HC: In Between Urban and Wild you focus on the realities of settling and living in a partially wild environment. Have you ever lived in a totally urban environment?
AMJ: I lived “in town” in Boulder during college, and Doug and I lived in a condo a few blocks from downtown there before we moved to Fourmile Canyon, but in the sense of big-city urban living, no.
I’m fascinated at how major urban areas like New York City function. Although we gravitate toward destinations where we can hike when we make travel plans, Doug and I often incorporate “city breaks,” in which we partake of public transportation and walk-to amenities for a few days. And when we talk about retirement, we talk about settling someplace urban. As much as I love my home ground, I can foresee a time when the chores and harsh weather and distance are more than we want to cope with. Between Urban and Wild is a chronicle of the effort to be present in a place, and attentiveness is portable. Urban areas are very much a part of our world, and they represent a type of environment I’d like to dedicate some time to exploring at some point in my life.
HC: Tell us more about your horses.
AMJ: Sadly, Max died in January 2012. He developed a case of colic after a string of hot days (temperatures in the low 50s, in January) followed by a cold snap; we think he wasn’t drinking enough water once it got cold to keep his digestive tract moving, and he developed an impaction. For Doug and me, our horses are our family, and Max’s death was devastating. He was a great horse and a great character.
Jake is Moondo’s new pasture-mate. He’s a dapple gray Quarter Horse-Percheron cross, the Percheron being a draft breed. He’s about the same height as Max was, but a totally different build: stocky and massive. He’s got a sweet personality but was spoiled as a youngster. He assumes everyone loves him, so he tends to walk up too close or push too hard for a scratch or snoop too aggressively at a pocket where he thinks there might be a treat, none of which is all that endearing when an animal weighs around 1400 pounds. We continue to whittle away at his bratty habits, which is made easier by the fact that he’s smart and wants to please, and is frustrating in that he’s a little bit of a smart aleck.
Jake pushes Moondo around but seems to have developed a respect for Moondo’s experience when it comes to dealing with their environment. This was no doubt helped along by the fact that Jake got bit on the nose by a rattlesnake a few months after his arrival. I can’t help but think that Moondo was dancing around behind him at the time, trying to convince Jake to leave that thing alone!!
Jake is nine years old and remarkably athletic for his size. He loves a good run across the field, and when I ride Moondo in the arena he will sometimes canter laps up and down the pasture to keep himself occupied. Moondo, now nineteen, is healthy and, with Jake as a personal trainer, more fit even when he’s not being ridden regularly. He’s still sweet and, if it is possible, more maddeningly persnickety than ever. He still loves his pasture, hates the barn, and has very firm ideas about the daily routine and what activities the neighbors should NOT pursue, notably target shooting and riding ATVs.
HC: What are your favorite natural areas?
AMJ: The glib response is the one I’m in at the time, which is usually the landscape around our home. I like the element of exploration that a new place affords, and I like the sense of recognition that comes with visiting a familiar spot. I’m easily entertained by small details, so vastness and grandeur aren’t important criteria. Still, the deserts of the Southwest’s Colorado Plateau fire my psyche in a way that no other place does—any place in Red Rock country will do.
Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado, by Andrea M. Jones