When I was a little girl, I was horse crazy. I was one of those little girls who imagined a pony would clip-clop down the street to me on Christmas morning, and be tied to the walnut tree in my side yard when I got up. When I was seven, eight and nine, I asked for farm sets for Christmas, and I got them from Santa. Daddy fixed me up a place in the basement of our house (an unfinished basement where the ancient huge freezer sat, daddy's workbench was, the water softener was, the welding kit, and a primitive toilet and shower). There, he hung two old doors horizontally, where I laid out my farmyards while I sat on a stool and played for hours. I had a barn at either end on each door, and fencing and horses and cows and pigs, and goats, and of course, chickens. Even today I have one of the goats I played with then up on my windowsill in the kitchen.
I always had horse pictures in my room, and I dreamed of horses. Ideally I would have had seven, a different one for every day of the week. I wanted to be Liz Taylor in National Velvet, and I wanted to BE the "real" Velvet Brown from the Enid Bagnold book, who is given ponies by a rich elderly man. I wanted to have a warm stable with stalls for each, and their own little paddocks, and I wanted them to be CALLED paddocks, and not "corrals" or "pens", as we do here. I wanted to do nothing but get up in the morning and muck out stalls, and braid manes (except that I could never braid) and be called something exciting like "Scout" and have pigtails that flew behind me when I rode.
Then, when I was twelve, my dad took me to the Kansas City Stockyards one day. We often went there because his best friend worked there, and because I loved them. As you came around the Central Street bridge to the James Street bridge, I would roll down the window and breathe in the smell of hundreds of cattle pooping in their pens, along with thousands of hogs and sheep. I loved the smell. And then one day we went there and looked at a sorrel horse with only one eye, young, strong, running around in his pen. And before I knew it, my dad was pulling out his wallet and 75.00 passed over, and home came that horse to my grandma's farm. One of the boys who trucked him out there got on and rode him around for a minute, to prove he was broke. He was, barely. So I got my first horse, Shorty Blaze.. After all the good books I had read, I could not decide on a name for him. He lived at my uncle's farm (my grandmother's farm) where he slowly went insane from being alone all the time, because by then, the Holsteins had gone and my Uncle Marcus was a mailman. I did not get to ride him much because green broke, he was not only dangerous for a little girl, but with one eye, a downright trainwreck waiting to happen. I worshipped him from afar, mostly, and he was finally sold to someone to use as a stud, since he was a registered quarter horse. Several other horses passed after him, including Pecos, who I worked for after school for hours and hours to support. Many years went by, and I began renting horses to ride at a local stable. I was friends with the owner, and was allowed to come out almost anytime, saddle up, and ride out alone, instead of with a group. I miss those early morning and late evening rides, when I saw wonderful things in the fields and woods. Once I was riding along, and a dog coyote jumped out of the woods.... landed on the path directly in front of me... we all froze, horse, coyote and I.... and then he jumped quickly over the fence and ran off across the next pasture, and I rode on. Many times I would see deer grazing in those woods, and they would lift their heads, watch, and then drop them again to keep grazing. I saw all kinds of birds, and the little animals, like squirrels. Eventually, the stable closed, and now there is a huge shopping development where once the little ponds of the woods stood, and I quit riding because of time commitments and finally, because I married and moved out of state. Now for years I have not ridden, and though I love to watch, I am content to remember. Our minis reminded me of my love, and especially dear old Beau, the loveliest old pony anyone could have been privileged to own. Only once while he lived here was he ridden, and that day five little children got to enjoy him. I was happy just to see him grazing in the pasture with Lacey and Lilly, and sleeping under "his" tree.
So here, in this grainy picture, am I at the stable, in a pair of leggin's, ready to ride! This is the woman Keith met and fell in love with... my thick red mane and feisty ways. I could throw a rope then, too... and my rope still hangs in the garage here, if we should ever need it! (I hope we don't!)
Several of you asked about Luigis, where we ate on Friday night. If you Google "Luigis in Leavenworth", you can read a story from the Leavenworth Times about this restaurant, which opened in November. We had tried to eat there three weeks ago when Brandon was down for the weekend, but thought the line that night meant an hour's wait. We were wrong. After our possum adventure, we tidied up, and drove on up to Leavenworth. We waited only about 20 minutes, as things appeared to be flowing. The restaurant is in a century-old building, with wonderful dark wood floors, and tin ceiling. It is sparsley decorated, and painted a pleasing color of green. There are two rooms, and somewhere to the west, a kitchen. We were seated in the back room, which was 3/4 full that night. The menu is very full, but Keith, who loves seafood, chose Linguini Alfredo Tuttomare, and it had all the good things of the sea, large shrimp, mussels, and clams. He loved it! It was an especially large serving, so he could not eat all of it, and did not think it was the kind of dish that could keep. I had Spaghetti Pizzaola... I am not sure what the second word means, but it was a spaghetti with thinly sliced Italian sauage, peppers and mushrooms in a natural kind of sauce, and was very delicious. I have to say that the wait staff was very nice, and our waitress appeared to be from a middle European country. When I commented on how very good the dipping sauce was.... they served it with not the long garlic rolls one normally sees, but round soft rolls, very, very good, with a buttery garlic that they had been baked with... she went and got me a container to take home! Here is the incredible thing about the menu.... I did not see ONE dish on there that was more than $15.00, and our bill for two dinners, with one specialty beer for Keith was 28.00 plus the tip! Not just reasonable, but VERY reasonable, and for such good food. As Keith said when we left, it will be worth another trip to Leavenworth soon to sample more on the menu. It was a wonderful Valentine's treat, my gift to him because he is still my honey!
Also, since this is stretching out ad infinitum, I need to explain something about Lilly Ann, and how great it was for me to see her break off her wild barking at the possum that Keith corralled Friday night, after she had attacked and killed the first. (She has her rabies shot).
Lilly has always tried to dominate everyone here, including Keith and me. She was always the "boss of Ranger", since she was a puppy. She is passive-agressive, and will lay on her back as soon as she knows she has done something naughty, but if you try to get her by the collar, the teeth are bared. She is the only dog we have had who has gone to obediance school, but I found that if I worked with her one-on-one, she would do her absolute best to do what I wanted. I taught her to sit as I touched my collarbone, and she plants herself down immediately, even if she is hot in pursuit of something. She has killed probably a dozen chickens (the suicidal ones, as Keith says, who come over the pasture fence) but will literally drop one if I catch her and tell her to plant it. Friday night, Keith was trying to get through the gate with the possum on the snow shovel, and Lil was in a high state of dudgeon. I called her to me, and told her to sit, and she PLANTED HER BUTT ON THE GROUND AND FROZE. I could see her watching Keith as he walked away with the possum, but she then switched her gaze to me, and listened as I praised her for being such a good girl and protecting us from the possums. She has really, really come a long way, and we are so very proud of our big red dog.