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Outdoor / Karen Land
Published 02/19/2010 - 2:07 a.m. CDT

Karen Land

Recently, Jigs (my German Jagd Terrier) discovered a fresh, hot passion.

In my new home, I have a small, antique woodstove that once was used on a train caboose. The stove body is tall and slender, standing several inches off the ground on four graceful legs.

Jigs took to the stove like Pooh to a honey hive. At first, he was reasonable and reclined on the rug just a few feet away. Over time though, Jigs inched closer and closer until finally he designated the hottest spot in the house – between the stove and the wall – as his and only his.

Published 02/11/2010 - 9:19 p.m. CDT

Vonetta Flowers (left) and Spc. Jill Bakken power up in the push zone for their 80-mile-an-hour ride down the Winter Olympic bobsledding track. Bakken, the driver, and Flowers, the brakeman, won the first gold medal presented in Olympic women's bobsledding Feb. 19, 2002. Photo by Petty Officer 1st class Preston Keres, USN. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Karen Land

I remember the days when watching television was a special occasion.

Every year, my horse-loving girlfriends and I counted down the weeks and days until Velvet Brown and The Pie (from the 1944 film “National Velvet) would finally grace our home screens.

No matter if it was a long-awaited movie, a new nature show, or a rare sporting event such as the Olympics, the ritual was always the same. We popped popcorn (the old fashioned way - shaking a greased pan over a flame), flipped the caps off glass bottles of Coca-Cola, and positioned ourselves on the davenport directly in front of the black and white set. During the pre-VCR era, television was a one shot deal - watch it now, or miss it all.

Published 01/08/2010 - 3:37 a.m. CDT

by Karen Land

So far this season, cows are helping to temper my longing for sled dogs.

Since I moved to Martinsdale, I've had the opportunity to help out on the Cameron Ranch. My friends, PJ and Spunky, work as cowhands on Gil's family spread just at the bottom of the Little Belts.

I have the best of both worlds. I get to go play cowgirl on a beautiful ranch whenever the whim arises, and I can pass on those days when thirsty, snow-encrusted cattle stand and stare at the water troughs - ice frozen hard as concrete.

A few weeks ago, I helped Gil and the girls to pregnancy test cows. I was nominated the official record keeper and all around go-get-it girl.

Published 11/12/2009 - 6:19 p.m. CDT

By Karen Land

Until recently, I had never owned an indoor plant. I was never in one place long enough to commit myself to a cactus even.

My new home came complete with 30 houseplants. At first, this was exciting to me. I always enjoyed stepping into my friends’ homes filled with foliage. There’s nothing like bringing a little of the green outdoors indoors, especially during the cold and gray winter months in Montana.

Even when my new house was empty and I was just moving in my belongings, greenery already graced every kitchen and living room window, adding an abundance of life to a hollow space and immediately making my new house feel like a home. Many of these plants have lived in this tiny abode for over 10 years. I thought it was best to let them remain in the exact spot where they are happy - in the sills and on the shelves where they’ve been thriving for so long.

Published 10/15/2009 - 8:42 p.m. CDT

Shelly Henss and her once-wild mustang mare named Winnie. (Photo: Courtesy of the author)

By Karen Land

Standing at just under 13 hands, Winnie is a little mustang with a big history and an even bigger heart.

“She seemed grateful,” Shelly Henss, a longtime friend, explained. “After all she’s been through, she really appreciated the attention.”

For almost 20 years now, I’ve enjoyed watching Shelly professionally groom, train, and show dogs. When I heard about her most recent four-legged project, I was curious to see what she’d done with a 4-year old wild horse from Utah.

“I just treated her like a dog,” Shelly said.

Published 09/17/2009 - 10:29 p.m. CDT

The U.S. Government building at Pine Ridge Reservation. (Photo: From author's collection )

By Karen Land

Recently, my mom and I were given an astonishing and generous gift - three thick, stale-smelling binders bulging with yellowed paper, torn newspaper clippings, and old photographs.

“You can take them home and read them and copy whatever you want,” Rita Maxfield, my newly discovered, distant relative offered. “Nobody else in my family is interested in this stuff.”

Two summers ago, I wrote a column about visiting the Wounded Knee massacre site and burial ground in South Dakota. I made a pilgrimage there, hoping to learn more about my great, great grandfather, Colonel Hugh Daniel Gallagher.

Published 08/20/2009 - 7:59 p.m. CDT

By Karen Land

Every time I drive by a Walmart, I glance towards the back of the lot to see who might be parked there. Like many other giant box stores, truck stops, and restaurants, Walmart - loved by some and despised by others - allows weary travelers to use their extra blacktop as a place to camp overnight.

Usually I see at least a few massive, half million-dollar RV’s, towing cars and boats and motorcycles, taking up at least a dozen of the seldom-used spots along the far edge of the lot.

Published 07/30/2009 - 9:39 p.m. CDT

Cicada singing on Pic Saint-Loup, Hérault (France).

By Karen Land

It’s funny how a song or a sound can take you back and put you right there in the middle of your past.

We all can think of at least one tune that, whenever heard, throws us into instant mental time travel. I could rattle off a dozen ditties right now - rock and roll or bluegrass, classical or love songs - that take me back to places all over the country and remind me of people and events, good times and not-so-good times.

Published 07/16/2009 - 10:04 p.m. CDT

Goat with a young admirer at the 2005 Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show. (Photo: Karen Land)

By Karen Land

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was written by Karen Land for the Great Falls Tribune, August 2004. Next week’s column will feature an amazing update: “Goat - 5 years later.”)

This summer Goat has been lifting weights every day. With his teeth.

Goat is actually a sled dog, one of my Alaskan Husky yearlings. Goat came from a litter I named after different varieties of cheese, but his title is extra fitting because he looks like a mountain goat. His short back, long arched neck, and muscled shoulders give him his Billy-like posture, as if he’s always perched on a rock looking down on the world. And his thick white wooly coat helps him play the part too.

Goat didn’t start working out until after his injury. One morning last April when I went to feed the dogs, I found Goat stumbling around his area like a drunk. I called his name and when his brown eyes met mine, I saw a worried dog. He knew something was wrong.

Published 11/26/2009 - 9:09 p.m. CDT

Beloved Iditarod lead dog, Pig. (Photo: Karen Land)

By Karen Land

When I realized this column would be published on Thanksgiving Day, I knew it was time to write about Pig.

Some feelings and memories are so easy to pour into words; others stick inside the head and the heart like honey at the bottom of a jar taking its own slow, sweet time to finally make its way to the lip.

I still can’t speak of my beloved Iditarod lead dog without tears, but when I think of Pig and her life and all of the places we explored together and the people I met with her - because of her - I am filled with thanks.

I might not be able to find the exact words just yet, but I need to start somewhere.

Published 10/30/2009 - 11:36 a.m. CDT

Karen and Borage relaxing at Home (Photo: Karen Land)

By Karen Land

I once had a boyfriend who would say, “Now, there’s a house for you…” every time we’d drive past an old, abandoned farmhouse, half-sunken into the sagebrush and missing every pane of glass from its warped window-frames.

I didn’t dare ask if this oblique remark was a commentary on my bank account, my fondness for junky antiques, or my desire to live among many animals and spend a good portion of the day outside. Maybe his observation was a poke at my preference for solitude or my refusal to be tied to anything too sound or stationary.

Or maybe I’m just paranoid.

Either way, the people who know me well understand that I am a romantic. I wasn’t putting off purchasing a house because of a lack ability to commit (as one crazy ex insinuated). I was waiting until a place swept me off my feet. I was holding out until I fell in love with a house – the right one.

Published 10/01/2009 - 6:43 p.m. CDT

By Karen Land

I was exhausted when I arrived at the Chief Joseph Campground in Harlowton, MT, last Saturday just after dark. I’d been driving since 7 am; it was time to stop and sleep. A pleasant breeze whistled through the cottonwoods as I staked down all four corners of my tent, snapped the poles together, popped up the body, threw the fly over the top and anchored it all down. I tossed a sleeping pad and bag, pillow, book, headlight, gallon jug of water, and a can of Pringles through the door.

My little dogs opted to sleep on their plush beds in the truck. Borage, my husky, decided to start out the night with me – eventually, he gets too hot and scratches lightly on the screen, wanting back outside to sleep in the cool grass.

Published 09/03/2009 - 4:08 p.m. CDT

My feet wearing the Flex-Tastic toe stretcher! They call it "Yoga for your feet." It's heaven.

By Karen Land

The first night I tried to fall asleep with a plantar fasciitis night splint strapped around my left foot and calf, I felt like I was wearing a downhill ski boot to bed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought as I reclined flat on my back and looked down at my painted pink toenails jutting out from their plastic prison.

Plantar fasciitis is pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue which runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.

Published 08/06/2009 - 8:24 p.m. CDT

"Goat" the dog

By Karen Land

Everyone kept asking me, “Do you think Goat will recognize you?”

As I was walking through the Bozeman airport with a dog leash in hand, I couldn’t help but imagine our soon-to-be reunion unfolding like a dramatic scene from a “Lassie Come Home” movie.

In 2004, I gave Goat, one of my retired sled dogs, to what I thought was a good, life-long home. Three weeks ago a friend stumbled across his picture on a Portland, Oregon dog pound website.

Published 07/23/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

"Goat" the dog.

By Karen Land

Last week when I found out that Goat, one of my retired sled dogs, was in the Portland, Oregon pound, many emotions flooded my mind. I was stunned and thankful that Vanessa, a friend, had stumbled across Goat’s photograph (with a different name) on an adoption website and actually recognized his goofy headshot.

I was heartbroken thinking of my boy in a big city kennel scared and all alone. I was terrified hoping the pound didn’t euthanize him before I could reach them on the phone. And, to put it bluntly, I was also fuming mad - this didn’t have to happen.I became a musher because I love dogs.

Published 07/09/2009 - 9:37 p.m. CDT

By Karen Land

I first stumbled across the Crazy Mountain Inn in Martinsdale, Montana on one of my trail running road trips. I had been through the area once before with a friend, and decided to come back to take a jog with my dogs up in the Castle Mountains. Luckily, the Inn was still open after our 10-mile jaunt up to the ghost town.

There’s nothing like sinking into a chair at a quaint little diner - when you’re exhausted, hot, sticky, and starved - and having a waitress ask, “Would you like to hear our list of desserts made fresh this morning?”

Who would say no to that?