Category archive: Lifestyle

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“That Little Girl Can PLAY!”

That was the general murmuring (and shouting) I heard going around a packed room at The Pour House Music Hall on Friday night.  And I admit, I was one of the more gleeful shouters. In part because, HOLY CRAP, that little girl CAN play, and in part because “that little girl” in the Gary Mitchell Band making their debut performance is my baby girl, Annelise!

She is doing what I only dreamed of doing at her age – throwing caution to the wind and doing what she does best in spite of all of the practical “advice” to settle for a job with a “future.” HA! What in world is “the future” and how are we supposed to know what sort of job will get us there? To heck with that I say. ( Oh, quit rolling your grown-up eyes at me! You know you wish you were a rocker too!) Now, I’m more inclined to chant this mantra, “Use what you got and do it while you’ve got it!”  God bless her for embracing and putting into practice that little tidbit of REAL advice much earlier than I grasped it! She’s sticking to her guns with the very first (and just about only) thing she ever wanted to do! If only the rest of us had that much perseverance.

The Gary Mitchell Band featuring (L to R) Lee Huggins, Gary Mitchell, Thomas Burroughs, Annelise Huggins. Yes I know its blurry – I was too excited to focus!

For me, finally seeing her command a stage at her own gig (not just sit in with other musicians) was the ultimate confirmation that hers is a life born to play. Even while in the womb, she heard music that I would blast from my stereo all day long and I took her to concerts as well, much to my mother’s chagrin. “Put earmuffs on your belly!” Mom would chide me. Sigh . . . Annelise was doomed to be a musical creature from practically the moment of conception! When she would cry without end and no amount of comforting would help, I’d give up and put her safely in her crib, and crank up GNR or KISS in the other room. This served two purposes: 1) I couldn’t hear her heartbreaking sobs and 2) it soothed her to sleep faster than anything else I did for her. The girl was born with music running through her veins!

All my friends knew it too. When Annelise was an infant one of them gave her a toy guitar with nylon strings. I didn’t give it to her until she was over a year old, but from the moment she got it, she carried it everywhere – even to bed! She didn’t care for cuddly stuffed toys or blankets – normal comfort items for other children- she only had a heart for that little guitar with pink strings.

A two year old Annelise with her first little guitar!

Then I met Mark DeBellis , professional musician extraordinaire, when she was 3 and her brother Stephen was 2, and they both were as drawn to him as much I was. The first time Annelise met him, she climbed into his lap as he held his guitar and she strummed while he changed chords. The two of them were peas in a pod and they became inseparable. The funny thing was, normally she was a very shy child who didn’t like to be held by people other than mommy, but the lure of the guitar was stronger than her fear!

Annelise and her mentor/daddy, Mark. Headed off to first day of kindergarten.

When the kids were a bit older, Mark taught them how to completely set up and tear down a full PA (wiring – not carrying the cabs!) and they were also his little personal roadies at many gigs. Our friend Greg coined the phrase Mark’s Army in reference to them. Wherever Mark went, my kids were always with him – grocery store, parks, bagel shop, gigs, you name it – and they were always his little soldiers! All Mark had to do was give them a look and perhaps a hand signal or two and either one of them knew what to do and when to do it. In every situation! It was a mutually beneficial arrangement for them when it came to gigs – Mark knew his stuff would be taken care of properly and the kids got to hang out watching real musicians and crew. They saw the world and heard the music from the vantage point of the stage looking out. Which, as anyone who’s been there can tell you, is not at all what you imagine it to be from the audience looking up.

Here I am Sarge – ready to rock. If I can’t play it, I’ll set it up for you.

Eventually, Annelise and Stephen really learned to play a few instruments and not just mess around with them. Mark and the kids would jam together all the time – on guitar and keys! And the funny thing is, they NEVER learned a thing about the keyboard. I doubt if today Annelise could tell you where middle C is on it! But she knew if she just plunked away, she could find the notes and chords and make music. Mark never impeded her.  Rather than insist she learn the piano, he encouraged her to play with her heart and the two of them used to stand side by side at the keyboard and play together for hours – jamming to the prerecorded rhythms. He and I did however insist on a proper musical education. We wanted both kids to have a real foundation of musical knowledge to build upon. Even though she only wanted to play guitar and he only wanted to play drums, we insisted they take other instruments to teach them how instruments fit together to make music. After all, “You can’t break the rules if you don’t know the rules!” (HA – a favorite “Markism”)

Middle School band concert. She was first chair!

See? The boy can play other instruments besides drums too!

Then, little miss smarty-pants grew up and got married! Fortunately she found a wonderful man, Lee, who is her perfect match in every way – including musically! He can sing like nobody’s business and also plays a variety of instruments! I just love him dearly and am grateful the two of them share the love of the Lord first and foremost and that they also have a love of music to help bind them together! He’s a gem of a man and soooo incredibly talented! I just love how he loves her!

Annelise jamming with her husband Lee

I just LOVE Lee’s photobomb in this shot!

So, this past Friday night it all came full circle for me. My baby girl stood on the stage alongside her husband and mowed people down with rich tone, rock solid timing, and tasty chops on the guitar! She also played percussion, keys and sang background harmonies! In spite of a few technical difficulties with her aged gear (Mark’s gear!) she plowed through and gave a professional show to a packed and cheering house! I was so proud of her for not cracking even a hint of a smile or a twitch of an eyebrow when something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t notice she had problems with gear until she told me about them later – and I’m usually the one who’s tuned into her facial expressions giving things away. She’s subtle but I can read her. She fooled even me!! And it reminded me of a few of Mark’s famous quotes:

“What mistake? I MEANT to do that!”

and

“There are no wrong notes, only a few poor choices.”

And just when I thought my heart would burst with pride and joy, at the very end of the night my boy jumped on stage without even thinking and immediately went to work packing up her gear and roadie-ing for her. He hopped to it so fast and efficiently, that I was transported back in time and I was seeing two little children on stage packing gear again just like they did for Mark. They ceased being grownups for a little while that night, at least to my eyes. The only thing that could have made that night more special is if Stephen played on stage with her too.  In fact, it was Stephen that used to get to go on stage and “play” (unplugged) during the sound checks at Mark’s gigs while Annelise was left fuming by my side watching him. She used say, “I should be up there too!” But in spite of her jealousy, she would support Stephen and help carry gear and cheer him on. Though the tables were turned on Friday night and Stephen was wishing he was on stage with her, he lived vicariously though her, cheered her more vigorously than anyone, and was a champ in helping her at the end of the night.

Some things change and some things never do!

Mark would be proud of the adults they’ve become and would be smiling a mile wide if he could see them now!  I know I am!

Little boy Stephen all dressed up like Mark and “playing on stage with him at a gig. You can’t see Annelise next to me quietly muttering and wishing it was her.

Stephen jumped in a started packing up Annelise’s gear. What a great brother! Mark’s Army rides again!

My babies are all grown up. Stephen, Annelise and Stephen’s best friend Brian (L to R). Although all I can see are three little kids.

Click the video below to get a little taste of her playing

 

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A 50th Anniversary Note to my West Coast Fam

I wrote this to for my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Bruce at the request of my cousin, Tammy.  Thought it would be fun to share publicly. Enjoy.

Memories of the West Coast Family:
Uncle Bruce, Aunt Sherry, Timmy, and Tammy

As remembered by Colleen Ann Guest, 06/10/2013

I’m perhaps either the laziest person on earth or the biggest procrastinator ever! I don’t put things off until the last possible minute because I don’t care about the thing I should be doing, in fact it’s usually just the opposite. Sometimes a task is daunting to me because I do care so much about how it turns out. So rather than do the “right” thing and get a good start on it so that I’ll have plenty of time to revamp and redirect if I need to adjust the direction it’s going, I get paralyzed and think to myself that I’ve got TONS of time so I don’t need to commit to this just yet. Well, I’ve been burned by my own inadequacy in recognizing the passage of time once again.

Much to my chagrin, my dear cousin; your THOUGHTFUL, CARING, PUNCTUAL daughter; called me the other day and cornered me about my lack of response to her ever so gentle request for a simple thing like a note for your scrapbook – and the request came with plenty of time to provide a FABULOUS response. I’m a loser. THIS is why I don’t plan parties for people. I’ll be late to my own funeral!

I wish I had lots of funny, witty stories about you guys. I have lots of second hand ones from my folks, and I’m sure there might be some that you would be just as glad for me not to repeat. But those are THEIR memories. I have my own too, but given the distance between us they aren’t as first person as theirs. So here are some of my rambling memories; the things that really stick with me. And perhaps, just perhaps, waiting until the last minute has its advantages.  The things that come to mind quickly are the ones that have the deepest impressions.

When I was little and my birthday would roll around, my mom would make a nice effort to have a birthday party for me. With so many aunts and uncles (and cousins – not as many then as what I have now though, but still a lot) the parties always involved tons of family. Most of the family lived nearby and the parties were pretty large and happening. But my mom and Grandma Eaton were always very careful to point out that Uncle Bruce and Aunt Sherry couldn’t be here and that I was to take special note of their cards and gifts.  They always showed me your pictures and told me stories about you. I felt like I knew you even though we hadn’t met. And I don’t know if you ever knew it but I used to count how many cat or kitten cards I would get. I knew it was going to be a GREAT year if all my cards had a feline on the cover! There were times you sent me one of those treasured cards and I just KNEW that you loved me and “knew” me! To this day there are two people (besides my mom) that can be counted on to NEVER miss my birthday with a card – Aunt Sherry and my dad’s sister Aunt Linda. So for all the years you tirelessly sent cards with no apparent thanks, it doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated! I tear up when I get your cards!! THANK YOU!!

Another strong memory is of time I spent at Grandma and Grandpa Eaton’s house. They kept your pictures on the wall over Grandma’s chair. You know the place – the wall to the right of the archway to the dining room if you are standing in the living room. I used to gaze at those pictures and imagine what kind of people you were and wondered if you thought of me at the same time I was thinking of you. Sometimes Grandma would catch me looking at the pictures and she would take them off the wall so I could look more closely. And then she would tell me stories about Uncle Bruce as a child. Gosh I wish I could recall some of those! And then there were all those AMAZING sugar Easter eggs with the little scenes on the inside that Aunt Sherry made. I LOVED those!! I used to beg Grandma to bring them out of the cupboard and show me up close. (It was difficult to really see the scenes on the inside from through the glass.) She would gladly oblige and she handled them so gently and with such care. She used to tell me that I had to be VERY CAREFUL – they were delicate works of art and couldn’t be replaced. She just adored those and all the other artfully created things that Aunt Sherry made (I don’t want to say “crafty” – that cheapens them. The things you made were ART!)

And then there were all the times Grandma and Grandpa would go to California to spend time with you guys. They would come back FULL of stories and pictures about all their adventures. We would sit around the dining room table with the pictures all over and they would go through them one by one and tell us so many things about each image in enormous detail. I could see so much more than what the picture alone held. I yearned badly to visit Disneyland and the national parks! I would dream about it and imagine what it must be like in real life. They made everything they did with you guys sound like the grandest adventures and everything there was bigger than life! It made things seem so “usual” back here. I was actually a bit jealous of Timmy and Tammy. Even though I had the grandparents all to my own all the time, it just seemed like their time in Cali with you guys overshadowed anything they ever did with us. I know that’s not true at all, but to my little girl self it was hard not to make comparisons. I knew it was wrong to feel those things, and I was ashamed to admit it so I never said anything – I didn’t want to be a brat – that would have hurt my feelings if anyone thought ill of me for feeling that way. They got so much enjoyment about recounting their adventures that I wanted to hear everything in spite of my own jealousy. Their faces glowed with such love and pride when they talked about Timmy and Tammy and they always looked so refreshed and relaxed when they came home.  I lived vicariously though those vacations!

But FINALLY, I got my wish – I got to meet you all! It wasn’t in Cali like I’d hoped, but I was THRILLED to have you all back home on my turf in the summer of 1977. I thought my other uncles were tall men, but Uncle Bruce was a true GIANT! I was tickled beyond belief that he picked on me just like Uncle Roger, Uncle Gary, and Uncle Alan!! He WAS one of us! And then I got to get a real hug from Aunt Sherry! Not just a card, but a real life hug! And those things cemented that you both were everything I imagined you to be! And for the first time I got to play with my west coast cousins. I was worried they would think we weren’t good enough and that NY wouldn’t ever be as awesome as California. But I was wrong. They loved it here as much as I felt I would love it there. I fell in LOVE with Timmy and Tammy! I remember showing off my horses to them and how Tammy especially was smitten with them. We spent a lot of time in the barn together and she was like a little sponge – asking questions about EVERYTHING and soaking it all in. She was eager to know all about the horses. She was a girl after my own heart. And still is!

So there it is. My fondest memories are the oldest ones. And those are the ones that come to the surface in a hurry. When I think of all of you, I think of those specific things before I start reminiscing about other times in more recent years or before I recall the many stories my mom and dad tell about you.  Now how much of this is relevant to your anniversary is questionable but they’re the things that make me smile when I think of you. I love you both so very much!! I’m so blessed the Lord brought you together so I could be related to some of the most awesome people in the whole world!

With love and tears (I just read this out loud to Neel so I could proof it and now I’m crying!),
Colleen

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Sore Throat Pain? Colleen’s Home Remedies to the Rescue

I often get asked how to relieve a sort throat; not because I have any kind of medical education, but probably because I’ve suffered with them so often in my life.

In fact, you might say I’m a bit of an expert on them – from a sufferer’s perspective, that is.

 Colleen Ann Guest sore throat

When I was 3 years old I experienced a life-threatening throat infection which included a 107º fever, seizures, other gory details which don’t really add anything of value to this post, and of course, unrelenting sore throat pain. Throughout my life, it seems that every time I get sick it always starts with the most HORRIFIC throat pain imaginable. I mean searing, burning pain that makes you contort your whole body when you swallow to try to avoid it. Razor blades and barbed wire would be easier to swallow than your own spit when you have one of these sore throats.

 

Sore throat pain can feel like swallowing razor blades and barbed wire.

Yeah . . . I know a little something about the subject. . .

 

But, when you are a performer who uses your voice like I do, you need to know how to tame the pain and try to keep from losing your voice altogether.  The show must go on after all!

 

One obvious bit of advice is NO TALKING!! This includes no whispering or vocalizing of any kind; whispering is especially harsh on the delicate vocal chords.

 

It seems like common sense, but it’s harder to maintain radio silence than you think. When you’re a Chatty Cathy (or a Blibbering Betty) like me, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do!

Colleen Ann Guest vocal performance

Help, I’m talking and I can’t shut up!

 

Aside from shutting your trap, you probably want something in the way of more immediate relief. There’s a wealth of information about sore throat remedies out on the web if you search or you can just ask somebody’s mom. I’ll post links to vocal health advice from trusted professionals below, but first, let me give you some tried and true home remedies that have always worked for me:

 

Gargle with baking soda and salt in warm water

Mix 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda in a small glass of warm tap water. You have to repeat often – every hour or so – but it really helps! This is a remedy my mother always gave me when I was growing up. I didn’t much care for it, but once I recognized it’s power (as an adult) I became a firm believer. The real key is that you must repeat it often and don’t drink anything right after gargling or you’ll just wash it all away.

 

Drink Franks Red Hot

Oh yes it’s awesome – quit giving me that look! Melt in some butter and warm it up if you like (think wings without the wings). It’s also great for the sinuses! I suppose any hot sauce would do, but in my house, Franks rules! Anything else is sacrilege.  I only use their original flavor as the others aren’t grain free.

 

Drink a mixture of liquid Maalox and liquid Benadryl

It’s recommended by doctors for cancer patients with sore throats! According to Robert S. Gillespie, MD, MPH – Pediatrician, children 2 years and older can take a mixture of Maalox and Benadryl to coat and soothe the throat. They can take it every 2 hours, as needed. The doses are:

• 2 through 5 years – ½ teaspoon Maalox mixed with ¼ teaspoon Benadryl
• 6 through 11 years – 1 teaspoon Maalox mixed with ½ teaspoon Benadryl
• 12 years and older – 2 teaspoons Maalox mixed with 1 teaspoon Benadry

 

Drink hot water, honey, lemon, and cayenne

Make a cup of hot water (like you would for tea, but NO tea) and add honey, lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper. This is a FABULOUS mixture for when you have to sing or speak with a sore throat. When I’m performing and losing my voice I carry thermoses of it and take constant sips!!

 

Now that you’ve read my advice, visit these places to read what the pros have to say:

Duke Health Voice Hygiene Tips for Performers
Duke Vocal Health PDF
Viral Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

 

Do you have any remedies of your own? I’d love for you to share them with me by leaving a comment below!

 

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A True Story of a Horse

 

Have you ever loved a horse so much that your entire life was altered by his very existence?

 

And have you gone to bed dreaming of him before you ever met him and then spent the rest of your life reminiscing about him after he was gone?

 

I have . . . and so did my father.

 

Stephen Loren Illsley

The following is an essay my father wrote in 1946 when he was thirteen years old and home sick with the measles.  It tells the story of a boy who desperately wanted a horse of his own to love, ride, and teach tricks to, and the little black stallion that fulfilled his childhood dreams.
About 2 years after he wrote the essay, his 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Brooks, read it and asked him to re-write it for an essay contest, which he never did do. It’s worthy to note that Mrs. Brooks was quite fond of my father because he and his trusty stallion chased down her runaway horse and saved her one day, quite like another story he relays in the essay.
My dad and mom are full of tales about life with their horses but it’s a special blessing for me to have a copy of my dad’s original handwritten account regaling his love for and adventures with his all-time favorite steed. I didn’t edit the content of the essay; I only added some punctuation marks and a few stray words here and there that he inadvertently left off in his original writing. I’ve even left the paragraph structure intact exactly as he had written. He’s fully aware of my additions and has approved the minor edits. I wanted to leave the story as original as possible so that we are reading exactly what he, as a thirteen year old boy, had written in 1946.
There are footnotes below which give insight to the timeline of events and offer details rounding out some of the circumstances of which he writes. Of special note is number 9 – he’d like the reader to be sure to understand that he knows you don’t beat a horse to train it. Those words came from an inexperienced child and he went on to learn the finer art of communication with his horses. If reading footnotes aren’t your “thing;” I urge you to at least read that one.
And now, I present to you….

 

 

› A True Story of a Horse 

Written by Stephen Loren Illsey, 1946
Edited by Colleen Ann Guest, 2013
 

This is a story of my colt and I. But I must start at the beginning.

I was a boy at the age of thirteen [1] and I had always wanted a horse of my own. My mother had had several horses since she was a little girl and she thought that it would be nice for me to have one of my own, but little did either of us dream that it would come true.

My mother went one day to visit her sister who also lived on a farm. They got to talking and she told my mother about a little colt they had on the farm. He had been tied there most of the winter and they carried feed and water to him because they were afraid as he was a stallion, and he had tried to strike them when they tried to lead him. [2] Then mother went to the barn to see this little fellow who was only six months old at the time. On first sight she fell in love with this pretty little black colt for he was black as coal. Mom wanted to take him outdoors but her sister said that he would strike her; but Mother took her chances and fixed a twitch and put it on his nose and in no time she led him from the barn.

Oh yes, he did try to act up, but Mother was too smart for him, and the first thing he knew was that he was sitting on the ground. Then she called my cousin who was about thirteen, very light for his age, and sat him on the colt’s back. Once more she started leading him but what happened is he laid down.  My cousin jumped and rolled away from him; he was scared. Mother said to him, “Where are you going? I’ve still got a hold of him.” But he only answered back, “I’ve heard stories about stallions before and what they’d do if they got you under them.” Mother laughed and said to herself, “They are really afraid of this little fellow.”  Then she thought to herself, “Why don’t we buy him for ourselves?”

Someone had named the colt “Highboy” so we kept calling him that although the name didn’t quite occur to me. [3]

Mom came home and talked to Dad about getting the colt, but Dad didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it. Then Mom, seeing that she wasn’t making any progress with Dad, said, “He is a nice little colt and has the most intelligent looking head and every bit of him is pure black.

It was about a week after that and Mom and I hadn’t been making progress with Dad about the colt, or at least we didn’t think so, when one evening Dad and Mom were reading the paper and my brothers were playing or something, and I was thinking about how good it would seem to have a colt of my own to teach tricks to.  I never realized how hard the task would be.

Then before anyone realized it, a truck stopped in front of the house. A man knocked on the door and my father went to see who it was. I could hear them talking in low tones but I did catch a few words. “Surprise” was one, and then I heard “he” and “fine” and a few others that didn’t make sense.

Then Dad called Mother and me out to the truck. And there it was – a small horse about the size of a pony. “There,” said my Dad “is your colt. Now let me see you unload him.”

At first I started to walk right up in beside him, but then I stopped all of a sudden, thinking, “What if he should kick?” Then I looked at him again and said to myself, “Well, if I’m going to handle you, I better start now.” Again, I started to walk up in beside him, but this time I didn’t hesitate. I untied the rope that held him and thought that I could push him out of the truck backwards, but that was useless. So I turned him around and tried pulling him out, but still, he wouldn’t budge. Then Mother said, “Here, let me help you,” and the next thing I knew was that he was standing right on the ground beside me. “How did you do it?” I asked looking very much puzzled. My mother explained, “Oh it’s quite easy when you know how.” [4] Come to find out, Dad had hired the man to go and get the colt. [5]

About a month after that, Dad told me that I had better start teaching my colt tricks because pretty soon he would get too big for me to handle, By the end of five months I had taught him quite a few tricks. Each one taking more patience and time, until I thought that he was the dumbest animal that ever lived; but one by one he caught on, and finally I had him so that he responded to each one of my commands. [6]

Soon after that I thought that it was about time I started in riding him, so one day I went to the barn and fixed my mother’s saddle and bridle to fit him. He didn’t mind my putting either one of these funny looking things on, but when I got them on him, boy, did he ever look awkward! Then I took him outside and before he realized what was going on I jumped aboard and hanged on for my life, expecting any second to go flying and hit the ground, but to my great surprise, nothing happened. Then I patted him and tried to urge him on but that didn’t go so good. So I kicked him in the ribs and yelled but he still wouldn’t move. So I got off and took him to the house to show my mother how he acted but this time, things were different. Instead of me jumping on I just took my time and the moment I was in the saddle I was out again. I picked myself up out of the dust and blinking my eyes, I looked around and there stood Highboy. I think that if he could have laughed like a person he would. “Why you tricky little mule,” I hollered as I went up to him. “You wait until I get a strap, I’ll teach you to buck when I’m not expecting it.”

So I got myself a strap and once more got on. But instead of just standing still or bucking he took me for one of the scariest rides I’ve ever had. All of the way down hill he ran just as fast as he could go, jumping everything in his way until he finally reached the main road, but not stopping for cars or anything. Neither talking nor pulling on the reigns did any good. But finally he did stop and when he did, he did it so quick that I found myself on the ground sputtering and yelling at my colt. I was so confused and puzzled about my new experience that I hadn’t stopped to think about what would have happened if we had collided with a car or if he had fallen. I was still so shaken up and every bone ached that I decided not to beat him and the expression on his face showed that he was sorry. [7]

A little while after that I got a new bridle and pretty soon I had him responding to each turn of the reigns.

After that my mother and I rode often together because she also had a horse.

One day two of my mother’s friends came up and wanted to ride although neither one of them could ride very good. We had four horses, so we let the girls ride, but we only had two saddles so we let the girls ride in them, so my mother and I rode bareback. Mom warned me that I shouldn’t ride Highboy bareback, but I finally succeeded in telling her that nothing would happen; but I was wrong.

We were riding through the fields, when one of the girls started running her horse. Then we all started.

We were going pretty fast and Highboy was in the lead. I wanted to see if anyone could catch me. I had forgotten that the girls couldn’t ride too good but I guess that luck was with them. All of a sudden highboy turned around without me expecting it. I didn’t have time to catch my balance before he turned again and then I fell.

All that I remembered is that somebody was talking to me. I woke up again to find myself home. The doctor was there. I asked what had happened but before anyone had time to answer I found out. Pains shot through my right arm and into my head. The doctor told me to lie still; that my wrist was broken.

Three or four weeks after that, my arm healed quickly. Highboy was turned loose in the pasture. My brother was walking in the pasture when all of a sudden Highboy started to chase him. My brother turned and ran toward our dump rake in the pasture. First Highboy would run one way and then the other way around the rake. My brother yelled and hollered hoping that someone would hear him. [8]  Just by luck, I happened to be outdoors and I ran to see what the trouble was. I crossed the fence and ran down to the rake. Highboy stopped all of a sudden and looked at me. I knew at once that he meant to chase me also, so I ran right up to him before he had a chance to move and hit him. At once, he cowered and moved back .I hit him and then I had him in my power because sometimes if you show a stallion that you’re not afraid (of) him, he’ll calm down. [9]  After I assured Highboy that I wasn’t still mad at him, everything was alright.

One day when I was riding, my saddle appeared too tight for Highboy, so I got off and loosened it. My mother said that we had better water the horses so we rode over to the creek. Highboy naturally just put down his head to drink. All of a sudden I felt myself slipping. Before I could do anything about it, I landed into the creek. I never heard anyone laugh before like my mother did. I guess that she laughed all of the way home.

Another time my mother was riding a horse that we boarded on our farm. The horse got to running with her towards home and she couldn’t stop him. We had ridden up to the neighbor’s house to buy a dozen of eggs and I was carrying the eggs when the horse that my mother was riding got to running. I didn’t know what to do, so I started after her on Highboy. Luck certainly must have been with us both that day. The road was slippery but yet I urged Highboy on. I knew that if the other horse ever tried to turn into our driveway at the speed he was going, he would fall down. Faster and faster Highboy ran. The wind blew hard against my face and made tears come into my eyes. But before I knew it, I was reaching out and pulling on the other horse’s bridle. I guess Highboy saved the day. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget tell you that not a single egg was broken.

Not many more things happened after that. Highboy was conquered and was at last ready to obey me.

Not hardly a day passed last summer but what my mother and I had ridden.

We are looking forward to a colt from our mare of which Highboy is the sire. [10]

› The End 

 

Steve and Highboy demonstrating “sitting”

Editor’s Notes

 

My memories

It’s my great misfortune that I never knew this horse because he died in the spring of the year I was born. The mares on our farm had several foals sired by him, so I knew quite a bit about his temperament through his offspring. My mom had a feisty horse named Penny and the foals they threw were quite mischievous. I remember vividly one incident in which my brother and I had gotten chased down by one of those horses; it seems that chasing was apparently in their blood!  She was a mare named Pride and I fondly recall her living on the farm and even which stall she occupied in our barn. At some point she had been sold and we went to visit her a few months after she left us. My dad sent my brother and me up the hill in her new pasture to call her down, and when she saw us, she came barreling down the hill after us. No matter which way we turned she snaked behind right on our tails. We thought for sure she was going to catch us and KILL us! We ran for our lives and bolted through the fence rails just as she was about to catch us. But when she got to the fence, it appeared that she was in fact happy to see my dad, despite how antagonistic she appeared to my brother and me. He had her trained to rub her muzzle on his cheek when he asked her to “give him a kiss,” and she happily obliged when he asked her on this occasion. It was the last time we visited her, and although I really liked that mare, I was glad we didn’t have to go through the chase ever again.  Whew…my heart still beats fast in my chest when I think about it and I can almost feel her breath on the back of my neck to this day. I’ve got other, perhaps more harrowing tales with horses, but I was never more scared of a horse in my life as I was that day running for my life down that hill. If you ask him, I think my brother will attest to the same.
Pride, the horse who chased us down the hill

For the Love of a Horse

I am so very blessed to have been given a legacy of the love of horses and the ability to communicate with animals. When my dad speaks of his mother saying that it’s easy to handle a horse when you know how, I get it! My grandmother and parents taught me how to communicate non-verbally with all of our animals and that knowledge transcended simply training them. A phrase my dad used while working with me and the horses was, “Horses and kids – it’s all the same. If you can raise a horse you can raise a child.”  I took that to heart and I’d like to think that it was valuable information which aided my parenting skills. But before I was a mom, my horse Sugar was my child, my best friend, and my soul mate. When everything else in my world went wrong, my horse would always be there to make it better.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my mother is an accomplished horsewoman herself and she spent countless hours helping me train the new foals on the farm and breaking the horses. She too has her own stories of how horses were the saving grace in her life. Long before I did the same, my mom, being troubled and not able to sleep, would go to the barn in the middle of the night and grab her horse for moonlight ride. I find it humorous and fitting that I sought solace in the same exact way.
Growing up on the farm with a barn full of noble creatures at my beck and call was an enviable position and I can’t imagine how different my life would have been without horses. It’s a shame that we’ve come so far in our civilization that these beautiful companions have been relegated to either occupying a place in history or their company is only enjoyed by a select few. They could teach us all so much about life, love, and loyalty, and their mere presence is therapy enough to give us the courage to face life and tackle our mental, spiritual, and physical foes.

 

 The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.  ~Arabian Proverb

 

 
 
Steve holding back Highboy

Highboy in his pasture


Footnotes


[1] My dad was born in January of 1933 and he and his family moved to the farm (the same farm I grew up on) in 1944. He was 11 when he got Highboy in 1944 shortly after moving to the farm, despite his telling that he was 13 in the story. He is about 6 months younger than his cousin who he also tells is 13. But after confirming the details in a phone conversation on 02/09/13, my dad and mom agreed that Steve must have been 11 at the time of acquiring Highboy and not 13 as he wrote, which means that his cousin was probably 12 and not 13 either. Steve must have written the story at age 13 which would make sense given that the horse had matured at least two years during the course of events he described. This time frame works out as my mom is certain Highboy was put down in the spring of 1966 which would make Highboy 22 years old at the time of his death.  And that rings true to both of my parent’s recollection.

[2] Another of my dad’s cousins lived in Pennsylvania and raised Standardbred horses. One of his mares had been bred by a Morgan stallion and Highboy was the resulting foal. And there was a reason his aunt and her family were a bit scared of Highboy even though he was just a young colt. He had reared up and struck his aunt’s husband in the head and they had wanted to get rid of the horse after that incident.

[3] The truth of the matter is that the horse was named Highball, after the alcoholic mixed drink. My dad strongly disliked that name and had a devil of a time convincing his father that he had to change it. They finally came to an agreement and the name Highboy was settled upon.

[4] My grandmother had a gift of communicating with animals. She could seemingly talk to any animal she came across and I recall many instances where she would have wild creatures eating out of her hands. She took the time to observe their body language and respond to them in ways they understood, and she was patient beyond measure. Several of us have inherited her gift and have benefitted from her mentoring, but she was truly was The Queen of the Animal Kingdom.

[5] My grandfather traded a tag-a-long trailer for the colt is how my dad’s family came to acquire him.

[6] I asked my dad to tell me about some of the tricks he had taught Highboy as that was such an integral part of the early pages of the story. He said that he taught him to shake hands, kneel, lie down, sit up, and stand back up.  While the horse was lying prone on the ground, my dad would back up several paces, run at him, place his hands on Highboy’s body, and doing a handspring flip over him and land on his feet on the other side. This was a favorite trick among the neighborhood kids in town. He also taught him to answer yes or no questions. To teach him that particular trick my dad had to prick Highboy in the chest with a pin. Highboy would bend his nose to his chest to rub it as if he had been bitten by a horsefly. After some time of repeating this he got so that my dad would only have to make a motion towards his chest and he would nod his head in a “yes” fashion. Similarly, my dad would take the pin and prick him between his ears and Highboy would shake his head as if to shake off a biting fly. Again, after he was trained my dad just had to make a slight motion towards his head to get him to shake his head “No.” My dad’s very close friend helped him and together they taught both their horses to do all kinds of tricks. I believe one of them was putting them both on a teeter totter together, but they stopped doing that one for fear of hurting the horses as Highboy had slipped off the board a couple of times. They took their horses to perform at schools and other local events and the kids would love to ask Highboy questions and get his yes or no answers. If the children got a yes or no response they weren’t expecting, my dad would quickly reply that Highboy didn’t understand the question and they needed to ask it again. And this time he would come up with the right response much to everyone’s delight.

[7] My dad also told me more of the story surrounding his first “ride” on Highboy.  His father slapped highboy on the rear which launched him on the runaway ride. They ran down the hill, across the road and continued down to the creek on the other side. The creek wasn’t as deep as it is today but it was still quite deep. The reason they came to a stop is that Highboy couldn’t jump out of the creek and slammed his chest into the side of the creek bed. This sent my dad over his head and landed him on the ground.

[8] I’ve been raised around a lot of horses with my dad and mom, but my dad maintains that Highboy was by far the smartest horse he ever knew. My dad could take Highboy to the horse shows and never had to worry about him being a stallion around mares. Even when a mare was in heat all he had to do was whistle and Highboy would always come right to him. Apparently though, he was also the craftiest horse he’d ever known. Highboy would chase someone down in a heartbeat and he just knew a non-horse person when he came across one. My uncle, who was chased in the story, was apparently a constant target of Highboy’s and he was chased quite often. My mom recalls a few incidences when Highboy was being devilish. One time they were fixing fence and my dad set a hammer on top of a fence post and Highboy took the hammer right off the post and ran off with it. Another time my dad set down his shirt and either the dog, Samson, or Highboy picked it up. One thing led to another and shortly the two were playing tug of war, each with the shirt in their teeth, which culminated in Highboy lifting the dog off the ground while spinning around in circles.

[9] It is very important to note that this story is written from an inexperienced boy’s perspective and that he didn’t ever really “beat” his horse in a manner in which would be considered harmful or abusive. My father has long since gained knowledge and understanding of how to communicate with and train horses that don’t require hitting, beating, or other methods of intimidation. He would be mortified if the only impression left after reading his essay is that he understood little more of horse training than physical violence and brute force. Horses are highly intelligent creatures with feelings and are quite capable of understanding what we ask of them if we ask in a manner they can comprehend.

[10] The mare was a large, gentle work horse; perhaps a Percheron, named Mary. She had actually been pregnant with twins and gave birth to a filly and the remains of the twin were found in the afterbirth. Highboy had also been kept for stud purposes and besides the horses on the farm I remember, there were plenty of his offspring spread around the community. Through them, I know he lives on today.

 

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An NFL Fan No more

Dear NFL:
You have let me down for the last time. I’ve been watching you since Fran Tarkenton was the QB for the Giants and I’ve stood by you for well over 40 years. I have bought your licensed merchandise, gone to games, cried over victories and losses, and spent nearly every Sunday of my life during football season planted squarely in front of the TV to watch your games. After last night’s debacle (the thing you call the Super Bowl) I will no longer participate in celebrating the sport that has been so very dear to me and my family.
The advertising before and during the game was at best shallow and at worst extremely offensive and pornographic in nature. Who do you think your audience is? Many of us are families trying to raise children with morals and respect for themselves and the opposite sex. Which brings me to the halftime show. Although Beyonce is very talented, why should we have to watch her and the rest of her dancers/singers prance around half naked? It was embarrassing to say the least. And finally lets talk about your responsibility to your own players. If you’ve known that head injuries sustained on the field are causing irreparable harm to young mens’