In which I don't go to the ride and there's a new Skookum story now

It's good to have a plan, so you have something to crumple up and throw away.

That's what I told myself two days ago...when, instead of hauling myself, Santa Jim, two horses, two dogs, and all our camping gear out to new Mount Spokane Endurance Ride, I was standing not-very-calmly in a veterinarian's waiting room with Luna.

She's almost completely recovered now
Luna is a simple dog.  Her joys are simple, too:  eating, barking, and following us around the farm.

Thursday morning, she didn't do any of those things.

Panic button.

A quick early-morning phone call to Patty (my regular small-animal vet) with a catalog of symptoms confirmed my inclination to drop everything and get Luna in for an exam and some blood work.  At the clinic, she got a shot and a prescription for two wide-spectrum antibiotics.

The rest of the day, I spent at home on the couch with my dog, alternately reading and worrying.

By late evening, she was improving a bit--slightly more interested in food, slightly more interested in following me around the house.

The next morning saw more improvement...but not, in my mind, enough improvement to justify loading my little dog into the truck for a long drive and a weekend in a new camp.  Yes, at Mount Spokane we would be surrounded by veterinarians.  But if something went pear-shaped, the nearest vet hospital would be more than an hour away, whereas at home the nearest clinic is 10 minutes from the farm.

The choice wasn't fun, but it wasn't difficult: We're home this weekend.

I hope everyone at the ride has a wonderful time!

Meantime, I've been writing.

I've got a new draft of my middle-grade teen fiction novel (with horses!  and endurance!  and magic!) sent out to the beta reader.  She knows all about the audience and almost nothing about horses, which is perfect.  I know the "horsey parts" are okay, but I need to make sure that non-horsey folks can read it.  So, I'm kind of excited about that.

And then, I wrote a new Skookum story.  It's still kind of rough, but I think it's got potential.  It also features the sort of thing I'd like to see happen around here, now that the clouds have moved in.  Summer is beautiful here, but it's brief.  I guess that's a thing that we might as well celebrate...with a story.

So, here ya go.  Enjoy.  If you like it, you can thank Luna. I couldn't have written it without her help.

The Skookum Wet Fest

It’s hard to believe that the entire Skookum Wet Fest started more than six years ago, when Mayor Robin Redstone, LuLu Rubidoux and Daisy Alexander got together with a bottle of wine one evening in late August after closing time at the Red Robin CafĂ© in downtown Skookum.

“We need something to celebrate,” Mayor Robin told her friends.  “Local morale is low, the economy is flat, and winter is coming.  We’ve got to think of something before we are hip-deep in seasonal mud and despair.”

Robin and Daisy recalled past festivals, events that had fizzled out before Lulu ever moved to Skookum. 

“There was the Mardi Gras, remember that?” Daisy said.  Robin did. 

“An excuse to get drunk and sing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Robin nodded.  “It wasn’t such a bad idea, except that we only have twenty-seven Catholics in the entire town, including Father Timothy who isn’t anybody’s idea of a Cajun.  Also: nobody in town knew how to make gumbo, so they ended up serving clam chowder instead.”

“The chowder was pretty good, though,” Daisy reminded her. 

“Then there was the Sunshine Street Fair,” Robin recalled.  “Rained out five years in a row.”

“There was that Sandcastle contest thing they used to hold down at Riverbend park,” Lulu suggested.  “We could do that again.”

“Except that Riverbend is now a protected wetland.  No digging allowed. ”

The ladies kept thinking…and drinking.  As they thought (and drank), the suggestions got sillier. 

“How about a garden tour, like they do out at Hyak?” 

“A garden tour?  Of what?  Slug devastation? We could give a prize for the most tattered tomato plant?”

“Or the muddiest zucchini plants?”

“Or the mushiest cucumbers?”

They all laughed.  But then Lulu said, “You know, that’s not a bad idea.”

The other ladies stared at her.  Robin reached for the wine bottle again. 

Lulu continued.  “No, seriously.  All the stuff that didn’t work before, the Mardi Gras and the sunshine thing.  We aren’t good at that stuff because those things aren’t really from here.  What are we actually good at here?  Rain.  And mud.  And slugs.  I think we should do something with that.”

Daisy finished the wine in her glass, and Robin topped it up again.  “So, what?  Slug races?  That would be a big hit with the 3rd grade boys.  But we want tourists, and tourists want something amazing.”

“So, let’s amaze them,” Lulu told her.  “Let’s do something that nobody has ever done:  let’s celebrate the mud and the slugs and the swamp and the mushy cucumbers.  Let’s have a mud-sculpting contest.  And slug races.  And…a dance.  I love to dance.”

The other women nodded.  Lulu loved to dance. 

“We could call it the Slugfest.  No, that sounds like a bar fight.  Wait!  I’ve got it!”

Lulu emptied the last of the wine into the three glasses, and picked hers up grandly.

“Ladies,” she said grandly.  “What this town needs is a Swamp Stomp!”

With that, the ideas started flowing.  They quickly ran out of napkins to write on, and Robin had to dig out some of the restaurant’s kiddie coloring sheets so they could scribble their notes on the blank back sides.  Over the course of the next two hours, the three ladies outlined three days of activities. 

“We’ll start off with a fun run,” Robin told the Chamber of Commerce at the breakfast meeting the following Wednesdays.  “With several distances available:  the 5k Swamp Scuttle course goes around Riverbend park.  The 15k Frog Jog will go from Riverbend to the rodeo grounds and back.  But here’s the thing:  the runners have to be wearing raingear.  We can offer prizes for the fastest runner, but also for the best outfit.  Families can do it together.  We’ll sell raincoats and rubber boots to the tourists.”

And that was just the beginning. 

The current Wet Fest takes up an entire week on the Pilchuck County calendar.  The Swampland Shuffle parade winds through town on Saturday at noon.  The mud sculpting contest at Muskeg Elementary was featured on NPR three years ago, and now attracts artistic teams from all over the state, who are each given three days and 300 pounds of mud to create something amazing.  The clam chowder and zucchini feed at the high school has become the PTA’s biggest annual fundraiser.  The Skookum Ornithologists host an education River Ramble at dawn and dusk, so that visitors can learn more about estuary wildlife.
Even the rodeo board joined the fun last year by sponsoring the world’s first “OLOP competition,” an entertaining game of polo played by local celebrities and politicians on donkeys, with entry fees and spectator proceeds donated to the Pilchuck County Wetland Restoration Society. 

And of course, Lulu Rubidoux is at the center of the fun each year when the Marshland Ramblers take the stage at the Swampland Stomp, an enormous open-air dance featuring live music…and often, umbrellas. 


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