Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Meet the Parents
Monday, June 27, 2005
The Signs of Addiction
I’m kind of in a holding pattern today—not starting anything new, not really accomplishing much, because two more characters join me tonight—my parents-in-law, Dan and Janet Taylor. I have somehow developed a reputation with them for excellent suggestions, planning, and execution of a variety of events from a trip to
Sunday, June 26, 2005
God’s Golf Links
A Riding Lesson
Anyway, we rode down one road and back up the other, then decided to continue our loop rather than re-covering old ground, found a likely trailhead angling more directly toward home, and headed in. Virtually right at the beginning we ran into trouble—although we could see a lovely clear path heading up the hill, directly in front of us stood several pines, blocking our passage with long, scraggly and pokey arms. I hopped off Toby, left the reins over her neck, and started bending and breaking bows. Toby immediately put her head down to graze with a vengeance, and her reins (which are hooked together into one loop) slid down and hooked on her ears, leaving loops at each side of her head. I broke a couple branches, then Toby stepped into the circle of rein and caught herself around the leg. This startled her and she bumped her head up, trying to get away from whatever had caught her. She couldn’t get away, however, and so, being Toby, put her head back down and continued to graze, taking one or two hobbled steps until I caught up with her (slowly—fast movement will, or may, spook the horse into something more dangerous) and released her, handing her reins to Ian who had dismounted to help. Later, when we were almost home, I realized that Toby’s reins are still sporting the repair work Erika fashioned two or three summers ago when she, opening a gate, had left Toby’s reins on her head and the horse had stepped on them, not through them, and broken them. Moral—Toby can’t keep her head up, so make sure she’s not going to tangle herself in her reins. Secondary moral—if the beginning of the trail is impassible, it’s likely other parts later on will be as well. There were a few places where only momentum carried us through the undergrowth, and I was very glad I wear glasses for the small protection they offered my eyes.
Lesson number two was Ian’s. Horseback riding can be hard on your lower back—the natural gait of the horse causes your pelvis to move back and forth a lot, and if it’s an exercise you’re not used to, a couple hours can make you pretty stiff. Ian had been in the habit, as we headed for home, of lying back over his saddle so his head rested on the rump of his horse, and using the back of the saddle to stretch his lumbar region. This can be quite an exquisite stretch—I occasionally employ it myself, during my riding lessons, in the arena, when my horse is stopped in the middle. Both Shadow and Toby, who Ian rode for the first few days, are virtually bomb-proof—that is, a bomb could go off next to them and they won’t care—so this unusual behavior from the rider didn’t disturb them. Sikum, however, who Ian was riding this day, is not. For one thing, is belly is ticklish, and one piece of long grass can set him off. And at this time of year, long grass is not hard to come by. For another, he’s fairly young—only six—and hasn’t had the breadth of experience that the mares have. For a third, this particular evening, we had just passed a herd of cows—one or two nurse cows and several calves—and Sikum was already a little jumpy. And he was headed for home.
So, up ahead (it takes longer to walk if you’re grazing, so Toby is invariably several paces behind) I see Ian lay back on Sikum. I start to call out “Um, I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea,” but all I have time to say is “Um,” before I have to change it to “Ohmygodareyouokay?!!” because Sikum has spooked and tossed Ian into the brush at the side of the road, and jumped away, to dance around just out of reach (an aside—for all that Sikum spooks easily, he also recovers quickly. He didn’t race in a blind panic for home, just began to graze). I had images of Ian’s lower back having been destroyed by his posture on the horse at time of forced dismount, and therefore needing to stay with him or get help or something, and competing images of Sikum racing away and somehow getting a leg caught in his reins and broken or not finding his way home, or finding his way home and getting tangled in the barbed-wire gate that was open but that he still could get caught in, and therefore needing to go directly to him and get him . . . Ian assured me he was okay, though, so I left him lying in the dirt for a minute while I rode after Sikum. He, though, realizing I was on horseback and therefore thinking everything was probably okay and he should just head home, continued on. Ian realized he really was basically fine and walked up to me on Toby, and then held her (lesson number one in action) while I got off and went after Sikum on foot. Once he realized I was walking, he seemed to understand that there should be someone on him and so he waited for me to catch him. We met back up with Ian and Toby, Ian mounted (the proverbial “always get back on the horse”), I mounted, and we made it home without further mishap.
Lesson number two, therefore, is that horses are unpredictable. Things startle them that wouldn’t startle us. For Sikum, the combination of Ian’s head weirdly on his rump and grass tickling his belly were too much and he had to get away. Lesson number two, part two is that, even if you haven’t done it before or recently, you can fall off your horse. Ian can’t remember ever having fallen off a horse before, and we’re both very glad that his one experience was so minor—and even so, it taught him a lot.
That night, as we were looking over our pictures from the day, we came upon some video footage Ian had taken, just after meeting the cows and just before his accident. The film shows a fat red cow running, tail cocked, up the road. It’s clear from the bouncing of the video and the appearance, now and then, of Sikum’s ears in the shot, that Ian is trotting along, not really in control of either horse or camera. “I probably shouldn’t do things like this anymore, either,” said Ian, laughing.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Friday, June 24, 2005
Note to my readers: A friend pointed out yesterday that, were I to truly reference Steinbeck, I would have to call the blog “Travels with Spackle.” While Spackle does come on some of my trips, he doesn’t come on all. If I were to go with “Travels with Calin,” that would imply that I were the poodle. And I’m not.
Jerome Creek, 24 June 2005
Jerome Creek, 24 June 2005
A Country Day
A Country Day
The road flowed over and around gentle rises, past weathered barns and outbuildings, occasional herds of cows, one flock of sheep, and frequent horses. We passed evidence of a sense of humor—an outhouse by the side of the road, with white-painted letters declaring it “Stephanie and Will’s House”. Farther on, we noted a stand of four mailboxes, with a fifth at least 8 feet in the air, on the top of a pole. “Airmail,” it said on the side.
This is the time of year for roadwork, and we encountered our fair share, waiting nearly 15 minutes in one place for the “Lead Car Follow Me,” which, we realized during the following, was driving back and forth along the repaving as quickly as possible—it took us at least 20 minutes to get through.
St Maries is a sizeable town, a former logging outpost like many of the communities in this part of the Palouse (St Maries might actually be out of the Palouse). We stopped only briefly at an old drive-in for milkshakes, black raspberry for Ian, rootbeer for me. We exchanged slurps—Ian’s was so thick it was basically ice cream, but he put his considerable practice in fast consumption to work and finished, with a tired mouth, at the same time as me.
We only made one more stop, at a vacant National Forest Service campground, to let the dogs wade in the St Maries River and us stretch our legs. Spackle, true to form, immediately submerged himself, then cut out strongly for the opposite bank, looking much like an otter until he pulled up short at a hearty bush and began harvesting sticks.
I went out for a solo bareback ride on The Sofa when we returned, visiting a couple of familiar loops. One part of the trail is a smooth, grassy upward slope that the horses love to gallop up—Erika and I taught them that a few years ago and they haven’t forgotten—and yesterday was no exception. Once I convinced Shadow that she did want to cross this small bit of creek and she realized where we were going, it was all I could do to hold her back in a trot. As soon as I had determined that we were, in fact, heading the right way, I said merely “Okay,” and she shot off as if with the aid of rocket boosters. This horse can move, and loves to. 20 years she may have, but she’s not old, and her gallop is smooth as silk. She’s a bit out of shape, though, and had to pause for a breather about 2/3 of the way up. She recovered quickly, and shot up again, this time through scrub (I had several strands of brush around my ankles by the time we reached the top).
To end a quintessentially rural
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Jerome Creek, 23 June 2005
Cast of Characters, Week 1
Ian: My husband of almost 4 years. He is currently sitting out by the pond on the park bench under a tree, playing his car accordion to the snakes and frogs. He leaves Saturday.
The last two days, though, I’ve been riding Sikum, and definitely enjoying it. Sikum, too, is an Appaloosa, although of an overall pattern minus the blanket over the rump. He was purchased four years ago from the Nez Perce, and has been trained for riding since then. He’s only six, third on the pasture totem pole, but a sweet gelding who’s quickly responsive to cues and who can put on a surprising burst of speed in a second. He’s still easily startled by who knows what (although the last two days have been windy, which can make a lot of normal things sound strange), and has a wriggly flexibility to his gaits which makes trail riding a more active experience than it can be on The Sofa.
Toby, the middle mare, also 20, is a sweet chestnut Quarter horse. She is easy to catch (a nice trait when horses are pastured on 10 acres) and a dependable ride, although she tends to graze non-stop, during rides and not, which can be irritating if you’re trying to keep up with the other two.
Jerome Creek, Idaho, pronounced Jerome Crick, is not a town on a map. It’s a road, and a crick, and 20 or so resident humans, and far more resident livestock, about 40 minutes from
It’s a little disingenuous to count
Jerome Creek, 23 June 2005
I’ve decided to start a blog about my travels. I’ve thought about blogging before, and enjoyed reading other people’s blogs, and kicked around the idea of starting one of my own when I could think of an appropriate impetus. I haven’t been comfortable with the idea of producing a general “life as I see it” blog—it is done so masterfully here that I feel I would inevitably fall short. And my career choice isn’t quite so globally interesting as this—who wants to read about a writer sitting at her computer every day and writing? There’s only so much self-reference one blog can handle. But I am fortunate in that I can travel a lot, and that’s something I’m also interested in writing about—for myself. And that seems to be a big part of it—if your blog entertains and enlightens you, it’ll probably entertain and enlighten others.
So now that I’ve decided to do it—how do I decide what to call it? For obvious reasons, “Writer’s Blog,” “Travelblog,” and “Travelblogue” are out. Puns are unoriginal at best and incredibly irritating at worst. “The Stranger” is also out—it’s way too arrogant to compare myself to Camus. “Citizen of the World” and “Global Citizen” are out—hyperbole and, again, unwarranted arrogance. “Travels with Calin”—referencing Steinbeck seems about as appropriate as referencing Camus. So where does that leave me?
To be honest, it leaves me with this: The Dilettante Traveler.