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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: "Stick" by Elmore Leonard

Not one of his best.  The characters were rather shallow and the plot moved slowly.  The women were particularly one dimensional.  That being said, it got quite good about 75% through--and I liked the ending.  So, it was worth it, but I felt he could have done better.

The main character, Stick, is from one of his previous novels, but I can't remember the title.  In the last novel, he ended up in jail.  This story continues from the time he got out.  He ends up in Florida without a plan and nearly gets killed by some drug dealers.  He escapes, but they still want to kill him.  the story is about how he tries to beat them at their game.

Thunder the Delightful

Thunder the Delightful

I came home, today, and Thunder greeted me, of course.  He wanted all my attention.  I wanted supper.  I stuck my meal in the microwave, and he still wanted attention.  I tried to get him to eat his supper, but that isn't what he wanted.

I had 3 minutes until my meal was ready, so I followed him around and told him how beautiful he is.  I tried to get him to eat, and he still refused.  I followed him around some more while he purred and showed me his scratching post, his other scratching post, his pad, his pedestal, his other pad...

This is how it always is with him.  After a while, he was ready to eat, and I was able to get my supper, too.  He is one of those cats who is truly, truly happy to see me--and isn't just happy that I am home to feed him.  He makes me feel very loved.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Brenda Goes Flying

Brenda Goes Flying

It was a beautiful December afternoon for a ride.  Brenda joined Kevin and me on a trail ride.  Her horse is Archie, a huge Quarter Horse gelding.  We have ridden with Brenda plenty of times, but I seldom mention her because Archie is a pretty good horse.  He does have the slow Quarter Horse gaits, so he has trouble keeping up with us.  If we trot, he needs to canter.  Well, it is a Quarter Horse lope.  Unfortunately, if he has a lot of energy, he will throw in a buck now and then.

We crossed the river and started trotting on the other side.  That didn't last long because we saw Paula and Chris on their way home.  We slowed down and exchanged greetings.  Once we passed, we began to trot, again.  Kevin was in the lead, followed by me.  Brenda, with the slower horse, was behind us.  After only about 30 seconds of trotting, we heard Brenda yell, so we immediately stopped and turned around.

I was the first one to see Brenda on the ground; motionless.  Archie was galloping down the adjacent paved bike path--going away from home.  We both leapt off our horses and headed for Brenda.

Do you know how it is when you are in a crisis situation and time slows down?  Well, I think that is just what happened.  Though we couldn’t have been 50 feet away, it seemed to take about an hour to get to Brenda.  We were calling and calling her name, but there was no answer.  I thought she was dead.  Archie came cantering back down the bike trail, turned and went towards Brenda.  He saw that she was useless and turned towards us, but he didn’t go on the trail.  He trotted through the underbrush and ended up stuck on a pile of logs--with a sapling wedged along his neck.  Being a smart horse, he decided to stay still until someone came to help him.  I stopped Cole by Archie to keep him quiet and Kevin continued the long trek towards Brenda.

Time isn’t the only thing that slowed down--so did Starry.  I have never seen him walk so slow--ever.  We continued to call to Brenda.  I saw her leg move--she was alive!  Kevin kept dragging Starry to Brenda.

A couple cars saw there was a problem and stopped.  We now had some help!  One man called 911.  The other man asked us what he could do.  I asked him to hold Cole while I untangled Archie.  Kevin finally got to Brenda, and she was unconscious.  

I carefully maneuvered Archie out of his predicament.  I glanced back at Cole, and he was bowing.  With Archie safe, I thanked the man; relieved that Archie wouldn’t be running towards home.

I could hear Kevin telling Brenda not to stand up.  That was a good sign!  While I was untangling Archie, she came back to consciousness and was becoming feisty.  I held the 2 horses, still at a distance from them.  The man who called 911 was now by Kevin.  They were both trying to convince Brenda to stay down, but she had enough of lying in the mud and slowly got to her feet--and nearly fell right over.  They caught her and held her up as she swayed back and forth.  She was in really bad shape.

I managed to get the horses over to her.  She wanted to go home.  We wanted her to stay until help came.  She was talking slowly and slightly slurred.  The emergency responders called us back and asked for further directions.  They weren’t far away.  Brenda took Archie and started walking away.  She just wouldn’t listen.

I got back on Cole because he kept bowing to get my attention.  At least if I was on his back, he wouldn’t bow.  Well, that didn’t last long--here came a huge firetruck with its light flashing!  The part of the trail that were were at was right by a fence that separated the paved bike path--which was right by the street.  The truck was coming right to us.  I hopped off--only to see an ambulance and ranger’s car heading our way, too, with their lights flashing.  I am so glad they didn’t have the sirens going, too.  

I am glad to say that all 3 horses didn’t care in the least.  Brenda just kept walking away.  The driver of the fire truck asked me if I was all right.  His truck was very loud, so I shouted to him it wasn’t me, and pointed to Brenda and said she was getting away.

He backed up his truck and intercepted her.    They were talking when I caught up to them and pulled out the stretcher.  Now that the professionals were there,  we could work on the problem of Archie.  It was getting dark, and we had to get Archie home.  I quickly ran the options through my head.  I have never used Cole for ponying, so that wasn’t the greatest idea.  We had to cross the river to get home.  It would be hard to lead 2 horses across--the greatest risk would be for the leader slipping on the slate bottom and falling--not to mention the water was cold.  

Since we weren't that far from the barn, I volunteered to ride Cole home and get my car, drive to the park and ride Archie home.  I geve Archie to the ranger to hold.  Kevin stayed with them, too.  I trotted Cole off, crossed the river and headed up the hill.  Once across, I tried to trot.  He got all excited, and I realized I would be safer to walk up the hill fast than to trot.  Cole did go very, very fast up the hill at a walk, and we were home in no time.

I saw Chris in her car, and the lightbulb went off in my head.  I asked her to give me a ride down to the park.  That way, I wouldn’t have to leave my car--and it might be good to have another person to help out.  She was glad to do us the favor, and it turned out to be a great thing.  When I got back down there, the ranger gave me Archie and asked Chris to stay.  Brenda was refusing to go to the hospital and would need a ride back to the barn.  They certainly didn’t want her to ride Archie back.

Kevin and I walked the horses to the river.  I didn’t want to bother adjusting the stirrups on the western saddle, and since Archie is so tall--and Brenda is so short---I couldn’t mount from the ground. There is a log there that we intended to use as a mounting block.

As soon as I got on, I realized that Archie was trained much different than my horses!  He was trained as a proper western horse, and had a curb bit.  The lightest contact made him back up.  I accidently neck reined him to the left--and then to the right.  Ooops!  Immediately, I knew that I was only going to ride him across the river and then lead up the hill.  I was a fish out of water on his back--and with no stirrups!  I had Kevin go down the river bank first, and I asked Archie to follow.  He was fine.  I hopped off as soon as I got through the muddy river bank on the other side and led him home.

Brenda was back at the barn when we got back.  She still seemed out of it, but she was walking around.  Bending was impossible.  Her hip seemed to be bothering her.  We didn’t want her to drive home, but there was no stopping her.  We had her promise to call us when she got home, so we would know she was safe.

She kept her promise.  By then, her hip was so bad that she decided to go to the hospital to get it xrayed.  Turned out nothing was broken.  She did have a concussion, of course, but they checked and there was no bleeding on the brain, so that was good news.  She is very, very sore, though.  I was just happy she wasn’t dead--because there was a minute there that I thought she was.

She fell because Archie bucked as she tried to keep up with us at a canter.  She wasn’t that far away, so I think it was caused by high spirits on Archie’s part.  Brenda didn’t want me to write about the experience because she was embarrassed by it, but there isn’t anything to be embarrassed about.  Accidents happen, and it could have been so much worse.  She also said there wasn’t anything anyone could learn from this--but there was.  She did one thing right--she fell in the mud.  At least she had a little cushion when she hit the ground.

So, if you are going to fall, aim for the mud.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Starry is a Superstar

Starry is a Superstar

Starry, the only horse in the world named Starry with a blaze, has come so far.  Over the last month, he has become a reluctant leader.

It hasn’t been easy.  We tried a lot of things--and kept the ones that seemed to help.  Clicker training worked well to help him pass, but Kevin didn’t want to give him a treat every time he passed a horse, so Starry would revert, after a while.  

It did backfire. In a way.  Kevin would say “Good boy,” click and then treat.  Starry started to stop whenever Kevin just said “Good boy.”  He changed it to “Good job.” It worked.  Kevin had a way to praise him when he was good.

We avoided even trying in the places that Starry was particularly reluctant to take the lead.  Turning around to go home was simply impossible.  We would wait until we got down the trail to ask him to lead.  

We tried to avoid conflict when making him the leader.  Certain places were easier to put Starry in the lead.  A good time to do it was when we were crossing a river.  We used that to get him in the lead without a fuss and leave him there.

As we chipped away at his resistance, things just started to get easier.  If we were trotting along and he slammed on his breaks to get Cole to pass, I just turned Cole away and left him.  When he saw that Cole, not only wasn’t passing him--but leaving him--he would start walking, again.  As soon as I saw that, I would turn Cole back around.  In a short while, Cole only had to go a step or two away.

Of course, the heart of the problem was passing Dante.  I now try to guide Starry with Cole leading him by Dante.  Kevin tells him, “Good job,” and we lead him down the trail for a little bit.  Then, I can pull Cole off to the side of the trail to let Starry pass.  If he doesn't pass willingly, I bring Cole behind Starry and away he goes.

In the beginning, this didn't always work.  In the last few rides, it has worked marvelously.  We are now a well-choreographed team.  He will even take the lead when we turn around to go home--which was impossible, before.

We are so proud of Kevin and Starry for solving the problem.  We know there are still going to be moments when Starry acts up, but we know what to do to help him through.  Starry is a Superstar.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Review: "Doctor Thorne" by Anthony Trollope - 1858

This is the third of a series of books that I have read by Trollope that take place in Barsetshire.  There is very little overlap from the first book, but it was consistent in the quality of storytelling--and that is what counts. 

Mary is the illegitimate daughter of "unknown" ancestry that is taken in and raised by Doctor Thorne.  She falls in love with the son of the local squire who loves her equally--but must marry for money to save his family estate.

I enjoyed this book completely, and I am sure it won't be the last Trollope on my list.  I liked how he built the characters and the neighborhood--which I am already so familiar with.  The romance was compelling and it also dealt with many other issues of the day.

Book Review: "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins

Another wonderful classic by the man who is credited with inventing the detective story.  A mysterious large diamond is bequeathed to a young lady.  It disappears the very same night.  Was it the suspicious Indians who have been trying to steal back their jewel for many years?  Or was it someone else? 

Like "The Woman in White," it is narrated by different characters throughout the novel.  The story is clever and very entertaining.  There is romance, adventure and good detecting.  I loved it from start to finish. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Surprise

I just got back from my Thanksgiving ride with Ellen--and a wonderful one it was.  After a quick lunch, I thought I would make some cookies to bring to Kevin's for the feast.  As I was gathering the ingredients, Thunder called me into the dining room.  I looked out the window and saw a half a dozen robins digging around in the oak leaves on the ground.  That was neat.  I like robins.

Soon, there were at least a dozen robins.  They were hard to count because they were moving around so much.  I decided to watch from the kitchen so I could continue mixing the cookie dough.

Much to my glee, a blue jay joined the action.  I love blue jays.  More robins showed up and they started wandering closer and closer to the house.  A couple juncos hopped into the feeder.  I had put a little bread in it in the morning.  Then, there were more juncos, some tufted titmouse's and nuthatches.  The nuthatches were crawling on the tree trunks. 

Then and red-bellied woodpecker visited the bird feeder.  That has happened before, but it is still a treat for me to see them.  I love red-bellied woodpeckers.

As I was staring at him, a couple more blue jays appeared and more robins.  I tried to count--there were more than 20.  The juncos seemed to have multiplied and now there seemed to be nuthatches all over the place.

Some of the birds were moving around so fast that I couldn't tell what they were.

I glanced over to the bulb garden, and there was a bright red cardinal poking around.  I love cardinals.  I looked back to the bird feeder--and there was a pilliated woodpecker on the post!  A first in the land of Daly.  They are rare around hear, and I have never seen one close to the house.  I could barely take my eyes off him--when I noticed another good sized woodpecker of some sort walking up a truck--that I have never seen before.  I could only see his back, so I have no clue what it was.

The pilliated woodpecker flew over to a tree trunk and pecked around for a while until he disappeared.  The robins slowly traveled away in search of more food, elsewhere, and soon we were alone, again.  For about 10 minutes, I got to watch the most spectacular bird show I have ever seen in my yard.  It was a wonderful surprise.