skunk remedy now as one almost walked on my feet in Maine a few weeks back. I froze and probably a good thing as I never got sprayed. Whew, that was a close one. Other Cambridge friends are finding your blog so interesting that they have asked me to forward on to them as they are too shy to subscribe. Hoping your life stays so nice and the chicken BBQ keeps cooking. I’m off to dig out my crockpot.

    Karen Dusha McKean

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Karen!

      That’s nice of you to forward the blog. You can tell them they can subscribe without using their full names, if that means anything. I’m pleased to know the blog is up to Cambridge standards!

      Hope all is well with you . . .

  12. You sure have a lot of animals there. So funny to see the horses walking around the campground! Your shredded chicken open faced sandwich looks really good. 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It was unusual to be greeted in the campground by two horses. They walked over to say hello; we didn’t walk up to them! I didn’t use a zoom for the horse photos… that’s how close they were.

      Spike was not charmed by the experience. He started to bark and back up. Bridget, surprisingly, met them politely with no fear.

      The sandwich was delicious!

  13. Richard H says:

    Very nice, Sue – spent most of my working life writing, one way and another, and for my money, you can write…

  14. It's just Maggie says:

    Ditto what Richard H. says, Sue! Your life stories are enchanting.

    We waved to you and the crew back on Sept. 29th 🙂 You were heading west on I-40 out of Santa Rosa … we were heading east and back to Vermont. I thought it was you and when I finally had the chance to catch up on the blog, yup, it was rvsue and the canine crew! A day earlier and we could have had a meet up!

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      I’m so sorry I didn’t respond. To think we missed each other that closely! I hope you enjoyed a good trip back to Vermont.

      I’ve got to pay attention to people waving when I’m in the PTV. I either don’t see the wave or, if I do, I think they’re mistaking me for someone else, or I think they’re trying to tell me to “move it.” I don’t expect to be recognized in New Mexico. Blogging changes that. I guess I need to come up with a special signal for my readers to use!

      Glad you enjoy my accounts of my daily life. . .

  15. Jim Melvin says:

    Sue, you should try to go to the Sandhill Crane Festival at the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Reserve. It is just a few miles north of Elephant Butte. I went last year and had a great time. Lots of bird watchers but also lots of other displays as well. There is a RV park called Birdwatchers RV Park, South of San Antonio, which is only about one mile from all the happenings. I had a long talk with the lady who owns it and found out she grew up only a short distance from this park. She runs it with her son and they are both really nice people.

    There is lots to do and you can drive all thru the reserve and see thousands of sandhill cranes and snowgeese. You can read about it at http://www.friendsofthebosque.org/crane/

  16. Jim Melvin says:

    I forgot to mention you when the Festival of the Cranes is happening. Nov 15-20 Try not to miss it. It is a GREAT experience.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Jim,

      You are talking me into this! Chuck and Geri are going to the festival and they think I should go also . . . . In fact it seems like everyone I’ve talked to lately tells me to go see it! I’m going to check those links and figure out how I can work it into my hectic schedule . . . LOL….

      Thanks, Jim.

      • geri says:

        The Birdwatchers RV Park is already full, but they are taking reservations for those who want to dry camp! Chuck and I will dry camping there the 17th and 18th. Hope you can make it!

  17. Bill Kelleher says:

    An observation which brings up a question.
    In one of your pictures I noticed that you had your rear stabilizer’s down but not you tongue jack.
    Does the PTV give enough support that you don’t need the tongue jack ?

    This from a person that doesn’t put any stabilizer’s down if just stopping overnight. LOL

    You should see what a Vee of pelican’s can do to the front of a trailer.

    Bill Kelleher

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Bill!

      Excellent question! I never even considered that it might be a problem. I guess my thinking (or lack of it) is …. if the PTV can support the Casita on the road and during stops along the road, it ought to be able to support the Casita while the crew and I are in the Casita. But what do I know. I just do what I’m told. LOL

      Sometimes I unhitch and use the cone under the jack simply for the purpose of front-to-back levelling.

      I didn’t put the jacks down the first night here. The next day it looked like the wind might pick up so I put them down. I do remember a night I felt like I was in a storm at sea.

      • Bill Kelleher says:

        Some people don’t like the trailer to move when they are in it.
        The PTV will support the trailer just fine, it just may move up and down a little.

        I suppose the reason It doesn’t bother me to much is that I have had boat’s big enough to live on for 40 some years.

        Bill Kelleher

  18. I LOVE your blog. Just found it. How I yearn to leave it all behind and do as you do. Tell us about the dog fence, please. Will be sticking around, Okay?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Carolyn/Sissy . . .

      Thank you for LOVING my blog! Oh, how I know that yearning . . . I yearned for many years.

      You can read about my purchase of the dog fence by clicking on May in the righthand column. I believe it was the May 16th entry that was called “Dog exercise pen.” It gives the name of the company I bought it from. Go to their website and you will get a good description. It comes in silver or gold, I think. Black is best because it disappears visually. It makes managing the crew so much easier!

      I don’t bother using the stakes that came with it. Bridget and Spike accept being in it for a while so they don’t try to get out.

  19. Bob Giddings says:

    “Ribbons of Sandhill Cranes….”

    A friend of mine sent me a poem this morning that brought to mind this felicitous phrase of yours. Thought you might like it, too. Anyhow, here it is:
    Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself,

    by Barbara Crooker

    like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
    flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
    across the sky made me think about my life, the places
    of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
    has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
    the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.

    Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
    for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
    Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
    weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
    come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
    land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.

    You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
    shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
    All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
    They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

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