Our horses, ourselves
THE ASTRONOMER of Niner writes: “Subject: Saga of Big River Stables — I.
“For years we had horses. It started with one, and soon another, and then we started boarding horses for friends. Before long it seemed that we really had horses everywhere we turned. They sort of ‘grow’ on you.
“I usually headed off to teach classes early and didn’t mind feeding and caring for them before that half-hour drive to the Cities, where I taught physics and astronomy. I personally enjoyed the horses and, even more so, the people who boarded their horses with the Good Wife and me.
“Big River Stables was located on the south bank of the mighty Mississippi River. Yes, after making a turn at Pine Bend, the Mississippi River runs east-west for nearly 10 miles to join with the St. Croix before heading south again, winding on down towards New Orleans. I can honestly say that we lived south of the Mississippi.
“Flip, short for Phillip, had been a bull rider in his rodeo days. He had a Ford pick-em-up truck, and for his full-time occupation he drove semis back and forth to Kansas City with the US Mail. Because of his job, he wouldn’t risk drinking very much and driving. There were times when, after a day of working horses and heavy riding, Flip consumed more alcohol than he should have. He’d end up just sitting on the bench outside the barn, by the hitching post where we’d tie the horses up. He waited until his blood-alcohol lowered enough to safely drive home. Sometimes he fell asleep in the barn itself. Those hay bales were actually not very hard, and they had a sweet smell of freshly mown grass and a hint of clover.
“Flip was friendly, a well-built cowboy sort of fellow. He’d won a few belt buckles rodeo-ing and came to Big River Stables with Anna, the daughter of a friend of his. Anna owned a beautiful white Quarter Horse. Flip didn’t have his own horse at the time, but soon after hanging their saddles and equipment in the tack room, he couldn’t resist purchasing a Quarter Horse which he named ‘Whiskey.’ I rode Whiskey several times, and he seemed a good companion to the other horses we had here. He was a Quarter Horse that wouldn’t hesitate to just jump right out and go wherever he was pointed.
“Flip and Anna gave me a horse for my birthday when I turned 60. She was a rescue horse, and we named her Lucky — mostly because we were lucky to get her, and she was lucky to survive. Anna took riding lessons with her when Lucky was old enough. That was 20 years ago. Last summer, we gave Lucky to a youngster in Wisconsin, where she’ll get all the love and attention she needs.
“I remember the first time I fit a driving harness on Lucky. I planned to have her drive a small cart, replaced by a cutter — a one-horse open sleigh — when snow was on the ground. That first time is critical in a horse’s development. I adjusted the buckles as I went. I had the back strap in place and was arranging the breeching strap under her tail. I am not sure if Lucky thought I was giving her a wedgie or what, but she bolted — and along with her went the full shiny leather harness. She came back an hour later, probably because it was feeding time. She did not have any driving harness paraphernalia on her. I searched for two days, finding everything about a half-mile down the road. It was my good fortune to find the complete harness . . . and Lucky, well, she never became a good driving horse. I learned from that.
“We are out of the horse business now. We had to move from Big River Stables, but the memories did not move on. They live in our hearts and remind us of where the Good Wife and I lived for nearly 20 years. We moved on and still live along the shores of the Mississippi, farther downriver. But spirits of the horses and people at Big River Stables are indelibly etched on our souls.”
There & Here
The Sign on the Road to the Cemetery Said “Dead End” Division
CEE CEE of Mahtomidi: “Subject: Watch out for those slow birds.
“This sign might work well in Minnesota when the baby geese and ducks are practicing their waddling.
“Here in Florida, I am more on the lookout for tortoises, and for folks our age on tricycles and walkers.”
Our theater of seasons
WAYNE NELSON of Forest Lake reports: “This little guy felt the need to take a heated bath in the snow storm. Oh, that hot water must have felt good!”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Our Community of Strangers Division
RAFI’S AUNT BARBARA: “Subject: You’ve gone international.
“This is from a British cozy mystery I am reading (‘Wrongfully Infused,’ by HY Hanna): ‘How weird! I thought. What a strange coincidence that that term should be in the crossword. I’d heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon—when something new you’d never experienced or heard of before suddenly starts cropping up everywhere, straight after you’ve just encountered it.””
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: Interestingly and coincidentally, the other day we were listening to a CD recording of Agatha Christie’s “The Pale Horse” — novel in which, early on, one character describing the BM Phenomenon in almost exactly the same words GIGETTO ON LINCOLN used here, 29 years ago. Unlike GIGETTO, Ms. Christie failed to give it a clever name.
Or: The Lowest Common Consumer
THE MIGHTY WICKARD of “Blaine — Where Surely You Know I Won’t Call You Shirley”: “Subject: I’m cleaning on a jet pain.
“While doing an online preflight check-in, I saw a panel called ‘Advice to Passengers.’ It sounds as if updated restrictions mean Delta passengers will no longer be able to bring fireworks, ammunition, car batteries or household cleaners on board. Note: Please plan accordingly for your car-battery, compressed-gas-cylinder and household-cleaner requirements in flight.
“Remember back in the good old days, when the flight attendants would go up and down the aisle with a cart selling a full selection of car batteries and then stop by later to pick up your empty compressed-gas cylinders? In First Class, they’d even just give one to everybody.
“’Oh nice! 1985 Ford Bronco, please — and a Drano and an Easy-Off oven cleaner, too, if you don’t mind. Mine are almost empty.”’”
The verbing of America
Brand Name Division
RED’S OFFSPRING, north of St. Paul: “In the TV show ‘Bull,’ the defense attorneys were concerned that their client would appear too affluent when he took the stand. In discussing how to downgrade his attire, one of the lawyers offered this: ‘Let’s Sears him up a bit.’”
Could be verse!
5/7/5 Divison (x3)
Here’s TIM TORKILDSON, with a “haiku triptych”:
“the snowmelt puddles —
“drowning dead leaves and grasses;
“ruthless and chilly”.
“the snowmelt puddles —
“sparrows gather around it;
“bar brawls erupting”.
“the snowmelt puddles —
“capturing a pale dazed sun;
“not yellow, not white.”
Now entering Corn Dog Corner, where insults are wrapped in compliments, is THE GRAM WITH A THOUSAND RULES: “Subject: Three Cheers for our Copy Writer.
“Before I ever so happily accepted the offer of $32.50 per week to become the Continuity Director at a small Minneapolis radio station 70 years ago, the Station Manager had asked me for my job qualifications. However, he neglected to ask me if I knew how to type, a rather essential skill as it turned out. Oh, I had passed a rudimentary typing course in the 10th grade, but with no typewriter in our house, I’d had no practice since then. Remember, this was back before Wite-Out had been invented. If you made a mistake, you started over. However, if the salesman was standing behind you breathing his hot whiskey breath down your neck because he had been drinking martinis with the client all afternoon and he had promised his spots would air that very same afternoon, then you had to type really fast and to heck with starting over. Just strike out the offending mistake, and the announcer should be able to figure it out.
“As soon as the commercial was written, I would rush across the lobby, wait for the red light to go off outside the announce booth door and then fling the copy into the announcer’s waiting hand. This radio station was heavy with commercials, so I was kept quite busy all day dreaming up new copy from our salesmen’s hastily scribbled notes on the back of matchbooks and cocktail napkins.
“After about one month on the job, a trio of announcers came into my office and solemnly circled around me and my typewriter. After a moment’s silence, they all raised their arms and gave me three loud cheers. When I asked what that was all about, they said: ‘Congratulations! Today was the first day that none of your commercials had a typo!”
Now & Then
World History Division
GRANDMA PAT, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “As I continue my winter excavation into boxes of old family papers, I find some amazing items. The most recent treasure is a program and menu from a 1944 Jackson Day dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC
“My father’s ticket to this was #895, so it must have been a sizable gathering. Among the speakers were Henry Wallace, Quentin Reynolds, and Sam Rayburn.
“The menu started out with a half Texas grapefruit, and included Diamond Back Terrapin soup, celery, olives, grilled tomato, breast of capon and new lima beans.
“The list of National Committee members consisted of two people from each of 48 states, and two each from Alaska, Canal Zone, Hawaii, Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Next to the two names listed under the Philippines are asterisks. After the asterisks were these foreboding words: ‘Not heard from since the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.’”
Band Name of the Day: Whiskey Breath