NEWSISH — Marilyn Armstrong

In an unexpected bow to America’s need for clean air and including a desperate attempt to make people stop watching the impeachment hearings, President Trump announced he is banning automobiles and going back to the full-scale manufacturing buggies.

And buggy whips.

“All the out-of-work wheelwrights, carpenters, horse breeders, and horseshoe makers,” he announced, “will be back on the job! We will also need millions of guys to clean up the horseshit.”

As a note for non-horse owners, a horse produces about eight piles of manure a day totaling 50 pounds, more or less.

Every day. All year. In all seasons. I please that without horseshit cleaner-uppers, the entire world would be completely covered with horse do-do in just a few years. I’m not sure how many, but someone once made that calculation I’ve just forgotten who and when. Or where.

That means for each horse in the U.S., it will create about nine tons of manure every year. This can be used as fertilizer,  to make bricks, and especially as fuel with a higher heating value than seasoned hardwood. Plus, the resultant ash is an excellent soil additive.

Auto manufacturers ignored the announcement as General Motors kept rolling out the hybrids. Simultaneously, forty of Trump’s favorite Republican cronies cheered, promising this proposal would produce a massive job surge as well as a perfect, renewable source for heating homes.


Whoever is speaking for the White House these days — Trump himself maybe? — assured reporters that this administration has always been about horseshit, something about which many commentators could finally agree.

WHERE’S THE BUS STOP? Marilyn Armstrong

This is the kind of normal question that anyone might ask in any town anywhere. Except if you ask it here, the responder will look at you quizzically. Because honest Abraham of Civil War fame, we don’t have any public transportation in this town.

If you need to go somewhere, you have a choice.

You can walk. You can hop on your bike, assuming it isn’t the middle of winter with roads full of snow and ice and you’re still young enough to do it. You can saddle up your horse (or hitch up the buggy) … or jump in whatever vehicle you own.

That’s it. I’m told that way back before we were living anywhere, they used to have a bus. I would certainly not object to having a mini-bus so old folks — like me — could get into town without having a driver. So far, no go, but I live in hope.

No Uber. No Lyft. No taxi. Nothing unless you drive. There are train tracks, but the trains don’t stop here and anyway, they are all freight trains, not for passengers.

We have tracks, but lack trains

Most people don’t take their horses to town, but it has happened. It makes the horses nervous, though and carrying back the groceries can be a bit clumsy. So mostly, it’s feet, trucks, and cars. We’re about 3-1/2 miles out of the village and we are definitely past hoofing it.

This is casket truck. Everyone needs a traveling casket, right?

Or maybe something smaller?

Public transportation isn’t part of the rural lifestyle. At some point, the trains did stop here. I only know it because we have a converted train station that’s now a real estate office. But once upon a time, it was an actual passenger station.

Does a school bus count?

School bus, in town. I think you need to be attending a local school to get a lift!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

TO CAMP OR NOT TO CAMP – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Camp

I always wanted to go camping. All my friends went camping. My brother and sister went camping. I so envied them.

I stayed home. My mother felt camp was where you sent a child that needed “the experience” of “being away” from home (like my clingy sister), or who had a troubled home life (like my brother). Since I didn’t seem to need those experiences and always managed to find something to do, I didn’t need camping.

Garry’s horse

But I wanted to go. I wanted to swim and be out in the country. All through August, every kid was gone for weeks at a time. It was lonely.

Many years later, I tried to explain it to my mother and I think she finally understood that “camp” wasn’t where you sent psychologically deficient children, but a place for normal kids to have fun. Play games. Learn to swim.

She had never considered that.

I suppose it was a compliment, but if ever I experienced a truly back-handed compliment, that was it.

I sent Owen to camp because I didn’t go. Not only did I send him to camp, but I sent him to the camp to which I would have given an arm and both legs to go. It was a horseback riding camp. He didn’t like it. Too rough and tumble.

We always try to give our kids what we wanted and it almost never works the way we intended it. You just can’t win.

We try so hard and somehow, we manage to get it at least a little wrong. Maybe that’s the way parenthood is. You never stop learning. I still haven’t stopped learning. I don’t think I could stop if I tried.

The dock at River Bend

As a child, I wanted freedom. The less adult interference in my life, the happier I was. The fewer parents around, the more I learned. If you gave me a heap of books and as many horses as I could wrap my legs around, I was in heaven.

That wasn’t what Owen wanted. By the time Kaity was growing up, I didn’t have the money to send her anywhere. And she was more like Owen insofar as she didn’t want to leave home and the idea of being with a bunch of kids she didn’t know was not appealing.

Lucky for her I didn’t have the money to send her anywhere!

DOWN ON THE FARM – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Thursday – Farm

Although most of the land around here is pretty poor for farming, there are some good areas, especially alongside the Blackstone and a few other areas. Also, this is THE area for apple orchards and we don’t do too badly with peaches and other pitted fruits.

Where there is room, we grow some of the most delicious corn anywhere. It’s called “butter and sugar” corn because it’s yellow and white and very sweet. This would normally be the season for it, but it’s been raining so much, I think it has slowed the growth. It will grow, but I think a lot of it will be late.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – When we got there, they were sold out. You need to get there early!

This used to be a big dairy area, too. We still have several local dairy farms. The cows like to lounge in the pastures. They don’t stand around. They loll on the grass, occasionally mooing at each other.

Which is pretty funny because if you moo back, you can have an entire conversation.

Veggies in the sunshine

When it’s hot, they get herded to the other field on the opposite side of the road where, it’s shady.  They have a small brook over there and like to wade in the water. In really hot weather, they stand there a lot of the day, up to their hocks in cool water. Not such

a bad life, as cow living goes. They are also friendly and like being petted. I think they are milked by hand.

You can buy milk and fresh eggs on the same farm. The milk is raw, unpasteurized. Not homogenized. If Garry wouldn’t drink the cream off the top — leaving just skim milk that nobody, not even the dogs, will drink — I’d buy more of it.

THE OLD WEST AND THE WAGONS AS THEY ROLLED – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Wagon

It was the first thing that came into my head when I saw the word “wagon.” That’s right. Westerns! Wagon trains and buckboard wagons with teams of horses.

Wagon Train brought us Ward Bond, Robert Horton, and others. Randolph Scott was offered the role originally but turned it down. It worked out to be a good deal for Ward Bond and it got Robert Horton acting as well as singing.

My favorite individual theme was “Rawhide” as sung by The Blues Brothers with all the whips at the bar in the south. Remember? I tend to get Wagon Train and Rawhide confused. They were entirely different shows, but they “felt” very similar. Maybe it was the costumes.

I think the happiest day of our two trips to Arizona was the day we spent in Tombstone.

Here’s a little special something for all of us who watched and loved those Western shows. It’s funny that I can’t remember any of the plots or stories, but I can sing ALL of the songs!

I was a Western movie addict as was Garry. I loved the men, but really, I loved the horses and those old dusty towns. Mostly, though, the horses. I think if you just showed me an hour of horses, I’d have been a very happy camper. Wasn’t it amazing how the streets were not full of mud and horseshit? And after they drove the cattle through … who cleaned up that mess?

And finally, I found this little treasure on YouTube. I’m sure there’s more and some of these aren’t in very good condition … but if those were the days when Westerns were the name of the game … roll ’em out, head ’em in …

And all because of wagons. Yee haw!

MOSTLY TAILS AND A TONGUE, IN BLACK & WHITE – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:
Tongues and Tails


Garry got the best horse’s tails, but I got Duke’s tail and tongue. He has an amazing tail. Not a half bad tongue either.

I also had some great cow tails too, but my favorite didn’t work in black and white. He was so patchy, black and white, he literally blended with the foliage. You could see his tail, but his entire head got lost in the dappled foliage. So that particular cow didn’t make the cut.

Photo: Garry Armstrong. That’s one great horsetail! 

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Another great horsetail

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong – Cows also have tails 

Duke’s glorious tail – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Duke’s ever-ready tongue. Watch out! All food belongs to him! Photo: Marilyn Armstrong 

 

 

THE NEW WHICH WAY CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee has cut back on the number of blogs she is publishing. Honestly, I have no idea she did so much for so long and I wish her the best.

So … we have a takeover by SonOfABeach and I will add a few things just so he won’t feel lonely!

Which Way Challenge: New Host


The car is crooked because the driveway isn’t flat. Deal with it. 

The horse knows the way 

Changing our car … 

From inside looking out at UMass Memorial Hospital 

 

HORSE SENSE – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn and Garry wrote a blog a while back about watching one of their favorite movies, “Rustler’s Rhapsody.” It’s also one of my favorite movies. They introduced it to me.

I’ve seen it dozens of times and I  love introducing it to any friend who hasn’t seen it before.

It’s a very loving parody of all the great western movies of the 30’s and 40’s.  An ode to the singing cowboy. The closing music over the credits is one of my all time favorite songs, “The Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys”. I swear to God I tear up a little every time I hear it.

I was one of those little kids with the Roy Rogers cowboy hats and a pair of six-shooters.

Every day when I was four or five, I’d strap on my six guns, put on my hat and go out in the backyard and do my “patrol.” You’d be amazed by the number of bad guys and rustlers I ran off my property. When I’d come back home (my back porch), my Grandpa would have already left me my “lunch.”

A single Necco Wafer. We ran a lean ranch.

I listened to the song again after I read the post and it got me to thinking.

There’s a great line in the song that says “Roy, and Trigger, we loved you. And Hoppy we saved all our dimes. Saturday afternoon double features. And we sat through each movie two times.”

I’m tearing up again. They acknowledged Trigger, but what about the other great horses? Silver, Scout, Buttermilk, Topper, Buckshot, Wildfire, and of course, Champion, the Wonder Horse.

Think about it. The horses were really the smartest ones in the movies. Silver was always pulling the Lone Ranger out of the river after he falls off a cliff and is unconscious. Scout is always getting Tonto out-of-town at the last minute after the townsfolk finished beating the shit out of him because the Lone Ranger sent him to town to get some “information.”

I’ve often wondered what they thought about their riders, seeing them doing the same stupid things over and over again.

TRIGGER: Silver, Scout, hey guys! What’s up?

SILVER: Same ole, same ole. Just pulled the Ranger out of the river again before the bad guys found him.  Fifth time I’ve had to do it this month.

TRIGGER: How’d he end up in the river this time?

SILVER: Same reason as always. Got his head grazed by a bullet, fell off a cliff, and knocked himself out. You’d think he’d learn.

SCOUT: Humans, very hard to train. Take my guy, Tonto. The Ranger is always sending him into town to get some “information.” And every time he does, the townsfolk beat the shit out of him, knock him out. I have to drag his ragged ass back to camp. You’d think by now he’d say “Fuck you Kemosabe, you go to town and get the shit beat out of you.” But no, not Tonto. A real type-B personality.

SILVER: What about your guy, Trigger? What does he do that annoys you?

TRIGGER: Not much really. I do get tired of having to rear up on my hind legs and whinny every time we leave to go somewhere. I mean, most of the time there’s nobody around to even see it. What’s the point?

SILVER: I hear that. My guy does that all the time. Drives me nuts.

SCOUT: Tonto tries to do that too. I just ignore him.

SILVER: So, Trigger, I got a question. I’ve always been curious. Is Roy, uh, how do I put it? Um, gay?

TRIGGER: What?! No!

SCOUT: Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

TRIGGER: Why would you think that?

SILVER: Well, I mean, come on. Look at how he dresses. He’s very stylish for a cowboy. And he’s into musical theater. He sings in every one of his movies. I’m just saying …

TRIGGER: What about your guy? He basically wears a unitard!

SILVER: Point taken.

SCOUT: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

TRIGGER: And what about Dale Evans?

SILVER: Could just be his beard. Ever seen them kiss?

TRIGGER: Well, no, but…

SILVER: The only one I’ve ever seen him kiss is you.

TRIGGER: Hey! I’m a confident heterosexual horse!

SILVER: So that means’ you’ve done it with Buttermilk?

SCOUT: Oh, I would so tap that filly. She’s hot. Get em up, Scout!

TRIGGER: Uh, well, not yet but ….

SILVER: Look, it’s all cool. There’s something else I’ve always wondered about. Why is it that all the people in the towns ride horses — except Pat Brady, who drives a broken-down World War II jeep?  What the hell is that all about? What year is it, anyway?

SCOUT: And why do you make Bullet run alongside the jeep? I mean, we’re built to run 30 to 40 miles an hour. He’s just a German Shepard! Why not let him ride in the jeep?

Hey Roy, I can run fast, but give me a break!

I guess these are questions that will never get answered.

And for the record, I am not suggesting that Roy Rogers was gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

I was just horsing around.

PACE OR TROT? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Pace

It looks the same to you, but it isn’t.

Here’s the scoop:


The pace is a lateral two-beat gait. In the pace, the two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together, unlike the trot, where the two legs diagonally opposite from each other move forward together.

In both the pace and the trot, two feet are always off the ground.


Got that?

Watch the legs!

If you aren’t a racing enthusiast — specifically of sulky racing — or just a casual horse rider, this isn’t going to really matter much. But if you are a trainer for trotting horses, pacers and trotters are not allowed on the same course. And if you are planning on an equestrian career, how the horse leads at a trot (or pace) matters and you have to know how to get your horse to shift leads.

I could sometimes do it instinctively but never learned to do it intentionally. I wasn’t that good.

Two pacers

I used to ride, but to be fair, I never really cared much about which feet were doing what. If I were jumping or in competition, I would have cared, but for the purposes of most riders, this is not all that critical.

Or maybe it is and I just never got technical enough about the movement of horses to know the difference?

Bet you thought this was going to be about pacing the floor or something, didn’t you. Hah!

Gotcha!

HANGING LOOSE – CEE’S FREE AND EASY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Free and Easy


Free and easy. Some days, I can’t even remember what that felt like. I’ll have to fix that!

Our backyard lawn swing was the best place to sit and read!

The perfect free and easy spot anywhere – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Just rolling!

Hanging out on horseback

PARENTAL ANIMAL PHOBIAS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My father was afraid of horses, so of course I had to learn how to ride. I was terrified of snakes, so my son has had a lifelong fascination with reptiles. Not surprising.

My father witnessed someone being kicked by a horse and killed. Needless to say, he became phobic about riding horses. When I expressed an interest in riding at around age 10, he forbade it. He was rarely this emphatic about anything.

My mother and grandfather didn’t think I should have to live by my father’s fears. So they went behind Dad’s back and took me for riding lessons near our summer-house in CT. I studied English style walk, trot and canter in a ring. Then I decided to follow my close friend into jumping classes. I never got very far. I was not a great rider. I was always a bit afraid of the horses and they always knew it. The result was that I had little control over the horses I rode.

English style riding and jumping

My father never found out about my riding and I eventually stopped. But when I was in college, I had a wonderful riding experience in, of all places, New York City. A friend of my mother’s rode in Central Park and asked me to join her. There is a large reservoir in Central Park that goes from the East side to the West side of town. There is also a long bridal path that goes around the entire perimeter of the reservoir.

Most horseback riding in the Eastern U.S. is ring riding or trail riding, which is basically a walk in the woods but on a horse. The NYC bridal path gave you the opportunity to just ride on a straightaway for miles. As an added treat, once the horses reached the halfway point and realized they were heading home, they would break into a gallop. What a treat! It was awesome.

I pretty much stopped riding after college. I did enjoy it but it wasn’t a real passion for me. I think my father’s fear rubbed off enough on me to dampen my enthusiasm for the sport.

Me riding western style with my son on one of our trips to the Western U.S.

When it came to my turn as a parent, I got to expose my kids to a different animal phobia – snakes. When I was about ten years old, I stepped on a snake and gave myself a scare. I started having nightmares about snakes and a full-blown phobia was born. I would scream and run if I saw even a photo of a snake.

From a very early age, my son, David, was fascinated by snakes and other reptiles. I obviously couldn’t share that interest with him. Then in 1989, when David was nine, I started taking the anti-depressant Prozac. I first realized that the medication was working when I suddenly came across a live snake and realized that I wasn’t afraid anymore. I even petted a boa constrictor my kids and I saw at a local mall. My son was stunned but ecstatic. My phobia was gone. It had been part of my anxiety based depression.

David and I started reading about snakes together and soon David asked to have one as a pet. Once we made sure David understood how to take care of it (because I certainly wasn’t going to), we got our first of several pythons, Turbo. At 37, David now has two snakes, one a python, three Geckos and a Bearded Dragon lizard. He has become quite a reptile expert and sometimes even goes to herpetology meetings with breeders and other aficionados.

David today with his current albino python, Shayna

My mother and grandmother were terrified of cats but, while I loved cats, I prefer dogs and never became a true cat person. However, my fear of snakes inspired a real passion in my son. So I guess it served a purpose – the creation of a positive and gratifying hobby for David.

NOT FOR US THE GYPSY LIFE

Once upon a time, there was romance to the Gypsy life. Your wagon, your people, on the road forever. A culture shared. A world with music, dancing, and the horizon as your world. These days, when people talk about “hitting the open road,” they are discussing a truck. A big truck, from approximately 20 feet (a very small one) to maybe 40 (more?) feet … which is about the size of big trucks you see hastening from city to city on the roads.

gypsy wagon with hohrse

©Gipsy-Caravan

I might have gotten my head wrapped around the horse and wagon, but I’m sure the truck wouldn’t do it for me. I know it has become quite trendy to sell everything and pack it all in a recreational vehicle, otherwise known as an “RV.” I’ve also noticed that the romance with the road tends to last a few months at most and the rest of the time is spent looking for somewhere to settle down.

America’s roads are, for the most part, not romantic and you can’t just park your RV anywhere you like. It isn’t self-sufficient. It needs pumping. Gasoline. Electricity. Water. There are places you can stay. They aren’t beautiful and they aren’t free.

When I think about giving up my roots and hitting the open road … selling it all and taking that big old gypsy wagon, er, RV … down the endless highway, my whole life stuffed in it … rolling place to place, sleeping wherever we find ourselves and waking to watch the sun rise somewhere, I start making charts, budgets, schedules. I calculate the price of gasoline. Do you know how much it costs to run an RV? It’s not how many miles to the gallon. More like how many gallons to the mile. Seriously — that’s a lot of money.

Much as I love them, I don’t see us hitching up the horses, either. As a start, I would have no idea how to hitch up the horses. I have a feeling it isn’t as easy as it looks in the movies. Actually, come to think about it, how often have you seen the star or starlet of a movie actually hitching the horses to a wagon?

Driving them? Maybe, but getting those big, heavy harnesses on? That’s what the crew does, I’m sure. Giddyup!

We have dogs. There we are, rolling down the long road, singing while watching the gas gauge drop, We realize one of more of the dogs is restless. Is he or she serious? Or just messing with our heads? Do we want to take a chance on guessing wrong? Our dogs are smart enough to think it’s a hoot to get us to stop the wagons so they can get outside and run around, day or night. Their cheerful barks will surely be the hit of the RV park.

roma-gypsy-wagon-caravan

With no doggy door, no fenced yard, it’s us, the dogs, the leashes, and the weather.

“Please, go, it’s late, I’m tired, I want to go to bed,” while Bonnie snickers at me as only a Scottie can. And then there is the matter of bathrooms. My husband has a thing about the bathroom. He loves them. Big, comfortable ones with a spacious shower and unlimited hot water. Room to spread out. That leaves me searching for a private spot in the bushes.

One more minor issue: someone — I’m guessing me — has got to pump out the head, fill the water tanks. Hook up to the electricity. Buy groceries. Dog food. Cook meals in a tiny kitchen galley. I don’t much want to cook even with in a fully equipped kitchen. Will I rediscover the joy of cooking in the galley of an RV? I doubt it. I don’t think Garry would last a week. I might wear out even sooner.

So let’s say we bought a small truck, in this case, a 26-footer. This is what our new home would look like — or at least, sort of.

The gypsy life is a great idea. You should definitely try it.

Please send me postcards!

MORE FRIENDS – A SATURDAY SWITCH – PHOTOGRAPHY GARRY ARMSTRONG

PHOTO CHALLENGE: FRIEND

Photographs by Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Garry and I used to ride. Horseback. We rode horses. I started riding pretty young and before I got good at it, got pretty broken trying to find my way. I dragged Garry to take riding lessons with me when we were both in our fifties and it was great. He took to it like a duck to water. After watching westerns his whole life, he could now ride the high country with the best of them.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

At some point in the mid 1990s, I had one nasty accident that completely unglued my spine. Riding, I was told, was out. Not just sort of out. Really, truly completely absolutely O-U-T. I’d heard this before, but I’d cheated because I really love horses. But this doctor was serious. He said one little fall and that would be “it” for walking.

That hurt. I have always loved horses. The smell of barns, the feel of a horse under me, the way they gather their muscles to make the next move. How you can feel their intentions in your feet and legs. I love the velvet of their noses and how they take food off your palm with those big soft lips.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Last night, more or less out of the blue, the granddaughter emailed me to say they were having an event at The Barn and would we like to come. Barn? What barn?

It turns out she is volunteering at a horse barn down the road, just over the Rhode Island line. “She’s learning to ride,” I told Garry. “It’s genetic. My mother rode. I rode. She can’t help herself. She needs a horse.”

He looked a little puzzled. “You show me a young woman volunteering at a barn and I will show you a young woman trying to work off riding lessons.” It’s a thing, young women and horses.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Lad with local “unicorn”

It also turned out she also needs a portrait lens for her camera. I can’t give her one because I don’t own a camera that size or style. In fact, the camera she has was my last full-size camera. I did tell her there’s a lot of Canon camera and lenses on sale these days — new and used — since so many people are changing to smaller cameras.I thought we might just be able to snag a lens for her. If she has time to drop by.

Garry took pictures. I took a few too. I got a delicious scent of horse barn while Garry’s thinking taking riding lessons again. He deserves it. Go Garry! It was a better than usual Saturday out here in the country.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

BRING BACK BUGGIES

Not the news, June 2017

In an unexpected  bow to America’s need for clean air, President Trump announced he is banning automobiles accompanied by a massive return to manufacturing buggies.

“All the out-of-work wheelwrights, carpenters, horse breeders, and horseshoe makers,” he announced, “will be back on the job! We will also need millions of guys to clean up the horseshit.” As a note for non horse owners, a horse produces about eight piles of manure a day totaling 50 pounds, more or less. Every day. All year. In all seasons.

That means each horse creates about nine tons of manure per year which can be used as fertilizer,  to make bricks, and especially as fuel — with a higher heating value than seasoned hardwood. Plus, the resultant ash is an excellent soil additive.

Auto manufacturers ignored the announcement as General Motors kept rolling out the hybrids. Simultaneously, forty of Trump’s favorite Republican cronies cheered, promising this proposal would produce a massive job surge as well as a perfect, renewable source for heating homes.

Sean Spicer assured reporters that this administration has always been about horseshit, something with which many commentators could (finally) agree.