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Africans & whites

By C.J. Hadley

Iwent to a holistic management workshop run by Allan Savory in Austin, Nev., back in 1991. I was worse than naive, couldn’t tell needle and thread from Great Basin wild rye or understand why insects were important for a healthy range. Savory insisted I sit with BLM guys, forest rangers and enviros instead of ranchers, so that I could get out of my comfort zone and get ready for some new ideas. (No one wanted to sit with me, either.)

I’ve never forgotten those three days out on the range. I learned a little, was confused a lot, and even though I’ve intended to write about this innovative African biologist since that time, I didn’t know what to say. His level of intensity is not sustainable in other people. Where most people look for a solution to a problem, Savory always sees more to be done. He was out of my league, my paradigms were set too tight, and I realize now I was as bad as the British Navy.

Over the past nine years we’ve used many stories in RANGE that talk about holistic management. Savory might not be mentioned, but much of the credit for ranching successes is due to his decades of trial and error. One quote I remember particularly is how natural it is to have cattle on public lands and how unfair some of the criticism of bovines is.

“Fat and chemicals in cattle shows only from studies done in feedlots and pastures, and they are totally unnatural environments for cattle,” he said. “If I stood you ankle deep in your own dung and urine and force-fed you, you too would give off a hell of a lot of gas. As soon as we can get cattle back on the land where they belong and where we desperately need them, the sooner we can start to heal the land, cultures, societies, villages, etc.” (See story, p.44.)

* * *

Charlie’s gone. Died because of bone cancer. Buried in the shade of a silver birch and listening to the howling wind from the Sierra Nevada. He can’t be replaced but there has been an onslaught to make an attempt to fill the gaping and agonizing hole that Great Dane left in my heart.

Ann McReynolds was a Great Dane breeder. One of her champions was Charlie and Billie’s father. When she read my editorial in Summer ’99 she called and asked me to visit. I arrived at her mansion in Reno to a crescendo of sound that could blow apart cheap windows. Three harlequin Danes–two with cropped ears, one floppy–didn’t think much of my presence. Ann and I talked. The dogs finally quieted. They smelled everything I have. They slimed me. They were living in an apartment in her basement, in the lap of luxury. They had their own television, wet bar and raised feeders (which are necessary for large canines). They were fine looking creatures, fresh and clean. I called them “the noisy aggressive white people.”

Within 24 hours Ann called her lawyer and willed her favorite dogs to me (I hadn’t said yes). She was dying of cancer and wanted her loves to stay together. She chose me for the job, because she knew I’d understand.

Shortly thereafter, Ann went into intensive care at the local hospital and her friend Jay brought out the dogs–unwilling, relentless, obnoxious, disoriented and afraid. They came with four garbage cans full of dry food and a couple of cases of canned dog food, two boxes of treats, an enormous cage for the floppy eared male puppy, and numerous lounging pillows for the ladies, Glitter, 7, and her lovely but aggressive daughter, Harlot, 3.
CJ, Billie and the white people. Clockwise from the human: Seven-month old Bones (the male), Harlot, her mother Glitter, and the pretty merle, Lady Day "Billie" Holiday.

It was chaos. Billie was traumatized. Jake Ranger the cat was in hiding, for days. The white people fought each other, furiously. Ann died, after she approved my five acres of dirt.

I worked at home, afraid to leave, coddling the newcomers, trying to make them act like Charlie. After three weeks things calmed down a little. They don’t bark much any more. They play hard but there isn’t much blood. Billie can tolerate them now and is willing to share the truck. She’s forgiven Charlie for leaving her.

I’m showing you the picture of the mob just so we can close this case. I got so many letters about Charlie I wanted to thank you. I cherish your sentiments. I even appreciated the letter from Mother Earth News founder John Shuttleworth, who said, “CJ, you need a smaller dog!”



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