Friday, August 27, 2010

Road Trip

My motorcycle is for sale, so in case it was the last chance for a road trip, I took it on a quick visit to my family in the old home town. The journey started out in sweltering heat. Even though I knew better, I did not take a coat. There was a chance of rain by nightfall but I would arrive well ahead of any storm. When I checked, the weather front was far out in western Nebraska. I had plenty of time.

I have to say, the first 170 miles of the trip was not much fun. It was so hot that I stopped about every 30 or 40 miles to get a bottle of cold water and cool off in air conditioning. The heat rolling off the motorcycle and the road added to my misery whenever I had to slow down, but at highway speed it was tolerable. Instead of moldering away at a desk, where I sell my will to live by the hour, I was on the open road. No complaining allowed.

Late in the afternoon I could see a line of clouds in the west but they did not look like thunderheads. The blue behind them was the same color as the sky before them - just a thin line of innocent white clouds. I was not worried or in much of a hurry until the last fifty miles of the trip when it became clear those clouds were the leading edge of a storm full of lightning and coming in fast. I tried to remember if I had ever heard of a person struck by lightning while on a moving motorcycle. I rolled the throttle and rode hard.

Within seventeen miles of my destination, I had to pull over. It was not raining but the lightning was severe. The wind was gusting so hard that it was difficult to keep the bike in one lane. The final two towns on the drive home have no public places, no businesses where I could take shelter. I stopped in the driveway of a church with a tiny porch roof over a south door. No matter what, I was going to get wet. It was the possibility of being outdoors in 70 or 80 mph straight winds that worried me.

I waited at the church until it seemed the strong front winds had passed. It was not raining yet so I hit the road, riding as fast as I dared. Quite soon it was clear I was heading into a blinding rainfall. It was folly to stay on the road. An empty town that no longer has its own zip code was the last chance for shelter. I did not believe anyone lived there. I left the highway and headed for a collection of buildings. Amazingly enough, I turned a corner and there beneath the shelter of a sturdy porch roof, several people were relaxing in the cooling winds. I stopped and called to them, asking if I could take shelter with them. Even if they were ax murderers, they were a most welcome sight.

They were hospitable and apparently not practicing ax murders. I was warmly invited in and given a glass of iced tea which went down like the finest wine ever served. About forty-five minutes later, the rain passed and the western horizon lightened, so I took my leave. Though my boots were full of water by the time I made it to my stepfather's home, I was alive and well. I had not been struck by lightning, blown off the road , ax murdered or sucked up by a tornado. How lucky can a girl get?

The Last Town

Now, had I followed the original travel itinerary and left the next day at noon as scheduled, the fact that I did not have a coat would never have been an issue. Two of my classmates from the excellent graduating class of 1970 bc heard I was in town. Naturally, I had to wait until they got off work that evening. There was much to be discussed. I did not leave until about an hour before sundown. At least I would not be baking my brains in that helmet for the next four hours.

As soon as the sun went down, I was consumed by thoughts of my warm, snug fitting, tightly zippered, officially sanctioned Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket filled with a mysterious synthetic material that keeps a person's body heat from escaping into space. I could picture it clearly hanging in the closet where I left it the day before. Oh, I pined for it each time the road dipped into air temperature that felt to be 40 degrees! Mile after mile I rode through cold that was not pleasant, punctuated by brief spots of mild warmth. I stopped once to put on every shirt I had with me: a sleeveless shirt, a t shirt, and a long sleeved denim shirt. Even that much cotton was no match for seventy miles an hour through a cool Kansas night.

To distract myself from the cold, I began singing the Plastic Jesus song. At first I could not remember much of it but eventually recalled the two verses from the movie Cool Hand Luke.

Beneath a full moon on a windless night, it was a wonderful ride - not counting the cold. The prairie scents were rich in the cool air. Acres of domestic sunflower blossoms gave a rich green scent, wholesome and fertile. The miles of grasslands were clean, fresh, sweet. Something growing, maybe a particular tree, had a sharp peppery smell that lingered. I came across that scent several times and wondered what plant grew that possessed such a distinct, strong odor distinguished so clearly over all other plants. The corn fields smelled like sweet corn and summer, reminding me of my grandparents. The cool summer air itself was wonderful.

I sort of hope no one wants to buy my motorcycle.

Here's handsome Paul singing Plastic Jesus

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Labor Day Among the Huns

When I was younger, every Labor Day weekend, the Kansas ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) threw a giant motorcycle party at Lake Perry, Kansas in the three interconnected campgrounds called Military Trails. It was a mini-Sturgis event. It grew in attendance and fame (infamy) and peaked during the years all-you-can-drink free beer was provided with the price of admission.

It was in the early 80's the first time I attended with my husband. After that I went about every year with my brother and his wife. I attended a few years strictly on behalf of my brother because his wife would not let him go.

It was a lot of fun to camp out in the midst of thousands of Harley Davidson motorcycles. My mother was convinced it was three days of Hell and debauchery attended only by outlaws and murderers - and me. She thought it was nothing but hordes of Huns and I should never go there. For the people who consumed alcohol continuously I believe it was hell. How much fun could it possibly be to be continuously drunk for days, especially in 100 degree weather? It was hell for the few people who were so drunk they fell off their motorcycles, or ran their motorcycles off the road, or rode their motorcycles into other objects. All things considered, the quantity of alcohol consumed factored by the number of motorcycle riding fools, accidents were statistically insignificant.

There was live music, and the bands hired were successively better each year until semi-famous bands were playing there. There were many vendors catering to the motorcycle crowd selling shirts, bandannas, leathers, funky jewelry, and food. Many people brought their dogs and some people brought their children. One year a woman had her baby strapped against her chest, riding behind a guy on a motorcycle. I tried to not judge the people who brought children to what most considered an adult event. Motorcycles are a way of life for some people, so bringing their children must have seemed natural for them. Everyone always seemed to look out for the few children, but with so much drinking and motorcycles coming and going 24 hours a day, it was truly no place for children.

The best things about the ABATE Labor Day extravaganza were people-watching and motorcycle admiration. No two motorcycles were ever exactly alike. There are men in this world who are consummate artists when customizing Harley machinery, so each year was another chance to admire very beautiful and unusual motorcycles. Various bike judging contests were held. I entered my motorcycle in a judged event one time, but removed it at the last minute out of sheer embarrassment. The frame had been altered which put it in a class with some of those fantastically customized works of art. It looked pathetic lined up with those genuinely customized bikes, so before the judges got to Ol' Blue, I tried to quietly roll her away. She did not deserve to be so harshly judged.

My mother was somewhat correct regarding debauchery but I never witnessed any raping, pillaging, or plundering. I never heard of anything horrible. There is a certain element in every sub-culture that lives by an entirely different set of social and moral standards, and the motorcycle world certainly contains a share of that element. It seems to me those people simply want to be allowed to live their lives as best suits them - like every human being on the planet. I never had anything stolen from my campsite. I never got beat up or threatened and I was never afraid.

As the alcohol consumption increased, partial nudity increased. There were a lot of breasts displayed throughout the entire weekend every year. The wet t shirt contest was a t shirt contest in name only. I do not understand the need of some people to take off their clothes in large crowds. I have seen it at rock concerts, and hear the same thing happens at NASCAR events. Alcohol consumption surely contributes to such behavior. To me, it is one of the funniest things people do. Women look ridiculous displaying their breasts as if they are the crown jewels of Europe, and men all have the same vacuous look on their faces. They are breasts, people! Not weapons of mass destruction.

Given enough time and alcohol, a few men would eventually strip down and ride their motorcycles through all three campgrounds. Memorably, two old guys riding double on a Honda took the unofficial nudity prize. It took them two entire days to get stripped down all the way to their boots. They started out cruising through the camps without their shirts, then without their jeans. By the second day they were riding past wearing only their brown laced up work boots. We cheered them on each time they rode by. We practically fell out of our lawn chairs laughing at those two old geezers. Perhaps in their minds, they were beautiful and graceful- centaurs - Greek gods. They were just two old drunk fools in boots. Of all the fundamental mismatches under the stars - oil and water - drinking and driving - human nakedness and the red hot metal of motorcycles is probably the least happy choice.

Alcohol and too much partying can ruin the best laid plans of anyone. At the start of one Labor Day ABATE party, hand written signs posted everywhere invited one and all to Bear and The Ol' Lady's wedding at the grandstand Sunday at noon. The Ol' Lady apparently drank far too much and Bear was tempted by too many wet t shirts or something. The wedding was tragically called off when The Ol' Lady took a knife to Bear sometime in the crazy early morning hours of their official wedding day. We heard Bear survived the attack and both ended up in jail. I do not know that any of it is true. Imagine rumors going through several thousand drunk people who can hardly hear over hundreds of Harley engines. But, there was no wedding at the grand stand on Sunday. Only a few people actually know why. The rest is rumor.

One year we camped by a group of guys from southeastern Kansas. The youngest man in their group was fair skinned and red haired. He was wearing a pair of black suspenders with the words "Harley Davidson" in orange letters down each strap, front and back. As he partied over the weekend, and came and went from the camp, he continually cinched those suspenders tighter and tighter for some reason. By Sunday morning those suspenders read: "Hrly Dvsn" and his pants were about four inches above his ankles. He was sunburned to a blistering bright red. He had also passed out in the night somewhere and his arm had been run over. The tire marks were still visible. Whenever that guy finally sobered up, he probably wished he had gone to Hell where he surely would have felt better.

After several years, it was not fun to go any more. Fewer people came each year. I had seen the same drunken behavior enough times that it was not entertaining but rather depressing and sad. The ABATE reservation of the camp grounds expired and the whole event was moved to another place. Sometime in the early 90's was the last time I went. I had to go alone that year and though I knew a ton of people, it felt lonely to me and not worth packing so much stuff on my bike, or the money, or the time. It was fun while it lasted. You could say it was a hell of a party.

PS - By far, the majority of people who attended each year were well behaved, sober and well adjusted members of society. The entertainment was provided by the 5% who were not well-behaved, the 10% not sober, and the .01% who were not well-adjusted.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Left Behind In My Own Future

Saturday night I was out of popcorn, a necessity for watching a good movie. It required a quick trip to the truck stop for popcorn and a cold Coke. I left the house right before sundown. A short distance after entering I 70, I saw two motorcyclists along the shoulder, one poor guy pushing his motorcycle uphill, and it appeared to be a Harley. It seemed impossible to me that anyone would be strong enough to push an eight hundred pound machine up that long hill.

It was at the transition point in the evening, neither day nor night, when I find it difficult to see. It was dangerous for the two men going so slowly along the shoulder with only a single motorcycle taillight to warn oncoming drivers. I sped to the next exit and came back around behind them. I started the emergency flashers on the truck to provide the men with a bit more protection in the heavy interstate traffic.

Luckily, the problem was no fuel, not broken machinery. I offered to go for fuel but they were expecting one of their friends to arrive with gas momentarily. Then I offered to go for water. I did not ask how far that guy had been pushing his bike, but the battery was too low to power the lights by then. I would have needed to drink a gallon of water, but both politely declined the offer of water.

They were young men who appeared to be in their early twenties, about the same age as my son. Their license plates showed they were from Illinois. I asked if they had been to Sturgis, and they both broke into wide smiles, nodding yes. That made me laugh. Men love that crazy Sturgis!

I said I would wait with the flashers on until they were on their way. They sincerely thanked me for stopping, and just then the third man arrived with gas in a Sprite bottle. In no time at all, the three bikes roared to life and those young men rode off into the hot Kansas night, gaining speed and distance and freedom.

Right then, as I listened to those Harley engines traveling away from me, I wished with all of my heart that I was young again. If I could just go home, climb on Ol' Blue again, and be young, strong, with all these past years before me rather than behind, still full of possibility and potential. I would not have followed those young men away into the night. I would have turned Ol' Blue west toward Colorado and rode away from Topeka and Kansas and the job I have stayed with for over three decades. I would ride away from bad memories and mighty disappointments and ride toward new places, new people, and an entirely different life.

I sat there for just a moment as the engine sounds were lost to distance and the roar of traffic. No matter how poignantly lost youth calls, time mercifully takes it all, even our regrets.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Crazy Kansas Weather

We have been parboiling under the intense August skies in heavy humidity for days. It has not been pleasant, not human being weather. The chickens have been standing around with their beaks open. It is not a good look for them, poor things. Duke spends all of his time laying against the foundation of the house, where presumably the extra air conditioning vent beneath the floor of the house cools off the crawl space. (Don't ask.) Any involved outdoor activities sap my strength for a couple of days. All creatures have been patiently awaiting relief.

Last night, out of the heat and humidity, Kansas cranked up a small but potent line of thunderstorms. The clouds mushroomed out of the west in such a short time they caught my daughter on the highway in 95 mile per hour winds. Intense lightning whipped across miles of sky, and the rain, when it finally arrived, fell in driven sheets.

I was at the Rambling Rose Cafe in Paxico, when the storm blew in a woman from New York City, and four folks from Alabama. The Alabama people were friendly and relaxed, hoping they were going to see a Kansas twister. We assured them there would be no twister and they were disappointed. The woman from New York City seemed to be drunk or stupid or both. Everyone understood her fear of the weather. If you are not used to the angry ferocity of a Kansas thunderstorm roaring in from the west, it can be quite unnerving. It was her loud mouthed assertion that she was going to be writing a book about her stay in Kansas and she was going to include the cafe and the town of Paxico in it. Hate to burst your bubble, Darlin', but you know you are still in America, don't you? Every four years we get to vote for the president of the United States, and a few of us turn on the Internet sometimes.

The electricity went out at the cafe, so New York's assertions that she was going to be writing a book about her stay in Kansas, Paxico in particular, the cafe specifically, became even louder and more insistent, just in case anyone in the tiny cafe had not already heard. I know the electricity sometimes goes out in New York City because it makes the news, even out here in Kansiberia.

After I escaped the most irritating person I have been forced to share a meal with in recent memory, I wondered how well I would behave in New York City. I would be a bumbling country rube, with hayseed in my hair, so it all evens out. I needed gasoline to make it home, so I left the cafe for the truck stop.

Ahhh, the truck stop. It is an oasis in the midst of my rural life. It is open twenty four hours a day, every single day the world continues to exist. During the ice storm, when I did not have electricity for ten days, I was able to go there for a hot, steaming shower. When it rains too heavily and I am afraid the creek might flood, trapping me, I drive to the truck stop until the rains pass. If my electricity goes out in a thunderstorm, I drive to the brightly lit truck stop and have a cup of coffee. There are always people coming and going at the truck stop, which is comforting sometimes.

The place was built on a hill and the wind is a constant factor. Each time I am shivering in the freezing arctic blasts while refueling my truck, or getting sand blasted by the wind and dirt in warm weather, I think the owners should invest in a wind turbine. They could significantly reduce their electricity costs.

Last night was no different. Though the rain had stopped in Paxico, there was a surprising amount of storm left a mere eight miles to the east. Just as I got out at the pump, a howling gale came blasting in. The wind was blowing so hard, driving the rain with such force, that it literally took my breath away. I jumped into the truck, soaking wet, even though there is a large outdoor roof sheltering the fueling area. Then the wind began to blow in earnest.

The rain was horizontal, lashing into long lines straight into the east. The truck began to rock ominously. I thought the Alabama people were going to get their wish after all. At one point the wind was so strong that it was unsafe to leave the truck and unsafe to stay in it. I was actually scared for my safety for a few minutes. But soon the gale blew itself out, and I left for home, sweet home, right here in good old Kansas.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Horse Stuff

After repeated unanswered calls to my usual farrier all of last winter and all this spring, a new one had to be found. The new guy came out once, but now some kind of cell phone issue makes it impossible to contact him. Once again, I went searching. The new farrier is a natural hoof care proponent. People studied mustang hooves and found ways to trim and manage domestic horses' hooves to be as tough and natural as mustangs. Sounds good to me.

Now that I only have one horse again, everything about Ginger, that one horse, is very important and dear. And I have become a lot more important to Ginger. All she wants to do is lean her big, heavy head on my shoulder. We are two old friends comforting one another as our hearts heal over losing Annie.

When this horrible hot weather breaks and the conditions are not so dangerously hot, I will begin looking for another horse to bring to Spirit Creek. Ginger should have a companion. It will be fun to be looking, meeting new people and new horses. There are many rescued horses that need a good home, so I am sure I can find one that will fit in here.

Yesterday, a braid of Annie's mane came in the mail from Kansas State University but I have not opened the envelope. Careen Cain, the woman who had purchased Annie and many other horses from the kill buyers, told me of two brothers who were in the same group as Annie who may be needing a home. That might be a happy ending for a sad story. Wonder what Ginger would think of two boys to boss around?

A dozen hooves to trim? Picking cockle burrs from three manes and three tails? Three big sleek necks to hug and three big hearts beating? Sounds wonderful to me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rooster Tales

I do not understand why all my little hens are being killed and not a single stinking rooster is sacrificing himself for the good of the flock! Slowly the rooster numbers are increasing. It is a sad situation for everyone involved. Somebody will have to go. Maybe more than one somebody will have to go.

First there is the Evil Roo, who ruggedly survived 24 hours alone in the coldest Kansas weather on record for some years. He is easily the kindest rooster to his wives and children. The trouble with him is the tireless war of vengeance he wages against me. Evil has been biding his time, waiting until I let my guard down. His chance came last week as I foolishly paused before getting into the truck. He attacked the back of my legs this time and made a deep puncture wound. It actually hurt and bled a lot. I was so angry at that hateful little bird! I considered chopping his head off right then and there, but I felt so bad about losing Annie that I could not do it. Evil is alive right now thanks to Annie's memory, but he has no way to know it.

Junior is a rooster that hatched from a Mrs. Peckins egg. The matronly little Mrs. Peckins, one of my favorite chickens, was murdered this summer, leaving only a scattering of her soft feathers as evidence. I can not bring myself to give away her only son. He has never, ever even considered attacking me and he is the alpha rooster now so he at least has a job to do.

Cherokee is the Japanese rooster I bought as a peep at the farm store this spring. Almost all of his royal feathers are in now, and he is beautiful. His crowing attempts are so funny. I believe he is crowing in Japanese, or is that Cherokee? He is still cute and as yet, has not done a single aggressive thing.

Cherokee's pal is Bella, a Mille Fluer D'Uccle rooster. He is still a baby, but if he acts like Evil Roo' when he grows up, there will be serious trouble. Bella is going to a new home as soon as I can find one. Cherokee will miss his best bud, but he will get over it.

That leaves the two baby peeps I brought into the house to care for since all of the other peeps that hatched this spring have died, one by one. All the babies started out healthy and vital, but after a few days they died no matter what I tried. I called the KState Extension Office for advice, but their best guess was something in the environment. No way I can tell if those babies are hens or roosters except for the fact that they act stupid, a good indication of rooster peeps. I take care of them several times a day, and of course love them, but I have not named them. It is more sad when something happens to them if they have names.

Three little hens are sitting on eggs now, so there will soon be another round of peeps. I want to build my flock of hens back up in numbers because those eggs are delicious! But there will be even more roosters, if any of the new babies survive. I do not know what is different from last year. All of the babies lived unless they met with a predator or fell in the water bowl. None of them died from apparent disease or distress. Such is life with chickens.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Meeting Men On Motorcycles

No. It is not what you might think. My daughter and I decided to saddle up the motorcycles last night and ride to the Pottawatomie Fishing Lake. But first, I needed to air up the tires on my bike and the only place close is the truck stop on Interstate 70. The trouble with the truck stop air hose is that it is set up for the big rigs. I could not get the eight inch steel nozzle to fit squarely on the valve stem. I succeeded in letting air out, to the point that the front tire was dangerously low. I was stranded. I tried to disassemble the hose from my tire gauge to use, but the threads did not match. I lost more air out of the tire.

Long story short, two bikers came rolling by on Harleys and I quickly told my daughter to flag them down. No man alive would ride past her when she is wearing her kevlar motorcycle pants. I thought maybe they would have an air hose adapter, but they had something better: American Male Ingenuity - pliers, vice grips, muscles, and a challenge. They were such GUYS. A lineman arrived in his work truck and from the vast dark interior of the tool boxes, from the jumble of steel, wires, gears and gadgets, arcane and mysterious, he pulled an old, greasy, flexible air hose nozzle - with a handle!

The two bikers, father and son, disassembled the truck stop air hose, put the lineman's company equipment on it, aired my tire up, and replaced the truck stop nozzle. Good ol' American men - Y chromosomes at their highest evolution - roaming the countryside on Harley Davidsons. Hell, yeah.

Terrorists have no idea who they are really messing with when they mess with American men. If our military could fight without all the political trappings and diplomatic restrictions, the job would have been done already and the world would be a safer place for everyone. George Bush needlessly sent our guys into Iraq and once there, they found that their government issue equipment was woefully inadequate. American soldiers armored their own vehicles. They adapted, made do and got by. My uncle tells the same stories of American soldiers repairing their own planes and equipment in World War II using nothing but their wits and scrap iron.

American male ingenuity. God, that is soooooooo sexy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Ragged Heart

Coming to terms with the sudden loss of a horse is painful. Annie's death leaves a ragged hole in my heart. A long time ago I knew a big mountain of a biker who could knock out full grown men with his bare hands if he wanted. When his old dog died well past the age of seventeen, that man grieved like a little boy, his big heart broken. His buddies teased him as much as they dared, but I never did. I knew exactly how he felt.

I sent Annie away for training, thinking I was doing right by her. She was a young horse and could conceivably outlive me. She could easily outlive my physical ability to take care of her. I wanted to give Annie the best chance to be someone else's horse in case it ever happened that I could no longer take care of her. An untrained "grade" horse like Annie would not be valuable to anyone but a kill buyer. I knew her better than anyone, so I should have trusted myself to teach her the things she needed to know. I doubted myself, and thought a stranger would know better how to handle and train her. I knew it was her nature to fight against force. I knew she would do anything asked of her willingly if she just understood what it was you were asking her to do.

Saturday when I visited my friend Kathyrne, I shared my anxiety over Annie enduring the ordeal of learning to stand patiently and safely tied. "But, she needs to know to stand tied. It might save her life someday," I said out loud. And that was a true statement. Had Annie stood patiently tied in her pen, she would still be alive.

Accidents happen. Against our best preparations and intentions, accidents happen. Annie is not the first and certainly not the last horse to mortally wound herself against the will of human beings. There was no malice, no negligence. No one intended for this to happen.

At home, Annie was the first to hear me calling those horses in the pasture. "Come horses," I shout. I drag the syllables out, knowing it will carry even against the wind. Annie was always first to hear and raise her head. Even if Ginger was not inclined to come all the way back to the barn for a mere peppermint or a carrot, Annie would set off at a trot and pick up speed. She was beautiful when she ran, her long mane and tail streaming behind her, and her big sturdy legs covering ground as easily as breathing. It was a game to see who could come thundering up to the barn the fastest, especially in cold weather. Annie always won those races. I learned to stand close to the barn wall to avoid being stampeded by rushing horses.

Unfortunately, Annie was always faced with Ginger's jealousy, her vicious bites and mean kicks. They had reached an uneasy peace accord in recent times. Ginger was finally convinced that Annie did not need to be pounded on and brutalized every single time, and had resorted mostly to merely threatening with bared teeth and flattened ears. I was hoping that when Annie came back from school, Ginger would be so happy to see her that she would not be mean to Annie any more.

But they were friends, and Ginger is still sad that Annie left. I wonder if she knows that Annie will never come home now. One sunny winter day two years ago, I watched an exchange between those two mares. They came to an agreement that Ginger could lay down to sleep in the sun and Annie would stand guard over her. This is normal horse behavior but I had never seen the negotiations before. Annie stood quietly and faithfully over Ginger while she slept. I assume Ginger would return the favor, but you never know.

Annie was friendly and curious and always ready to go. Both horses would put their heads into the cab of the truck to pull out anything they could get their teeth on so they could drop it to the ground. It was great fun. Anything new I might leave on the ground in the corral got the same treatment.

Annie would actively solicit for brushing and fly spray. Her hair was the softest horse hair I have ever felt. Her mane was luxurious and her tail reached the ground when she first arrived but the cockle burrs took care of that in no time. Her greatest joy was to play in the water tank, creating a giant splashing until most of the water was gone.

If I put something unexpected in her feed tub, she would rapidly pull her nose in toward her chest, like a little kid making a face over spinach. It always made me laugh. When she first came here, she was not spoiled like Ginger. She did not know that apples and carrots were delicious and meant to be eaten. She did not even know how to eat out of my hand. Once she got a taste of peppermints, that all changed. A peppermint was worth getting pounded by Ginger. Annie and I learned how to trick Ginger, but it was never easy hiding anything from Her Majesty the Queen.

I could put my hands over Annie's nose and shake her head. She knew immediately I was playing. I do not think she enjoyed that as much as I did, but she allowed it. After all, I was the supreme giver of peppermints. She was not a happy being when she first came to Spirit Creek, but she became happy living here, even with Ginger. She loved to chase the old Dukenator around, and could have killed him easily, but she never laid a hoof on him. Horses can kick with exacting accuracy. If she really had not liked Duke, he would have been a dead dog. She never tried to bite or kick me. She would knock me over sometimes when I was bending down at the feed tub, always in the snow or mud, but it was not malicious or dangerous. It was just a gentle shoulder against my hip and it was a horse joke. Just like you know when your best friend is teasing you, you feel that same energy from a horse. Ginger, on the other hand, has no sense of humor whatsoever. She is far too serious and busy being the boss to joke around.

I can not speak any more about the last time I saw my little orphan Annie. It is too sad and brings a lump to my throat. It seems as if there should be a better reason why Annie is gone instead of just an accident. But, as my son said to me once in exasperation, "Mom, everything does NOT have to be a big spiritual deal!" And he is right. Horses come and go. Human beings come and go. Accidents happen. Life happens. Death happens. As with every loss in my life, human or animal, I wonder where now is that spirit I loved so dearly? Does Annie still exist, or has her sweet horse spirit resolved back into the infinite pool of horse energy and I will never see her again? Will I never feel her heavy head resting on my shoulder again? Do I need peppermints in my pockets when I leave this world? I surely hope so. But I do not know.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I have been considering the reality of my own mortality for a while now. When a person passes the half way mark of the statistical expected lifespan, it is natural to think about the end. That we all die, that everything dies, is the only certain thing. Since everything and everyone can live a happy, fruitful life despite knowledge of certain demise, it is apparently not much of a handicap.

My dear little orphan Annie has died. She suffered a fall into a fence panel that caused an eviscerating wound. The equine doctor at Kansas State University euthanized her out of mercy. Because I could not be reached, even in these days of instant communication, I did not have to make this onerous decision.

So, just like that, Annie's time upon this earth came to an abrupt end. Her sweet and playful essence returns to the mighty archetypal Horse Spirit, to inform all horses - past, present and future, with her short life experiences.

At least, that is what I hope happens. I do not know what happens when we die. No one does. We create religions and gods in our image, and invent saviors and myths and we believe - or disbelieve - or guess. But no one knows for sure. No one I have ever loved and trusted has ever returned to tell me not to worry, so I am free to draw my own conclusions. My guess is as good as the next one.

What I do know is that I do not have a single good picture of Annie. Not a single record of her beautiful long mane. She was not a pretty horse, but she was beautiful running, her head held high. When she was galloping, her long narrow head became noble in bearing and to me, she looked like the horses in classical paintings. Maybe it was simply the Spirit of horses I saw in Annie when she was running. She did not have to be beautiful for me to love her.

Like all women and horses that have gone before, Annie is dead now, and eventually I will be dead as well. In an unimaginable universe, it is not difficult to imagine our paths may cross again. I hope so. I surely do.


"For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” - Henry Beston