The horse's pasture to the East...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


When I was a girl, I was the only girl. You're intrigued with that sentence, aren't you? Well, it was an interesting childhood, so being provocative comes naturally to me. I really was the only least in my family. I had brothers, boy cousins, and uncles who were all little girls in my Father's family or in mine. I was it, the focus of my Mother, my Grandmothers and the Aunts.

One half of me was very feminine too. I loved to rock my Tiny Tears doll to sleep and to dress my Betsy McCall doll in all the latest fashions. But my favorite was my Raggedy Ann. She'd been with me for as long as I could remember. I loved her until the threads holding her face together began to disintegrate and the stuffing came out. I loved her pretty eyes off and she lost most of her hair to my little fingers pulling and carrying her about with me. I still have her with the old band-aids stuck on, put there by my Nana (my Mom's Mom who was a career nurse). She did "emergency surgery" on my Raggedy Ann, saving her from certain death. Nana was my hero for that forever.


I can still remember how my Mother smelled when she went out. She wore Shalimar perfume, a deep, rich, elegant scent. She didn't have to curl her hair. It had a beautiful, soft natural wave to it. She'd put on her deep red lipstick, stop one more time to touch her hair while looking in the mirror, stop to kiss me and my little brother good bye and out they'd go, off to play Bridge or to go to dinner with friends. She wanted me to be feminine too, so I worked at it very hard for her.

I wore pretty dresses with bows tied in the back and real French smocking on the front, made by Nana. She could sew a dress even better than she could stitch a wound. I had a closet full of hand made clothes, fitted to me. They were green and white checks or pink with white lace, red velvet or yellow taffeta. I tried as hard as I could to be what they wanted me to be. I wore patent leather shoes and pretty white lace ankle socks.

But there was also the other side of me, the half that had to keep up with brothers and cousins who were all rough and tumble little boys with Fanner Fifties strapped to their waists and and coon skin caps on their heads. They all had real leather baseball gloves, of which I was very envious. I loved to play baseball! And they had bicycles...with big fat tires that had spokes you could clothespin cards to so the wheels would make these loud 'BBBRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr' noises when they went round.

They'd play Army with these little green plastic men, blowing them up with cherry bombs on the Fourth of July. And they'd run races or climb trees. I couldn't just stand there and watch them. I HAD to keep up and do my best to win too. So out the door I'd go, promising to stay neat and clean for church or school. And then I'd go climb a tree, going up one branch higher than my brother just to prove I could. Or I'd race him to the stop sign on the corner and back, doing my best to beat him. Most of the time he won, but sometimes I'd beat him if I really, really pushed myself as hard as I could.

And nearly every time I'd do something to one of the pretty dresses I wore. I'd tear the bow on a branch when I was coming down or fall and skin my knees...oh catastrophe! I'd not only get dirt on my newest dress but my knees would bleed and ruin my new lace socks. And I'd scuff up my patent leather shoes too. As hard as I tried to be good, I'd still forget and work even harder at keeping up with the 'guys'.

Not much has changed, in all these years. As much as I work at being pretty (much harder to do these days than it used to be!), at remembering to make sure my hands are clean and my shoes are polished, I stop off at my barn to throw hay before we go into town, forgetting to watch where I stepped (with the inevitable consequences!) or get hay stuck in my hair and on the back of my new sweater. Or maybe Lucky will stop his eating long enough to lean down and carefully exchange breath with me, leaving a smudge on the end of my nose that I'm completely oblivious to until John patiently points it out to me, trying not to laugh.

There's still some part of me that  likes to play hard, only now the 'boys' weigh in at a thousand pounds. After spending all this time with them, watching them in the field in the morning when they play with each other, I have a better idea of what my Mom meant when she'd say " Alright you two. Stop horsing around!" When horses play, the ground shakes and, sometimes, there are bite marks that take the hair off and kick marks that leave dents. God, how I love to be one of with them.. synchronize with them and move with them. I'm still doing my best to beat them to the stop sign. I just plain flat out love the game!

This evening Lucky and I played for a long, lovely hour. We had some very nice firsts too. Lucky did his first @ Liberty Sideways, all along the front of the barn! And our Traveling Circles are improving too. We did it twice, the first time better than the second. But I think that was location. The first time was in the play ground area between the arena and round corral where there was more room and some nice little hills. Lucky loved that. But he loves the grass more...sigh.

I've been trying to learn how to use the grass as an incentive for him, letting him stop to munch between tasks and then using the excitement of moving on to the next even greener and more lush grass area to play yet another game in between. We're in that in between place, where it works sometimes and sometimes he wins the game by putting his head down to munch before we get to our goal. Learning how to time things so that he thinks he's part of the process is not easy. And as we go further into it, it gets more complicated too.

It's my job to keep being provocative, prevent our time together from becoming the Seven Deadly Chores . I'm enjoying the puzzle that I need to solve, learning how to use my hands lightly, how to release as soon as he tries. But sometimes it does get frustrating when he decides to test me to see if I'm paying attention. Figuring out how NOT to be the 'Minister of No' and how to be the 'Ambassador of Yes' is the trick, at least for right now. The timing has to be just right and the excitement has to be just enough to keep him interested and not so much that I blow him up.

What to do...what to do. At least I'm not ruining anymore beautiful handmade dresses when I play with the boys anymore! I'll sleep on it tonight and, maybe, I'll wake up in the morning with some new ideas to use.

I can't wait to see where the game is going to take us!

I am, as always, yours...Nancy, still the only girl in the yard, running to keep up and smiling even when 'he' wins!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Sometimes numbers bring transition with them. Yesterday was my birthday. I hit the big, scary number of sixty. But something else happened that made it just another number. I didn't even think of it until today, although more than a hundred of my friends on Facebook and my family and some of my friends sent greetings via all kinds of tech mail and regular mail.

My best four legged friend died in my arms. Her name was Gypsy. She was sixteen and nearly seventeen, so her life had been long and lovely. And she died on the front seat of my truck too. It was one of her favorite places in all the world to be, well except maybe for the top of the compost pile of horse poop.

She was my "truck driving dog". Everyone downtown knew her because we had a store. She went with me every day, hanging out the window of my red truck smiling, tongue hanging out and smelling the wind. When we walked in to open up people would stop to say " Hi Gypsy! How's it going girl? You going to sell a lot for Miss Nancy today?" I used to tell people that she sold as many pieces of Art and handmade furniture as I did.

She'd meet people at the door with one of her toys in her mouth and wag her tail, smiling around whatever gooey stuffed animal she was carrying, and then she'd escort them to whatever newest piece we had set up front.

I never had to use a leash with her either. She was one of those dogs who, when I met her as a puppy, ran up to me and sat on my foot, claiming me as her own. I carried a leash with us since there's a leash law here, but every cop in town knew her too. No one ever said a thing about her being without her leash. She was mine and she knew it.

I always kept my gallery door open so people knew we were in but she never once left me, not even during the horse parade...our personal favorite for downtown events. All of those lovely smells and awesome creatures but she'd stand there with me watching.

She was one of my "quiet heroes". She saved my life twice. It wasn't in the newspaper. But it happened just the same. The first time was when I'd sent my help home on a Saturday evening. It'd been a good day for us sales wise, the weather was nice and I just couldn't see making them stay for the whole time.

I was there by myself. The door was still open and I was getting ready to close up. As I walked towards the front of the store, three men came in. They split up walking down both sides and the middle of the store. They were not the kind of people who usually showed interest in my gallery and design store and they were, all three, dirty and high on something.

I was in the center of the store, away from the phone and had...very foolishly!...left my cell phone lying on the counter. They were there to do no good and I was alone...except for Gypsy. She came roaring from behind my desk at the checkout counter, right over the top of the counter! And she meant business too. I'd never seen my dog looking like that. She looked like a hound from hell with her eyes red and her teeth bared.

She leaped at the closest man and knocked him clean off his feet! She didn't go for his arm either. She went for his neck. She was going for the kill! He let out a scream and hit her, throwing her against a sofa (thank heavens!). The other two turned tail and ran out the door. He took off on his hands and knees with her biting him in his, umm, nether regions HARD. He left bits of his blue jeans and skin behind!

I called the police. They came and took a report but never found out who it was. As they left, each one of them stopped to salute Gypsy and to give her a pat. Later one of them came back and gave her an "official" police collar to wear. She loved it too. She wore it for years until the buckle broke and it was lost in the woods when we were hiking.

She also saved me when I thought I'd ruined us because my business had failed and I'd lost our house, my income and retirement. I was scared to death of loosing my family too because of the stress of failing financially like that. John is my best friend though. He never had any intention of ever leaving. It was in my head. I wasn't used to failure like that. And it took me down the road that has led me here, to horses and Parelli and being an artist again instead of being a gallery/designer person.

Gypsy followed me around for months while I tried to find my way back to myself. She laid in my lap, brought me her best toys, curled up against my back when I laid down to sob my eyes out. She never gave up on me. She waited patiently for me to come back to myself and gave me what she It was total, unconditional love. That was when she gave me my heart back.

And she came to get me when Spirit, my first horse, stroked out and fell into a pond. I jumped into the pond with Spirit, trying to hold her head above the water...hoping someone would find us and help. Spirit died in my arms that day too. It was old age that took her but I thought it was me again, my ineptitude. Gypsy stood with me in the water, watching and waiting. And she stood with me when the neighbor came down the road with his backhoe and helped me get her out of the pond and buried her on her favorite hill. I planted an oak tree over Spirit. I'm planting an apple tree over Gypsy. She's buried where she used to lay in the pasture, watching the pond and the sky...watching whatever it is dogs who love farms watch. I can see it from my arena, my study/studio here in my funny, little crooked house that used to be a barn and from my bedroom window too.

How do you say goodbye to an old friend who's lifted you up so many times?

All of these images are here because John had the camera with him. I didn't know. I was having a hard enough time staying on task yesterday morning. I was focused on Gypsy. I knew we were going to the Vet's, taking one more truck ride together. All I could think of was trying to find some way to save her the same way she'd saved me so many times. But the clock doesn't turn back on age. It only goes forward. It was time for her to pay the same price of admission we all come to sooner or later.

She was very frail. She'd stopped eating for five days and nothing we'd fixed could cox her to try, not even her beloved dog cookie jar in the kitchen on the counter. And she'd spent all night Thursday throwing up and having terrible bouts of diarrhea. She was in a full system failure and I couldn't stop it. All I could do was hold her during the night and help her leave the next day.

Our Vet was wonderful. He knew she was afraid of being there, so he came out to the truck and honored our wishes to send her off in her beloved truck seat. I held her. I'm afraid I couldn't talk to him, not even to say thank you. All I could do was cry.

She insisted on walked with me to the barn on her last morning. Nothing was going to keep her down. I was her's...she was mine. It was a slow and uneven walk, but there she shadow.

I've been told there's a rainbow bridge for our animal friends to cross when it's time to leave this Earth. I have no doubt that Gypsy marched over it, tail wagging and carrying a ghost of her favorite stuffed animal, all gooey and chewed on. And I know she'll be waiting when it's my turn too, front and center, right in the middle of all the other animals I've loved.

When I said "Let's go for a ride!", the tail came up and she turned and faced the door, ready to go for our last ride together. We drove in with the window down so she could smell the air. I held her up so she could see out too. And when she left, I was the last thing she saw. I watched her beautiful light go out of her eyes. I was there, all the way, for her like she always was for me.

Good bye glossy girl. There will never be any "thank you"s big enough or grand enough for all the love you gave me. I'll miss you Gypsy.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, owned by Gypsy, Newman, Joe, Lucky, Apache, Willow, Indie, Annie, Buddy and Phoebe...smiling because I am one lucky woman!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Time. It's like water from a faucet, isn't it? Sometimes it stands still and drips, no water running. It's just there, waiting for us. And then it may drip away, slowly filling the sink but only one measured drop at a time. Or it runs FAST! It flies away, swirling around and running down the drain, gone forever. If you try to catch it with your hands you might be able to hold some of it for just a few moments, but then it runs between your fingers, making a mess.

I'm hitting one of the big numbers this year. Sixty. I don't know why I'm paying attention to it. I've never cared one way or the other about the numbers before. I sailed through twenty. Thirty was a cinch. Forty? Blew it off. Too busy to worry about it. Fifty? I was so happy to survive forty nine, fifty was a true celebration for me! So why the worry about sixty?

I guess it's because I've discovered a new passion. For the first time ever I wish I could have a few of the years back. I love my what I'm doing with them that much! I have a new dream too. I would dearly love to be a certified Parelli Professional. Good teachers are needed so much in the horse world. Time, for maybe the only time in my life, may be an issue. You see, you have to put in the hours of dedicated practice to be able to teach other people and to do it well and safely. It's the "hours" part of that sentence that trips me up. But maybe I'm looking at the mountain on the horizon instead of looking at the path to get there.

I'm going to work harder at changing my perspective. Don't worry so much about the far goal. Let it wait. Spend my energy on the steps right in front of me. Break it down into a thousand Lego pieces and build from there. I can do that. I'm good with fine motor control, spatial concepts and visualizing. I'm going back to the steady drip...drip...drip, slow and easy. My faucet is no where ready to turn off.

Sixty? I'll think of it in terms that are smaller. Sixty seconds. Sixty minutes. Easy. I can do that one standing on my head, hands behind my back. Drop the burden of sixty years. Let it go and be...just be. ahhhhh...better. Much better.

Nothing like horses for making you honest, focused and for leveling the playing field. All they care about is now, not the past, not the Grain? Now. Grass? Now. Water? Now. Games? Now. Scratch the itchy places? Now. Stand together, breathing? Now.

Tiny Legos, tiny drips, tiny pieces and moments one at a time...NOW.

Principals, purpose and time are the tools of teaching. Always put the relationship first. Use the natural power of focus. Time. Yeah. I can do that.

I am, ever yours, Nancy...past the crisis and moving on, smiling and shaking my head (Always was good at multi tasking!)