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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing a Novel ... About a Horse ... Of Course

In March of 2001, I was a few months into a career move that I honestly was not happy with.   I decided to do a couple of things with my life:

1) I had to find a way out of the environmental engineering firm that I had moved to.
2) Until I solved problem 1, I needed to find a way to relieve the stress that I had with problem 1.

I decided to start doing something utterly impossible. No, not like eating asparagus, broccoli or 100 year old eggnog (No Fear Factor for me).   Actually, I decided to write a novel and it had to be about the things that I knew a little about ... say ... baseball, horses and history. I know ... it would been easier to write a novel about ballet, the World Wrestling Foundation and 100 year old eggnog.   

I told myself that I'd write a half page at a time, as I could find the moments.  I actually got up to about 30 pages or so in June of 2001.   However, that month,  I left the environmental engineering firm to go back to the bank that I'd worked at before and the writing stopped, because suddenly I once again had a purpose.

Then came the day that changed the view of every human on the planet who thought they had purpose. I knew a couple people who died on September 11th ... not people who I'd met face to face, but a couple of distant voices on the other end of the phone that I conversed with, did business with, joked and laughed with.

The two voices had names, lives, histories, mothers, fathers, homes, cars, pets, spouses ... families, dreams and purpose ... and everything that I had...except now... all of that was gone for them, their families and friends... even for my distant voices on the phone  

That was the day that I decided that I needed to expand my purpose.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still incredibly happy at the bank and will be until I retire in 20 years.  However, I just needed more ... another purpose. 

On September 12, 2001, I once again put my two hands on my keyboard and started typing as I had time.  I wrote a half page here and a half page there for ... 10 long years.  It was a long decade of learning, writing, editing, copyrighting, query letters, rejection, rejection, rejection, self publishing on and then ... poof.... Frequent Flyer

After all of that, who knows if my novel is any good?  I still find things that probably should change and even odd typos after reading it umpteen times (it's really hard to proof your own writing).  However, I like the book a lot.  It was fun, I learned a lot, achieved my goal and ... yes ... expanded my purpose.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Be Back Soon for the Winter

Winter is almost here. In fact, they received 18 inches of snow South and East of here a few days before Halloween. My brother, who lives 3 hours southeast of here, a bit closer to New York City, was without power for a week. He and his family moved in with friends until the power came back. You know you live in upstate New York when the kids have snowsuits under their Halloween costumes.

So much has happened since we last spoke... can't wait to tell you all about it.
"Bobbie No Socks The Life of Horse Ownership" will be back soon for the long winter.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

White Out in Orange Land

In addition to being our horses indentured servants, we're also slaves to our passion for Syracuse University basketball. Last Saturday, the Orangemen were away playing Louisville. For the week prior to the game, our anticipation was building as we'd not beaten Louisville away in close to a decade.

However, our dreams of victory were seemingly squashed within milli-seconds of the tip off as the result of some insane 3 point shooting by the enemy Cardinals from Kentucky. Rick Pitino, the Louisville coach stood smugly on sideline while Syracuse's coach, Jim Boheim, tried to calm his team by screaming profanity at them (I'm sure he's warm and fuzzy on non-game days). Unfortunately, Syracuse was down by about 20 points by half time.

When the second half began, I happened to glance up quickly from the TV to check on the horses outside in the pasture and noticed that it had started snowing lightly and that there was a slight wisp of a breeze. They seemed content and my attention turned quickly back to ESPN.

Then something magical began to happen. Ever so slowly, Syracuse, with some wild three point shooting of it's own, clawed its way back into the game. Down 20 ... became down 17 ... down 13 ... to about down 9 or 10 with 3 or 4 minutes to go.

During a commercial, I noticed that the wind had picked up incredibly (35 to 40 mile an hour winds the newspaper noted later) and the snow was coming down hard enough that it was getting harder to see the horses in the pasture.

Normally, we'd see the horses out in that nasty gale and we'd race with our coat tails hap-hazardly dangling behind us to bring them in. But ... but ... there was less than 4 minutes to go in a game that had momentum clearly moving in our direction. What we couldn't see in the pasture couldn't hurt us ... right? Through the gust of whiteness, it seemed that the the horses just hunkered down.

With 1:35 left in the game, Syracuse had pulled within 3 points. I was standing in the middle of the living room so I could see the horses with one eye and the game with the other.

Fortunately or unfortunately (depends on your perspective) the horses were in a complete white-out. You couldn't seem them at all. They quite literally had disappeared. Oh well... at least I had the game.

"They'll be fine. It's far too dangerous for us to go out and bring them in now," I said to my wife as the seconds passed in the game. Unfortunately, Syracuse's comeback also disappeared and they ended up losing the game 73 to 69.

As the final buzzer sounded, we quickly grabbed our coats and boots and ran to the pastures. By the time we reached them, the horses bay coats were plastered in whiteness and icicles dangled from their whiskers, like great Arctic explorers about to plant a flag at the North Pole.

Yes, some turn their horses out for the winter, but our pampered pansies were about as happy about being sacrificed for the "love of the game" as a turkey would be for the "love of the meal" on Thanksgiving day.

Bobbie (the pony) had an incredible look of disdain and as if he were thinking, "Well, I hope your happy ... because I'm @#&@ing mad you stupid &@*#." Yes, he has a bit of a trash mouth. He's also a bit more warm and fuzzy when it's not game day.

While we had a bit of February thaw earlier in the week and one could actually see some grass, in spots, poking through the snow yesterday. Today is once again game day and the winds have picked up again to 50 mph (plus). Syracuse plays Rutgers at home at 4:00 pm and the horses are sitting warmly in their stalls. We don't want to risk Bobbie's wrath again.

Monday, February 7, 2011

There's a Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On!

The schools here were a little quick on the draw this past week. For Tuesday, the weatherman had been predicting 8 to 12 inches of snow for the day. We got a call at 5:45 am that school was canceled. Only problem was ... it was a little bit like drinking flat soda. You anticipate one thing and you get another... no fizz ... no snow.

Despite the lack of snow, there was a bit of excitement that day. My wife was walking horses out to the pasture and happened to look into the garage. As she walked by, she noticed that one of the empty grain bags by the trash can was standing straight up, shaking violently and inexplicably. She called for my 17 year old son who, anticipating a "mini-me" salsa dancer or perhaps a steroid laced mouse, tipped the bag over by tapping it with a shovel. The wild bag shaker was neither a mouse nor Charo, rather it was watermelon sized possum.

Possums are nocturnal and normally won't come out during the day unless it's too cold, at night, during the winter to secure food (yes, I love the info you can find on the Internet).

When the bag was tipped, the possum came running out of the bag like the Steelers front line towards my wife who was standing just out side the garage. She screamed running away from the possum. The possum, stopped on a dime, screamed on the inside like a horror movie heroine and decided not to leave the garage. The Possum, clearly shaken, curled up in a ball and ...decided to play ... well ... possum, just playing dead.

My son decided to leave it alone to see if it would depart on its own and took off to his girlfriends house. The possum did eventually leave the garage, but circled the house like Kujo waiting to disembowel it's next victim. Possum rarely get rabies (yes, that Internet thing).

It made its way onto our deck and decided to hang out by out back door, apparently, wanting to enter our warm home like a proper rodent would.

My wife, trapped by the deranged rodent, made the ultimate tactical error ... she called me for my advice. I quickly responded, "Cool, did you get a picture." She didn't. I told her to grab a whistle and scare it. She grabbed a whistle out of the junk drawer, ran upstairs, as I suggested, to the bathroom window and blew as hard as she could to frighten Franken-Possum-Stein away.

My advice was as useless as it always is ... as upon hearing the screeching whistle, the possum did what possums do and once again ... played possum (who knew that wasn't a myth).

The only thing the whistle blowing accomplished was spook the horses in the pasture into a wild frenzy and irritate my wife. At that point I thought it best to play possum too.

Fifteen minutes later the possum left on it's own... probably on its way to its girl friend's house.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Fence Eating Snow Drift

No, we didn't get today's coastal snow storm that dumped another foot or so onto New York City, about five hours away. "Near Miss" was how they described it on the local news like we'd avoided a mammoth iceberg headed for our unsinkable ship.

Don't you worry about us "snow deprived" folks in Central New York though. To-date we've now been blessed with 110 inches of snow this season.

The photo to the left was taken of our hungry fence eating snow drift. Don't get too close or you'll be buried up to your neck before you can say, "Hey, isn't that a fence eating snow dri..."

Yes, the Central New York sky continues dropping snow as fast as the little snow angels can make it. If it falters for a day or two, the sky is quick to reply, "Don't worry, I'll make more." My son has had six snow days so far (no, he's not complaining) and we still have February, March and probably some April snow days to come.

While it may sound like I'm whining slightly about the snow, I should mention that it's actually been incredibly beautiful -- "a winter wonderland" is how we describe it. And ... the snowboarding on the slopes has been heavenly with day after day of amazing powder.

Of course, back on the whining front ... earlier in the week my son's school was delayed two hours and the horses were in all day becomes of -13 degree temperatures, before the hint of wind chill. Needless to say that water buckets were frozen.

However, it's hard to complain around here as somebody always has it worse. I guess a few hours North of here in Saranac Lake New York they had -39 degrees that morning. I'll keep my frost-bit whining to myself.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Frozen Double Dog Dare

It was negative eight degrees below zero yesterday morning before windchill and the horse's water buckets were frozen solid. While it wasn't quite as cold the day before ... it was cold enough to catch Bobbie off guard.

Anybody whose grown up in cold climates has done what he did. It's a rite of passage of sorts for those who were plucked from the womb with ice tongs. You only know what I speak of if you were toddlers with frozen mittens, icy scarves and feet so cold they felt like walking on pin cushions.

We recently heard on the morning news of unfortunate waif who had to have emergency services release him from his big brother's similar double dog dare.

For those who view snow to be as mythical as leprechauns, you may want to put some more sun screen on and roll over so you don't get sun burned on this January day... for what I'm about to tell you will make your jelly fish sting burn a little less. Here goes...

If one sticks ones tongue to any metal object (flag pole, chain link fence, car door or your coats zipper), ones tongue will stick to and occasionally be trapped by said object until it is released by warmth (hot water and global warming typically work best).

Until the other day, I thought humans were the only ones who were bold enough to attempt the double dog dare. However, with the frigid temperature, Bobbie thought he'd try licking the frozen metal snap of the chain that holds his pasture gate shut. He, as we all are, was complete caught of guard by the fact that the tongue is 80% water. Who knew?

In order to free himself ... he almost pulled the gate off the post with his super equine tongue. Of course he has little hope to out do those that tow tractor trailers with their tongues in the Guinness Book of World Records (although he's in training now).

I think it hurt the poor pony a lot as he was smacking his freeze dried taste buds for a good five minutes or so. All I could say to my four-legged friend was, "Been there, done that."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The 600 Pound Sea Horse

My amazing bride has been riding horses since she was a wee nine years of age. For the first three years, she happily walked, trotted and cantered a herd of nippy school ponies. However, the first hoofed beast that she could call her very own was a pristine 600 pound white Welsh pony named Suzanne who was given to her by a kindly old gentlemen in Pennsylvania.

When my wife was fourteen her family moved to the North Fork of Long Island to a gorgeous home, barely a quarter mile from the Sound.

The pony lived in the families attached two car garage. My wife would brush her for hours, ride her through the country-side like this were the dream come true that it was. They trail rode through the Long Island potato fields and sod farms, galloping through man-made rain storms generated mammoth irrigation systems.

And... being so close to the salty sound, they'd also walk to the stony beach just down the paved road and swim ... more-like a pair of free range fish than than pony and rider. The photo is one of their actual sunset swims with my wife (a teenage version), pony and a shark-like Black Lab named Dutches.