Friday, November 5, 2010

In which Fiddle gives The Sensible Horse's Guide to Real Monsters

Much has been said, here and elsewhere, about Fiddle, aka Gigantor, and her stubborn, opinionated and (at times) bad-tempered view of the world.
Many people have asked, here and elsewhere, why on earth I would want a huge horse who is stubborn, opinionated and (at times) bad-tempered.

Lemme tell you: Fiddle is lots of things, and some of them aren't very nice.

She is also extremely sensible. It only takes a few thousand miles of riding a non-sensible steed to give a person a lifetime appreciation for a sensible horse.

Horses Of The World: listen up.

Fiddle is about to share a Virtue with y'all. So pull on your big-girl panties (or big-boy panties, if that's more appropriate),
and pay attention.

This is a mud puddle:
It is not a dragon. It is not a troll. It is not a snake. If you live in a Swamp, you will see these. Get used to mud puddles, they are everywhere, and they are not monsters.

This is a creek:
It is made of water. It is not made of lava. It is not full of crocodiles.
If you live in a Swamp, you will need to cross through creeks. They are not monsters.

This is a leaf, on the ground.
Leaves are not voracious. They are not tenacious. They are not venomous. Get a grip and walk on by. You will be fine.

This is a log across the trail.
The log is small. You are big. Get over it (literally).

This is mud on the trail.
It will not suck you into the center of the earth and digest you slowly and painfully over the course of several thousand years. It's just wet dirt. Walk on.

This is the big scary pipe:
Big scary pipes are not carnivorous in our latitude. They are only distantly related to the carnivorous big scary pipes of the tropical regions. This particular big scary pipe has been dormant for more than ten years. It hasn't eaten so much as a pony in all of that time. Notice that the teeth in the mouth of the big scary pipe have completely disintegrated from lack of use.
Walk past this big scary pipe with your quiet footsteps and you will be fine.

This is a fern. Not dangerous.

Another fern. Still not dangerous.
Stump. Smells weird. Looks odd. Not dangerous. Walk on.
Strange piece of paper on the ground. Strange pieces of paper are clear evidence of litterbugs--which are toxic in large quantities, but this little piece of paper represents only 1 part-per-million, and thus is not a danger to you, you big sissy. Walk on.

This abandoned piece of blue logging equipment is sufficiently odd to require one ear to point at it, just in case it lumbers towards you. Logging equipment is slow and heavy. You are fast.
If this thing ever wakes up, you'll have plenty of time to walk away from it. Keep going.

These are big. They are weird-looking. They hiss in the rain.
Who cares?

A bridge.
This one has been fumigated recently: no trolls.

This stump has weird lichen growing on it. Looks like Cheetos.
Doesn't taste like Cheetos, though. Bleck. Not dangerous, but not food, either.

Remember about leaves on the ground (mentioned earlier)?
This is the exception!

Stop, stare, huff and puff and blow the woods down before tippy-toe trotting past this dangerous creature.

Whew! That was a close call!

It surely is pretty here.

Wait! What's that strange creature stalking through the grass towards me?

Never mind.

I just remembered that I'm not afraid of those, either.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In which I post a chapter from my NaNoWriMo novel for y'all

September 10th, 2010 Skookum Tribune

Meet Miss Birdie Mae Rouse: distance rider

By Annabeth Spencer

Birdie Mae Rouse came to the town of Skookum at the age of “forty and some” in 1970, at the invitation of the man she intended—at the time—to marry. “He was a skunk,” she says now. “A lowdown, double-crossing, no-good rat of a skunk.”

(He was a number of other things as well, according to Birdie Mae, and she is happy to describe in detail all of the things the man was and possibly still is, but this paper declines to publish descriptions of anyone that requires the use of such strong language. Let it suffice to say that the man was a skunk.)

Fortunately for Birdie Mae and unfortunately for the man who was a skunk, his undesirable qualities were made clear before a legal wedding took place and before legal documents were signed. What happened to the man, the other three women, the spray paint, the fifteen live flamingos brought especially from Florida, the crate of butter spray, the athletic sock and the bicycle has never been officially documented, but Birdie Mae says that she is well rid of the entire lot of them.

Without the man who was a skunk, however, Birdie Mae never would have come to Skookum, and thus never would have found Gator, her first mule. “Gator was actually the neighbor’s mule, originally,” she says. “I offered to buy him the first week I was in town, because I liked the feisty look in his eye, but the neighbor wouldn’t sell. After the mule kicked seven holes in the door of the neighbor’s wife’s brand-new Mustang convertible—which she, like an idiot, had left parked right next to the pasture fence with the engine running and the radio blasting—well, then, they gave me old Gator, right then, except they said I had to get him off the property by the next morning.

“Edsel Rabin, he was in jail at the time after that little incident with the newspaper picture of his pumpkin patch, so he had some land outside of town that wasn’t being used. I moved Gator out there that night, and set up camp next to him in the pasture so he wouldn’t be lonely. Ha! Gator was never lonely. He was a singer, Gator was, and he’d hee-haw and carry on to entertain himself for hours. I maintain that it’s the reason he kicked the stuffing* out of that darn* car: he figured that radio was singing off-key and he was trying to set it right.

(*some of Miss Rouse’s vocabulary has been edited for publication, with her reluctant permission)

“After I got Gator, I discovered endurance riding. You ever hear of that? Most folks haven’t, around here, unless they talk to me, and most folks around here don’t talk to me unless they’ve got a lot of time. That’s one thing about endurance riding: it takes a lot of time, so you gotta get used to that. I started out riding 50’s, that’s fifty-mile rides. But those went by too quick, pretty soon you were back in camp with a bunch of other yabbos who just want to talk about their horses and their farriers, and their saddles and their trucks. Nothin’ interesting there. So then I started riding hundreds, and that was better, because you could mostly be gone all day and all night. Gator was a darn* good hundred-mile mule. Only problem with Gator was that he’d never do a willing trot-out. That’s part of the check that the veterinarians do a couple times during the ride to make sure your mule or your horse isn’t going to keel over and die. Gator figured, ‘why should he trot away from somebody who just wants him to trot back.’ Didn’t make any sense to him, and I could never find a two-by-four big enough to show him the reason for doing it. So we never once got a BC, that’s a “best-condition” award, because that dang* mule didn’t believe in trotting for no reason.

“Hundred-milers started getting boring after a while, because you pretty much have to come back to where you started, unless you’re doing one of those point-to-point rides like the Tevis. Folks like to tell you how tough the Tevis is, they like to show off their Tevis buckles to prove they’ve survived something difficult. Ha. Tevis is for sissies, I say. I’ve done that ride three times to see what all the fuss was about, and traded all my buckles away a year later for a bottle of good whiskey. That’s not so hard. Now, if they wanted you to cover that trail in January, that might be a challenge. But not the way they do it these days, with people at the vet checks feeding you watermelon and offering to do your trot-out for you. Do I look like I need help trotting? I should think not. Well, these days I might need help trotting just so I could see where I was going, but I can move out just the same as always, is what I’m saying.

“After doing about ten years of hundred-milers, I decided it was time for a real challenge, and also a good time to take a break from this one-horse, no-mule town. It was going to be Gator’s last season, bless his ugly old heart, he was starting to slow down and get tired, and getting so he’d only try to kick the vet once or twice in a day. Must have been about 1982 or 1983, I guess, that I decided to tour the country with Gator. Not with a truck and trailer and all that fancy rig that folks take with now, you understand. It was Gator and me, and what we could carry. In Wyoming someplace there was a fellow who gave me Stella, that was my second mule. Gator liked Stella just fine, and they’d lick each others’ ears as a greeting, and they’d hee-haw up the morning together, every day. That was a good year. Took me most of that year to get across the country that first time. We started off the first of March, it was an early spring, and we headed south first, down to California and then over a bit into Texas, and then up to Massachusetts. Stopped for a couple of weeks there, that trip, to visit my sister and her daughter. I think they thought I might be interesting and tell some good stories, and I did tell some fine stories by then, you bet.

“Then I came home, and put old Gator in the pasture and let him rest out his days. He was a good old mule, and I still miss him. Stella and I would leave him behind in the pasture and go off to look around, sometimes west to Montana, sometimes north to Canada. One time we went almost all the way to Alaska but then we got a little homesick and came home just in time for Gator to lick Stella’s ears a hundred more times before he lay down and died. Buried that mule myself, of course. Borrowed Edsel Rabin’s tractor to do it, but I moved every last bit of dirt to make the hole and put that old mule in it and covered it back up. Probably should’ve buried a red Mustang convertible car in the hole with him, just so he’d have something to kick around once he got to heaven, but I didn’t think of it at the time. He’ll probably forgive me. He was a good old mule.”

According to records kept by the American Endurance Rides Conference (AERC), Miss Birdie Mae Rouse and her mules have accumulated more than 65,000 miles of competition, in addition to her five well-documented “long rides” across North and Central America. She was inducted into the AERC Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in 1997. Miss Rouse’s driver’s license was suspended by the Washington State Department of Licensing in 2001 after she failed the vision test three times, but she says it doesn’t slow her down much: her young mule Elvis knows the way home from town and he always gets her there safely.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In which I seek NaNoWriMo inspiration from the blogosphere

Help me, blog readers! I've signed up for 30 days of madness and I'm feeling terribly, horribly, completely SANE!

If you've never heard of National Novel Writing Month ("NaNoWriMo" to friends), you can find a description of it here. And hey, while you're there, you can join us and write YOUR novel in a month. Why not? It's raining anyhow.

But here's my dilemma:

I need some characters.

I need YOU!

Won't you make up a character for me to put in my book? Do NOT be serious. My book is full of eccentric people who live in a small farming town...not unlike our little electronic village here in the Blogworld. Won't your characters join me? Please?

* Tell me your character's name (make something up. Make it reasonably silly, please!) If the name doesn't give it away, you can specify gender and age.

* Tell me how I'll recognize your character when s/he is standing in line next to me at the little grocery store. (Clothing? a bizarre facial tic? an unusual ethnic accent? a distinctive companion?)

* Tell me about an incident in your character's life that the town will never forget. Hitting the lotto is good, but accidentally puking on the mayor is better. Especially if she was dressed as Santa Claus at the time...



You can put your answers in the comments section below. it's okay to make up a bunch of characters--it's a long way to November 30th! I'll try to post excerpts from the novel featuring your characters as they appear during the month.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In which Hallowe'en is my favorite day of the entire year!

We started the day early at the radio station. So early, in fact, that the kids had not yet emerged from their cocoons.

But, when you host a storytelling radio show, and your show airs on Hallowe'en Morning, it's important to get going early to squeeze the fun out of every moment of available airtime!

Abbie doesn't look awake, but she told some blood-curdling tales.

Maggie looks like a sweet little lady...and she is. But when you invite her to tell scary stories, be prepared to be SCARED.

Jim's a scary guy as well. Sweet, yes. But scary! (I love that).

If you missed the show, don't despair. I'm trying to figure out if we can post portions of it online someplace. If you know of a good (free?) podcast host, please let me know!

After the show, we woke up the kids and took them outside to play at the local corn maze.
There were other (silly) activities there as well:

(trip trap, trip trap! I want a goat bridge for our Gruffs!)

Since it was the last day of the corn maze/pumpkin patch "season" there was an EXCELLENT deal on the admission price: each admission allowed you to play as many games and mazes as you wanted to play and you could take as many pumpkins as you wanted to haul out of the field!
We love pumpkins!
These punks will not only be our jack-o-lanterns, but they will also be a source of pumpkin soups and pies--and what we don't eat, the chickens will eat!
After gathering punks, it was time to humiliate the pets:

And then, we can't forget to carve our jack o'lanterns!

Lisa's very first!
Willy did this last year, he considers himself an expert now.
Jim doesn't mess around with knives. He goes straight for the power tools.
Happy Hallowe'en!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In which I ride both horses, and it's a pretty day out on the trails

Jim and Hana are going to start taking arena lessons again, and Hana hasn't been out of the pasture in at least a month. Hmmmm.

The day before the first scheduled lesson, I figured that even a chubby little Arab probably has some extra "fizz" from all that leisure time, so I took her out on the trails for a little while.
I'm pretty sure the white fluffy stuff at the top of the photo is some of Hana's steam, which finally blew away after almost two hours on the trails!
She's so much fun to ride, but she has a little more "spunk" than you want for an arena lesson...especially if it's the first time the RIDER has been in the saddle for 6 weeks!

She and I did about 6 or 7 miles of walk, trot and canter. The Tree Farm wasn't very crowded, probably because the weather forecast was for "dismal." The actual weather was kind of pretty!
Hana, de-fizzed. Still kinda pudgy, though. She'll be glad to have her dad back in the saddle again.

After Hana was back in the pasture again, it was Fiddle's turn:

Fiddle didn't have much steam to blow--we'd done a quick-paced ride with our friends the Fish just a day earlier. She was all kinds of snarky for that kind of ride, even before we got to the trailhead. For this ride, she moved out with a free stride and a pair of happy ears.

The view from the bottom of a gigantic pothole.

The view as we near the top of the pothole.

The view of the sun through Swampland trees. So pretty!

Happy horses, happy rider. Happy day!