Tag Archives: ranch

Ants as Miners


If you grew up without television, you’d probably think watching chubby red ants bringing treasures home to their anthills was loads of fun too.

I know I did. Luckily, we had tons of anthills to scope out on our Arizona ranch.

If I stood or squatted on a rock beside the mounds, the ants mostly thought of me as scenery. That was okay with me. Some types of ant attention can be painful, you know.

For hours I watched ants carry bits and pieces of sticks, weeds, rocks, dead insects (especially beetles and wasps) and flicks of flint back to their mounds without a word of complaint.

I never actually witnessed them placing their goodies on the outside of their pebbly homes. Invariably, they took their gleaned material straight into the mysterious opening leading to the central parts of their colony. I was sure all good ants made sure they obtained Queenie’s orders before doing any exterior decorating.

Unless they were rebels.

Ant-Man-Paul-Rudd-Cosplay-Costume-Leather-Jacket-750x750 I don’t think I saw any rebel ants, but I thought I saw one wearing a teeny little leather outfit once. Or did I imagine that?

Anyway, my favorite anthill pickings were tiny hollow bone beads, little bits of ancient pottery and fragments of flint, and obsidian. Less often, I found miniature arrowheads fashioned centuries ago for hunting small animals and birds.

What I never found was an Arizona pyrope garnet—an anthill garnet.

Reportedly, most of the anthill garnets (silicates) are mined by ants from beneath the earth in the Navajo Nation. The gems are not only rare, but also known to be some of the brightest reds of the entire garnet family.

Arizona pyrope garnets were fashioned into bullets by the Navajos in the 1800s. Navajos believed the dark red color helped produce fatal wounds. Or so I’ve heard. I haven’t asked any of my Navajo friends if that’s true or not, so I mention it here only as a point of interest.

One myth I’m happy to squash is about the two and three-carat size “anthill garnets” touted on infomercials and ads. Though sources vary widely about how much weight an ant can carry (from ten to fifty times their own weight…and I lean toward the latter), it’s doubtful an ant can carry much more than a garnet about the size of an English pea.

Thoreau’s take on ants . . . 

Over the centuries, ants have been used as examples of diligence and sacrifice. Most famous people had at least one or two things to say about them.

For example, Thoreau said it wasn’t enough to be busy like the ants. He said, “We should also know what we are busy about.”

I agree. And Thoreau’s end-of-sentence preposition is okay, too.

Likewise, I think Thoreau would agree that ants mining little jewels out of the earth is both resourceful AND amazing.

And no, I don’t believe they use pickaxes.

Just because you may want to know, a few facts about Garnets:

  • Garnets are called carbuncles in the Bible.
  • Garnets have been found in Egypt, dated around 3100 B.C.
  • Garnets were found In Samaria, dated about 2300 B.C.
  • Garnets come in every color.
  • January’s birthstone is a garnet.
  • A brief look at the industrial use of garnets:*
  • Garnets are a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. To compare, diamonds are about a 10.
  • Since garnets are 1) generally inexpensive, 2) rate high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and 3) are easy on equipment, they are preferred for use in cutting metal, plastic, and stone with water-jet cutters.
  • A water jet uses garnets in granular sand 50-, 80- to 120-grit sandpaper manufactured in Coeur d Alene, Idaho.
  • Two hundred hours of use is garnered from one mixing tube of garnet sand grit, vs. only thirty minutes from an aluminum oxide mixture.

*Many thanks to Michael Castaῆeda, water-jet professional, for the technical information about garnets.

Treasures from the earth seem extra special. Have you ever found a treasure gathered by an ant or another kind of insect? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Just for fun . . .

My cat has been borrowing unauthorized media?

I just found out my cat has been borrowing unauthorized media!

 

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Just Clowning Around


Rodeo clowns are real heroes. A suspendered dude with a barrel for britches who keeps a 2,000-pound bull from stomping a mud hole in you certainly gets my accolades!

But where are the clowns if you’re not a rodeo star?

I sure didn’t see any a couple of desperate times while growing up on our Arizona ranch. For example, one time a mama cow with no sense of humor took after me across the corral yard.

This non-divine bovine had no idea I merely wanted to pat and admire her new calf. No ma’am. She was prejudiced. She decided, spur of the moment, I was the new serial cow killer in town.

The moment she rolled those big, well . . . cow eyes . . . at me, I knew I’d best be moseying right along, thank you, like r-i-g-h-t n-o-w!

That four-legged express train roared from standstill to 100 mph in one picosecond. My fight or flight syndrome clicked in at about 100.1/2 mph, and the chase was on.

As I hit the corral and shimmied up the slats like a monkey in a tree-climbing contest, I felt  mama cow’s head slam into the boards underneath my shoe soles.

So where were those nice clowns to save my skin that day?

I didn’t see a single one as I wheezed and gasped on the safe side of the fence.

Ol’ Mrs. Udderly let out a snooty bellow, pawed the ground a few times and—I promise this is true—swaggered back to her doe-eyed baby calf.

Sheesh!

Another memorable time, I was allowed to go on a day-long, calf-gathering drive. This was way back in the Macho-via era when cowpunchers were mostly gnarly handed males with parentheses-shaped legs bowed from living on the back of a hoss.

Women folk who went on cattle drives had to be 1) amazing cooks, or 2) look like Jane Russell.

Being twelve years old and looking in no way like Miss Russell, I perceived this privilege as very big indeed. By the late hour in which I was granted this exquisite honor, all the good and grand horses were taken by the higher and mightier cattlemen.

Me? I was stuck with Little Shet, a spotted, squatty Shetland pony.

Little Shet was surefooted enough. The only trouble was his gait and style. He bounded up each hill and down each gully with his short pudgy legs working twice as fast and hard as the other horses’ long graceful legs.

The truth is, he looked like a cartoon with all that extra effort and movement.

What else could I do but hold myself as straight as a matchstick in my miniature “Little Shet” saddle and try not to think about how my head was a good three or four feet below the other riders’ heads?

The most agonizing part was that one of the other riders in the cattle drive happened to be a neighboring rancher’s good-looking son whom I had a fierce crush on!

Several times, I caught him smiling at me that day. Or was he smirking? I wasn’t sure.

Everything would have worked out just dandy if that little dollop of a horse hadn’t gotten ornery when we arrived back at the barn that evening. Sometimes horses do that, and I don’t know what triggered Little Shet’s change of temperament. Maybe he was just happy to be home.

I can forgive lots, really I can. But being bucked over Little Shet’s head, hair-first, onto a carpet of fresh cow patties would have tried anyone’s patience!

Stomping off in my high-heeled boots, my head reeking but held high, I remember thinking,

“Where are all the clowns to settle MY horse and escort ME to the chute?”

I’ll tell you where they were…

 They were draped over their steeds whooping, hollering and slapping their thighs!

 

Copyrighted, original art by Benito, “The Collegian,” Tarrant Community College, Fort Worth, Texas

 

What is a Cowboy? Read D.B. Jackson’s explanation.

 

Just for fun . . .

 

“Wanna hear a secret? Madge was caught with unauthorized media and she’s udderly miserable.”

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.