A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

After Life

Part II



In September of 2009, Evelyn arrived at the ranch to join me for a road trip to Maine. We would depart on the 4th, and we had to be in Boston on the 10th so Evelyn could catch a flight, so there would be no dilly-dallying. I rented an eighteen-foot moving truck in Pagosa and we loaded up the remaining equipment from Dan’s recording studio, as well as rugs, sculpture, artifacts and art.

     The first day of our trip was the hardest: I had to drive very slowly down the ten-mile, pot-holed dirt road of the basin, so as not to jostle the delicate reel to reel recorder in the back. When we finally got to the highway, I was already tired. Forty minutes later, we were moving at five miles per hour, as the trembling truck struggled to make it up Wolf Creek Pass. I had to keep pulling over so other cars could pass, and to let the engine cool down. By the time we reached the top of the pass, Evelyn and I were both exhausted, but relieved to be coasting at the speed limit.
   Later in the day, Evelyn was driving as we pulled into a gas station for the first time. Misjudging the turn, she clipped the steel safety post. When I inserted the nozzle and pressed the handle, the nozzle kept turning itself off. Looking under the truck, I could see that the metal tube running from the fuel door to the tank was bent. Pushing up at the kink, I held it straight while Evelyn pumped the gas. Some gasoline went in, but not a lot; the angle to the tank wasn’t steep enough. After that, we always looked for gas stations that had an outside lane that sat at an angle. We’d pull in, with the truck leaning away from the pump, and I’d get under and un-kink the tube while Evelyn pumped. We got many comments about rental trucks, from our fellow travelers.
   Three days into our road trip, while traveling on I-40, we were hit by a huge rain storm. I was driving, and the wiper blades on the truck were useless. Big trucks kept passing us going eighty miles an hour, throwing buckets of water in their wake, blinding us.  It was a white-knuckle day, and I was grateful to pull off the highway just before sunset. We found a funky Super 8 Motel on the outskirts of Princeton, Illinois, and parked under a light in the lot. When I turned the engine off, it felt like I’d been sitting on one of those vibrating motel beds all day.
   We got a room overlooking the parking lot, and I set my things on the bed next to the noisy air conditioner, which was struggling to cool the stuffy room. In the yellow pages, we ignored the nearby Pizza Huts and found Anna Maria’s, an Italian restaurant that delivered. An hour later, I pulled our food from the bag. Big servings were stored in those little aluminum containers with the plastic lids, and the garlic bread smelled like heaven. I can’t remember what Evelyn had, but I had the Best. Lasagne. Ever. I called and thanked Anna Maria for giving us a delicious ending to a long, hard day.
   On the 10th, I dropped Evelyn off at Boston Logan and continued on to Maine.


While listening to the radio one morning in January, I was half-listening to a program when the interviewer said that author Nicki Scully had been leading tours to Egypt for many years. I jumped for a pen and wrote down her website. Before I could talk myself out of it, I signed up for the two-week tour of sacred Egyptian temples in November and sent in my deposit. 
   In February, Portland Magazine ran a lovely story about Dan and his love of Maine. The writer, Robert Witkowski, had asked for an interview, but I asked him to email me the questions instead, so I could carefully consider each answer. The article was called “Wild Child,” and featured the photo I had taken of Dan at twilight in Maine.


I was so grateful that Dan hadn’t lived to see all the disasters at the ranch. When I told him not to worry, and assured him that I could “handle it,” I spoke with conviction because I believed that packing up the 6,000 square-foot-house would be the worst of it. Neither of us could have foreseen the collapse of the world economy, and the even more bizarre events that would follow.
   At this point, a bitter dispute with a neighboring rancher was re-ignited. It had been percolating since Dan first bought the property, and was a murky sludge of access rights, property boundaries, and privacy issues that had never been resolved. Now I got caught up in the dispute, as it devolved from friendly discussions to intimidation. Without a signed access agreement, I was told, most buyers would walk away. But the demands the neighbor was making were unacceptable, and so the simmering dispute dragged on, as it had since the 80s.
   In May of 2010 the realtor brought a buyer from Texas, who made an offer. He would make numerous trips to the ranch over the next sixteen months, sometimes with his wife, sometimes with his business partner. It got pretty crazy at times, but he’d been fully vetted and no other offers came along, so we hung in there with him.

   In June, I was asked to serve as the honorary chair for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for Hancock County, Maine. As such, I had to give a five-minute speech. I’d never spoken in public, and hadn’t attended a Relay for Life before, so I had no idea what to expect. I was terrified!
   My Relay team was led by my family nurse practitioner, Bethany, and was made up of nurses and their families. I had my caregiver site, so we called ourselves Caregivers for a Cure. Our theme was Movies, and I dressed as a female Mad Hatter. 
   I decided to give the speech in my costume, in an effort to overcome my terror of public speaking. I’d memorized it, rehearsing for weeks while walking up and down the road near our house. The speech was five minutes long on my walks, but I was so nervous when facing the rows of bleachers on the outdoor track, I got through the whole thing in under three minutes. I doubt anyone could understand a word of my careful crafted speech. The Relay was a great experience, though, and our team was the top fundraiser.
   To raise funds, I had posted a Relay link on Facebook and, as usual, the fans outdid themselves, making me the highest single fundraiser of the event, and earning me a special “throne.” 


    Many fans purchased luminarias honoring Dan, which were placed along the track with the other luminarias honoring loved ones lost to cancer. I hosted the Survivor/Caregiver tent and “Don’t Lose Heart” was played during one of the ceremonies. That night, each luminary was lit, revealing the names. I walked around the track and found each one with Dan’s name.


    Our team had a cookout, adding to the summer camp atmosphere, and we kept at least one member on the track at all times. The 24-hour event was very well attended, with many teams, and for the first time it raised over $100,000 for cancer research.

    In September I went to Washington, D.C. for the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s annual Summit to End Prostate Cancer. I agreed to be a speaker at the event, a decision I instantly regretted. Every time I thought about it my stomach got all tangled up. I’d heard of Toastmasters International, and tried to find a group near me so I could get some public speaking coaching and practice. There was nothing anywhere near me. This time, instead of memorizing my speech, I tried making copious notes. It didn’t help. Once again, I rambled nervously, then ended by saying that, obviously, I was not a public speaker. Relieved to have that behind me, I found my table and sat down. 
   I’d been seated next to football legend Rosey Grier, who was an experienced event speaker. Speaking quietly, he told me, “Never admit you aren’t a public speaker.” Thirty minutes later, someone else counseled me, “Tell them you aren’t a public speaker up front; it takes the pressure off.”
   For two days I attended lectures and programs, surrounded by scientists and doctors intent on conquering prostate cancer. Everyone shared their knowledge and discoveries and, although I understood about a quarter of what was said, I took comfort in knowing these people were working hard to find a cure for the disease that took Dan from me. At the same time, I dreaded hearing that a cure had been found, and Dan had just missed it.

   In October I was asked to be on a panel at a cancer conference in Machias, Maine. Instead of memorizing my speech, or working from notes, I just jotted down a few talking points. I started by confessing how nervous I was, which did indeed take some of the pressure off, and then I just spoke from my heart. This worked much better for me, and I really enjoyed fielding questions from the audience with the rest of the panel afterward.

   In November, I went to Egypt, along with forty other travelers. I’d never been on a guided tour before, but found I loved it. After living alone for three years, the constant socializing was a challenge, but it was a diverse and interesting group and I enjoyed getting to know some of them. My roommate, Susan, was as different from me as possible, but it worked for us. I loved Egypt; the pyramids, hieroglyphs, scenery, and temples were even better than I’d imagined.


I landed in New York on the 18th and spent the following day wandering the city of my birth, on my birthday. After visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art I had lunch at Nello, where Dan would take me whenever we were there.



In February I flew to Nashville to meet with two women who had written a play called Part of the Plan. They were going to do a presentation for me, so I asked Dan’s old friend Norbert Putnam and his wife, Sheryl, to come along, to give me their opinions. I’d had many other project proposals, but something about the email I got from Kate and Karen was different. I was intrigued, but totally prepared to say, “Thanks, I’ll think about it,” then walk away. Norbert and Sheryl felt the same way, but by the end of the laptop presentation the three of us were teary-eyed, and ready to buy tickets. I agreed to license fourteen songs to them, and help however I could.

    Through Dan’s website, I got two emails from fans, letting me know that an online dating site was using one of my photos of Dan in their advertising. The screenshot of the image had a tagline that read, “Looking for a sugar daddy? We’ve got them!” It was so incredibly offensive, I forwarded it on to Irving, who sent the lawyers after them. 
   I had posted the photo on a “secret” Photo Gallery page, which I tucked inside of Dan’s website, along with the usual copyright warnings. Feeling like I’d been groped, I took the page down right away, apologizing to the fans, but needing time to regroup.

    In March, I drove to my parents’ house in Bowling Green. Dad was Mom’s full-time caregiver now, and I convinced him to take some time for himself while I stayed with Mom. He packed a small bag and took a meandering road trip to Arkansas, to visit his friend Mike. We began to do this on a regular basis, and although I always told him to take as long as he wanted, he was never gone for more than five days, and he called every night from whatever city he was in.
   In June I attended my second Relay for Life, again as part of Caregivers for a Cure. This time, other than a radio interview, I didn’t have any official duties. I made bags and bags of popcorn to sell, and brought rub-on tattoos to decorate kids’ arms for a quarter. It was incredibly windy and cold that night, which wreaked havoc with tents, but kept people walking. 
   In July, I flew to Orlando and spoke at an American Cancer Society convention. I couldn’t start by admitting I wasn’t a public speaker, because I kind of was a public speaker now. So, I used the talking points and spoke from my heart about my own caregiving experience. When I was finished, the moderator guided me toward the side of the stage as the audience applauded. She gently nudged me and nodded toward the crowd, which was giving me a standing ovation.

    Back at the ranch, all the contracts for the sale of the ranch had been signed with the Texas buyer, and in September it was finally closing day. I was under contract on a house in Santa Fe, and would need those funds to close.
   After some last-minute drama, the Texas buyer notified us that he had wired the money to the title company. My lawyers and realtor were almost as relieved as I was. It had been sixteen months of numerous extensions, contract revisions, and demands.
   All that day, my attorneys and I waited for word of the received funds. 
   They never arrived. 
   The buyer accused the New Mexico title company of incompetence and asked for another extension. It was gut-wrenchingly obvious to us all that he didn’t have the money and, despite vetting, probably never had. I refused to give him another extension, and he was furious.
   Now I was forced to cancel my contract on the house in Santa Fe. My parents had been ready to move into that house with me; now I had to call them and tell them it wasn’t happening. I was devastated. The seller of the Santa Fe house was a lawyer, who would now have to cancel his own contract on a house in California. After he and his wife drove back to Santa Fe with their belongings, he filed a lawsuit against me, for fraud. The notice was delivered to the ranch a few days before my birthday.  
   A compulsive rule-follower my whole life, I was horrified at the prospect of jail time and a lifetime of debt. Worst of all, though, was the thought that Dan had entrusted his legacy to me and now it would be tarnished by news that his wife had been accused of fraud. It felt like I was caught up in an avalanche that was dragging me toward my ruin. I went a little nuts, crying for three days. Then, the inner strength that had appeared during Dan’s cancer diagnosis emerged again, like the tip of an evergreen in the snow. I grabbed it and held on for dear life. 
   After I ran out of tears, I hired a Santa Fe attorney to represent me in the fraud suit. Then, I went into the art studio. I didn’t have the energy to create my usual Native American figures; I just wanted to spread, scrape and throw some paint.


    When I met Dan, I was an artist and musician living in a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Fe. Now I was dividing my time between a new home in Maine and a 6,000 square-foot mansion in Colorado. 
   In Los Angeles, I had a business manager and an estate lawyer. I had a Santa Fe real estate attorney, a Colorado real estate attorney, and an Aspen realtor. I was overseeing a 600-acre ranch and its employees, dealing with unscrupulous people on a daily basis, and trying to free myself from legal entanglements, some of them decades in the making. 
   Every week, I made at least one decision that would affect the estate and legacy of one of America’s best-loved singer-songwriters. As a musician in Santa Fe, I lived paycheck to paycheck; now I was  a million dollars in debt.
   My sanity, credit rating, and unblemished criminal record were hanging by a thread. 

    I had so many advisors and lawyers in my life, we could have started a band. But, in the end, I came to appreciate them all. Leonard, my Santa Fe attorney, got the fraud lawsuit dismissed. My business manager, Rick, waded through my teary days, sold our investments and found the loans that kept me afloat. Bob, my Colorado attorney, gave me years of moral support, on top of his excellent legal advice. I don’t even know who went after the dating website, but Dan’s photo was taken down, right away.

    In May, I looked out the art studio window and saw a strange man walking around the house. Heart pounding, I immediately locked the door and called the on-site ranch manager, who was in charge of security.  In an offhand manner, he explained that it was just so and so, from their church. He was an ex-con who needed a job, so they’d hired him to do some gardening.
   I shook my head in wonder, amazed but not surprised, after everything else that had gone down. Neither ranch manager had seen fit to tell me (their boss, and a woman living alone,) that an unsupervised stranger would be coming to the house. It was maddening.

    Needing a reprieve from ranch drama, I returned to Maine. But before leaving, I moved all the valuable prints and art into the pool table room under the kitchen. Dan and I had the kitchen pipes replaced in 2004, when the pool room ceiling fell in, so I knew the chances of a leak there were remote. 
​       That winter, the on-site manager left two windows open, causing a pipe to burst in the herb room off the kitchen. The water made its way to the pool table and soaked the carpet, ruining many of the prints I’d put there for safekeeping. He assured me he’d been checking the house every day, but the contractor said the pile of leaves in the herb room, and the distance the water had traveled to get to the pool table, meant the window had been open since late Fall.
   This was not working.



    Pauline introduced me to Helen, a social worker who lived off-island but worked at the local clinic five days a week. I liked her immediately, and she was happy to stay in the Maine house while I moved back to the ranch full-time. With that worry behind me, I returned to Colorado.
   I let the on-site manager go, and hired Lisa Hayes, a licensed real estate agent and ex-rancher, to take his place. She was my age, and her birthday was the day after mine. Our life views and work ethics were very similar, and we had many common interests, including photography. She moved into the manager’s apartment with her two cats and a small dog. Now I had someone to walk, and talk, and share the occasional meal with. A self-starter, she was smart, conscientious, and a joy to work with.
   I kept the general manager on, because he knew every inch of the ranch and was a wiz at fixing vehicles and equipment. Lisa got on well enough with him, and together we worked through the occasional disagreement when he felt her duties were overlapping his.

    On May 13th, 2012, four years after the search for the elusive Larry Hickman first began, I received a letter through Dan’s website:


    My name is Larry Hickman, living in Oklahoma City, Okla., I wrote the song ‘Soft Voice’, and just heard it today on UTube. Dan did a great job of the song and I’m so glad he did not change it very much. I wish I could have spoken to Dan and given him a history of the song, for I’m sure he wondered about that. I was unaware that he passed, it is a wonderful tribute to me and an honor that Dan would do my song.  I would love to hear from someone about how Dan heard the song, and decided to record it.


    The following day, I wrote to Lisa Thomas, Cc’ing Larry Hickman:


    Lisa, meet our long lost Larry Hickman!  Larry, Lisa will help you navigate the royalty thing. Cheers, everyone, don't you just love a happy ending!?



    In February of 2013, a gallery in Santa Fe accepted the paintings I’d created during that terrible winter, and I was a working artist once again.
   I liked visiting Lisa’s cats, but really missed having a feline friend of my own, so I went to the shelter in Pagosa Springs. In a big pen out front I met a large, friendly, older cat who had been there for a long time. His name was Sam, and we took a shine to each other. Each morning, we would walk around the ranch together while I photographed icicles, berms, and the snow-capped peaks. Sam trotted along beside me, like a dog, and it seemed like we had a good thing going, until late Spring. Once the snow melted, grass and flowers emerged, as did the birds and chipmunks who knew me well. They all trusted me and would take nuts and seeds from my hand. 


   Sam was a single-minded killing machine, and he quickly lost his outside privileges. One day, two men carried a piece of equipment out of the gym, leaving the door open behind them. Sam made his move. I dashed out the door after him and watched in horror as he ran toward a pregnant chipmunk who was in the grass, munching on a dandelion. I was too late. Holding Sam by the scruff of his neck with my left hand, I sternly told him to let her go. When he refused, I pressed on the sides of his mouth with the index finger and thumb of my right hand, pushing to force his jaw open. 
   The chipmunk bit down on the only thing it could reach, which was my finger, right between the knuckle and first joint. It hurt like hell, and I yelped loud enough that Sam let go. The chipmunk did not. I couldn’t release Sam’s scruff, or he’d go grab another critter, so I continued to hold him. The chipmunk was dangling from my right hand, her teeth digging into the bone. Bending down, I set the chipmunk on the ground. Once all four feet were on terra firma, she gave one last glance back at Sam before releasing me and scampering away, apparently unharmed. I carried the big cat into the house, slamming the door shut with my foot. Dropping him on the rug, I walked in circles, clutching my wrist below the throbbing hand and repeating the F word loudly, and with great feeling.
   In no time, the finger was swollen, hot, and red. I drove to the medical clinic, and a doctor examined and cleaned the wound. He asked if I was current with my tetanus shot, and thankfully, I was, so he started me on a course of antibiotics. 
   For three days, I dulled the pain with Advil and fought with Sam every time someone came or went through a door. Finally, I realized he would have to go back. I had never done this before, and it was a hard decision, but I valued the local wildlife and Sam could not reconcile himself to being an indoor cat.
   I felt ashamed to be returning a cat to a shelter, but everyone who worked there was very nice about it. Everyone, that is, except for one older woman, who was scowling at me from across the office. 
   I should have walked away. 
   Instead, I heard myself saying that maybe Sam just needed a playmate. I took him into the room with the cages of kitties. That’s when I learned that Sam had been in the big pen out front because he didn’t get along with other cats. 
   I should have walked away. 
   Instead, in the heat of that withering scowl, I heard myself saying maybe I should get two other cats that already got along, and could play together inside. 
   Two black kittens, siblings, went home with me that day. The staff warned me that they were feral, but I’d taken in feral cats before. As recommended, I closed them in one room, the master bedroom, so they could acclimate. I coo’d and coaxed and plied with treats, but they were freaked out in this new space and hid from me. 
   One day, I went into the master bathroom and closed the door, without realizing one of the kittens was sitting in the window. When I flushed the toilet, it flew to the door and climbed to the top. Without thinking, I lifted the little fluff ball from the door. It went wild, scratching my face, arms, and both hands, including the chipmunk bite.
   I was still on antibiotics, but the index finger swelled up again, even worse this time. The skin was hot, and stretched shiny and smooth. The pain was intense and unrelenting. I called the clinic again, and, concerned it might be Cat Scratch Fever, they urged me to come in immediately. 
   While lying in the clinic with an IV line in my arm, I called Lisa to give her an update. Bless her, she was already driving to the shelter with the two kittens in a carrier. She and a strapping young ranch worker had worn thick leather gloves to capture the cats, who still managed to bite through the gloves, almost puncturing the ranch worker’s hand.
   Thanks to Lisa, I would be spared the humiliation of returning yet two more cats to the shelter. I stopped by the pharmacy to fill a prescription for another course of antibiotics. “Oh,” the pharmacist behind the counter said, “I’ve heard about Cat Scratch Fever, but I haven’t ever seen it before, may I see?” I held up my swollen hand and she winced. Pointing out the red welt on my index finger, she said, “It looks so painful!” 
   Before I could stop myself, I said, “Oh, no, that’s the chipmunk bite.”
   The woman next to the pharmacist looked up from her work and they both stared at me, befuddled. 

    It seemed as if the universe was telling me that now was not a good time to have a cat. My life was too crazy, with all the back and forth trips across the country. It would be better to wait until the ranch sold.

At the end of June, Garth Brook’s recording of “Phoenix” was finished and he invited me to his Allentown Studios, in Nashville, to have a listen. He and his band gave me some space while I sat with the engineer at the mixing board to hear the track. It came on like a freight train and then Trisha Yearwood’s vocals entered, blending perfectly with Garth’s. When it was finished, I was smiling from ear to ear. “Play it again!” I said. 
   After thanking Garth for his involvement in the tribute for the hundredth time, I drove north, to Bowling Green. As usual, my elderly parents’ hallway thermostat was set to 86º, so I changed into a cotton dress and stood over the vent in the kitchen floor, willing the air conditioner to kick on.

    My father had always considered me a celebrity. He and Mom would go to watch me perform, and marvel at their timid little mouse, singing on the stage. When I introduced them to Dan, my father knew who he was, but wasn’t awestruck; he was, after all, inured to stardom. Once Mom’s initial reaction (Oh honey, not another musician!) was past, she warmed immediately to Dan, and his gorgeous face. 
   Even so, my father was pretty darned impressed when I returned from Nashville, after hobnobbing with Garth Brooks. 

    Dad always kept Patron Silver tequila in the freezer for me. Sweating in the July heat, I took the bottle out and poured myself a shot. Raising his glass of gin, he clinked glasses with me across the counter and I recognized that look in his eyes. He’d watched his too-shy, too-sensitive daughter emerge from an avalanche of pain and adversity to become a record producer, caregiver advocate, public speaker, and world traveler. He was very proud of me.
   “To Dan,” I said, tossing back the shot like Marion Ravenwood in an Indiana Jones movie.


I’d been with the Aspen real estate agency for nine years. In all that time they'd sent five potential buyers and attended one showing. The first buyer, our neighbor, had contacted me directly because he was being ignored. The second “buyer” had no money. The owner and I had been through hell together with the Texas buyer, but it was clear that, despite their excellent reputation, using a real estate company so far from home hadn't been prudent. So, in 2014 I opted out of my contract. 
   I redecorated the main house, as well as the guest house, painting walls, pulling down old wallpaper, and sewing curtains. I sanded and oiled the butcher block counters in the kitchen and replaced the old faucet and cupboard knobs. From the comments we'd heard, I knew the green carpet on the main floor would have to be replaced with something more neutral. I couldn’t afford it, but it was a gamble I had to take. I photographed the entire ranch, created a website, and took out a “For Sale by Owner” Google Ad. Inquiries came in right away, and Lisa handled communications and booked showings.


The floral couch in the great room had seen better days, so I replaced it with the leather couch from Dan's office.

   In her years as a real estate agent, Lisa had sold some big properties and seen a lot of complicated transactions. She had also witnessed, first hand, the bogus buyer, legal threats, access issues, neighbor intimidations, employee problems, and numerous accidents at the ranch. So, one day I asked her, “Lisa, are things like this normal, with a large property like this?” She burst out laughing and said, “I have never heard of anything like this,  with any size property, ever.” 
   Hearing that, I made a decision: “If one more crazy thing happens, I’m going to write a book. You just can’t make this stuff up.”

In April, I joined Evelyn in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and taught my first photography workshop for Heaven and Earth Workshops. Evelyn handles every aspect of the trip but the classes, which she leaves to the instructor. I had done a two-hour class in Pagosa the previous year, but now I would have paying students for seven days. I spent weeks working up daily lesson plans, printing handouts, and worrying that I was trying to cover too much, or too little.  
   On day one, I was nervous as I handed out the first printed page. The jitters lasted about half an hour; after that, I felt like I’d been teaching all my life. My passion for photography just swept me along. Each morning I introduced one camera setting, and the rest of the day was spent wandering the town and helping the students experiment with that setting. Together, we explored topics like night photography, portraits, lighting, freeze motion, and abstract still lifes. As I guided the students through their camera settings and Photoshop tools, I got a huge rush from seeing that “Ah ha!” moment in their eyes. At the end of the workshop I asked Evelyn, “Where are we going next?”


    Upon returning to the ranch, I felt invigorated and ready to deal with whatever came my way.

   The land beyond the main house was leased out each year, for cattle grazing. Some time in June, a cattle rancher would bring his herds of bulls, cows and calves to graze in the back pastures for the summer and fall. Then he’d come back up in October to retrieve the herd. 
   This year, when the rancher collected his herd in October, four were unaccounted for: two mothers and two calves. These two mothers were more skittish than the other cows; they ran and hid in the forests whenever people came around and nothing could persuade them, or their calves, to come back out. His trucks were full of animals waiting for transport, so the rancher left. Winter was fast approaching, and Lisa found this unacceptable. Worried the stragglers would perish without food or shelter, she was determined to lure them down to the lower pens, so the rancher could come back and get them. 
   Each day, she took hay to the back and left a trail leading to the first meadow, in hopes they would stay there, where they could be contained and eventually herded to the lower pens. But, once they'd eaten the hay, they would disappear back into the wild parts of the ranch. Lisa would return the next day, finding plenty of fresh hoof prints in the mud, but no cows.
   One morning, during our weekly ranch business meeting, she told me about the problems she was having luring the cows, and asked if I had any ideas. I asked her if she thought the cows would come to the sound of a herd. She said she thought they would.
   I bought a couple of digital “Cow Herd” audio files online and spliced them together, creating 10 minutes worth of moo-loops. Then I burned them onto a CD  I could play in my car.
   Lisa and I drove to the first big meadow, me in my birthday Lexus from Dan, and she on an ATV. The cows were nowhere to be seen. Lisa headed over the ridge for a look; no cows. It was a cold day, and the sun would be setting at 6:15.
   Opening the car doors, I inserted the CD and cranked up the moo-loops. We took our insulated mugs of coffee and walked into the meadow, scanning the tree line for cow faces. After about ten minutes, I started back to the Lexus, to increase the volume. I’d walked about ten feet when I heard Lisa yell. Turning, I saw the cows and their calves, galloping toward us from the woods. Holy cow, I thought, what was the herd on those audio files saying? Lisa had thrown out her coffee and was running for the ATV, laughing maniacally and yelling at me to, "GO, GO, GO!"
   I jumped in my car and drove up the hill, passing the small piles of hay Lisa had placed along the road. She followed me, motioning when to slow down or speed up. When I got to the top of the last hill I drove on ahead, down through the final fence. Parked in the pen next to the barn, I sipped my coffee, a bovine pied piper blaring her siren calls. It took a while for the hungry cows to eat each pile of hay, but with some gentle nudging from Lisa, they finally entered the last gate and she shut it after them.
   Laughing, we high-fived, very pleased with ourselves. Finding and herding those cows would have taken two cowhands a frustrating afternoon of crisscrossing and backtracking through trees and scrub oak on horseback. We had accomplished the task in less than two hours, using an ATV, a luxury sedan, and a WAV file.

    One day, Lisa brought a real estate agent and an interested buyer up to the main house. As I was walking down the stairs toward the foyer, I saw the buyer and thought, She looks so familiar. I said hello, and Lisa took them through the living room. Then, just as they entered Dan’s music room, I realized where I knew the woman from. I’d seen her face on Facebook. 
   Pulling Lisa aside, I quickly explained that this was no buyer - she was one of Dan’s extreme fans. We were both furious. Preparing the ranch for showings took two exhausting, sweaty days, and we’d wasted all that time and energy for a nutty fan and, as we later learned, her grandmother real estate agent. Lisa gave them a 2-minute tour, watching them like a hawk, then sent them on their way. We could have filed a complaint against the grandmother, but we just determined to ask more questions in the future. And, instead of freaking out, I said, “That’s one more story for the book.”

After selling all the equipment in Dan’s recording studio, it was sitting empty. Hoping some creative mojo still lingered, I set up an office in the cool, quiet space and started to write. With no sense of direction, I just started typing; wanting, needing, to somehow process everything that had led me to this point in my life.
    My working title was All the Time in the World, because Dan was always saying that to me. We'd be talking about doing something and I'd jump up to start. "Wait, come back here," he'd laugh, "There's no hurry, we have all the time in the world."
    The prologue emerged first, then “Thank God For Ravioli,” the story of how Dan and I met. The words poured from me, and when five chapters were completed I sent them to my friend, writer Katherine Hall Page. I knew she would be kind, but I also knew I would be able to tell if she truly thought it was any good.
   Her email was effusive: she loved it and couldn’t believe this was coming from a first-time writer. She urged me to continue, saying “You’ve found your voice - some authors work for years to achieve that.” Encouraged, I continued writing when I could find the time. 
   Crisscrossing the country between Colorado and Maine, I’d stop in Kentucky to see my parents and give Dad a caregiver break. Mom was slowly disappearing, her mind and body wilting like a flower in a bud vase. 
   I loved the long drives, especially Route 66 between Santa Fe and Oklahoma City. I’d been bouncing from one predicament to another for six years, but on the road, or in a motel room at night, it all seemed far, far away. As the long stretches of highway narrowed into the horizon, I felt like a fugitive, on the lam from the problems in my rear view mirror. As I got closer to my destination, I knew I could handle whatever waited for me there.


Posted June 26th, 2021 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2021