Mo is hair. It’s true.

It must be spring because a recent grooming yielded horse hair. Not SOME horse hair, not a LITTLE horse hair but drifts, scads, clouds, tons and tons and tons of horse hair. It’s coming right off with the barest touch of any kind of brush you want to use. The shredder blade is best because it doesn’t have long enough teeth to catch the hair and hold into it, like the dog brush I’m also using to try dislodge some of the dirt on Mo’s skin so that Leah’s trimmer doesn’t get ruined again. Someone asked me how long it took to groom him. It’s not how long it takes, it’s how much time one is willing to spend on the task.  time for the lesson to start? Time to go home? Then grooming is done.

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Back in MY day . . .

I hung out during a lesson the other night. Not one of my better decisions because it was way cold. It was an attempt to provide moral support to a friend who would have been working out there (to me, it’s out there) on a cold dark night, so I sat in on her class (she taught 5 girls) and sorta kinda help direct traffic once the lesson was over.

Watching the students and their parents reminded me of the days when I tool lessons, and in those days parents did not stay. They did not stay at birthday parties, they did not stay at lessons, they did not stay at sports practice, they did not stay at Brownie meetings or choir meetings or play with the children.

This is no longer the case and has not been the case for about 20 years, but I’m not used to it.  And it was colder than . . .oh my goodness the swear words I could use to describe the cold! . . .so it was good that the girls had some help with putting away saddles and such. And I sympathize with the families that have to pick up one kid from one activitiy and then get on the road to pick up the next kid from the next activity (no one goes to bed before 10:30 p.m. anymore either and I really hate to see that as well).  But I don’t sympathize with parents who give their kids directions while the kids are in class. The child should have only one teacher at a time. I believe this because I myself cannot listen to more than one person at a time. And the teacher can’t tell the parent to be quiet.

Fly predator update: They are on order. The first batch should ship in April

Gabby update: She is fine. I give her a treat every now and again and wonder at her prehensile upper lip.

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Amazing clinic

Participated in a clinic last Saturday — really, really good. The instructor, the other student, and I all clicked, as Leah put it, just clicked. Tracy and I took a clinic with this instructor a couple of months ago and we both heard “Put your hands down! Put your hands down” pretty much the whole time. After the 1st clinic, Leah asked me to think about what all of my instructors tell me. Pretty much, it’s “Put your hands down! Put your hands down!”

It’s that tension issue, it’s that curling-up-in-a-ball-because-that-seems-safe thing that I have been. Doing. For. Years.

I still do it, but now I can *feel* myself do it, I can counter act it, I can sit back in the saddle and, heck why not, take up a handful of mane at the base of Mo’s neck (if that won’t keep your hands down, I don’t know what will), and just ride. Flapping my legs helps also because (again at the teacher’s insistence) because while you are flapping your legs, you are also keeping your seet.

When the class was over, I grabbed Mo’s big muzzle and kissed him. I kiss him a lot anyway, but it was a fierce love, you-ragged-little-horse kind of kiss.  Mo was fine with it.

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Mo = hair

Eugh! Leah dulled her clipper blades on Mo’s amazingly awful hair. I will reimburse for the cost of sharpening. He looks like a particularly messy haystack, plus he’s curly like crazy and sweats like a human.

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My Day as a Roster Judge in Ohio

When I received my absentee ballot request, it contained an invitation to work the polls on Election Day. I did some volunteer stuff in ’04 and ’06 and while I wanted to do something again, I didn’t want to make phone calls or knock on doors this time. Both are invaluable experiences, by the way, if you’re looking for a thing to do to support the issues you believe in.

I accepted the invite and found myself in a 3-hour class about 2 weeks later, learning how to be a Roster Judge for a Franklin County (Ohio, home of Columbus) election. Roster Judges in Franklin County are the polling officials who sit at a desk with a copy of the poll register, and who look at various forms of identification while making sure the voting folks are in the right precinct.

After taking the class, I was overwhelmed. There are so many cross-checks and step by step procedures, NONE of which added up to anything coherent as far as I was concerned, that I was afraid I’d really stepped in it this time, and this coming from a woman who went to France by herself without speaking any French. Election ’08 in my neck of the woods was going to be chaos *because of me.* Our instructor was also the author of the poll worker text book printed by the Board of Elections, and he was a good teacher, a booming and proclaiming sort of man who seemed to be impervious to anything, like a high school science teacher who also coaches girls basketball.

Rosters, ATV slips, lost voter slips, print ballot permission slips, provisional ballet envelopes, stuff to be pitched, stuff to be stuffed in special stuff boxes and sealed with a seal, the “cake box,” the flags, the 100 foot string, the pencils, the Bingo markers, the pens — I had to go back and look at it again for the practice sessions the weekend before and it wasn’t just me, by gum. There were lots of us confused poll-workers-to-be and we needed some extra help.

Our day was long. Looooooong. Got to the polling place at 5:30 a.m. and all of the above was out on tables and there were poll workers putting up flags,  and there were roster judges, greeters, machine judge, polling machines, supply carts, “I voted today” stickers . . . and the Public lining up before 6:30 am when the polls opened, waiting to vote. The Best Precinct Judge EVER came over and patted me on the shoulder because I was sending off Nervous signals like crazy. She  said not to worry (I did anyway). She was right, plus I sat right next to an accomplished Roster Judge veteran.

6:30 a.m: the doors open! the people flood in! The machines go down! We divert voters to the paper ballot table. It takes longer and some of the public wasn’t very happy about it. Not the majority, by any means, but one or two. I thought about explaining that gosh, I’d only had 4 hours of training all told, but thought it would be the wrong time to share my career as a Roster Judge.

I think there were 2 tv crews, but I was so busy checking IDs, making marks, checking off boxes, getting signatures (there’s no way a Roster Judge could commit fraud, I give you my word; there’s no time and I’m not sure what the fraud procedure would be) that I only dimly remember seeing a man and a camera and then piff! he was gone.

And that was the only rush and it was over by about 10:00 a.m. That was the drama. No lunch-time rush, no after-work rush; a smallish rush as students and teachers were released from school at about 2:30-3:30. I started yawning at 5:30 p.m. and did not quit until I was at home and ready to go to bed. I wish I’d stayed up for another hour and a half to watch Obama’s speech, but i was nervous as well as tired and wanted to be in a quiet dark place.

We had an observer. I didn’t ask for whom she was observing because we weren’t supposed to talk politics in the polling place and I’m afraid I would have smiled or frowned or something.

The high school boys  who worked the event talked and talked and talked all day. I read a bit from The King’s Last Song.

At 7:15 p.m., a voter came in and at 7:25,p.m. another voter came in. They finished, the machines sorta turned themselves off (I think), we completed our evaluations, took down the flags (which is when I got worried; “what if Obama didn’t win?” I thought, and of course I couldn’t talk about it), ran the tape of the voting machine results (isn’t that cool? I didn’t know you could do that!), unplugged and unhooked the machines (I held the very machine computer chips in my hands, like they were the Host, and bore them gently to their special envelope), and called it a day plus as well all went home.

So that’s how a gang of folks spent their day; hanging out in the social hall of a local church, sharing fruit, chili, potato chips, chicken casserole, and lots and lots of coffee.

Best moments:

A woman who was kicking herself for not voting early and getting the task out of the way. She said her friend called her *three times* and told her to go and vote.

A grandmother who pestered her grand-daughter to vote and drove her to the polls.

A guy who came back when he didn’t have any id the first time.

I asked one man to please remove his campaign button from his shirt, and he did and was very nice about it.

Several folks who said they came back after seeing the early morning rush.

Shook hands with a neighbor and voter from whom I am ideologically worlds apart. One of his men won; the other did not.

Best part: just doing it.

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Adult gelding is bodyguard for juvenile colt

At the barn, there’s a little fellow with a crooked back and a withered leg. His name is Little Bit, and it seems like one thing after another happened as soon as he was born. He was the living one of a twins, then something went wrong with his leg, then he got better, then something happened to his other leg, then his dam died before he was weaned (he was close, I think).  At his worst, he stayed on the floor and wouldn’t eat. But something kicked in, and he started eating, so he’s still part of the barn today. One leg is thin and delicate and fragile, the other looks healthy enough. One hip is much higher than the other. But he goes out with the two healthy colts — who pick on him. Nip, quick, bite, block him from the water. The kind of thing that makes you want to step in and fix it.

Enter Gene the adult quarter horse.  Gene is, I think, between jobs. I don’t know how old he is or which students ride him or what his speciality is (quarter-horsing!), but when the little guys are in turn-out, Leah puts Gene in there with them and Gene protects Little Bit. When the evil colts pick on the weak one, the adult runs them off, takes care of the little fellow.

It’s a three-hanky kind of thing, makes you well up and wonder about stuff, about the emotional complexity of non-human animals. What goes off in Gene’s mind when he sees the stronger ones pick on the weaker ones? It’s not maternal because Gene’s a he, not a she.  I used to say that I wish they could talk, but horses talk all the time. It’s knowing how to listen, I think.

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The Whiskey Rebels, by David Liss

The Whiskey Rebels opens in a dark alley. A man of dubious reputation has been set upon by enemies he may or may not deserve. Will he be humiliated — or worse, will he be killed by new enemies, and finally succumb to the fate he has courted since the days of his disgrace.

We are in David Liss country, familiar territory to readers of The Coffee Trader or A Conspiracy of Paper, and we’re happy to be here and eager for adventure.

What I just adore about David Liss is his ability to write fiction about things that I don’t understand, like commodities trading (Coffee Trader), the South Seas Bubble (A Conspiracy of Paper), deductive reasoning (C of P), and the Whiskey Rebellion and the Bank of America. As Liss’s characters undergo an education to the hard financial realities of life,  the reader is also granted and education — and a perspective.

The Whiskey Rebels is jammed with nuggets of wisdom as one of Liss’s most sympathetic female characters, Joan Maycott, makes observations about her country and her times: “We walked the cobbled streets of the new imperial capital [New York City], the rivers filled with forests of merchant-ship masts, yet we were surrounded by the untouched submlimity of nature. There could be nothing more American.”   She reads books on trade — and plans to write the American novel. As her husband-to-be observes in the first “Joan Maycott” section, “The American Novel, if it is to be honest, must be about money, not property. Money alone — base, unremarkable, corrupting money.” At times like this, The Whiskey Rebels touches on meta-novel status as Liss also gives up pointers on how to write through the actions of Joan Maycott, along with lessons on government and finance.

Liss’s other narrator, Ethan Saunders, is a flawed hero, so sunk in his own grief that he remains clueless about the suffering of others, including Leonides, Saunders’ young slave. As the novel progresses, it is easy to see why Leonides and Joan Maycott become important to each other even though we never witness a conversation between the two. That’s another Liss touch — the actions behind the scenes that are rendered subtly but honestly — no 11th hour revelations and deux ex machina  here to cheat the reader.

The only thing that keeps me from giving the book 5 stars is the writer’s tendancy to end chapters with “If I only knew then about the problems of the future” -style cliffhangers. I personally find them unnecessary and am pulled along with the story for its own sake.

To lovers of history, fiction,and strong characters, I recommend this book. Enjoy!

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Whump II

By virtue of falling, I discovered that my left leg is weaker than my right. Had my left leg been an equal to its mate on the starboard side of my body, I would not have fallen when Mo spooked last night. And what did Mo spook at last night? Why, Mo spooked at another horse last night. It’s just a small horse, too, about a year old, cute, wouldn’t hurt a fly but Mo Didn’t Have Anyway of Knowing That, Now Did He? Espeically With That Woman On His Back Who Was Sitting Funny.

I was sitting funny because I was riding with my right leg out of the stirrup. When I do half-seat, my right leg burns, which should have been a clue. Instead of interpreting this clue, I was just cheerful about my left leg muscles not bothering me. Leah suggested that I ride around with my right foot out in order to strengthen the left. I was also trying to post like that (which I kinda sorta did) and then, while totally distracted and all over the place, Mo saw fit to defend himself from Things Unknown (aforementioned colt) and off I went.

No bruises or torn flesh this time. Got back up as soon as I was sure I could do so, went to Mo, kissed him in the nose, and finished the lesson with my crop tucked in my boot. Didn’t want to add to things.

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OK, nearly ready for the bracelet

I was sorting books the other month after spending a long weekend cataloging (try Librarything! It’s so much fun!), when I found the hank of cleaned-and-dried Mo tailhair behind some books, and realized I’d never sent it out. It’s time!  I’m going to send everything off to Twisted Tails this week and get my bracelet underway. According to the Web site, they’ll guarantee Christmas delivery as long as they’ve got everything by October Something-or-another.  I also need to sort the change in my change jar (I’m sure I’ve got enough or close enough), because that’s the point of the change jar — to save enough for a horsehair bracelet.

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Outside, on real dirt

Two weeks ago, Leah told me “We’re going to step our of our comfort zone tonight.”

“Ha!” I said, “And who is ‘we’? Got a mouse in your pocket?”

Such hilarity was not appreciated and Leah calmly ushered me out of the nice sand outdoor arena into the bottom, where, last year, I screamed my head off when Mo took off through a pond and up a hill. “Scream” is too nice of a word. Actually, I wailed pitifully and the sound made me want to smack myself, so I stopped and hung on as per my teacher’s instructions. “Hang on, Leslie!” were her exact words as Mo tore up the hillside.

But we were both under much more control this time, going up and down little slopes (“Are you sure he can do this?” I asked, the slope looking to me as if it were 90 degrees, easy. “Yes, Mo will be fine,” said Leah). Plus, Leah was right there with us the whole time, figuratively holding my hand. 

And he was. And so was I. Fine, I mean. We walked down little hills and I was coached not to lean too far back (not like the cowboys in the picture), because it pinches Mo’s back and he can’t really do much. We trotted on dirt and around a jump, and I went into half-seat for our climbs back up the small hills (haven’t sat half-seat in For Ever so I mostly couldn’t balance) — and we even kinda-sorta jumped up the little incline with the “stair-steps” dug into it. 

“OMG!” I said, “Did we jump?”  (I do NOT jump)

“Yes!” said Leah.

But what was the best was trotting up a gradual hill. It was so smooth. Going up hill gave Mo real suspension and in half-seat, it was like we were floating, gliding along, soft as feathers on on the wind, like birds skimming just above the ground.

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