Monday, October 27, 2008

Ambushed by Sumdood

Or, A Good Way To Get Shot.

Bout the time I was finishing up the bulk of the printing for my big Management project tonight, I suddenly realized that my stomach had been sending out distress signals for a while. Looked at the clock, and swore.

Nine thirty, just about every decent place to eat in town is closed. Guess I'll have to go the college student route and grab something at McGreasyBurger.

So, I grabbed my coat, wallet, and of course, my trusty sidearm, and ventured out into the bowels of Podunk College Town to get something that, if I was lucky, would vaguely resemble food.

Got what can only be called grub if you're feeling extremely charitable, drunk, and vaguely near-sighted, all at once, no problem, and figured while I was out, I'd hit up the Stop-N-Rob and get some smokes.

The Stop-N-Rob up the street from my house being of the truck stop variety, I took a moment before I exited my car in the confines of the tiny four-wheeler parking area to see who was about.

Dude in pickup, check. Looks like he's waiting on somebody. Dude walking from semi-accessible pumps, check. Even looks like he's showered in the last week or so. No immediately glaring threats...

Then I saw the shadows by the payphone move.

Ok... just enough light to see wild-haired, creepy-lookin older dude. Looks homeless. Creepy enough to keep an eye on....

Step out of my car and adjust my coat to make sure I'm not gonna flash gun in the convenience store and make folks nervous, just in time to sweep my hand under the hem anyway as Sumdod the Elder lurches away from the wall.

"Babydoll.... can I clean your windows for.... Oh, I didn't mean to scare you..."

I'd stepped back when he stepped towards me, looking for room to draw and settling my feet into a shooting stance.

"A good way not to scare people is not to jump out of shadows. And don't call me Babydoll." (See? The attitude... it's automatic....) I had my hand on the grip of my Firestar.

"I just thought you looked like a nice young lady, and I thought..."

"I don't have anything to spare. Don't come any closer to me, please."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." And he shuffled back.

I went inside, bought my smokes, informed the clerks of the man hanging around outside jumping out of shadows at people, and when I came back out, he was gone.

Honestly, this little incident tonight is about as close as I've ever come to drawing a weapon with intent, so to speak. And, adrenaline spike and all, I was thinking about things before doing them, or he would have been looking down the barrel the first step he took towards me. He really was creepy-lookin. Apparently harmless, but creepy.

Now, if you'll 'scuse me, I gotta go check the locks on everything I own.... cause....... it's Monday, yeah, that's right. It's Monday.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I hate the cold. Ya'll have heard it before, and you'll probably hear it again.

That being said, without the cold, you don't get the leaves turning red and gold, showering down on the world like a gift from a benevolent universe.

You don't get those crisp mornings, when the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes, but you can't stop looking at it.

Or the chilly nights, when you can just see your breath on the air, and you look up, and eternity is spread out for you. The sky so deep you'd think you could dive in, and swim among the stars. The moon so bright and clear you want to talk to that smiling face.

Today, it was frozen hell. Tonight, from the safety of my nice warm house, the sky is beautiful. The stars look so close, I want to reach out and grab them, and roll them around in my hands.

You don't get nights like this, without the cold.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Rule

If you fall off your horse while playing tag... you're it.

Because of the small amount of room in the indoor arena, there isn't much we can effectively do inside right now. Thanks to the belated construction to improve the indoor arena/barn area, the previously vaguely cramped arena is now extremely cramped.

(Belated? Well, when you consider that I was promised, when I joined the program, that I'd be starting my College years off with a brand new indoor arena/barn/classroom areas... yeah. Freaking belated.)

So, pretty much all we can do when it's too icky to ride outside is play tag. I'm not complaining.. its fun, good exercise for the horses, and when you're having to balance that fine line between long trot and your horse breaking into the lope (which makes you automatically it) you're bound to warm up yourself, too.

Of course, all that trotting does mean your horse needs cooled down, especially when she's got the shortest legs in the class and has been out-trotting the longer legged ponies. (And no, standing around yapping about how cold it is does not count as cooling down your horse, sorry.)

So today, after Etta and I had successfully avoided four or five "Its" (they always pick on the little horse, and forget that she's nimble) and been "It" a couple of times, Marilyn called it quits and everyone wandered to one side of the arena to whine about how cold it was. Me? I was sweating. I'd layered for cleaning the pen outside, in the wind, and the occasional spit of sleet. In other words, to any sane, non cold-phobic person, I was ready for the push to the summit of Everest.

So a little exercise posting around on my pony when she was trotting too rough for me to sit comfortably kept me nice and toasty.

Anyway, S, C and I decided to goof around while we were cooling our horses out, and play tag walking. That meant that we could indulge in our urges to do stupid things on our horses, as well, such as throwing a leg over and standing in one stirrup to avoid getting tagged.

Cept S got overly cocky after J joined in and was trying to tag her... swung her leg a little too enthusiastically, and fell on her ass.

You can bet she won't be living that down for a long, long time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cow? Not cow...

Etta is doing fantastic on the fake cow. Unfortunately, about the time she's really getting good at it, we're quitting it, but I guess we'll survive.

Day one, she was still kind of nervous about it. Especially when it moved. But she settled down by the time we were done.

Day two, she could have cared less about the cow moving, but she really didn't want to turn with it either.

Day three she started getting the idea that she was supposed to move with the cow, but she wasn't really sure she was supposed to do it without me telling her to.

Day four.. WOW. She was excellent, just a little leg to encourage her and she was turning with it, and stopping with it, just like a real life cutting horse. She was snappier to the left than the right, but that's ok, she still wasn't waiting on me. I'd love to get her on a real cow, but there are a lot of advanced training students, and they're using the roping steers... not enough room, steers, or time, usually. I may ask anyway, but I'm not counting on it. If nothing else I'll get Farmmom out with me when the horses go home and she can hold herd on which ever horse I'm not working.

All in all, I'm pretty danged proud of the little girl. She surprised me a couple of times Thursday and I had to grab my ass or come out of the saddle, she turned around so quick. She got atta girls for those turns.

I just wish I could keep working her on cattle, since that's what she's gonna do....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Book Review

Ya'll know I don't do this often. I probably read ten or fifteen books minimum for every one I mention here, because this isn't really supposed to be a book blog, but I just got done reading The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright.

Folks, this one gave me the sniffles.

A young husband writes a letter on his wedding night, while his bride sleeps. In it he makes a promise; to write a letter to her every Wednesday for the rest of his life. And he keeps that promise. Fifty-two letters a year, for nearly forty years, through tragedy and triumph, and debilitating disease.

At the end of those forty years, he writes a final letter, while gazing once again at his bride lying alone in bed, this time dead of a heart attack. He writes the last letter, takes her into his arms, and joins her.

And that's just the beginning. Wright goes on to tell a tale of a grieving family, three siblings with their own histories, and the people who loved them, and their parents, all in the space between the deaths and the funeral.

If you haven't, go out and buy it. And then write a letter to someone you love....

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Say Wha?

A Few Weeks Ago:

"Oh come on, Etta, it's not that scary. It's a nylon pillow, vaguely shaped like a cow, with... weird staring eyes... that follow you.... Ok so it's creepy, but it's not going to hurt you!"

My horse was standing her ground, ten feet from the set of three ropes that strung across the width of the arena, and the fake cow, or "flag" that hung from them. Her eyes were glued to the synthetic bovine, as some part of her brain told her that it was definitely going to eat her.

"Come on, you're cutter-bred. Your ancestors have been working this thing since it was invented. Generations! Your great grandsire probably knew how to run the controls!"

She eased closer, a step at a time, as I kept up a running litany of nonsense. Finally, she was close enough to smell it. Once convinced that it was an object, and not an actual animal that floated in the air, she relaxed.

Then I moved it. It wasn't supposed to move. Her usual reaction to scary things when under saddle is to jump in place, drop her head, and give whatever object startled her (empty beer bottle on the ground, line in the sand, water puddle...) the hairy eyeball. When I'm on the ground, however... she doesn't think she needs to be quite so accommodating.

Head up, nostrils flared, flashing the whites of her eyes, she tried to back away. Since I had ahold of her reins, it didn't work so well. I stepped out from the ropes and started lunging her in a circle, pushing her out away from me when she tried to cut across and stay further away from the flag.

Eventually she calmed down, and I could move the thing without her doing much more than snorting at it. Score one for me.


"We're in a rut, so Monday, we're going to start on the flag." There was a decided glint in Marilyn's eye.

"Um... Marilyn... You do realize that most of these horses are going to absolutely freak as soon as that thing moves, right?" I stared at her a bit incredulously.

"Well, they're always pretty scared of it the first day. They start to calm down by the end of the first week though." I could hear a snicker hiding in her reasonable tone.

"What about B's horse? He just got over being scared of the arena fence. That big old straight-off-the-track sucker is going to have a conniption."

"He might. But it'll be good for them to do something different. I thought you'd be happy about this, Farmgirl... Your horse is cutter-bred, and I've heard you muttering about wanting to get her on the flag." Marilyn's eye was still twinkling.

"Well, yeah... but I also don't want to be stuck in a tiny arena with eight freaked out ponies. Possibly nine, if Etta is feeling dumb. She's little... we could be squashed like bugs!"

"Well, lets see what happens."

Uh huh. Admit it Marilyn, we haven't had any major wrecks all semester, and you're getting desperate, so you're gonna see if you can cause one. JJ is a bad influence on you.


"We're gonna work our horses on the flag... we want to do a grand entry at the show."

"What the hell, it's something new and different... I'll give it a shot on Etta."

"Yeah, like she's gonna do anything. Wild pony you got there."

You just had to jinx me, didn't you.

So, I had someone else hold the flag while I walked her around near it, then up to it, and let her smell it, and finally took it. We walked around for a while, and were fine. She could have cared less.

Then we trotted, and the breeze of our passage lifted the improvised flag, and gave it just a touch of flap. Not much. But then, Etta still doesn't always see the point in the slow trot, and I was riding one handed.

She sped up. So did the flapping of the flag. I tried to slow her down, and she wasn't having any of it.

She broke into a lope... and the damn thing was chasing her. At this point she completely lost her mind. I dropped the flag and hollered for everyone to look out as we ran straight for the fence. She turned her head to the side at the last minute and took the impact on the side of her neck and her chest, rather than across that rock that occasionally replaces her head.

Meanwhile. I was popped up in my stirrups stretched over her neck, and blessing many years of catching myself on small targets throughout my life as my hand grabbing the top rail of the fence was the only thing keeping me from finding out what the birdies felt like that day.

I shoved off using my hand on the pipe, and got my ass back in the saddle where it was supposed to be, just in time for her to show off her cutter blood and jump into a run down the fence, without, apparently, ever turning her body. One second we were stopped, the next we were halfway down the fence. And she wasn't about to listen to me, no sirre.

When I finally got her stopped, she shook her head and blew and stood there like she was going to go to sleep... so I went back to where I'd dropped the flag when she decided to leave the area like a striped-assed ape, and walked her around it for ten minutes while she gave it ye olde hairy eyeball. Then she stopped, and I got off and picked up the flag, and flapped it. Nada. Draped it over her butt. Minor twitch. Shook it at her head... well she didn't like that, but it wasn't a rodeo. Climbed back in the saddle and took off at a walk, with the flag... again.

Bout half a circuit of the arena, and she broke into a trot, without my asking.

Well, shit. Here we go again.

I prepared to drop the flag, sat my butt down in the saddle and sure enough, off she went. It probably would have been better for training purposes to keep the flag and just let her run, but there were others in the arena, and I have a strong aversion to causing wrecks of that magnitude.

Anyway, Lather, Rinse, Repeat, one more time. Then I called it quits with the flag, and simply ran her around the arena one time. That's when I discovered that she didn't have brakes. So we spent about an hour reminding her that when I say "whoa" it means "stop or I'll drag your head around so far you'll have to wipe your own crap off your nose."

I was extremely frustrated by the time we got done, needless to say.

I think I'll go to the barn early Monday, and lope her down... a lot... before we try the flag. This is gonna be... interesting....