September can sometimes arrive like an oven but, this morning it is crisp with essentially no bugs. Kim and I enjoy a wonderful early trail ride - she on Zena and I on Sara. We are becoming pairs this way; like, Zena is slowly becoming hers. We ride to the park's drive-over bridge, east along the south side of the Flint River, past the swing bridge famous for graduation and wedding photos, up the bank, and back along the upper ridge. I take a Zena video to post to Forever Morgans, the rescue from where she came.
September 2 ~ Doc Lisa and Kelly return to check on Ruby’s forsythia-trashed leg. When they remove the old bandage, we find the wound black and yucky. I am taken aghast because I do not realize I am looking at the spent Wound Dust applied at the last bandaging. Doc assure me the wound itself looks great, and is filling in with new tissue nicely. This time, she opts to sedate before re-bandaging; partly because she wants to apply a mixture of Zenodyne and DSMO. She thinks this bandage will last until after Labor Day.
I spend a fair bit of my morning setting up auto-pays for my new credit card. Stupid and tedious. My previous card had been compromised by a security breach at one of the retailers I had visited while on the west side of the state. I do not understand whether an employee stole my data; or whether a cyberspace villain is to blame. At any rate, a real person made large purchases at two Meijers department stores in that area. They actually had a plastic card in hand. My card company flagged the purchases because the information embedded in the strip was incomplete. I am surprised to learn that a number of people I know have suffered similar breaches. Why can we not grow communities such that there are fewer people who feel they need to be bad, for whatever reason. We have a national inability to “reach out and touch someone” - an old advertising tag line from a forgotten telephone company.
Gary and I drop in to see my brother’s new house before dropping of a contribution for a Labor Day Barbeque for the homeless in downtown Flint. My local NOW chapter asked that we donate a personal hygiene product. Hardly worth grilling on a barbeque, but I donate a dozen packages of sanitary pads. It has been thirty-five years since I have had to worry about having enough cash for such necessities.
I receive a notice from Dreamhorse.com that “Jennifer” is interested in some adult trail riding. I ran the ad as a $40 per visit horse lease because Kim does not have enough time to ride. But, since running the ad, I’ve met my neighbor, Amy, so I am not sure that I need a third person. I will at least invite her out for a meet-and-greet. She bills herself as a housewife with two teenage sons; and does not mention her experience with horses.
Amy gets out of work early and is home by six; so she and I head out for her first off-the-property trail ride. She rides Sara who is, as usual, wonderfully pleasant; and I ride Zena. We take the upper river trail from east to west down to the motocross bike track and back. It is a great ride. After evening chores, Amy pulls out the hose to fill the tank. Not only has she become quite at home here, she is very aware and responsible. I am glad we have met.
September 3 ~ Ruby and I spend part of the morning playing with the big green ball. She also walks over the low make-shift bridge on the tires in the outdoor arena - well enough for a first attempt; but I wonder whether the boards, as heavy as they are, still have the potential to tip. I have to think on that. Amy brings her three-year-old granddaughter to meet the horses. We let her lead Sparky around the arena like a puppy; and then give her a little bareback ride. She “helps” to put a little afternoon hay out for the horses; and waters my pond garden for me.
The neighbors who live between Amy and me bought a horse - an eight-year-old paint mare named Showgirl. I’m glad it’s not a gelding because I do not want it trying to visit my mares, and vice versa. Although I have four foot high farm fencing around most of my property, the three-hundred foot strip between our backyards is comprised of the fence surrounding their goat pen; plus a hodgepodge of three-foot-high hog panels wired onto metal stakes, old fence posts, and even tree trunks. All together, it suffices as a general deterrent for a horse with no reason to escape. The neighbors have added two strands of electric fence to the portion where Showgirl will be free to graze. Now, I hesitate to put my horses out; but do not want to deny them the couple hours of daily freedom they have enjoyed since we strung the farm fence better than a year ago. So, I release my girls and watch them tentatively graze and wander their way toward Showgirl. With the four of them standing at the property line considering a nose-to-nose with their new neighbor, someone gets zapped by the fence and they all go flying. I hope that does the trick, and the days following seem to confirm such.
Showgirl’s young owner asks whether she will be able to use my indoor arena and I put her off. A couple weeks later, she calls across the fence to ask whether she can use my round pen. I put her off again. I need to find a good way to explain that I simply do not want to share. For thirty-five years, I shared my property, barns, horses, equipment, and attention with other people. If I wanted to share, I would hang out my shingle and offer lessons again.
But, the horses have other ideas. Soon after Showgirl arrives, Sparky comes in heat. She spends the next five days calling to Showgirl; and Showgirl calls back. I find that interesting. A quiet week passes before Sara comes in heat; and the calling begins again. What's with this? Both Sparky and Sara are seventeen years old and neither has ever bore a child. Neither has ever shown obvious signs of heat. Showgirl’s not even a gelding. Whatever!
As I distribute evening hay before heading off for my nephew’s Labor Day picnic, the horses want to crowd the hay cart. I near the slider to the chute, near the water tank, and Ruby comes up on the cart’s side. I swoosh her off and, as she spins around and back toward us, she absolutely deliberately rolls the green ball hard toward Sara, sending Sara running off. It is just hilarious.
September 5 ~ Jennifer, the woman from the Dreamhorse.com ad, visits for a meet-and-greet. Her experience is fifteen years ago as an avid stable rider at the old Fenton Riding Stable and Auction Barn. I give her a copy of the teen romance novel I wrote some years back, “Brad Bateman and the Burgundy Bay,” because a major part of the book takes place out of that auction barn. Jennifer has never even haltered a horse. She is not going to be a ready trail buddy; but I enjoy her company. We plan to meet again on September 8. After she leaves, I paint a pinto mare and foal in Ruby’s stall.
September 6 ~ In the morning, I lead Ruby from behind twice around the arena at a walk. When she wanders off the wall, I quietly move my switch toward her head to redirect her. She does well and so do I. I paint a baby Pegasus on Ruby’s stall wall before Doc Lisa and Kelly return to change Ruby’s bandage. The bill is adding up. We all agree the wound looks good. They plan to return on the twelfth. Tonight was a real mile stone. After the horses enjoy a long, hot and humid day in the yard, and after eating their evening grain, when they are tuckered out from a good day, Amy puts a lead on Sara, and I put a lead on Ruby, and we walk all the way around the ten acres. Ruby is a good girl and I am in heaven!
September 7 ~ Today, I paint lettering on Ruby’s stall wall. The mail brings the August bill from Doc Rooker - $742.00 for August. The horses are loose in the arena when our dumpster driver, Walt, pulls his huge truck up the drive to remove my manure. Even though there is a red metal gate separating us from the activity, as Walt aims his rig up to the dumpster at the open slider, the horses all run to the stall end of the arena. I climb the red gate, fourteen feet in front of the truck, and call Ruby. With scant hesitation, she comes and stands with me for the duration. Walt lifts, dumps, re-sets the dumpster, and drives away. That’s mighty fine for a young horse!
September 9 ~ I lay hay around my little thrown of chair-on-loading-box, gather my horses around me, and begin Betty Friedan’s, “The Female Mystique.” It is a book I should have read in my late teens; but I was too busy trying to make life right on my own. She has written about the advice from women’s magazines during the 1950’s compared to the 30’s and 40’s - how sickeningly sad that we could have taken such a huge step backward. No wonder my mother was so frustrated and angry all the time. Young women need to read Friedan today.
I fly spray the horses so they will stop stamping their feet. Ruby thinks standing naked for spraying is worth two treats. Zena is close to being that good - just a loose twine around her neck. Sparky is not so agreeable, but she knows there are treats so complies with little resistance. Sara sees the repellent bottle and wants nothing to do with it. I walk quietly behind her for a full twenty minutes, non-stop, without changing pace. Around and around the box and other horses we walk, as the others munch the remaining wisps of hay. Finally, she just stops. Without moving a foot, she swings her head around to face me. I approach, give her a treat, put the twine loosely around her neck, and spray. I give her another treat and walk away.
On September 10, a casual Facebook friend, Pam, posts the following: It's been almost 4 months since I lost Mister Bill. I've been looking for a new trail partner for awhile, with no luck. Too big, too fast, too green, too old, too young... But today, Terry and I picked up my new horse! I have to admit when I first laid eyes on him, I immediately thought no way!!. He wasn't flashy, he was underweight, and he was, well, kind of plain. But the more I watched him being ridden, the more I liked him. He was quiet and well mannered, and foundation bred. And when I finally stepped up into the saddle, he just seemed "right". I hope I've made the correct choice. He's not at all what I thought I would buy, but after checking his papers yesterday, I saw that his name was "Mr." Smokin’ Silver Pine, leaving me to wonder if Mr. Bill may have had a hand in my pick!
I reply: NOTE TO FRIENDS FROM MR. SMOKIN’ SILVER PINE: "I've been looking for a new trail partner for awhile, with no luck. They are all too big, too fast, too green, too old, too young... But today, I found my new rider! I have to admit when I first laid eyes on her, I immediately thought no way!. She wasn't flashy, she was the wrong size, and she was, well, kind of plain. But the more I watched her watching me, the more I liked her. She was quiet and well mannered, and Midwest bred. And when she finally stepped up into the saddle, she just seemed "right". I hope I've made the correct choice. She's not at all what I thought I would want, but after checking her place out yesterday, I saw an old stall name plate that said, "Mr. Bill," leaving me to wonder if another "Mr." horse broke her in for me!
Pam says, "Tears, thanks so much!"
September 13 ~ Today is another bandage change day for Ruby. Afterward, Gary and I head up to Big Rapids to visit my friend, Joan. This is the July trip that had been postponed when Ruby wracked her leg. Kim and Amy care for the girls for the two days we are gone. As soon as I return, Kim and I enjoy a great trail ride.
September 19 ~ September has been a good month in Michigan. Although I should not be wishing for global warming, it has been beautifully warm and reasonably wet. A good number of days touched near ninety degrees; and there has been enough rain to keep our lawn lush and our summer flowers blooming. Horrible rains and floods have spread from Texas, and up through the Great Plains toward us; but each deluge swung south of Toledo, granting our mitten peninsula just the beautiful edges.
Although a long slow process, Ruby’s leg is healing well. Since the original oh-my-goodness, I have forgotten how many times the bandage has been changed. Soaking it heavily with fly spray appears to have discouraged my little pistol from chewing on it - making it possible to go for a week at a time without checking. The last time Doc Lisa removed the bandage, she decided to leave it open to the air. Hair was growing back across the original wound, a miracle in and of itself, and the remaining pink area is maybe two by four inches. She wants me to dab it with Red Oil twice daily. Personally, I’d like to leave it bandaged - seems to be working while keeping the wound clean. In the early evening, I spend a couple hours at TSC, selling feed sack tote bags for a local charity. Amy feeds for me. The horses walk into their stalls for her and, as she reaches to give Ruby her treat, fresh blood remains on the palm of Amy’s hand. Ruby has been messing with the wound, and it is now open and weeping. She calls Doc Lisa directly so that the facts are given clearly. Not knowing where to find my horse first aid case, she rummages through the human first aid box hung on my tack room wall. She applies a four-by-four sterile pad and wraps Ruby’s leg with the wonderful, magical sticky bandage. The next day, Doc Lisa inspects the wound and re-bandages. She admits that she pondered whether to leave it open; and suggests we can leave this bandage on for a good week. I say forever!
The original accident caused us to cancel plans to visit Joan and her horse at their new home in Big Rapids. This time, we are heading out for four days travel to Mohican State Park in Ohio. Everyone agrees this re-bandaging is not a trip stopper; so Gary and I enjoy two beautiful days and good food at a handsome park-owned lodge; with pleasant drives and short hikes in a truly beautiful part of Ohio. As an unexpected bonus, we visit Malabar Farm State Park, built by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield shortly after World War I. He is credited with bringing conservation farming to the United States; and with bringing many famous movie stars to his farm. Jimmy Cagney sold vegetables at his stand, Shirley Temple milked his cows, and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there. We walked up and down the double staircase the two of them descended for their wedding. To Bromfield’s discredit, he was clearly part of the extraordinarily wealthy “one percent” while much of the nation spiraled into poverty. He paid French authorities twenty thousand dollars to sneak, from behind enemy lines, wallpaper he had privately commissioned for one of his bedrooms. It cost him twenty thousand dollars better than a half-century ago! At any rate, if you are in the area, I highly recommend that you visit the farm and tour the mansion.
Amy and Kim care for the horses while we are gone. They still have not met, so their first conversations are notes left near the grain bin: AMY: “Good morning, Kim. Zena’s is the white pail; Ruby’s is the blue pail; have an awesome day!” KIM: “How could it start better than loving on these horses? We are some blessed women!” AMY: “You are absolutely correct! Happy Thursday (smiley face).” KIM: “In my next life, I want to run a horse farm. Colleen’s would be perfect (heart heart heart)!” When I read the notes upon my return, I think, oh no, it sounds like the two of them may consider a hit man to take me out!!!!
Also, when I return, I find Kim has posted thirteen horse photos on Facebook, with the following message:
In my next life....I want to have horses. Knocked down some cob webs, rolled up the long hose after filling their water tub, brushed the hay and dirt off the horses from them rolling in the mud, while they nuzzled against me, begging for a treat. As I am picking poop, loving the smell, and watching them peacefully meandering from hay pile to hay pile, taking turns pushing each other off their chosen pile, a happy whiny now and then, swish of the tails, shake those beautiful, muscular bodies, feeling the warm sun shinning down my skin....An overwhelming peaceful, blessed feeling came rushing over me. I did not want to leave. Thank you Colleen Pace.
Who knew Kim was such a poet?!
September 24 ~ On the morning I return, Sara comes in for breakfast with a puncture wound on the left side of her neck, just behind the jaw bone. For heaven’s sake, Ruby’s August vet bill alone was seven hundred and thirty four dollars; and I still have September’s coming. And, yes, that’s the first thing I think of as I look at these little flaps of skin and this little chunk of missing meat on my good Sara. She seems oblivious to it. I never find where she might have caught herself, but Doc Lisa assures me it is often the case that the perpetrators of horse lacerations are never discovered. She tells me that she and a horse owner once scoured a stall inch by inch looking anything that could have injured a horse, to no avail. Today is a Saturday, and Doc is at a college football game. She instructs me to slather the wound with Furozone, or a similar cream, and she’ll stitch it in the evening. Three hundred and sixty four dollars later, Sara has two internal stitches and a few extra to a hold the skin flaps in place. Lisa does a nice job. I wonder who the first person was to ever use a needle to sew a wound. She leaves me with a tub of candy-flavored antibiotic powder. No, I did not taste it; but I can smell it. For the next five days, I sprinkle the antibiotic over a larger-than-usual serving of morning grain; dripping brown rice syrup in to help the powder bond to the grain pellets. Sara inhales it and licks the tub clean. I spend the rest of the day mending the fence around the trees in the pen; and installing top boards for new roll fence we will be putting between the two pens. The horses are with me all day. In the evening, with halter and lead, Ruby and I enjoy substantial walking around the arena. I stay at her side and walk when she walks, stop when she stops. It is pleasant and productive.
The weather is turning cooler this week, and I want to finish painting Sara and Zena’s stalls before the temps drop below fifty-five. I put the girls out to graze and get to work, checking on them every half hour or so. At some point, I’m surprised that Sara is not with the others, so I wrap my brush in plastic and hike out to find her. She and Showgirl are eating grass on each side of the fence a hundred feet into the wooded area beyond my round pen. Every so often, Sara reaches her nose toward the fence, but Showgirl does not reciprocate. They appear to be quietly enjoying each other’s company, so I return to my painting.
But, less than a half hour passes before I hear the neighbor lady calling my name, clearly in my yard. I find her holding Sara, sporting a borrowed halter and lead rope. Why she was so motivated I do not know; but she wandered along the fence line beyond where Showgirl could go, through the trees, past the goat pen, and through more trees, into a corner near my backyard where the horses have never ventured, to find a hog panel set close enough to the ground that she could cross over. The end of the stiff sixteen-foot panel is pulled from its stake, bent and pushed to the ground. When Doc Lisa e-mails later to ask how Sara and her stitches are doing, I say she is feeling TOO good! And, now, all of my girls are confined to their dirt pens until I have time to address that last three hundred feet of perimeter fencing.
September 28 ~ This is such a wonderful morning - high 50’s and sunny when I head to the barn. For the third morning, Sara receives her increased ration of feed to hold her concoction of candy flavored antibiotic powder, with dripped brown rice syrup. Ruby, too, gets something new in her grain pellets because Doc Lisa wants me to try a ground flaxseed-based complete supplement, chocked full of everything super horse. If I buy into it, she will receive a commission. It would replace Ruby’s hoof supplement biscuit, her flaxseed and, if I were to give it to Zena, it would replace her joint supplement. Doc leaves me with a half-dozen sample packets because it is pricey - as much as sixty dollars per month per horse. After reading the ingredients, I think that maybe I should take it, too! I taste a half teaspoonful and decide it is highly palatable.
While Ruby eats, I groom her with the soft brush, comb detangler through her mane and tail, and pick all four feet. I have not lifted her feet since her leg injury six weeks ago. She does not want to pick up her rears until she knows there are treats involved - then she complies with grace. Smart girl, I guess. I set up her A-B video for her viewing pleasure - or not - before grooming the other three girls. I feel good when I am done. Maybe, they do, too. After spreading their morning hay amongst the tubs and feeder, I let them loose while I pick the pen. Afterward, I sit on the blue mounting box up against the hay feeder and read another chapter of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.” I read softly and with some pain about how Betty, a Midwest girl in the late 1940’s, completed four successful years of college and received a scholarship toward a graduate degree in psychology. But, after moving to the graduate campus in California and commencing the program, found herself walking with a boy who said, “You know, nothing will come of this (us). I will never have a scholarship opportunity like yours.” Soon after, Betty withdrew from the program, married, and had children. How many women have, consciously or unconsciously, made the decision to chop themselves off at the knees?
In 1971, my first husband told me I could not become a veterinarian because he would not be married to a woman who made more money than him. That was not the reason I switched to a business major. I have always said that I switched because I could not handle the sight of blood, bandages, stitches, whatever - and because my own vet said I would better have the time and money for horses if I became an accountant. (I still cannot stomach administering a shot to another human or other animal today; even though I managed to give myself shots when I had cancer.) Now, I ask myself how conscious was that choice? Maybe, it doesn’t matter because, a couple of years into part-time college around my full-time job, I dropped out anyway. That was never a strong marriage. He was most always disappointed and angry with me; and I was most always frustrated and resentful toward him. The logical move would have been to stay in school and finish as quickly as possible. But, fixing the marriage seemed the logical thing at the time. When I eventually left - nine years eventually - I received a small scholarship from the university’s Center for Continuing Education for Women to attend one semester of full-time summer school. The money made it possible for me to take a two-month leave from my full time job; and it made me feel worthy. But, not worthy enough. Because - even though I blathered that common 1970’s statement that “I may find a “significant other,” but I will never re-marry - I, in fact, married the first man I dated after my separation. Maybe, it was simply because my full-time secretarial job with ten years seniority would support either an apartment or daycare, but not both. But, I suspect it was because of something more emotionally insidious. Regardless, in my sixties, I realize it is something hundreds of thousands of other women - including Betty Friedan - felt. In September, newly re-married, I was back to work and starting the fall semester with full-time work and two night classes. My husband’s two boys were having trouble adjusting and, as good as I tried to be with them, they each were acting out in their own small ways. I don’t remember putting great thought into withdrawing from classes. My journalism professor literally begged me to stay in the class. I had already turned in the first couple assignments and he said it was clear I would receive an A in the class - all I had to do was just show up. I remember telling him I was needed at home. By comparison, my husband did not make changes in his routine. How could he? Why would he? But, why could I? Why should I? Why did I? All this from reading Friedan’s book. Not the most enjoyable way to spend quiet time with the horses. But, as I said earlier, young women today should read Friedan.
September 29 ~ I wake up to my husband grumbling that it is a miserable day outside when, in fact, it is near sixty with a soft rain. My gardens are happy and the lawn is shouting bright green. Heading into October, I could not ask for more. Sara is still receiving a larger morning ration sprinkled with antibiotic. The stitches on her neck are clean and dry. I give Ruby her breakfast, with the new supplement, in a red bucket hung on a hook in her stall, so that her head is better positioned in front of my laptop. She gets twenty minutes of A-B while she eats. I do not groom this morning. The girls’ coats are wet because of the rain and I opt to not ruffle their hair. After filling the water tank, I spread hay around my chair in the arena and read another chapter of “The Feminine Mystique.” I need to collect used copies of this book for giving. The best place to do that is at www.thriftbooks.com. Check it out. While I am reading, Sara uses her head to motion Ruby off a pile. When Ruby ignores, Sara swings her hip around to confirm her command. Although in no danger, I do not appreciate the hip swing, and give a short bark with a hand flick toward her hip. Sitting on my chair, I am a good four feet from her; and am surprised at how quickly she moves off. Good girl. I quietly return to my book. Momentarily, Sparky drives Zena off a hay pile with disregard for her proximity to me. Bad girl! Before heading to the house, I leave another four flakes of hay around the box. With my switch, I surprise Sparky from her rear; driving her off her pile. A few moments pass and I approach her from the front, hold out my hand to reassure her muzzle, and retreat. As I type this, I am eating a bowl of Grapenuts Cereal with blueberries, peach, banana, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and almond milk. Scraping the last of this dessert-aka-breakfast from the bowl, I realize I have not been “eating in the now;” and have missed most of the pleasure of this wonderful food.
September 30, 2016 ~ Ruby listens to her A-B video for twenty minutes this morning - or maybe she doesn’t. How do I know what she comprehends? I read another chapter in Friedan. In the evening, I read half a chapter about Margaret Mead. Between this and the previous one about Freud, I am pretty disgruntled. Even though I am reading quietly, I wonder whether the horses pick up on my negative vibes. I do not think I am as relaxed as when I read Carolyn Resnick’s “Naked Liberty.”