December 31, 2009

Well Hell

Well, hell. Now, please know that I am not a person who is prone to curse. But, in the midst of a very busy week which follows a couple of very busy weeks which will be followed by a lot more very busy weeks- I was diagnosed with Shingles this morning.

I stared at the poor young doctor man with most likely an incredulous look on my face when he announced my diagnosis. A multitude of thoughts ran through my mind simultaneously. Was this person old enough to be a doctor?  I had glanced at his Diplomas on my way into the exam room; now where did he go to school again? Could someone possibly have convinced him to participate in a practical joke at my expense? Surely, just surely he did not just say I had Shingles.

I believe that the Universe has a funny sense of humor. I've been busy at the kennel, busy coordinating breedings and mares accomodations for the 2010 breeding season, busy getting supplies and the foaling barn set up, busy grooming and training dogs, and busy being a wife, mother, daughter, and friend during the holidays. (Ok, so I haven't spent a lot of time being a friend- sorry Tara, Sandi, Paula, Amber, Rachel, etc, etc.).  It appears that the Universe has the last laugh at my expense and my immune system has become compromised.

As the doctor wrote several prescriptions and dispensed information regarding my "condition", he informed me that I would need to take a week off work and asked if I needed a note for my employer. Funny. I was so dumbfounded that I missed the details regarding if I was contagious, what the prescriptions were for, and how to manage my malady. I googled those details afterwards. I sort of wish I hadn't. Talk about an inconvenience.

So, now I have a reason for why I've felt so exhausted the past week. And a reason for the stabbing needles of pain in my arm. I had postponed this visit to the doctor because I thought I may have severely pulled a bicep muscle. I thought the inconvenience would be an ultrasound or something. Again, the last laugh is on me. So, with prescriptions in hand, I presented my note to Wayne indicating that I would be not working for a while. We had a fine chuckle together and began to pick ZigZag's stall together. I'll maybe take some time off after foaling season (say, about June?)

December 30, 2009

The Countdown has begun...

Houston, we are a go. Foaling Season at Fields Quarter Horses is a mere few days away and the first resident has moved into the foaling barn. Commencing on January 1st of each calendar year, we begin the protracted wait for each bundle of equine joy.

Zig Zag arrived today and is happily munching her pile of hay tonight. She is a bright red mare who is heavy with a Chevy foal. She is progressing through her pregnancy right on time and is due around January 20th. Overnight tonight, in the wee small hours of the morning- Ella Riva will return to us. Last year, she captivated so many of us as we anxiously watched her struggle to turn and position her unborn foal in utero. These are the first two of a long line of special ladies who will be viewable 24/7.

The mares will go live this weekend. They are viewable by visiting our website ( or by visiting  We are excited to open our barn to your computer and invite you to visit often. Pull up a chair and get to know the mares distinctive personalities. Join us for the births- sometimes dramatic, always blessed. Enjoy watching mare and foal bond and get to know one another in the special hours afterwards. We welcome you to our little corner of the world.

The countdown has begun- we go live for 2010 in just a few days!

December 28, 2009

Out Of Order

I am temporarily out of order...I will get myself repaired and be back soon! Khris

P.S. I'm hoping that I am still under warranty.

December 26, 2009

Bow Wow Wow

I've spent a lot of my time the last 48 hours in the company of dogs. (For my family members- I do not mean you guys!) Christmas (or any holiday) at the boarding kennel is a time of abundance in our business. Like a hotel during its peak season, we are at capacity and the guests needs come first.

As I walked dogs last evening, I paused to enjoy their antics and reflect on some of them. Of course, anytime we are full, there will be a variety of both breed types and personalities to contend with. Here is a brief overview of the guests in our care today.

The Newfs- these are a pair of 170 pound (yes, they are actually 170 pounds each!!!) Newfoundlands. Their names are Oliver and Captain Bartlett. They are massive mounds of black and white fur who walk outside suprisingly slowly for their respective sizes. The girth and breadth of these dogs is immense. They are like walking mountains.

The Bad Labs- this is a group of Labrador Retreivers who are housed individually and belong to separate owners. They are stationed in an aisle of the kennel together so that their obnoxiously abundant energy does not infect the rest of the facility. When I begin walking the dogs in this aisleway, I take a deep breath and call upon my inner reserves of strength. They have names like Toby, Jake and such and are varying colors of chocolate, black and yellow. And they are all extremely loud.

Chickie and Drew- This pair is a collective weight of 4 pounds. Each weighs in at roughly two pounds and they are possibly the smallest Yorkshire Terriers I have ever seen. In their private kennel run, they each have little beds that would rival the Hilton, fancy dinner dishes, and they peek beneath their long tresses waiting to be picked up. Although each of them has four legs which appear to be working properly, I have not seen either dog walk since they checked in. We carry them everywhere. They are the perfect size to tuck under my arms neatly.

Rocco- He is a 6 month old miniature Poodle who has a personality as large as his traditional foo foo hairstyle. With large pompoms one each of his feet, he struts to his private exercise area and begins barking to announce his arrival. Although we've offered to carry him outside, Rocco prefers to walk so as to not be embarrassed in front of his friends "the bad labs". He is hoping to join their gang when he gets a little older.

The Dachsunds- This trio of Germans does not speak our native language. All are fawn in color , two are greying in age, and one bites. We repeat the same ritual each day- at least four times per day. The largest and smallest are eager to go outside and relieve themselves. The middle Dachsund feels the need to defend her pack and bares her teeth, snarling and gnashing her jaws, threatening any intruder who dares enter their living space. The eager pair of friendlier pups barrel past her to run ahead outside. We coax her to join them and she eventually acquiesses to our demands.

The Doodles- This is a menagerie of dogs who claim some descendancy from a Poodle. They include Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Schnoodles, Cockapoodles, and a lone Malti-Poo. Each of them comes with the happy-go-lucky personality of a poodle and the need to be groomed in some manner before they check out. Can you say- Shave and a Hair Cut, Two Bits...

That is a sampling of some of the canines who are in residence at our place this weekend. We often say that owning a dog kennel is similar to being a grandparent- we get to love them, spoil them, take care of them when their parents want to go out, but always get to send them home.

December 24, 2009

Twas The Night Before Christmas

And all through the stable
Not a creature was sleeping,
Lights shone from the gable.

The stalls were festooned
With ribbons and holly.
The horses were happy;
The donkeys were jolly.

The goat danced a jig
While the cats played a tune.
The animals were excited
Because the guest would arrive soon.

Anxiously they waited
Carefully watching the door.
Their ears were perked
With every footstep on the floor.

Then with a "Whoosh",
The red sleighed arrived.
The animals rejoiced
And the whole barn came alive.

Through the door came
Old Saint Nick himself.
Every eye twinkled to see
The magic Christmas elf.

With a gusty "Ho, ho,"
His dark eyes twinkled.
A winter wind blew
And the icicles tinkled.

He blessed every head
Touching each furry one.
He winked at them all
Until he was done.

Then  the jolly old elf
Jumped into his sleigh.
The animals called "Goodbye"
With whinnies and a neigh.

 The animals watched
As he rode out of sight
and they sang in a chorus
"Merry Christmas- tonight!"

December 23, 2009

Bark, The Herald Angels Sing!

Well, it's another Holiday at Fields Quarter Horses which also means another Holiday at Canine Companion (the sister business to FQH). Although is it pretty much business as usual at the barn, the dog kennel/training facility/grooming shop is nearing maximum capacity! There's nothing like being greeted by 40 or so barking faces early on Christmas morning.

Of course, each and every dog will get their exercise time outside to bark, bounce, and "do their business". While they are romping in individual play areas, we will methodically clean each kennel, fluff their beds, and prepare their breakfast. Christmas tradition dictates that Brittney deliver an extra special treat to every dog. We tell them each that Christmas morn has arrived and spend a little time scratching itchy spots, rubbing bellys, or holding the little guys on our laps.

Since we began taking care of other people's pets, we've always felt a little extra burden each Holiday to make sure that every dog knows that it is special. After kennels are cleaned, breakfast is eaten, and Holiday hugs are delivered, it will be time to walk the dogs once again. This ritual is repeated several times each day- 365 days/year. The afternoon turns to evening and dinner is served and the dogs are walked yet again.

In the midst of all the dog walking and tending on Christmas Day, Wayne, Brittney, and I will find time to watch a movie or maybe even sneak off to Waffle House. People often wonder about how we spend our day and we've even been asked who we hire to take care of the dogs on Christmas. We laugh and know that we'll see family or friends after the New Year- when things have calmed down a bit. 

It's been a long time now and I can't really remember how I used to spend the Holidays before I belonged to the Kennel. I'm sure it involved running from this party to the next. I'm happy that I'll spend Christmas with the dogs (and horses). I'll remind myself when I am bombarded with all those barking voices on Christmas morning that these little fellows are Angels, too.

December 21, 2009

Feliz Navidad

Jorge the Llama blinked a milk chocolate eye. The thick lashes framed a hooded eye; the shape of passion and seduction. His velvet nose twitched. The hair on it was so fine that it appeared velour. He clasped his lip tighter over a slightly yellowed tooth. He was self-conscious of the color and its slight crooked angle. He envisioned himself handsome and perfect- and the tooth was the only stain upon his imagined self.

He hummed softly to himself, swaying slowly back and forth. The lively Christmas lights twinkled at dusk. The mixture of red, green, and blue competed quietly with the sinking sun and its brilliant dusky hues. Nature opposed the man-made display by advertising her radiant evening light. The strand of Christmas lights twinkled and sparkled standing its ground under the splendor of the setting sun.

Jorge stood close to the Christmas tree, the glow of the lights from it seemed to be absorbed by his deep eyes. His dense russet fur did not allow the chill of the evening to creep inside to his thin skin. Although he was a Native of South America, he was well-equipped for the cold weather. His ancestors thrived high in hte Andes Mountain range- living in the old city of Machu Piccu with the great people.

"Feliz Navidad," he crooned softly. And he continued to hum the familiar tune in a tenor voice. The song was sung to him by his mother when he was a boy in Peru. Each year, his family would celebrate Noche Buena. This was a nine day period marking the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. In his culture, nativity scenes were rich with images of llamas. The tales of his childhood included a sacred llama which accompanied Mary and Joseph on their arduous journey carrying their few worldly possessions in his pack.

As Christmas memories intermingled with fleeting ones of his homeland, Jorge remember the small mountain village of his birth. Each year at Christmas, the church would offer chocolatadas- a cup of hot cocoa and a small gift- to the poor children of the community. This symbolized the offering of gifts to the poor Son of Virgin Mary at his birth. His was a culture rich in tradition and customs.

Across the street from his paddock, on the lawn of the neighbors house, the sound of children laughing rose above his soft singing. He carefully reached his long neck forward to observe its source. There, he saw a great snowperson- arms flying wildly. The soft whir of a motor whined as the air compressor repeatedly forced air upwards into the body of the nylon figure.  The children resembled miniature snowpersons as they danced around the large white figurine. A soft wind from the west kicked up and the snowman swayed slightly in its embrace. His wide grin did not change.

The mini-snow children were covered from head to toe in heavy, quilted outdoor winter clothing. From their mittens to their boots, they were tiny replicas of the great abominable snow people who lived near Jorge's village in the Andes.  Their laughter tinkled shrilly across the street to his ears. The mother of the children snapped her digital camera and it's flash exploded in a white burst momentarily.

Jorge decided the Christmas spectacle of the Americas was an odd one indeed. He slowly retracted his long neck behind the pine tree and its tent of colored lights. Swaying to an internal rhythm, he began to hum once again..

"Feliz Navidad."

December 20, 2009

Deck the Halls

Today (this evening), I will attend a family Christmas event. I am not a Scrooge. Nor, am I the offspring of the Grinch. I swear. Oh, wait, I shouldn't swear at Christmas should I? Therein lies of the root my problem. I am not a fan of hypocrisy. I believe that people should conduct themselves with kindness and good will toward man 365 days/year not just the week of Christmas.

Now, back to the family Christmas event. This edition of the blog is titled Deck The Halls because my aunt decked my mother at a family gathering a few years back. It was a time of heightened emotions- their father had died and they were dividing his personal belongings among themselves and their other 4 siblings.  I was an adult and thankfully, not present when the Decking The Halls occured. I avoid conflict and do not like to be around angry (or grieving) people.

This was an ordinary gathering of brothers and sisters. We are ordinary people. Separated from other families only by a lack of any extraordinary happenings, this could have been your family. Since I was a very small child, each Christmas my mother's siblings and their children gathered. My cousins and I would choreograph and perform some sort of Christmas pageant. We would construct makeshift costumes and sets and the production was the highlight of the evening. Sometimes, there were wise men. Often, there was a Joseph and Mary. If there was a new baby in the family, it earned the distinction of portraying Baby Jesus. This was sort of an initiation into the particular family.

Years passed and we grew up. As time moved on, we brought our own Babies Jesus to this Christmas gathering. There have been no further Decking of the Halls (although at some point I predict someone will Deck my sister). Like spawning salmon, we continue to come together for this annual pilgrimage. There are no gifts. Most of us are scattered far and wide and must travel to attend. But, within moments of returning together we are transported to another time. A time where we were dressed in cotton sheets as robes. A laundry basket served as a manger. And the animals of the Nativity looked suspiciously like my cousins Spencer and Stephanie.

Christmas means different things to different people. I plan to take a moment at tonight's gathering and remember the grandfather who is missing these days from it. I will look around the room and remember these people I don't know very well anymore as they used to be. And, I will be thankful that Christmas came and provided the opportunity to connect with fond memories of my past.


December 19, 2009

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear...continued

There was not a sound on the pasture again. The animals breathed in the coldness and exhaled warm, swirling breaths in the pale light. Like puffing dragons or smoking teenagers, the four young horses and the deer were surrounded only by the fog of their respiration. Peering through the vapors, Jude the bay colt struggled to focus on the figure as he took another step into the light.

The doe, torn between her desire to flee and her inclination to remain with the group, blinked her soft brown eye. Whether she was trying to blink through the mist of breath, or sort the information filtering into her brain, Jude could not tell. She stepped closer to the warm fuzzy herd of horses until she was standing alongside the tallest of the group- the red colt named Maxim. He was a fortress of hair, muscle, and bone and she seemed extra small and delicate standing there beside him.

In the filtered moonlight, every shade appeared the same. Only hues of colors came through- identifying dark and light colors. It was as if the entire world was bathed in white.  Even in the altered light, he was unmistakeable. The broad man walked toward the horses with a lilting step that contradicted his size. He moved lightly and his large black boots did not crunch the Earth below his steps. He was draped in a large coat with thick fur lining which showed beneath the cuffs and the front seam of the jacket. The lining was rich and brilliant. Against the soft fur of the collar, lay a rich cluster of downy whiskers. They were perfectly groomed and covered his entire jawline.

Jude did not notice the slight nose which peeked above the glowing white beard because he was drawn to the black, twinkling eyes. His eyes sparkled, and the moonlight danced upon them. He strode directly to the group of horses and the deer. They were all wide awake now. The doe relaxed as recognition swept across her face. She bowed her head and smiled at the great figure.

As he reached them, he lay a large gloved hand upon Jude's forelock. He tousled the black hair there and then closed one of those magic, dancing black eyes into a wink. Jude felt his mouth pull back into a wide grin. He loved to be patted on the head and the large hand scratched just so right behind his ear.

The black eyes looked gently at the doe. Without a sound, he nodded his head back toward the dark tree line. She blinked her chocolate eyes once more and stepped to his side. They turned together and walked silently across the meadow. She was tiny compared to his bulk. His great coat moved only slightly as he swayed beside her.  Just as they reached the darkest spot in the line of trees at the edge of the meadow, she turned once and looked back at the little herd. Then they disappeared into the woods.

Casually, Jude shifted his weight from one hind foot to the other. He scanned the meadow for any other sign of activity but finding none, soon nodded back to sleep.

December 17, 2009

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

The Earth was quiet. The wide normally green paddock stood bathed in silver light. The imperfect moon hung high overhead looking indifferent. Far below, four young horses stood bathed in its lustrous light. Although they were a rich variety of colors- bay, brown, and chestnut- the waning moon glow dulled them until they were indistinquishable from one another.

As the youngsters dreamed of oats and whey, a lone doe broke through the dark tree line on the edge of the meadow. She silently strided several feet into the pale light, blinking only once, and dropped her head to nibble at a tendril of grass. Only one of the young horses- a dark bay colt named Jude- turned his head to acknowledge her presence. She seemed unconcerned with the small herd of horses who shared the moonlight.

The doe searched the ground below her velvety nose for the remnants of the summer clover. It was the sweetest of the grasses and her favorite. She followed her nose in an absent-minded uneven trail until she was grazing quite close to the group of youngsters standing near the wooden fence. Jude sleepily watched her in the filtered light, her color as bland as the rest of the world under the midnight moon.

In the tree line from whence she had come, there was a slight shift. Breath, wind, leaves- in the distance across the meadow, they all sounded the same to the mixed group. Simultaneously, Jude and the deer focused on the dark form standing just out of sight. She fought the panic which rose in her throat. Jude sensed her fear.

She wanted to flee but her feet would not obey. Her instinct to stay with the herd struggled against the inner voice which screamed that she run far far away. The horses did not seem to fear the hidden one. Jude watched the waves of emotions play across her face. Fear; flee; stay; confusion. He saw her look from the darkness just inside the trees back to the dozing horses beside him.

The entire drama unfolded within the span of moments. The dark form watched the group with interest. Then he, too, stepped into the clear midnight light.

To be Continued...

December 16, 2009

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Ye Olde Fields Quarter Horses Christmas Party was held tonight at the home of Wayne and Khris. A good time was had by all- and everyone went home at least 7.5 pounds heavier. Alongside a roaring fire and our living Christmas tree, we ate, sang (well, just a few people while the rest stared), danced (well, just a few people while the rest stared), played games (every dern one of us), and suffered general merriment. It was a pot luck affair with everyone bringing either an appetizer or dessert. We finger fooded our way to larger jeans. My personal favorite was the individual pots of home-made banana pudding decorated with Christmas sparkles brought by the new stall cleaner- Robin. I think she was sucking up to the boss but still wonder how she knew that banana pudding was my favorite?  Of course, honorable mention goes to Brittney's (non-spiked) special Christmas sherbert Punch. The goat stared through the French doors as we enjoyed laughing and chatting. Rondo, Heidi, and Sugar were special guests and came wearing Reindeer antlers, Santa, and Elf hats. Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

December 15, 2009

Away In A Manger...

Well, today we had a report from Sara (who is our Donkey Gone Starlet). She is participating in the largest living Nativity in the Cincinnati area. Her handlers there report that she is behaving in a befitting way for the vehicle of choice for the Virgin Mary. We are so very proud of her. Connie (also a donkey) asked if her sister would be returning for Christmas. We broke the news to her today that Sara would not be home before Christmas but that they could celebrate together soon after. Jacob, Sara's 6 month old son seemed sad so we asked the animals to not speak about her until after the Holiday. Then we asked Santa to bring Jacob an extra special treat for Christmas.

It was a day of change at the main barn of Fields Quarter Horses. Dakota, the yearling son of the late great Carolina, returned to his home in Illinois today. He has lived at our barn since June and has been a star pupil for Amber. She has taught him to lead, stand tied, clip, bathe, walk/trot/canter on command, wear a saddle and bridle, and stand under the weight of a human. We are sorry to see him return home but are excited to see what the foundation he has learned here will bring him!

Two other yearlings (who will soon be 2 years old) moved into the main barn. Charlotte is a tall, black/brown filly with a sparkle to her eye. She is a 1/2 sister to our stallion Chevy (sharing a father named One Hot Krymsun). She will spend the next few months learning the basics of the human/horse partnership.  Also, a boyish red gelding named Cash (who is a Macs Good N Plenty son) moved in to replace Dakota.
The mares already living in the barn were entertained by the addition of a few new faces.

In other manger news, the goat has taken up permanent residence on my back porch. I will be contacting the County Sheriff tomorrow morning to serve her an eviction notice. I am fearful that because she is still a minor, I may have to follow due process to have her removed. She lies beside my patio French doors, with the Christmas tree lights twinkling off her shiny black horns. Funny, I never knew that goats felt so strongly about Christmas, too.

O Little Town of ...

Anywhere...I thought I would take a moment to pay homage to small towns. I live in a small town. Prior to that I lived in a smaller town. Before that, growing up as a small child, I lived in an even smaller town.

I enjoy the comfort and connection of rural America. Recently, our small town of Walton, Kentucky held it's annual Christmas On Main celebration. It consisted of a parade which lasted about 10 minutes, some carollers from the High School, and the lighting of the city Christmas Tree.  Quaint for sure, but also dependable and relaxing.

Having lived in small towns my entire life, there are a few underlying characteristics which I feel a burg must have to qualify. These are the threads which make up the fabric of a town. Here is a listing of my requirements for a hometown.

There must be at least one town drunk (sort of like Otis from Andy Griffith)- harmless yet hopeless and unsaveable from his drug of choice. In the modern times, I suppose you could exchange this with a drug addict? Perhaps, I'm not sure on that one.

There may only be one restaurant. Any restaurants located near the Interstate don't count as they are not for the locals. Also, any Waffle House does not count as a restaurant. In the town restaurant, it is expected that service be less than average, the pies are home-made from scratch every day, and the waitresses meet you at the table with your drink.

Any small town may only have one grocery store and it should preferably NOT be a chain. If your only grocery store is now a chain, that is a sign that your town will not be small for much longer. Also, the grocery store clerks should know your mother, your grandmother, and most of your business.

Gas wars are as foreign to a small town as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. There is no need for a gas war in a small town- there is likely only one gas station and they may charge whatever they wish. Additionally, a proper small town should have a Postmaster who knows the first name of every person living in your household and is nosy enough to see who is sending you Christmas cards. Everyone at the school knows you and your children and you are allowed to take the neighbor's child home without a background check or permission note.

It is also nearly impossible to drive from your driveway to the bank without having at least one person wave at you. And that is why I love living in a small town. Bless my little town and it's contents!

December 13, 2009

The Little Drummer Boy

Each of us marches to the beat of a different drummer. Well, unless you are in a marching band, and then you have to march to the same beat as everyone else. Thankfully, there are no bands (nor drum corps) at Fields Quarter Horses leaving us to each move throughout the days to our own internal rhythm.

Of late, my drummer has been beating a little more slowly than  usual. Between January and May, I am accessible 24 hours of every day and on call 7 days per week. There are no days off nor even hours during which I can escape for very long. In preparation for the season, I take a little "ME" time every December. Of course, the phone still rings- there are horses to sell, mares to schedule foaling or breeding services, stallion owner duties to attend to, kennel owner duties, dog grooming, and dog training to tend to.

But, December for me is like the calm before a storm. I spend the month cleaning, decorating (well, sort of), painting, and tinkering with home projects. Color springs to life on walls I have stared at for months. Throw pillows and new duvet covers help bedrooms feel fresh and shiny. This is my Christmas present to myself. These little projects and the occasional mid-afternoon movie.

Soon enough, it will become a chore to find time to cook and even eat. There will be little time to grocery shop, sleep, and complete the tasks my jobs demand of me. For about another week, however, my drummer is beating slowly. I plan to take just another week or two to listen to his music.


December 12, 2009

Horses and Hounds

I've been in a reflective mood lately. Perhaps it's my age. Maybe it's the fact that I'm now menopausal (medically induced but still violent and caustic). Who knows? Whatever the cause or reason, I find myself reflecting on choices and decisions I've made in my life. Funny thing about my personal choices, they seem to have subconsciously always guided me toward the life I have today.

For as long as I remember, my life was interwoven with Horses and Hounds. My grandfather raised hounds- black and tan coon-variety. His dogs were prized by both himself and my father. By today's standard, they lived a rural, rustic, harsh life. But their kennels were off-limits to children and that created a sense of reverance for me about the great hounds who lived outside my house. Vague memories of an ancient severe man gently assisting the female of the pair whelping her puppies float to my mind in the way that vague memories do. By the hushed tones of the adults around me, and the gentle way he tended to the newborns, I knew that these must be special animals.

Then there was the pony. I was about 3 years old and my father set me upon her back. Her name was Peppy and she was a loudly splashed brown and white Shetland with wild hair and a naughty look. She walked alongside him and I clung to her tangle of mane with tiny hands. We walked together, just the three of us into a large field. I remember that it felt like we were escaping- we were so far from my familiar home. At that moment, I learned that Horses heralded freedom, escape, and independence.

There were others in the years that followed: Frisky, the feeble Chihuahua; Scamp, the German Shepherd; Ronnie, the pony who no one else wanted. It is interesting to me that I still feel the same today as I did in my earliest memories- reverance, freedom, beauty. It is little wonder that I chose paths in my life which allowed me to experience these things daily. My reflective self wonders if my little 3 year old self wasn't guiding me all along?

December 11, 2009

Let It Flow, Let It Flow, Let It Flow

Water is associated with many things- usually all pleasant. Water is used to induce peaceful meditation, relaxation. Many people choose to vacation near water. Running water is considered a thing of beauty- that is, unless it is in my barn...

The foaling barn- considered the smaller, cozier barn of our facilities stands awaiting the arrival of mares for the 2010 season. It's only occupants of late are Connie, the adult donkey and her nephew Jacob, the baby donkey. Last evening, I noticed a gurgling, bubbling sound emanating from within the small barn. Even from outside, I could hear the sound of rushing water and a sick sense of dread crept into my abdomen. Before I entered the rear access door of the barn, I peered through a window to locate it's source.

Through the window of the largest foaling stall, I easily saw a fountain of water rushing down the wall of the adjacent stall. Like a fountain or a waterfall, the water rushed quickly, massively, and freely filling the floor of Jacob's stall. He stood on his tiny donkey tiptoes, looking for higher ground, as the water encroached upon him.

His distress evident, I flung into action. I raced out of the barn to round up manpower for the task at hand. Donkeys, as a rule, do not favor being led. And they also do not like to be hurried. The only manpower which was readily available was Wayne. Over the din of donkeys braying and water splashing, , he directed me to the emergency shut-off valve within the barn. On my hands and knees, I activated the lever and the gushing water slowed to a stream, then a trickle, then a drip.

I waded into Jacob's stall to save him from his imagined drowning. He refused to step forward into the ankle deep water. Failing to coerce him to lead forward, I bent over and scooped him into my arms. Jacob is a smallish donkey- but a six month old donkey who is sure he may drown is no small package to carry to safety.

After depositing him in a dry stall at the farthest end of the barn, we proceeded to save Connie from the great flood. She stood stoic and unmoving- as if she had accepted her dilemma. Wading in to grasp her halter, one of us pulled and the other pushed until she, too, was standing in a dry stall.

Once the donkeys were safely arranged in their dry accomodations, we conducted a thorough investigation into the matter. Our search uncovered that a water pipe had burst inside the outer wall and just above one of the foaling stalls. The Winter weather and near zero windchill had taken it's toll and the pipe could not contain it's frozen contents. Likely it had burst overnight and as the day warmed the water within, the breach became an open line- spewing gallons of water forth. Thankfully, the donkeys were only alone for a short time.

Today was spent repairing (or sort of repairing) the water line. Dispirited, I could not bring myself to begin the clean-up effort. The first occupant of the foaling barn arrives just after Christmas Day so I have just under a week to return the stalls and barn to its hospital-like state. The countdown has begun!

December 10, 2009

Stubborn As A ________.

Top Ten List of Stubborn Things at Fields Quarter Horses...

10. definitely NOT a Chevy foal
9. Dr. Mather (she just doesn't give up!)
8. our Friends (Tara, Sandi, Paula- we seem to attract birds of a feather)
7. George the Llama
6. Merle the Gelding with Investor bloodlines
5. Farrier Mike
4. Cooper- the mini-teaser stallion
3. Amber- the horse trainer
2. all 4 donkeys we own (Rico, Connie, Sara, and Jacob)
and the #1 most stubborn thing at Fields Quarter Horses is...
the owner (!)

December 9, 2009

Dem Bones...

May we have a moment of Silence for the Coyote who formerly lived at Fields Quarter Horses. Mrs. Coyote was tragically killed in a traffic accident earlier today. She is survived by a husband, Wile E. and two sons, Wile E. Jr. and Ug Lee.  In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to "The Road Runner Fund." May she rest in Peace.

December 8, 2009

City Mouse/Country Mouse

Some days are just plain miserable. Today was one such day. Not only are we deep in the throes of a cold snap here in Kentucky, but today Mother Nature decided to test the driving skills of my fellow Kentuckians by throwing some sleet and rain our direction.  This on the ONE day which I needed to cross the river for an appointment in downtown Cincinnati. I passed countless accidents as the rain/ice combination began to fall and couldn't help but thank higher powers that Wayne and I found our way safely back into our driveway both unharmed and undelayed.

I am fascinated by the city. For me a trip to the city is akin to an adventure- complete with strange sights/sounds/smells, danger, and foreign cultures. Of course, I am a child of nature. I was raised in an extremely rural community- I grew up in a town with less than 75 residents. I knew the first, middle, and last name of every person in my hometown.  I romped in the woods between my own home and my best friend Darren's home. We had our own secret forts, creekbeds, bridges made from fallen trees.

In the city the enormous concrete and steel structures loom in contrast to the green natural spaces which surround me at home. Their size and scope are beautiful. Today, everything in the city was gray and monotone. Even the traffic lights offered little variety in the gloomy weather. There were miles of cement and blacktop, all man-made.  After just a few hours where everyone lives stacked upon one another, waits in impatient lines, and seems accustomed to ignoring other people, I was ready to return to the farm.

Although it rained hard all afternoon, the muted green paddocks were still welcoming. Tomorrow, the farm will be a muddy mess. Maybe then, I will appreciate the city a little more. Heidi, Wayne's Sheltie, was still pouting when we returned home because she had been uninvited on our adventure. I told her that she would not have liked the city but she casually dismissed me. Shelties have a way of dismissing ideas they don't agree with.

December 7, 2009

A Christmas Donkey

Connnie and Sara are dark brown female donkeys who live at our farm. They are also sisters. They are the produce of wild burros who were re-homed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management. One is 5 years old and the other is 6 years old. They are virtually inseparable, often seemingly attached at the hip.

This morning, I noticed them eating from the round bale of hay in their paddock. They stood so close to one another that their sides touched. There are only George the Llama and Cooper the mini-horse to share their 4 acre area- but the sisters always stand so near one another that they appear connected in some way.

Earlier this year (July) they both gave birth to offspring just a few days apart. Connie foaled a beautiful fiesty Jenny (baby girl donkey) and Sara gave birth to a sweet, docile Jack (baby boy donkey). Connie's baby was named Elizabeth and Sara's soon came to be known as Jacob. Recently, Elizabeth and Jacob were weaned and Elizabeth has moved to a new home with a cattle farmer.  Her new owner reports that she is a natural-born guardian and companion for his purebred heifers. Jacob, however, remains behind and will perhaps fill his elderly donkey father's footsteps someday.

Recently, we were contacted by someone looking for a Christmas Nativity donkey. They came and "interviewed" the girls and decided that Sara would be perfect for the role. Having landed a supporting role in this production, Sara has been practicing her best I-just-carried-the-Virgin-Mother face. On Friday, she will leave for two weeks. We are excited and nervous as this enduring Christmas tradition at the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio will be visited daily by thousands of people. Sara has handled the attention with grace and humility and remains unaffected by her new found celebrity. She is perfectly befitting of the honor of "Official Christmas Donkey" of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

December 6, 2009

Frozen Pond

It dawned unusually cold again this morning at Fields Quarter Horses. The weatherperson whom Wayne trusts on the morning newscast says it was 16 degrees last night- that is an uncommon temperature for Kentucky in December. I believe that I trusted the wrong wooly worm when predicting this year's Winter weather.

Amber's Bostonian born and bred beau Dean was visiting Kentucky this weekend. I enjoyed watching him watch her work as she exercised, trained, and supervised horses the past two days. He glowed with pride when she didn't think he was looking. He offered to help lift and carry heavy objects and she allowed him to do so. At the barn, when there is no masculine presence within shouting distance, we girls often demonstrate physical feast which would parallel those of a carnival strong man. But, when a husband or boyfriend is about, it is acceptable to allow them to carry, heft, hoist, and lug.  Dean reminds me of a golden retriever (I like golden retrievers). He seems loyal, happy, stable, smart, and appropriate for a family with small children.

Since the Kempton's (Chase and Maria's parents) visit at Thanksgiving and the installation of a new copper backsplash, I have been overwhelmed with the choice of a new paint color for my kitchen. I have taped paint chips to the walls. I have studied the colors in the morning, mid-day, afternoon, and evening light. I have consulted with trusted design experts (Wayne, Brittney, Amber, Tara, Sandi to name a few). I have found myself contemplating options such as Pebble Sand and Autumn Harvest whilst I filled water tubs and cleaned stalls. The addition of a color to the sterile white walls of my kitchen has been a conundrum.

Today, I decided to be daring. Choosing a paint color when I was in such a venturesome mood was chancy to say the least. Wayne decided that he MUST have the electric pressure washer on sale at Home Depot at 10:00am this morning so I decided to sieze the day- and paint. Perhaps I was inspired by the forecast of the day; or perhaps I was being impulsive; I'll never know. But, I left Home Depot with custom mixed paint, brushes, and rollers in hand.

I chose a color named Frozen Pond. For some reason, the name mesmerized me. I proceeded to apply Frozen Pond to the walls of my kitchen. Scaling my kitchen cabinets, I stood on countertops in socks and quickly transformed my kitchen into an earthy, warm paradise.

Frozen Pond was never a chip that was taped to my wall. In fact, it was not in the running, nor a finalist in my list of color choices. But, as I admire my handiwork tonight, I think impulsive is ok. Maybe I should plan a little less, stop trying to fit all the pegs into the appropriate holes, and live in a little more daring color. Now, to choose a color for my hallway...back to the paint chips.

December 5, 2009

Silent Night, Holy What?

Shortly after the sun retired yesterday and the stars began to twinkle against the inky black sky, I knew it was going to be a bitterly cold night. The milkyway stretched out in an immense blanket and the sparkling stars in it introduced me to infinity.

I turned the key in the ignition of my car to the "off' position and sat quietly looking through the windshield. Above me, the moon- full just a few nights ago- glowed low in the East. Normally, it would serve as a beacon to guide me to my back door. On this night, however, the clear cold sky offered a much brighter display. I opened the door of my car and stepped onto my driveway. Pausing once more to comprehend the eternity which sparkled above my head, I felt small, human, and vulnerable.

The moon and solar system bathed the world in an ancient light. My imagination, or maybe it was cellular memories, wondered how many times I had stood under this blanket of lights. While pondering concepts of immortality and things larger than the scope of my brain, I cleared the single step leading to my back porch.  Absently, I began to fumble in the darkness for the black metal handle of the storm door.

Suddenly beneath the cotton turtleneck and hood of the gray sweatshirt I wore, the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention. I sensed a presence in the darkness, standing a few feet from me. My back porch is located on the driveway end of a ranch-style home and is the primary entrance used by ourselves, friends, and family. It is shaped in an arc, covered by a roof, and home to not only my back door but also a set of French-style patio doors leading to my living room. Along with the usual patio furniture and grill, there is also a stash of firewood (useful for toasty fires on wintery evenings) and a receptacle for recyling aluminum cans.

My eyes strained to adjust from the brilliance of the evening sky to peer into the recessed alcove of the porch.  There, lying between the stack of carefully selected firewood and carefully smashed up aluminum cans, was the goat. She was resting upon a doormat with her legs curled tightly beneath her. Silently, she nodded her head and lowered her horns in greeting.

I briefly weighed my options. Did I allow her to remain on the porch, curled up against the wind and bitter cold? Did I shoosh her back to the pasture to bed down near the donkies and llama for the night? I quickly surmised that she may provide some security against other, less friendly creatures who may seek shelter on a cold evening. I found the door handle and manipulated the lever opening the door.

Looking over my shoulder at the little gray bundle of fur huddled in the darkness, I said, "Goodnight, Goat."
Her golden eyes looked back through the night. Slowly, as if acknowledging our one-sided conversation, she nodded again.

December 4, 2009

Tickling parties and other fun activities...

Well. Hmmm. I've spent the better part of the last week balancing concerns for Brittney (my college sophmoric daughter). Concerns for her stress, research papers, impending finals, and generally busy schedule. As any parent can attest, it is always difficult to stand by and watch a child become independent. From the first baby steps until they chart an independent life course which veers away from our own, parents can offer support, guidance, and encouragement but little else. As in every life step, our children grow to become someone else- an independent individual human being destined to walk their own life's path.

That brings me back to Brittney. I'm proud of the course she is charting for herself. When we suggested she choose a career path which seemed interesting to us- she said "No, I want to be a teacher." When we suggested that perhaps there were careers which would command higher salaries- she said "No, I think I want to be a teacher." At times, it is difficult to parent an independent, self-assured child. But, after all, isn't that the ultimate goal we wish to achieve in an adult?

Brittney has always walked to the beat of a different drummer. Often emotional, always dramatic, charitable, equitable, and kind- she has an inner strength that I don't think she has discovered for herself yet. But that's ok, she will discover it when she needs to.

Earlier this evening, I found that she had spent some time this afternoon fighting for her life in an epic tickle battle. Geesh, and I was worried about alcohol and drugs at college. Back to the tickling, I was somewhat taken back and immediately concerned for the research paper and final she is studying for. Then, I paused a moment.

I looked at this episode in a whole new way. I realized that Brittney has learned to not take herself too seriously. There is always humor in life and she is blessed with a wonderful supportive group of friends- Jessica, Timothy, Kyle, Katie, Sean to name a few- who support her in person while we are supporting her in spirit. I think we could all learn a little from the study group at Morehead University. We should all take 15 minutes of the day to laugh until we cry, turn off our computers for a little while, and tickle someone.

Thanks Brittney and Company for reminding us who you really are and what is really important in life.

December 3, 2009

Tiny Hoofprints...

Tonight, we held our inaugural meeting for the Hoofprints 4-H Club. Amber's brainchild, the club will consist at this time of 14 or so children who range from ages four to fifteen. Some of these children show horses- most do not. Some of these children have horses- most do not. It is an opportunity for us at Fields Quarter Horses to impact the lives of children around us using horses.

Amber and I are both civic minded. We feel strongly about giving back to the horse industry and helping children. As I looked around the room at tonight's meeting, I was filled with hope, pride, and satisfaction at the laughter, smiles, and faces I saw.

We conducted some brief business- keeping the discussions centered around the children, their projects, and their choices. Next, we moved to a brief educational presentation (straight from the AQHA Jr Master Horseman Program!). Thanks to a generous sponsor (thanks to MaryAnne who is a fellow leader and Sibcy-Cline who is a local realty office), each child will receive their own Jr Master Horseman booklet to study, learn from, and enjoy at home. 

Tonight's presentation discussed how horses are measured. The children learned about "hands" and were given an opportunity to measure one another to determine their own heights in "hands" (which is a traditional horse measurement of 4 inches). We had two "ponies" in our group- one child who measured 11 hands and another who measured 13 hands. All of the kids were anxious to learn the height of their favorite horses from the barn in hands and a lively discussion about the differing sizes ensued.

Next, in honor of Christmas, each child constructed a hand-made Christmas ornament from old horse shoes collected around the barn. Again, the kids enjoyed imagining which shoes may have come from their favorite horse based upon the size of the different shoes. Glitter, glue, and horse shoes combined to create a festive display!

The parents enjoyed their children, their children enjoyed learning and creating, and we enjoyed sharing. It was a rich evening to be sure. I am honored to be able to leave some Tiny Hoofprints...


December 2, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Foaling Season! I just finished a phone call with Dr. Mather (our farm's attending veterinarian). Through the years, we have developed a close doctor/patient relationship as well as friendship. It's inevitable, of course. During peak breeding and foaling season, this is a person whom we see at least once, sometimes twice, every day. There have been days/months the past few years during which I've spent more time with Dr. Mather than my own family or husband.

Foaling season is a lot more like childbirth than you would initially expect. Aside from the obvious act of helping new life begin its journey, it is also similar because we are blessed with the ability to forget the pain and stress associated with it. Like a woman who has given birth to a child, those memories fade and we begin to look forward to birth and new arrival again.

It took me several months to forget the foaling season of 2009! It was filled with joy, drama, miracles, and tense moments. But, ahhh- blissfully, those memories have faded and they are replaced by the stronger memories of the wonderful foals who followed. Even a month ago, the memories were sharp. I could still feel the fatigue, the ever-constant worry.

But, as always, I woke a few mornings ago and a seed of anticipation began to grow. Now, as I prepare the foaling schedule, calendar, and start to envision the patter of the tiniest hooves again, the anticipation is getting stronger every day.

I miss my MareStare friends. I'm anxious to get started again and begin the vigils and excitement of the foalings shared with a warm horse-loving community. T-minus 40 days and counting until the first mare is due. T-minus 25 days until the first mare goes on camera! See you soon, in my barn.


December 1, 2009

Here's a look at my day in less than twenty words...

Granola Bar
The Office

November 30, 2009

A Muse

It has come to my attention that in life, we draw inspiration from many sources. A brilliant sunrise. A tiny pink hand clasped around fingers. A warm whiskery kiss. All of these images are memories but also serve to invoke happiness, devotion, and love to name a few. Sometimes, however, memories can only take us as far as the experiences which created them. In such times, I need a Muse.

For me, a Muse serves as a stimulus to unlock the creative chambers of my mind. Like an accelerant to a flame, it feeds my mind and ignites a flow of ideas (or in this case, words). One such creature for me is a lady from California who occasionally calls herself Dame Judy. I have never met Judy and have rarely spoken to her unless in the wee hours of the night. She watches our cameras during foaling season unfailingly and has often been the herald of a new arrival. her calls are most likely to arrive just when I enter REM sleep so she lives in a somewhat dream-area of my memory.

Like the changeable nature which I imagine she has, Judy sometimes assumes different forms in my mind. Somedays, she is a wild, red-haired Gypsy laughing as she rides a white stallion across a beach. Other days, she is a wise matron stroking a black cat on her lap. Always, she is mercurial and shifting.

I was asked today where I draw inspiration to write most days. Judy is one of the Muse's housed in my creative stable. I call upon her- or my mental picture of her- on days when I feel whimsical and creative. Thanks, Judy!

November 29, 2009

Don't Look A Gift Horse...

Well, it's been an eventful few days at the farm. Brittney has been home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday- Amber was also went home for a bit (which means away from the farm)- and Sandi and Eddie (Chase and Maria's owners) have been visiting for the last few. Usually, I'm ready for weekends to end. That allows us to get back to our usual routine and restore order to our schedules and barn! I find myself, however, dreading today because everyone is leaving. We will truly be sorry to see our daughter and friends return from whence they came. I guess that means that it was a successful holiday.

On the leaving note, Baton Rouge (Thoroughbred yearling who lives at the farm) acquired a new home yesterday. His breeding destined him for the racetrack but his owners altered that fate and asked us to re-home him. His new owner Courtney arrived yesterday and after something that resembled an old fashioned round up at times, he was safely loaded onto her trailer and on his way to his new home. She commented that she felt like Christmas was coming early and was so excited to bring her new horse home. Sadly, Delilah and Wendy walked the fence line following him as far as they were able and called to him as he disappeared down the driveway. I truly wished that I had known what they were saying to one another at that point.

Amber had several riding lessons over the weekend- a group of small girls, her Amateur Select Future Champion MaryAnne (whom she is currently molding into a great showman). The mounts used for riding lessons may ring a bell to some- most of them appeared on MareStare last year delivering foals! At our farm, most mares are retired show horses and seem to relish the job of playing babysitter and teachers to beginning riders in the off season. Essi, Lexi, Boo, Fancy, and Delilah are regularly used in lesson programs.

Somehow, even with great amounts of visiting, eating, horsing, and more- we even accomplished several projects from my never-ending list. With Eddie (our guest) helping every step of the way, we installed a new stamped copper backsplash in my kitchen (joy, joy), ran new ethernet cables to the foaling barn in preparation for 2010 MareStare cameras, and replaced some electrical switches which needed mending.

Of course, we also found plenty of time during the past few days to laugh, love, and live. It was a great Thanksgiving weekend and we wish everyone travelling here, there, and everywhere safe journeys.

November 27, 2009

Being a college student, I don't get the opportunity to come home as much as my family would like.  It's usually only by force (and the occasional bribe of a nice home-cooked meal and free laundry) that I make it home.  Everytime I come home, though, I remember exactly why it is that home relaxes me so much.  This holiday break spurred some extra thought in me this time home.  So, this is the top ten list of things I miss most about home while I'm away.

10.  Cleaning and taking care of horses.  Sadly, I do miss this while I'm stuck on campus and really enjoy coming home and visiting everyone and seeing how much they've grown.

9.  The occasional bath/groom job at the kennel.  I also enjoy bathing and grooming dogs (ever so often) and enjoy when I get to come home for a few days and do a couple baths/grooms.

8.  Driving my dad's big red truck :)

7.  Waffle House every morning with my family.

6.  Wearing sweatpants (my dad's) everywhere I go (including the barn).  Our barn at school has a rule against wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes.

5.  Playing with the foals and miscellaneous animals we have here at home.

4.  Cooking dinner almost every night that I'm home (and Cracker Barrell one night while I'm here).

3.  Snuggling with my Standard Poodle.

2.  My parents and their constant approval of my life and all the choices I make (no matter whether they agree with me or not).

1.  My wonderful Shetland Sheepdog, Sugar.  She's my best friend and I miss her every single day that I'm not at home.

Guest Blogger--Brittney Aaron-Fields

November 26, 2009

The Turkey

Morning peeked over the horizon and observed the sleeping meadow. It was unmoving- cold and crisp. Along the left side of the grassy expanse lay a thick tree line- maples, oaks, elms all grew tall and austere in unplanned preciseness. Running along the right edge of the meadow, was an orderly fence comprised of thick wooden posts and linear poplar boards. The order of the fence mocked the chaos of the forest adjacent to it. Like revolutionary soldiers, they stood in a perfect line facing one another separated only by an ocean of clover and orchard grass.

As dusk approached each night, the turkey ambled toward the same elderly locust just inside the treeline of the meadow. Like all poultry, they were creatures of habit and their nightly routine had not been disturbed for as long as a turkey may remember. Their dark feathered bodies could be seen about 20 feet above the ground where they were safe from the large nocturnal predators who patrolled silently.

At first light, the turkey stretched their seldom seen wings and half jumped/half flew back down to earth. True to their morning ritual, once every turkey in the group was assembled, they began a camoflauged parade through the dense underbrush which covered the wooded floor. So quiet, they were, that they may have been feathered ghosts. They walked slowly to the meadow- unhurried.

The parade passed by the stately trees and emerged from thickets of blackberry bushes and wild roses with great pomp and circumstance. Twenty strong, they were led by a large Tom who stood nearly a yard high (feathers and all). The grand marshall himself led the group onto the meadow to forage for grubs and insects who were greeting the sunlight.

Their tails were displayed in fans behind them. The Toms were distinguishable not only by their impressive size but also their long beards which dangled seductively (to a female turkey) from beneath their beaks. This family group consisted of several Toms, many hens, adolescent chicks, and even some immature birds strolling among them. They moved across the pasture in a methodically random manner consuming all manner of creeping crawling life.

They were an oddity of nature- with their avian-like qualities- yet they were strangely prehistoric. The ancestors of these great birds had likely roamed these same pastures long before there were fences or borders. Pilgrims or settlers had likely feasted upon one of these great birds on a Thanksgiving Day just like this one.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I was blessed early on Thanksgiving morning with a huge turkey parade in one of the paddocks at Fields Quarter Horses. I turned off the motor on the Gator and sat and enjoyed watching them meander across the paddock before they moved on. Silent and peaceful, they were a joy to behold!

November 25, 2009


This is a small sampling of some of the ways that people have expressed their thankful thoughts. I intend to ponder the things that I am thankful for today.

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~W.J. Cameron

I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks.--William Shakespeare

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls. ~David Thomas

Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel. ~Author Unknown

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.--Oscar Wilde

It isn't what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart.-- Author Unknown

Just a "thank you" is a mighty powerful prayer. Says it all. -- RoseanneCash

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.-- Willie Nelson

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.-- Author Unknown

Have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving. To all the things in our lives that we are thankful for....

Khris and Wayne

November 24, 2009

My Daily Blog...Uh, I Mean Frog

I have a lot of frogs. Well, not officially frogs- really more toads. For some reason, we have a lot of these little fellows at our farm. They congregate in little frog herds near the water hydrants, shavings bin, indoor arena (just to name a few of their hang-out-spots).

Maybe the source of our frog phenomenon is our geography. When we excavated the site for the barn some years ago, we filled in an old pond. Unwittingly, we may have displaced this family of frogs. Many probably hopped over the hill to the "big city" of the lake. But, in all likelihood, this line of frogs may have lived at our farm for countless generations. Their ancestral programming beckons them to return to the home of their parents/grandparents/and so forth.

Sometimes, a burly muscular looking frog hangs out near our alfalfa bale storage. I missed seeing him the past few days and found myself wondering if he has moved on to greener (*smile*) pastures. Maybe there is a lady frog somewhere who has beckoned him. Maybe he finally made the long journey to the neighbor's lake.

I fear that he may have become dinner for one of the barn cats. They seem to have developed an affinity for the flavor of frog legs. Strangely, I felt that my frog friend was immune from their daily hunts. I surely hope he was. He would sometimes sit in the corner of the feed room. Like a little sentry, he would salute me when I walked by. I hope he returns soon.  I kinda miss my Daily Frog...

November 23, 2009

True Crime- Barn Style: The Finale

Kit, the pygmy goat, had never felt as if she fit in at the barn. Although she had been born there nearly 8 years ago, she often felt like an outsider. Her eyes glowed yellow in the near blackness. The only other distinguishable feature aside from her familiar tawny eyes were two bulky horns breaching the top of her skull. They rose straight up from the topmost part of her head and arched backwards abruptly. Ringo shuddered as he conjured a mental image of dark creatures with yellow eyes and horns.

Standing next to Kit, was a stranger. Flat, black eyes- without depth or even soul stared up at the accidental voyeur perched above them. The mouse allowed his thin, scraggly muzzle to move into a sneer revealing stained, crooked teeth. As his lips pulled back from his teeth, the faint sound of a hiss escaped them. He was extending his hand toward the goat and Ringo noticed the unkempt, messy state of his coat. This was no ambassador of good will. Clutched in his outstretched hand was an item Ringo had only seen a few times before. But his tidy raccoon mind was masterful at cataloging and arranging things- both items and memories. He shuffled the file drawers of his memory and nearly instantly recognized it as a book of matches.

As if on a directors "Action!" cue from a movie set, the intruder dropped his bounty just as the raccoon sprang into action. The intruder began backing further into the shadows of the feed room- into the corner farthest from the doors. Ringo struggled to follow his movement as he could find no reflection of light in the flat, dark eyes. The mouse simply faded into the blackness and then he was gone. Ringo sprinted from his high station down the beam to the opposite side of the barn, scrambled his way down the nearest stall front, and landed on the concrete floor. Only the thud of his impact attested that he had dispensed with his usual attempts at grace.

Ringo sprinted to the feed room. His haunches propelling him forward, he ran the length of the aisle. When raccoons run as such, they quite resemble the jilted lope of a bear- driven forward by powerful thrusts from their hindquarters. The horses immediately knew this was no normal pace for the raccoon. He had purpose and direction to his frantic run across the barn.

The horses in the stalls reacted to the sudden change in atmosphere. Moments ago dozing, or quietly waiting, there was now a low din of voices.

"Ringo, what is it?"

“Mother, who's running in the barn?”

“Are we allowed to run in the barn?"

"Oh no, I knew something like this would happen."

"Is it feeding time already?"

Male and female voices joined together to create a choir of horses. The chorus sounded unpracticed and off-key, all talking at once but none in harmony with the other.

Ringo reached the base of the feed room door and strained to listen inside. It had been difficult to hear their low murmurs when the barn was wrapped in silence. Now, it would be impossible. The horse chorus continued to mount until now, it was all around him. Someone whinnied- and it caused a chain reaction.

Ringo knew he would have to enter the feed room to confront the goat. He tried to push the sliding door away from the opening to gain entry. Although he pushed with his full weight, his hands were small and he was not able to move the door aside. It was designed to withstand an assault from hands such as his.

As he was contemplating his next move- he strained again to listen through the solid wooden door. Placing his head against the rough hewn wood, he maneuvered his ear so that it lay against the door flat. Then he heard a sound which would spark terror in the hearts of every animal in the barn. It was a rough sound, scratching and rasping. It sounded of flint or bone- concrete and matches. It was the sound of someone trying to strike one of the matches.

Ringo flew into action. He had told the people of the barn goodnight hours ago. He knew that he could depend on them in any emergency but they were not here. He could hear his Mother's voice saying "Goodnight, Ringo- you're in charge until I get back!” Only he had the freedom to do what would need to be done. But what could he- a mere raccoon do? He was just the organizer of the barn- he was not prepared for the magnitude of what was about to happen there. And then, images of the humans and their love for the animals flooded his well-trained mind. He envied the humans- was this what made them so enviable. They would not hesitate to be heroes and help the animals. He knew what choice they would make if they were here wearing his fur now.

Deciding that he could not penetrate the door of the feed room, Ringo knew his only other option was to enter from above the room. Without care for his own safekeeping at this point, he raced to the stall front directly behind him. It belonged to Dani, a handsome long-legged redhead mare. She anxiously watched as he hoisted his weight higher and higher to reach the truss. He reached the truss and struggled to move out over the open span of the barn- balancing on it. Before where he had appeared graceful, now in his frenetic pace, he wobbled back and forth precariously as he rushed to the open space above the feed room.

Once he was positioned directly above the feed room, he looked for something soft to brace his fall. He was going to have to free fall the 20 foot distance onto the concrete floor and for a brief moment, debated his new found role as savior.

Kit, the goat, had been unaware of the commotion above her as she was using her 10 inch horns, head down to the ground, to attempt to strike a flame from the match book below her. She had rotated her horns to the ground, chin to her chest, and was using the bony protrusions like a camper may use a flint against a stone. With each repetition, she created a spark in the empty night. With each spark, she was much closer to igniting her source. Seeing nothing else which might break his fall, he crossed himself in the tradition of a religious rite, gave his best "Bonzai!" call, and proceeded to drop directly on the goat below him.

From the horse’s vantage point, Ringo's descent into the feed room took much longer than from Ringo's perspective. Chevy watched him take a deep breath, heard his best kamikaze cry, and saw the raccoon launch himself from the highest point of the ceiling with the grace of a Brazilian cliff diver. As the raccoon free fell in to the feed room, the clamor of the barn ceased and there was a moment of complete silence. Then, pandemonium broke loose from inside the closed room.

Squeals, hisses, bleats and sounds which could not be defined mixed with the din of bodies being flung against wooden walls. The reverberation of the melee playing out before them resonated in every wall of the barn. After what must have been seconds but seemed to commence in slow motion, there was an eerie silence. Then there was the sound of labored breathing and nothing more.

When the humans entered the barn at daylight several hours later, they were greeted by the typical scene of nickers, small whinnies, and the clamor of hungry horses. All appeared to the human eye as if it had been an uneventful evening. And then they opened the feed room door. Ringo sat quietly in the feed room possessively holding the match book in his hands. The goat sat in the opposite corner of the room, sullenly staring at the wall and chewing her cud. Strewn about the floor of the room were chunks of gray and black hair- both Ringo and Kit have fur the exact same color- so it was undistinguishable to the human eye, which pieces belonged to which animal.

Ringo's Mother gave him a disapproving look and snatched the matchbook from his hands. "Ringo, you must never, ever have these in the barn. You could hurt yourself and everyone else. I am so disappointed in you." She picked him up by the fur at the back of his neck- as she had thousands of times since he was a kit himself and placed him in her arms. He placed his arms around her neck and held on very tight. He was trembling slightly and she looked at him closely. "Ringo, you haven't hugged me that tight since you were a little raccoon. Whatever got into you?" She held him closely, the way she used to when he was younger and they sat silently for a moment. "Well, you are still in trouble for taking matches and being in the feed room but I love you anyway," she said as she walked him to the office to offer his breakfast.

Kit walked out of the feed room as Khris and Ringo walked down the aisle toward the office. She glanced over her shoulder at the pair as Ringo stared back at her. "Blah," she said. The horses watched her stroll down the aisle and outside to explore the paddocks for the day. She gave off an unaffected air which did not reveal any clues to her train of thought.

As Ringo passed by Chevy's stall, Chevy asked quietly "Dude, what happened?"

Ringo answered slowly, "Kit was planning a surprise birthday party for herself. We didn’t even know that yesterday was her birthday. She was going to have a giant birthday cake with candles- just like the little girls at the birthday party here in the barn last year. She bribed a mouse from the house to bring her matches and was going to light her candles herself."

Chevy thought for a moment and knew the implications of her actions. In his uncomplicated manner, he asked, “Well, do you think we should we give her a party today? I like birthday cake. And I like parties, too.”

Ringo blinked slowly and contemplated the question. One truth was certain to him, goats held grudges and he had ruined her plan and her party of one. He would not be sleeping quietly as long as there was a goat in the barn with a grudge.
The End.

November 22, 2009

True Crime- Barn Style: Part Two

Ringo liked to walk along the concrete barn floors. The hand-broomed finished created patterns in the surface which enthralled him and he loved the feel of the scratchy surface. Tonight, however, he made an unusual choice. In the same manner which creates reluctant heroes from ordinary creatures, he simply chose to cross the span of the barn in a manner which was new to him. The barn had a free span wooden truss design. Ringo had never thought of crossing the barn from above. The trusses rose high above the stalls and center aisle- nearly 20 feet at the highest point.

Ringo placed his hands and feet on the dust covered beam. The leathery texture of his hind feet brushed along the wooden beam expertly. He narrowed his eyes to adjust to both the unusual darkness and the aerial panorama. As he rose higher and higher, the horses appeared smaller and smaller in their stalls. In his raspy colt voice, Chance whispered to his mother Tess, a young dark bay mare. “Mother, what is he looking for all the way up there?”

Tess replied, “Raccoons are no concern of ours, little one.” She turned her head in the opposite direction signaling to Chance that they would not discuss the situation further. Being nearly 2 months old, he knew that she was finished discussing the matter.

Other than a faint murmur far below him, Ringo could hear nothing else in the solitude of the barn at night. Dim noises came to him here and there. Someone was rustling around their stall- perhaps trying to find the remnants of her dinner on a stall floor. A tiny voice was inquisitive, then silenced. The hum of the florescent lighting was long silent as the timers in the barn had diminished the bright artificial glow over each stall hours ago.

These were the usual harmonies. The pitches and tones were familiar and comforting. These were ordinary sounds. So, Ringo decided to listen for the extraordinary. He began to filter through them and focus on anything new. And there it was. The new sound was muffled but there nonetheless. With the reflexes that only an animal can muster, he snapped his head in the direction the tiny conversation came from. If he had been a split second earlier or later, he may have missed it. If he had chosen to walk his usual path on the barn floor, he surely would have missed it. There in the darkness- even his eyes strained to see more clearly. Two sets of eyes- one unmistakable and one unrecognizable- stared at him in stunned silence.

To Be Continued...

November 21, 2009

True Crime- Barn Style

There was a stifling stillness that hung over the barn. Perhaps it was the suffocating heat that invaded the quiet night, but the animals of the barn breathed more slowly than usual. His mind told him that they were most likely sleeping but his imagination filled with thoughts of them holding their breath, waiting for some unseen foe to intrude. An envelope of darkness shrouded the barn. It was difficult to distinguish reality from fantasy. Outside, the skies were devoid of stars. In their usual place was a pervasive blackness. For a brief moment, he wondered if some dark magic was at work here. Even the heavens seemed to be aware that something sinister was about.

Standing on his hind legs, he inhaled the blackness through his long, pointed muzzle. He tasted the unseen with each breath. Even the wind was not cooperating with his investigation. It would offer no secrets to the impending force which every creature felt but could not name. Deciding that he would find no answers on the wind, Ringo decided that an on-foot inquiry may yield more clues. He placed his sensitive paws on the hard surface below him and allowed his eyes to adjust to the malevolent darkness. Quietly thanking his ancestors for blessing him with above average night vision, he scanned the surroundings.

The aluminum stall fronts did not cast their usual bright glow in the darkness. Now, they were a dull white color. He could see the redwood tongue and groove boards which completed each stall but barely discern the orderly lines of the boards. The barn aisle was familiar in the darkness. Tidy and symmetrical, each stall appeared a mirror image of its neighbor. He liked this barn. Because of his sometimes compulsive tendencies, it made him feel nice to see the order and cleanliness.

To the left of him were 7 large box stalls, each with dozing (or at least uncommunicative) horses. To the right was more of the same. The barn was comprised of two 12 foot aisles with stalls on each side. The center bank of the barn contained 2 large box stalls, solid sliding doors to the feed room, a tack area, and the spacious grooming area and breeding stocks. There were other areas of the barn- and they were usually the focal point of his attention. The office/lounge was his favorite haunt as there were shiny trophies and the occasional snack of forgotten people food. The laboratory was also appealing because there were many containers of medicines and supplies. He could spend hours rearranging them- the humans were never any good at arranging things and he often felt the need to correct that. Even the restrooms provided occasional amusement if he could find nowhere else to wash his hands. He frequently had urges to clean his hands but assumed it was part of his obsessive/compulsive nature. But, tonight, those usual hang-outs did not garner his attention. It was the main part of the barn which called to him.

As he began his patrol, a male voice- even, attractive, and tenor called to him. “What’s up, dude?” It was Chevy. Chevy was the prince of the barn. He was favored among the mares, the other animals, and mostly the humans. His amicable nature was contagious. Coupled with his California surfer-like looks, his blond mane and tail, he was enviable. When he was a young raccoon, he was jealous of Chevy. As he matured, he saw that Chevy loved the humans, too. Eventually Chevy’s gentle, easy nature won Ringo over and he discovered that he enjoyed spending time with him.

“Something’s not right tonight”, Ringo replied softly. In the dark stillness, their voices seemed to carry farther than they should have. Ringo quietly hefted his weight- all 45 pounds of it- up the wall by grasping the beveled edges of the tongue and groove boards. Once up, he was sitting inches from Chevy’s hot breath. “I’m going to scout. Have you heard anything out of the ordinary?” he asked.

Chevy leaned closer as if sharing information with a confidant. “Well, I haven’t but do you need me to protect you?”

Ringo, thankful for the veil of darkness, covered his muzzle with long, elegant fingers. He was certain that Chevy’s uncomplicated disposition did not perceive the wry smile that he covered as he answered, “No, buddy. You keep an eye on things here. I’ll check out the rest of the barn.”

He decided that it may be wise to achieve a Raccoon’s eye view of the situation so he deftly scaled the remaining height of the stall door. Once atop the stall front, he began to balance along the 2 inch header board. With more grace than a tightrope artisan, he padded quietly along the adjoining stall fronts. His ungainly shape swayed back and forth but his footfalls were sure and silent.

Ringo used his vantage point to assess the occupants of each stall as he passed over them. Lexi, a busty blue roan mare, stood a silent vigil over her week old colt, Jasper. Sissy was lying down in her stall with her form curled into a C shape. Her newborn Sam slumbered unaware in the protective fold of her body. Nikki glanced up only briefly from munching her hay as Ringo passed by. Sensing that he posed no danger to her sorrel filly, Amber, she returned to her faint rustling of the stall floor.

Ringo passed over each stall silently and quickly, his mind filtering details looking for anything amiss. Reaching the end of the row of stalls, he made a choice that would determine the fates of every creature in the barn that night.

To Be Continued Tomorrow-

(For my Marestare Friends, you probably remember this one! I wanted to post it here for everyone else...Psst. Don't give the ending away!)

November 20, 2009

Top Ten List- Things I Miss About Being 17

As my age advances, I cannot help but miss a few things from my youth. Here is a top ten list of things I miss about being 17 years old:

10. Wearing a bikini fearlessly
9. Heavy Metal Bands
8. No Bills
7. The Love Boat
6. Freedom
5. Football games
4. Drive-In Movie Theaters
3. 80's Hair styles
2. Cheerleading
and the #1. thing I miss about being 17 is...Metabolism!

What do you miss?

November 19, 2009

Oh My, I think those are testicles...

Where to start? Let me begin at the beginning of my day. I opened my eyes to a dreary skyscape this morning. Not rainy- not sunny- and I knew it was going to be one of those days.  Maybe because I've begun a new diet (one of many in a long succession), but I just don't seem to leap out of bed with the same verve or zest I once did. I am a creature driven by hunger. I used to live from meal to meal- now I just exist from meal to measly meal.

Anyway, I crawled out of bed then downed a miserly breakfast and trudged to the office to organize my day.  I discovered a 140 pound Great Pyreneese dog waiting there for me to shave (or in this case- shear). His owners had called the kennel in a tither- they suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to have their dog groomed before he spent another night in the middle of their bed. Upon his arrival, everyone else jumped ship, bailed, and became otherwise engaged. Ah, the joys of being the Boss.  The job was left to me to complete. He had not see a groomer- or a bathtub- for nearly 4 years. There was a colony of fleas living on his great white hide which could have single handedly brought back the Bubonic Plague. And his owner left instructions that he had several tumor-like growths that we would need to be mindful of.

Andy was a beast of a dog. I retrieved the "Super Dooper" clippers from their heavy dusty case and began to remove years of hair, dirt, and debris. The fleas resembled tiny little passengers from the Titanic as they began to look for lifeboats and jump ship. Thankfully, we had administered an oral flea preventative to Andy an hour earlier which would serve to annihilate his flea colony within 20-30 minutes. As the tiny universe of insects lay collapsing before me, I continued to shave the big fella.

I worked my way around his body and he began to take the shape of a dog.  I clipped the top of his body then moved to his underbelly and down his long legs. Andy is ten years old and seemed to enjoy the experience. He graciously lifted his giant paws as I trimmed his claw-like toenails and cleaned the overgrown hair between the pads of his feet.

Feeling rather industrious, I surveyed my masterpiece. There he stood, giant white snowy dog with only his rear end left to shear. Re-energized by the outcome of my previous work, I began to tackle his tail and the remaining section of rear end which was still thick with mats and debris. As I reached the clippers under his hind end- they sputtered to a stop. This scene had been played out repeatedly already today. The clippers would protest at each thickly matted clump and I would remove it with scissors.

I  gently (given the delicate area in which I was cutting) began to remove the matted hair. There in the path of my recently sharpened blades was a growth. I began to carefully disect the air away from the meaty growth. This was considerably larger that I had been led to expect but having found no other growths on the dog yet, I surmised this must be it.  Confused, I opted to confer with a colleague for a second opinion. This tumor was pretty large. Wayne settled in beside me to inspect the tumor. He carefully looked at it over the rim of his glasses.

"Honey, " he began slowly, " I hate to tell you, but those are testicles."

I gasped. Surely not. As an experience dog groomer, I have seen my share of testicles. I finished grooming Andy and when his owner came to pick him up, I told her that I had found no growths on him. She immediately reached down between his hind legs and said, "But there was a big growth right here."

In my most professional groomer voice, I announced, "Oh my, I think those are testicles."

November 18, 2009


Cooper was a known casanova. His reputation preceeded him- libertine, rake, playboy. He had earned every one of these titles and even more. He was the teaser stallion for an active breeding farm. His profession was one of privilege, seduction, and frustration.

Each morning during breeding season- from January to June- he was marched out with great pomp and circumstance to each mare on the farm. His appointed duties included flirting, coaxing, seducing, and otherwise engaging each mare in conversation to determine her resistance/cooperation for breedng purposes.

He was a magnificent brown and white stallion- and he was 26 inches tall. His mane and tail were full and luxurious, his Indian-pony coat glistened in the sunlight. His feet were tiny perfect replicas of the larger horses whom he visited each day. He, however, did not seem aware of his size. He carried himself with the demeanor of a stallion- proud and keen. He would enter the barn aisle, with mares stalled on each side, and commence to swagger and strut before them.

His was a confidence born of experience. Of course, they found him magnificent- the ones who were willing would flutter their eyelashes and nicker to him playfully. He waggered. He swayed before them. He did not know he was of short stature- his life experience had never taught him this lesson. He felt equal to any other stallion and behaved in such a manner.

When a mare would express interest in his display of manliness, the handlers would proceed to pull a step to the front of her stall. Cooper would climb atop the stool and could just reach the openings between the aluminum bars to touch her velvety nose. He would stretch his front feet higher and lift his body so that he was standing on his hind legs. With front legs supported by the front of the stall, he would stand perched atop the stool and woo, coo, and nuzzle the mare until the handler decided to move to another lady horse.

Each morning, his routine was the same. He would nuzzle and embrace each likely candidate. If his passion heightened, the handler knew that the mare may be receptive to her intended stallion's advances (or seed). Cooper was rarely mistaken when it came to deciphering feminine moods. If he indicated that she was receptive, she probably was. If he indicated that she had already blossomed and was past the peak of her cycle, she probably was.

Occasionally, a mare would repeatedly shun his advances. For weeks at a time, his morning visits would produce no passion from her. When this happened, Cooper would find himself in a private turnout paddock for several hours with only a sturdy fence separating them. He would run the perimeter exhaustively- looking for a way to be closer to his lady love. He would call to her- screaming his love at the top of his voice. Sometimes, after several hours or even days of this closeness, she would begin to feel a spark and soon, she too would find her body ready to take the journey to motherhood.

Thus were the days of the teaser stallion. A heady blend of lust, love, and longing. He was allowed- no encouraged- to follow his animal instincts. Yet, sadly, he was never to achieve fullness. He lived a life of privilege- afforded the same luxuries as the great stallions who lived at the farm. But, alas, his privileges stopped sort of satisfaction. His was an existence doomed to loneliness...And that was the life of Cooper.

November 17, 2009


Whew! Let me stop a minute and catch my breath. I have one of those cell phone plans with unlimited minutes. I was just thinking of revisiting that idea and going with a different-lesser-minute plan to save a little money. Well, that was probably a bad idea. Just as I had the thought, my phone began ringing and it hasn't stopped.

Another sign from the Universe? Why does the Universe care what cell phone plan I have? I've had calls from mare owners about breeding mares next year, mare owners with mares to foal, foal owners with foals to sell, foal owners with foals to brag about. Also, old friends with new husband problems, new friends with old husband problems, a friend who was re-connecting, and a family member from whom I have disconnected. And, best of all, people who are wanting to buy horses. Oh, and I spoke with my banker, lawyer, AND accountant all today.

All of these phone calls make me wonder how we functioned before there were cell phones? I truly cannot remember. I think it's some sort of self-imposed amnesia. I don't remember a time when I could not pick up a phone and reach the person I wanted nearly instantly. Worse yet, if I can't reach them by phone, I can generally just leave a message on Facebook and speak to them even sooner.

All of this "connection" to my fellow man has made me become even more impatient. I find myself becoming more irritable in restaurants, traffic, and don't even make me wait in line at the Post Office. Is my cell phone causing this phenomenon? Hmmm, I wonder- there must be someone I can call to ask?

November 15, 2009

Reality Check

I'll admit it- I'm addicted to reality TV. Somehow, in the midst  of 60-80 hour work weeks, I still find a few minutes here and there to catch the beginnings, middles, ande endings of my favorite reality shows. I have accepted the fact that reality TV is trash and that I'm addicted to it. I do not yet DVR or TIVO so I must catch the episodes the old fashioned way. If I miss one, I check the listings, make mental notes of the repeated showings, and try to watch them. I have even been guilty of finding a showing of a stray episode here and there at 3:00am.  

I can recite from memory the scripts of the hosts of Project Runway, Survivor, Top Model, and many more word for word as they deliver the lines just before someone is voted off. Two beautiful girls stand before me...

I don't really even have to be interested in the subject to enjoy a reality show, either. Yesterday, I discovered Flowers Uncut and watched florists scramble to plan a wedding event. I've watched celebrity stylists, dog groomers, rock stars, sex and drug addicts, designers, hair technicians, housewives, brides, real estate moguls, toddlers, models, cheerleaders, chefs, and little and large people just to name a few- and that's just this week.

This brings me to a hypothesis. I believe that I like seeing real people. I grew up watching TV in an era where Charlie's Angels set the bar high. An angel could karate chop a villian, wield a firearm, and save the day without breaking a nail. And we won't even discuss Wonder Woman. I waited patiently for puberty just to discover that I would never fill a red/white/blue ensemble the way she did.

Yes, reality TV gives us a look at real life. I secretly relish the breakdowns, flaws, tirades, and generally bad behavior. Well, all except for Cash Cab. That's possibly my favorite- I vicariously won $1700 while cooking dinner Friday night.So, in that respect, reality TV allows me to escape from real life as well. I can enjoy watching people who aren't perfect. That's my guilty pleasure right behind Hershey's Chocolate Syrup and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  So, until the next episode, auf weidersen!

November 13, 2009

Sensitivity Training

The animals were fed up. He had crossed the line and this would be the end of his poor behavior. Ringo the Raccoon had long walked a fine line between sarcasm, ridicule, and humor. He was slightly more intelligent than the majority of the creatures who lived at the barn and he often exploited his advantage. His usual gambit was a quip or verbal  jab- directed at one more witless than he. Oft times, these remarks were like impotent shots fired across the bow of a ship- testing the waters, gauging damage or the skill of an adversary.

Today, however, Ringo had caused collateral damage with one of his warning shots. And he was about to pay the price for it. He closed his eyes and retraced the steps which had brought him to this fate. His mind moved backwards to earlier that morning.

It was an unseasonably warm November day. The sun rose bright and full of promise. Animals chattered quietly among themselves- the horses were anxious to go outside to the grassy meadow, the dogs were wondering if there would be a group game of "Fetch the Stick". Ringo glanced at the Motley Crew grouped in the barn from his perch high above them on the top of a box stall. From this vantage point, he could see them all. He shifted his bulky form and leaned backwards against the wooden post. Reclining lazily, he absently picked at the soft fur of his belly.

Rondo, the Standard Poodle bounded around the corner and exclaimed in an excited voice, "Hey sup! Yo yo yo, check dis out right here, is anybody gonna aks if we gonna play today?"

Jorge the Llama looked at Rondo in a confused manner and said, "Hmmmm?"

"Com on dawg, is anybody gonna aks if we playin stick today?" Rondo repeated.

"Por favor, Senor, I do not understand what it is you mean," the Llama said in a heavy Spanish accent belying his Hispanic roots.

Bobbie the tortoise patterned gray cat, spoke up just then in a thick Southern drawl, "Now ya'll know, Rondo was done raised up in the city. He ain't never had no schoolin to learn to talk like the rest of us. "

Ringo watched the interchange below him and uttered "Psshht," with obvious disdain in his voice. Under his breath he muttered, "Hillbillies, Ghetto...(unitelligible words)...go back to where you came from....(more untelligible words)...don't belong here anyway." his voice continued.

Suddenly, every pair of eyes in the barn were upon the Raccoon perched upon the stall top.

The Llama's quick fire temper flared at the slight. "Esscuse me, RRrrrringo," Jorge said slowly. "Was the Poodle speaking to you. I tink, No."

Tension immediately filled the empty space. Ringo bristled with anger. How dare the Llama speak to him so? He was, after all, an immigrant. In fact, they all were. Ringo was the only one born at the barn.  Everyone else had come to live in his home- coming with their strange accents, strange customs, strange food. This was his land and he didn't appreciate the strangeness that came with these creatures.

"I tink, I tink," Ringo mocked the Llama speaking in a mock Spanish accent. "Hmmmm, I think that you all need to learn to speak." the raccoon continued enunciating each word carefully.  Rondo glanced at the ground in shame, he was accustomed to Ringo's prejudice. He was a simple dog born in the inner city and he wished he could speak better. Ringo knew the barb would hit closely to Rondo's heart but he felt alienated from him and did not care.

"Enough," came a strong masculine voice. Chevy stepped into the sunlight near the front of his stall. He was the most beloved animal at the farm. No one questioned it. With the natural grace born of nobility, the stallion lifted his head toward the raccoon perched atop his stall. His golden mane caught the rays of the sun and nearly glowed with the brilliance of it. The raccoon receded slightly from the force of the stallion's gaze.

"Ringo, you call yourself a Native- born of this farm. These are your brethren. Every one of us is connected- created by the same Maker. We are all Natives, are we not? Of somewhere? You. Have. No. Right." Chevy said quietly, for he did not ever raise his voice.

Ringo snapped back to the present. Now, he was faced with an angry mob of miscellaneous animals gathered around him. He had surely insulted every one of them at some point. They glowered. They glared. They stood waiting for someone to decide how to proceed.

"Apology", someone shouted from the rear of the mob. He thought it may have been the goat.

"What if we have our own Sensitivity Training," Chevy suggested. Nods of approval moved throughout the group. "Then, Ringo will be more sensitive to the feelings of his brothers and sisters here," he continued.

The animals paused for only an instant, and then they began to administer Ringo's Sensitivity Training. One moment, they were surrounding him like an angry mob- the next, they converged upon him en masse. In the center of the ball of hair, fur, hooves, and toes, hey were hugging and tickling him. One after the next, they continued to embrace his surly form. Wooden at first, he resisted. Soon, however, he began to soften to their embraces. The hugs continued until he was overwrought with emotion. As quickly as the episode began, it ended. Abruptly, the animals drew away.

In the center of the pile of animals, stood the raccoon with his little arms flung around the Poodle's neck, crooning softly. Awkwardly, someone cleared their throat. Ringo slowly pulled his arms to his sides and smoothed his ruffled fur.

Rondo's laughed happily and his simple child-like smile widened. And he reached out and licked the raccoon with his long, wet tongue. A hush fell over the group, the Ringo of the morning would have launched into a tirade over such a blatent display of affection.

And then Ringo began to chuckle. First, a tiny release of air past his whiskers, "Heeeheeeheee." Then, it became a rocking belly laugh and he grasped his sides to contain himself. "Hawwhawwwhawwheeehee," he guffawed. And everyone joined in until the entire barnyard was sharing a collective laugh.