Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

My Irish Ancestors

(Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland)

My 5th great-grandfather, John McInally, was born in Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1760. His father, Owen McInally, was a flax grower. John was a weaver by trade. He married Sarah Dobbin in 1780 and emigrated to Grand Island, Quebec, Canada in 1781. His first son, John, was born aboard ship on the way over.

In Canada, John worked the cattle boats along the St. Lawrence River. One day, in 1827, when he was trying to control the steer, he fell overboard and drowned. His wife, Sarah, prowled the riverbanks, calling his name, unable to accept the possibility of his death. But he was, indeed, drowned and later buried in the cemetery at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Quebec. Sarah was forced by poverty to adopt out her five boys to other families. Although the boys were baptized Catholic, they only found homes in Protestant families and were brought up as such. Broken-hearted by the loss of her family, Sarah soon followed her husband to the grave.

Like America, Canada was colonized by immigrants from France, the British Isles, and other nations. After the American Revolution, many Loyalists to the British Crown emigrated north. Although I live in America, I have a lot of relatives in Canada – mostly around Ontario – from both sides of the family. Before COVID, they held a huge family reunion every year. Although invited, I never went. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get there!

Dawn Pisturino

March 15, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Free Range

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

Yesterday, I spent all day working on a paper for the university class I’m taking. My brain was mush by the end of the day. I just wanted to go to bed early. I had just gotten into bed when my dog started barking like crazy. Right away, I knew why.

The ranchers’ cattle were in my front yard, drinking up all the birds’ water. They knocked over the birdbath, broke a limb off my cherry tree, and left deep footprints everywhere. When I opened the window, I could hear them crashing through the bushes and clop-clopping through the yard. I was scared they would damage the water faucet and water meter. These cattle or so large and weigh so much, they could easily cause a lot of damage. Plus, the bull has horns at least a foot long, which really scares me.

I grabbed a flashlight and ran outside. They got scared and headed toward the road in front of my house. Luckily, they are scared of people and don’t try to charge at you. Once I thought they were gone, I went back into the house and back to bed. But not long after, I could hear them back in the yard, tearing through the bushes and cracking the limbs on the trees. I got a lantern this time and ran outside. I started yelling at them to get out of here and tried to steer them in a different direction. This time, they took off toward the north part of the yard and out into an open field.

I looked at the damage they had done and decided my husband could clean it up in the morning. I finally went to bed and slept. If they came back, I never heard them.

Why did I have cattle in my front yard?

I live in rural Northern Arizona. Miles and miles of open desert lie, unused, across the road from us. So, the ranchers use it in the winter for grazing cattle. They drop off the cattle in the fall and let them roam freely through the desert — and through the neighborhood. There used to be watering stations in place a long time ago, but I have no idea where they get their water now, except in my front yard. When the cattle stay on the other side of the barbed wire fence, it’s a pleasure to watch them grazing on the desert plants and just meandering around. But when they wander out of their allotted acreage, it becomes a problem, as described earlier.

For one thing, they stand in the middle of the road and block the cars from getting through. If it’s night-time and and you don’t see them, you’re going to plough into one and wreck your car. There are no street lights, and they won’t move out of the way.

Normally, they just follow a path along the fence and find their way back to the open field. But sometimes, they act like they’re lost and disoriented. They start mooing and wandering around haphazardly. I usually end up calling Phoenix at least once a season to let them know that the cattle are running loose through the neighborhood. I worry that someone will get hurt – especially a child – and they know how to contact the ranchers to come check on their cattle.

Arizona has free range laws which allow the cattle to pretty much go wherever they want. And woe to anyone who harms one of them! There are stiff fines for harming or killing one of them. I have no idea what happens if you accidentally hit one of them and wreck your car. It seems like the rancher should bear some responsibility.

But that’s life in the desert! Beautiful, barren, harsh, deadly, and spiritually uplifting. The free roaming cattle just add to its charm.

Dawn Pisturino

November 11, 2021

Copyright 2015-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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THE GIRL WHO HATED THE SUN

drought

she hated the sun

how it filled up heaven

with energy and light

too hot and bright . . .

The poem popped into Katie’s head as she stood on the front porch, eyes closed, arms wide open, daring the Sun to kill her. Kill me, she urged, like you spoiled our farm, drove away my father, and wasted my mother. Go ahead. Do it!

The Sun swallowed her whole, dissolving her in his fiery belly.

Now that she was part of the Sun, Katie could ride through the heavens and visualize everything that happened down below.

She saw the grim black hearse pull up to the farm, and wept, as two men in plain black suits carried her mother away on a gurney. She sailed freely over the dusty brown fields that no longer yielded crops. She mourned the beds of sunflowers whose heads sagged, like dying children, out by the barn. And she said good-bye to the rusty old truck that sat, without tires, in a patch of yellow weeds.

Soon, the Pacific Ocean sparkled down below. Dolphins leaped among the waves. Throngs of people crowded the streets of Beijing, scurrying around like busy mice. Katie soared above the icy peaks of the Himalayas and swooped down to burn the white sands of Arabia. She waved at the Statue of Liberty, rejoicing that she finally got to see it.

And then she was home again, viewing the crumbling barn in pinkish light that gradually turned to yellow. She counted the shingles missing from the roof of the old house and peeked through the windows of her shabby bedroom.

And the journey repeated itself as the earth slowly turned, like a giant spit — repeated itself, day after day, until Katie cried with weariness and pain.

Now, she hovered over the old farm, shining brightly against a piece of broken glass lying in the withered grass, until one small yellow flame burst forth, catching the grass on fire. A passing breeze nudged the fire toward the house. The splintered wood burned brightly, throwing sparks into the sky. The old barn caught the sparks and exploded, fueled by old cans of paint. Showers of burning wood and straw ignited the patch of weeds. The ripped out upholstery in the old truck burst into flame. The oil pan smoldered, sending black smoke into the sky. And finally, with one burst of energy, the fuel tank exploded.

With grim satisfaction Katie cried, “I’ve killed it! I’ve killed my past life!” She snuggled up to the Sun, melting deeper into his fiery depths . . . while down below, a tiny piece of the world disappeared forever.

Dawn Pisturino

November 14, 2012

Copyright 2012-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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