That Piece of Crap Foreign Car

In nineteen hundred and sixty eight, I bought my first car. It was an eight year old Jaguar touring sedan, or as they affectionately called it at the Chevy dealer in Burlington, North Carolina, “That piece of crap foreign car out back.” I didn’t consider it a “piece of crap”, but that nickname is what convinced me to get the car. Actually, it’s that nickname that made the Chevy dealer sell it so cheap.

If you’d rather me tell you this story, here’s the youtube link:

https://youtu.be/mIxzWsMqWSY

I considered the car to be classy and exotic. Before long, it became a classy and exotic lawn ornament. When it stopped running, I bought a nineteen sixty-one Thunderbird, then a Sunbeam Tiger, then a Lotus Europa, then I got married. After that I drove Buicks, and Fords, and Chryslers, and of course, a Chevy Vega.

Out of all of these cars, the most fun, hands down, was the Sunbeam. The Tiger was about the size of an MGB, but it had a Ford V8 drive train. Carroll Shelby designed how to shoehorn this engine into the little car, and it was very, very fast. But it also maintained those things that made it a true British sports car. By that I mean that instead of luxuries, it offered, let’s call them, eccentricities.

Sunbeam.jpg

Don’t get me wrong. The car had the basics, like a heater. It just didn’t matter. You see, it also had a ragtop and they hadn’t quite figured out how to seal the top to the windshield. That meant that whatever weather I witnessed outside of the car, I experienced inside the car. I have fond memories of snow drifting down between me and the steering wheel.

Even though I considered this one of the car’s many charms, most of my dates didn’t agree. Even the young ladies who loved the car in the summer, lost all affection for it in the winter. There was one girl who only dated me in the summer. Sadly, I didn’t put this together until while I was writing this piece.

Even considering the laughter and pointing that accompanies arriving places with a wet lap, I still think the car’s most distracting eccentricity was that every now and then, the engine would just stop. It didn’t bother me much because I knew what it was. The automobile had an electric fuel pump and every now and then its points would stick. In the realm of automotive catastrophes, this failure wouldn’t even make the top one hundred because it was so easy to fix. All I had to do was wait a little while for them to cool then smack the pump with a hard object. Back to the races. Apparently, the Sunbeam people anticipated this problem. Of course, instead of installing a fuel pump that didn’t stop, they mounted it conveniently. They put it under a trap door behind the passenger. I could actually fix the pump without leaving the car. I I didn’t even have to leave my seat. Just reach back.

Like I said, it didn’t bother me much, but I can’t say the same for my dates. But to be fair, we need to look at it from their point of view. Imagine that you’re a very attractive young lady on your first date with this guy. I know this is a stretch for some of you but just play along. You’re in his sports car blasting around back country roads in piedmont North Carolina on a pleasant summer night. The only light is from the stars above, the moon, the dash, and the headlights illuminating the asphalt rolling under your tires.

You can feel the wind in your hair and the throb of the V8 in your heart. You’re having a good night. Then suddenly, silence. Your date, a guy that looks more scraggy than handsome, lets the car drift to the side of the road. Once the car stops, he turns to you and starts talking as if you were in the middle of an Italian restaurant instead of in the middle of no stinking where North Carolina.

This conversation could last anywhere from two minutes to two hours depending on how ol’ Scraggy thinks he’s doing, At some point, he reaches up and turns on the car. He doesn’t try to start it. There’s no sound of the starter. He just turns it on. Then this…person…reaches under his seat and pulls out a huge, shiny crescent wrench. You can bet that this guy who you barely found mildly interesting before has your full attention now. When the hand gripping the wrench disappears behind you, your breath stops while you wait on whatever happens next. After what feels like a lifetime, you hear clunk then tika, tika, tika, tika, tik, tik. Scraggly straightens up, starts the car, and you’re off.

I went through this procedure several times, and I never had any woman actually jump out of the car and run screaming into the night. But I know a lot considered it. I could see the debate in their eyes. Should I stay and take my chances with Scraggy or chance the woods with the rapists, killers, lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my?

Like I said, fond memories. The Lotus was fun, but I could actually drive it in short sleeves in the winter. I never had to live through trying to explain a wet lap. And it never, ever left me stranded on the side of the road. Like I said, fun but it didn’t have the Sunbeam’s personality.

The memories of that Sunbeam caused me to buy a second Tiger years later. It had its own personality, with its own eccentricities, and its own reasons for leaving me on the side of the road. But that is another story for another time.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading all the way to the end.

Until next time, bye for now.

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IS ICELAND DIFFERENT ENOUGH – Part 2

Welcome back sports fans.

Before I get into this installment, I wanted you to know that I have put this BLOG out in a YouTube video. It’s basically me telling this story. If you would like to watch me tell it, please click below. If you’d rather read it for yourself, just keep reading. Either way, thanks for your attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SD032LDgBE4

During part 1, Ginger suggested we go to Iceland to ride the little horses. Being who I am, I immediately agreed. The problem was that we are cheep, and we seriously underestimated the difference between spring in South Carolina and spring in Iceland. To save a few dollars, we went to Iceland in April and was met by 33° with it raining sideways. We rode anyway. At least we rode everyday except the one day the weather was really bad even by Icelandic standards. That day we went swimming, outside.

I think that’s caught us up from Part 1.

I want to start Part 2 with a confession. I am an addict. I have a terrible monkey on my back, the television. I love it. I love everything about it. You can sit and be entertained for a month while only having to move one thumb. And if you aren’t picky about what you watch, you don’t even have to do that. My bride, Ginger, knows I have this problem, and bless her heart, she actually called Iceland ahead of our visit to inquire as to their television situation.

She found out that the satellite dishes in Iceland can pick up American satellites. Do you know what that means? I can go to Iceland and watch, in English, Gilligan not get rescued, Hogan not get caught, and Jethro Bodine never do anything remotely intelligent. How great is that?

That first morning on the farm, I pulled what I was working on over and excitedly turned on the TV. There was no Gilligan, no Hogan, no Jethro Bodine. There was no American anything. It seems that sometimes when you’re cheep, you and a blizzard arrive in Iceland at the same time. Satellite dishes cannot see anybody’s satellites during a blizzard. But it’s okay. I’m an addict and not very picky about what I watch. I found a music video station and settled down to work.

After several minutes, I glanced up, and they were playing an advertisement for a beach. You know, everyone walking around practically naked, sand, surf, big guys kicking sand on little guys.

The scene changed to an advertisement for a nightclub. It was darker. The people were better dressed. They were dancing, flirting, hooking up, having a great time.

Then the scene changed again to a cartoon drawing of a naked couple. They were—let’s say—demonstrating a position from the Kama Sutra. This particular position shares part of its name with a yoga posture—and your pooch at home. Then the picture changed, same couple, different position. Then another. Then another. It went on and on.

More than any other time on our trip I wished I spoke Icelandic. I really wanted to know what the narrator was saying about this truly athletic couple. I sincerely hoped this was a new, excellent exercise program being pushed by the Icelandic government. Which would, by the way, make the Icelandic government the best ever. But I don’t think it was. If it had been, I have faith that by now we would have seen a half-hour infomercial on the innovative new weight loss program. Developed in India and perfected in Iceland. Guaranteed you will lose weight if you follow the program and a reasonable diet.

What I finally decided was that after the crass capitalism of the commercial, the TV station felt guilty. To give something back, really as a public service, they included the little educational segment on the Kama Sutra.

Watching commercials reminded me of the US. We will advertise anything. We even have commercials for beaches and nightclubs. Of course, we’d never do that Kama Sutra thing. Let’s face it, as a culture, we fully embrace our capitalism and never feel any need to give anything back.

This got me to thinking about those things in Iceland that were almost like the US with a twist.

The toilets in Iceland look like ours, and they work like ours. By that I mean they have seats. No hovering is required. It sounds like a small thing, but it made me happy. But where we only have one choice to flush, they have two. Depending on what you did in there you have a choice. If you… Let’s say, if you left liquid waste you pushed one button and if you left solid waste the other. These buttons had pictograms to tell you which was which. I’m not even going to describe what they looked like.

They have computers in Iceland and the internet. We actually received an e-mail on the farm computer while we were there. When I went to answer it, I found their keyboard looked just like ours until I got to the little finger on the right hand. They had extra letters where the brackets and semi-colon were supposed to be.

Iceland Keyboard 2

I have to admit that I randomly threw a few of these into my e-mail jut to confuse our friends.

Exit signs. Exit signs in the US are simple. They just say EXIT. This is how you get out of the building.

USA Exit

We visited Quebec recently. They’re bilingual so their exit signs are a little more complicated. They say exit in French, exit in English, then if neither of those work for you, there’s a pictogram of a little guy calmly walking to the door.

Canada Exit

Isn’t that what every emergency announcement you’ve ever heard says? “Do not run. Calmly walk to the door and exit the building.”

Here is an exit sign from Iceland.

Iceland Exit

Their exit signs have the same little dude from Canada, but he is not calmly walking anywhere. He’s clearly running. What does their emergency announcement say? “Run. Run now. We can only save ten people. If you want to live, run.” Is it like opening Wal-Mart doors on black Friday only in reverse?

I guess the biggest difference we saw in Iceland was the weather, and how we dressed for riding. Here is a picture of Ginger riding in South Carolina.

Ginger Riding

Notice she has a sweater tied around her waste in case the temperature drops below 73.

Here’s a picture of Ginger riding in Iceland. Okay, you’ll have to take my word for it. This is Ginger.

Ginger in Iceland

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Things are different on the big island, but we had a great time. The people work hard, but they also play hard. The landscape is stark but beautiful. In the same day, we saw glaciers, waterfalls, and geysers. The little horses were wonderful. The weight limit for these little horses is actually higher than the big mules at the Grand Canyon. I’ll guarantee that if we weren’t already feeding three horses and a mule, Ginger would have brought one little mare named Isobel home with us.

I guess the real test of any vacation is whether or not a person would do it again. Ginger and I have talked about it, and we would. Of course, if we did, I don’t think we’d do it on the cheep.

I’m pretty sure we’d wait for July.

Is Iceland Different Enough – Part 1

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IS ICELAND DIFFERENT ENOUGH – Part 1

Before I get into this installment, I wanted you to know that I have just put out my first YouTube video. It’s basically me telling this story. If you would like to watch me tell it, please click below. If you’d rather read it for yourself, just keep reading. Either way, thanks for your attention.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvyih6XZUfQ

Several years ago I came home from work to find my bride, Ginger, all excited. Now, I’ve heard. This is all second hand. I’ve never actually been there myself. May have actually read it someplace. But I have heard there are sites on the Internet that could leave a person in this state. We have a computer. I was getting excited. You can imagine that when Ginger said, “I want to go on a horseback riding vacation to Vermont,” I got depressed.

We had horses. We rode 8 to 10 hours every weekend. Her horseback riding vacation sounded a lot like our weekend. If I was going to spend all the time and money to go on vacation, I wanted it to be something different. When I told this to Ginger… Actually, when I told this to Ginger, she took it it well. You might even say she took it suspiciously well.

A couple of days later I came home from work and she greeted me with, “Is Iceland different enough?”

Now, I had never been to Iceland, but I suspected that it was way different from South Carolina. Plus, there was no way I wanted to challenge Ginger to find someplace more different than Iceland, so of course, I agreed. Which, looking back, may have been her plan all along.

 

Ginger had already done the research. It seems that the rates to stay in Iceland go up in the summer. Well, we’re frugal people. Okay, the people who know us best call us cheep. We will save a buck where we can. That’s how we found ourselves on a horseback-riding farm in Iceland in the spring.

The farm was nice. It had motel styled room for the guests and a large dining area that probably sat between 50 and 60 people. We had plenty of room, because we were the only guests. Think about that. In the whole world, there were only two people so “frugal” that to save a couple of bucks and waiting for Summer they were visiting this farm in this week in the spring. And it was us.

But like I said, we had plenty of room, and received a lot of attention. There were four young adults who were supposed to take care of the horses and the guests. There was a young lady from France. A young lady from Germany. A young lady from Sweden. And a young man from… Okay, I’m sure he told us where he was from, but to tell you the truth, I don’t remember, because I didn’t care, because he was a guy.

The only person working there who was actually from Iceland was the cook, and he did well. Of course we ate a lot of fish. It is, after all, an island. The only way I really liked fish was chicken fried. But that’s probably a Southern thing. We believe everything’s better if it’s chicken fried. Steak. Oreos. Bananas. We’ll even chicken fry ice cream. And for special occasions, chicken fried chicken. Apparently, chicken frying isn’t an Iceland thing. We had fish every way you can imagine except for chicken fried.

I didn’t matter. We weren’t there for the Icelandic cuisine. We were there for the little horses. These guys are cute. They stand about four and a half feet tall. The first thought when you see them is that at least you don’t have to worry about the running away with you. All you’d have to do is put your feet down. But trust me, it didn’t work. These little horses are tough. They have to be. They live in Iceland. The Icelandic people are serious about these little horses. There’s only one breed on the whole island. Other horses can’t come there. If one of these horses leaves, it can’t come back. Horseback riding was the number one sport in Iceland.

Our vision was to spend 5 to 6 hours each day exploring the island from the backs of these horses. Did I mention we are “frugal” people? Back home in South Carolina, the average high temperature in April is 74deg. As perfect as you can get. That’s the temperature we left for Iceland where it was 33deg and raining sideways. We still got to ride. But it was only an hour or two each day, we had to wear 20 extra pounds of clothing, and us and the little horses had to lean sideways to keep from getting blown over. I kid you not, if the wind had ever stopped, and it didn’t. The wind never stopped the whole time we were there. But we were leaning over so far that if the wind had suddenly stopped, us and the little horses would have falling over on the frozen, muddy ground.

Actually, we got to ride every day but one. That day, the young-lady from Germany, her name was Jenny, met us in the dining hall. Jenny explained that she didn’t feel good about us riding in the weather that day. Jenny didn’t have any trouble with 33deg and raining sideways, so if Jenny didn’t feel good about whatever weather was coming in, I felt sure I was going to hate it.

She suggested that we enjoy Iceland’s second favorite sport.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking skiing, ice-skating, or bob sledding. You’re thinking it would have to be a sport involving frozen water. But no, the second favorite sport in Iceland was swimming.

Now you’re thinking about a gymnasium sized room with the air heated to 90 degrees and the water heated to 105. But no. That would not be swimming in Iceland. When we got to the swimming complex, there were several pools, outside, on top of a hill where the wind, sleet, and snow could get to us unobstructed.

Iceland has a lot of geothermal. Hot water just pours out of the ground. They use it to heat their buildings, their drinking water, and yes, their swimming pools. Once Ginger and I managed to get up to our necks in the water we were warm. We had rain, sleet, and snow beating on our heads, and we were toasty. We had icicles hanging off our eyelashes, and we were comfortable, physically.

Mentally, I kept looking at the 30 feet between us and the bathhouse and thinking about my body parts that were going to freeze off and roll across the floor. And I kept thinking about how much I was going to miss them when they were gone.

After a run that still embarrasses me to this day, we made it back to the bathhouse and eventually the farm. And I know you don’t care as much as I do, but I made it back with all body parts intact.

This is getting a little long, and this is about the middle. I think I’m going to stop here, call this part 1 and call the rest of it part 2. If you’ve enjoyed this, click the button on the right and follow me.

Thanks
howard

Relativity Continued

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We left my story of great adventure, well maybe not great adventure, More of an odd, everyday adventure with twists. All I wanted to do is get our stock trailer painted. We started our quest at an up-scale, and I mean seriously up-scale paint shop, and he sent us to the sandblaster. The sandblaster assured us our painter would do a good job, but we may have to forfeit our fist born to pay for it. I knew that from the cars sitting in his operating-room clean shop. However, the sandblaster knew of a “less expensive” paint shop. He called them, and explained to us how to get there.

Trailer with McKenzie and Sara

After following some serious over-the-river and through-the-woods directions, and of course backtracking, we found the new paint shop. This was another falling down building. Instead of rusting machines surrounding the place, he had an old, camouflage-painted truck and Harleys. A really nicely painted camouflage truck and a couple of very, very good looking motorcycles. All this gave me faith he could paint an old, rusty horse trailer. Just like the other guy, he explained that we would have to bring it over the same day the sand blasting was completed. I got that. However, he said, “I do know of a guy who could sand blast your trailer and spray it with primer.” Once primed, the trailer would be rust proof removing the time pressure. We received more directions and instructions to look for the place where the barn burned down.

There was no shop, actually no building of any kind, only ashes. The good news: no livestock was living in the barn when it burned. The bad news: the family was. The good news: everyone got out okay. The bad news: their stuff didn’t. When we got there, the sandblasting guy was waiting for a concrete truck to pour a foundation for a new house where the barn had stood. Once he’d poured and leveled the foundation, he came over to talk to us. He said he could surely sandblast the trailer and spray the primer. But he could also paint it. He could do it all. All we had to do was drop it off, and pick it up. No panicked rushing from one shop to the other. No worry about rain. This man could finish it all himself. One stop shop. Although it took us several hours of detective work, we had found our painter. And it was only four months after Ginger’s birthday.

In retrospect we probably shouldn’t have, but we told the guy there was no hurry. We wanted the trailer back, but we didn’t have what you’d call a tight schedule. We were going on vacation in three weeks. Ginger had arranged for people, animal sitters, to come by and feed and check on our two horses and a mule. It seemed a little much to ask these people to come over in horse trailers, so we liked to leave the trailer hooked up and pointed out in case someone had to go to the vet. We needed the trailer back before we left. But Ginger was scheduled to get a store-bought knee as soon as we returned from vacation. Thinking it might take a while after the operation before she could get back on her mule, we really wanted to take a ride before we left. All this meant that we’d love to get the trailer back in two and a half weeks. Even though it had taken me five months to start the trailer painting process, I saw no reason this guy couldn’t get it done in two weeks. After all, time is relative, and he lived in a faster county than we did.

Since I have three paragraphs of blog left, you probably know what happened next. The store where he bought sand for the blasting no longer sold it. The next store ran out of it. After he got the sand, he had trouble getting paint. Once he had sand and paint, it of course rained, and rained, and then, it rained some more. He managed to get his new house dried in, and the interior walls were coming along fine, but our trailer not so much. Thinking back, it was really our fault. We never should have told him there was no rush. To us, a rush would have been painting the trailer in a day and a half. We didn’t need it for two weeks. How can that be a rush? Apparently, rush is as relative as time.

Being positive people, we checked with him after a week. Then a week and a half. Then daily. There were a lot of reasons he couldn’t work on the trailer, and they changed every time we asked. We didn’t get it back before our trip. On our way out of town we assured him there was again, no rush, as long it was done when we got back in ten days.

It wasn’t. But of course, it didn’t matter. Ginger got her new knee, and we had our painted trailer in our driveway before she could ride again. It looked good. Well, it looked better, and Ginger was happy. And it only took six months after her birthday. Even though time is relative, maybe I should start working on next year’s present today.

Relativity

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I want to thank Linda Lovely for inviting me to join this blog hop. Linda writes two mystery series– the Marley Clark Mystery Series, featuring a 52-year-old, kickass heroine, and the Smart Women, Dumb Luck romantic thriller series, which focuses on three friends with special talents. Published books include DEAR KILLER and NO WAKE ZONE in the Marley Clark series. A third novel will be out late 2014. DEAD LINE is the first thriller in the in the Smart Women series. The second, DEAD HUNT is available on pre-order. Learn more about her and her books at http://www.lindalovely.com

Relativity

I have always been a big fan of the brilliant, although not very attractive, Albert Einstein. I mean, this guy came up with the theory of relativity by watching a clock. He was bored, watching the clock, waiting for something to happen, and it suddenly occurred to him, “Hey, time has to be relative.” Now, I haven’t spent any significant time watching a clock. Okay, I haven’t spent any significant time watching a clock since I retired, but I think I’ve got it.

Let me tell you a story. My lovely bride requested that we have our horse trailer painted for her birthday. It’s an old stock trailer that we bought used over 20 years ago, but it’ll still haul a horse and a mule to the trails. It just has rust. Before I get into the tale, I want to make it clear right up front, that this was not Ginger’s only birthday present. It’s important for you to know there were other gifts that she actually received on her birthday. I don’t want you to think too badly of me when I say it was over a month after the date of her birth before we even started the painting process. Remember, time is relative, and we live in a really slow part of the country.

Trailer with McKenzie and SaraSo, only a couple of months after Ginger’s birthday, we ran into a friend of ours, a horse trainer/stone mason/cowboy, at Tractor Supply. He was there with the troop of wannabe young cowboys who follow him everywhere. After reciting his list of needs to the youngsters, he sent his entourage into the dark recesses of the store to collect supplies while he talked to Ginger.  Like I said, it had been three months since my bride’s birthday so the question of where we could get our trailer painted came up. Okay, Ginger brought it up. The discussion caused an impromptu, prolonged meeting in the middle of the aisle. We soon learned that getting a rusty trailer painted wasn’t a simple matter of getting a rusty trailer painted. Before the painting, we needed to get rid of the rust, which meant sandblasting.

One of the boys knew of a paint shop just a few miles down the road. With directions and a description, we left the tractor store and quickly found the garage. Actually, garage did not do this place justice. This was the best-looking garage of any type I’d ever seen. I’ve been in less clean doctor’s offices. The shop sat on a hill and offered its patrons a nice view of the mountains. We walked through the big bay doors, and the first thing I noticed was the clean, polished floor (I could see myself in the floor), the chopped ’49 Ford, the Jaguar, and the three Mercedes. I suspected that these folks would charge us more than we wanted to pay for painting an old stock trailer. I suspected that these folks would charge us more than the trailer was worth. When it was new.

The proprietor assured us he could paint the trailer, no problem. We asked about sandblasting. He didn’t, but he knew of a guy who did. “He’s on Old Oak Road just past the bridge.” After we explained that we didn’t know Old Oak Road or the bridge, he clarified, “Take this road out here.” He pointed. “Take a left at the fork beside the big school just over the bridge, he’ll be on the right. Now, you know, the minute he finishes the sandblasting, you’ll have to bring the trailer to us so we can paint it before any rust appears?”

I assured him we understood that rust was our enemy, our very fast, evasive enemy. I also informed him that we’d bring the trailer by for an estimate before we finalized the schedule. I didn’t tell him that I also planned to price new trailers, just in case it would be cheaper to buy two new trailers than to let him paint our old one. We found the shop on Old Oak Road. The first thing I noticed was no floor, no Jaguar, no Mercedes. The building was an old barn deep into the process of falling down. Its ambiance was supplied by a number of unidentified machines sitting around the yard rusting. If rust was his enemy, it was winning. I felt like we could afford this guy. He assured us he could sand blast our trailer, but, “That place you’re going to have paint it’ll do a good job, but they’re expensive.” I’d figured that much out from the floor, the Jaguar, and the Mercedes. Luckily he knew of another shop.

I hate to break up this party but the blog is getting a little long. I think I’ll pause this story here and post the rest of our quest later. Even considering relativity, I promise I won’t wait too long. Rest assured that Ginger does get her trailer painted, and it happens before her next birthday. In the meantime, I’d like to hop this blog to Ginger Calem.

This is a different Ginger than the one I married. This Ginger taught me to blog, although I can’t say I’ve lived up to her expectations. She is an instructor through WriterUniv. In January she will be teaching a class WritersButt—Giving Your Muse a Lift (making that mind/body connection to boost creativity, and making it fit seamlessly in a busy writer’s life) http://writeruniv.wordpress.com/classes/master-class-writersbutt-giving-your-muse-a-lift/

Ginger is a lot of ‘people’, but who isn’t?  Don’t we all wear a lot of hats?  In a nutshell, she’s a wife and mother of three.  She and her husband own a CrossFit strength and condition gym in their hometown in Texas, so she trains and works out and all that stuff. Visit her blog at http://gingercalem.wordpress.com  and you’ll find that she’s also a WRITER. She writes an outstanding blog, humorous mystery and YA with a kiss of paranormal.  She loves spending time with her characters, even when they drive her nuts, they make her laugh.  She looks forward to sharing them with you and hope you enjoy their company as well as she does.

The Grand Canyon on Mule Back

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Several years ago, my bride and I decided to ride down the Grand Canyon on the backs of mules. We weren’t prepared to leave immediately, which was good because this cannot be an impulse purchase. Ginger had to call for reservations a year ahead of time. And when she did, the young lady made it clear that the mule’s welfare was their number one priority, and to protect the animals, participants could not weigh more than 200 pounds. And they weighed everyone.

Grand Canyon Mule Ride

At the time, I didn’t see a problem. Sure I needed to lose ten pounds but they gave me a year. How could that be a hard? Ten months later, two months before our trip, I had managed to go from 210 to 215. I obviously didn’t have a handle on this weight loss thing. I started a new, innovative weight-loss plan. Eating less and exercising more. About a month before the fated day, I climbed out of the shower (had to wash off all of that heavy dirt), dried off (couldn’t afford the weight of water moisture) and weighed 199. A whole pound under weight. Of course, I was naked. I had to find out if that was going to be a problem. I hit the internet. Looking through all the pictures I could find of folks riding down the Grand Canyon, no one was naked. Actually, most of them even seemed over dressed. Evidence said they probably weren’t going to let me ride sans clothing. Apparently, I wasn’t the first to have that idea because they added a note to the web site that said participants had to be clothed. I tightened up on my diet, which meant I ate a lot of salads. A lot of salads and not even very good salads. No croutons, no cheese, just oil and vinegar dressing over lettuce.

To get to the Grand Canyon we flew into Vegas planning to spend a couple of days in sin city before driving to the big hole. I didn’t actually see the problem with this plan until the plane landed, but I’m sure you saw it immediately. I’d managed to plan a trip that put me in Vegas for two days and two nights on a diet. The mecca of cheap buffets, and I was on a diet. The middle of beef country. Steaks on every corner. Meat anyway you could want it, and I had to eat salads.

I did get to gamble and found that as long as I had young, blonde, female blackjack dealers I won. All I can figure is I must have taken pity on me because I reminded them of their great-grandfathers. All in all, I left Vegas with two accomplishments. I only lost 20 bucks, and I may be the only person that has ever left sin city hungry.

Going to the Grand Canyon we drove for hours through the desert, flat and desolate. There were hills but no mountains. If we hadn’t known where we were going, we’d never had suspected there was a gigantic hole in the ground in our future. It’s like you’re driving along and suddenly this gash in the earth. A hole, and I mean a hole. Pictures can’t do this thing credit. Breathtaking doesn’t do this thing credit. When I first saw it, all I could do is lean on the rail and take it in. Whenever we walked away from the lookout I kept wandering back. As long as we were in the area I had to go back to that view. I couldn’t stop. It really deserves more than a Chevy-Chase-Vacation style visit.

Back to the mules. We showed up that morning ready for the weigh in. I expected a small set of human scales with sliding weights like you find in a doctor’s office. Instead, they had a set of scales you’d expect to weigh boxes, valves, or motors. Something you’d see in a warehouse. Regardless, I made weight, and we celebrated by going to breakfast and starting to add the pounds back on.

Full of eggs, bacon, pancakes, hash browns, and coffee with cream and sugar we stopped by the car and crammed our essentials for the trip into the provided plastic bags then headed for the corral. They gathered us mule riders together and the head trainer gave us a speech that went something like this.

“I know a lot of you are riding the mules because you think it’s easier than walking. It isn’t. You’ll be on the back of one of these big animals for hours. You can expect to be sore in places you didn’t know you have. But if you’re worried at all you can back out right now. If you make the decision before you get on the mule, we will refund your money. But as soon as that mule steps on the trail, we keep your cash even if you only make it twenty feet. Think about what you’re about to do. If you’re afraid of large animals, if you’re afraid of heights, or if you’re afraid of a terrible, mangled falling death, you should probably bale.” And it went on like that for another ten minutes. There is no way this guy would make the 3:00 am infomercial circuit. This was one of the worse sales pitches I’ve ever heard. Nobody baled.

There were ten in our group not counting the guide. I rode drag. Back of the pack. From there I could fall behind, take pictures, catch up, or help anyone else who was in trouble.  It was a beautiful ride. Anyone who rides at all should take it. Again, breathtaking doesn’t describe the experience. From the rim, every time I looked, it humbled me. But riding down its side on the back of a long-eared mule I didn’t know where to look first.

The trails were actually better than a lot of the trails we rode back home. That is if you ignore the sheer drop off on one side and the rock face on the other.  And the fact that the mules like to walk on the edge. And that the whole group has to stop if you feel the need for relief. My mule was called Hoo Doo. He was a fine, lazy mule who didn’t like to trot. The first two times we fell behind and I insisted he catch up, he dropped his head and did a little buck. When he dropped his head the third time… Let’s say we came to an understanding.

About halfway down, we reached a flat spot with trees, benches, and best of all, indoor bathrooms. This is where we stopped for our box lunch. It felt good to stand on my own two feet. I’ll admit that hours on my own horse allowed me to walk away more normally than most. Several people limped away from the mules badly and when it came time to return, they walked like they were going to their executions.

The Colorado River still looked like a creek below us when the guide explained we were about to experience the “Oh Jesus Switchback.” For those of you who don’t know, many times when a trail or a road goes down a hill, instead of going straight down, it’ll descend at an angle. Then it’ll cut back and go the other way zigzagging down the hill. The place where it turns is called a switchback. On the trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon we experienced many switchbacks. Shortly after our guide’s announcement, we came through a little pass over a ridge and a magnificent valley opened up in front and below us. The trail turned left and was cut directly into a sheer-drop-off cliff. Our view down wasn’t obstructed at all by pesky earth or rocks or anything else that would slow a fall to the valley below. After a couple of minutes, the trail “switched back” to the right. When Hoo Doo got to it, he pivoted on his rear feet turning with his front. As he turned, his chest and head swung out over the cliff off before heading back down the trail.  Oh Jesus indeed.

We made it to the bottom and  rode above the Colorado for a while before our guide stopped us again. “We’re going to go through a short tunnel then across a bridge. Make sure you keep your mule’s nose in the tail of the animal in front of you. We don’t want them to have enough room to panic and do something foolish.” I agreed with not wanting Hoo Doo to do anything foolish.

After the bright, sunny day, the tunnel struck me blind for a moment, but my focus was on keeping Hoo Doo tight on the mule in front of us. We stepped out of the tunnel straight onto the bridge. I’ve been on horses who lost their minds because they notice a white rock. Now I was 65 feet above the Colorado on a 5 foot wide, 500 foot long suspension bridge riding a mule I had been aggravating all morning. My breath stopped. I didn’t know I could live that long without oxygen, but I made it to the other side without passing out.

Grand Canyon Black Bridge

After several more minutes we made it to the Phantom Ranch, the hotel at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only way to get to it is by boat down the Colorado, by hiking down the trails, or by mule. Every day a mule train takes supplies down and garbage back. The hotel’s rustic and after five hours on a mule, beautiful. Those people who were walking funny at lunch were much, much worse at the bottom. When asked how she was doing, one lady replied, “Does the term ‘open sores’ mean anything to you?”

The hotel fed us steak at the cafeteria and with riding, fresh air and not much to do, we hit the bunk beds early. The next morning they fed us well and piled us back on the mules for the return trip. We stopped several times going up. Once to let the mule train with supplies pass, a couple of times for a commentary by our guide, and several more to let the mules rest. Whenever we stopped, the guide had us pull the mules sideways across the trail, side by side, with their heads hanging over the drop off. The theory was that, even spooked, the mule wouldn’t jump forward to their deaths, and of course, the death of their rider.

We were standing still, letting the mules rest with their heads hanging over the canyon when Hoo Doo dropped out from under me. Just fell to his front knees. He quickly scrambled up. He wasn’t down long, but he fell. Standing still. I know what happened. He had one foot on a soft-ball sized rock. Half asleep, his foot slid off the rock and his knees buckled. I understand how it happened, but he’s a sure-footed, Grand-Canyon-trained mule, and he fell down, just standing.

With the top in sight, a couple of our folks fell behind and our guide, who had been setting a quick pace all day, commanded they catch up. Kick that mule. The open-sores lady led a mutiny with a simple, “No.” She absolutely refused to trot or even walk quickly. Our guide knew his limitations and the lady’s mule set the pace for the end of our trip.

We had a great time. I cannot imagine seeing the canyon any other way. Sitting on a mule. Letting him worry about getting me down, and even more important, back up again. Anyone who rides will tell you trails look different from horse or mule back than from the ground. I know that if I were hiking, I’d be to busy trying to breath to enjoy the views. Then, half way up they’d have to send a helicopter for me. Ginger would have to hike up the rest to the top alone. Then she’d have to get a ride to the hospital to visit me. All in all, hiking sounds like a lot of trouble.

The Grand Canyon on mule back. I’d do it again.

Doctor Hell

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Hey. Ginger tore her meniscus around last Thanksgiving. She’s gone through a failed orthoscopic surgery, multiple shots, and a lot of pain. Nothing’s worked so she just received a store bought knee. Sears catalog page 362. Before jumping into the story, I want to say that her new knee is great and she is progressing extremely well. The whole experience was positive with one exception. Along with a cocktail of pain meds, the doctor prescribed a drug to help with nerve damage and seizures. The evening Ginger was released from the hospital she called her doctor’s office and described confusion, a disconnection from her thoughts, and a general failure to connect with reality. We didn’t relate her symptoms with a past event until the doctor mentioned the medication was for nerve damage. I resurrected this old piece I wrote about that occasion way back in 2009.

pills

2009 – My wife has a twitch.  Not a normal, irritating, part-time twitch.  This is the mother of all twitches. 

During her yearly exam, she explained her problem to our family doctor, but of course, the doctor noticed it as soon as my bride walked in. She couldn’t miss it. Ginger’s left eye spent most of its time half closed and had progressed to the point where it was periodically pulling up the corner of her mouth.

We believed an attempt to quite smoking had caused her facial spasms. Hang with me while I explain that. My beloved was trying to kick the cigarette habit when another one jumped up and grabbed her by the butt.  Chewing.  She didn’t take up dipping, or sticking a wad between her cheek and gum, or any habit that required spitting into a used Coke bottle.  Hers was a more modern addiction: Nicorette gum.  She buys the family sized packages from Australia.  She’ll bite a piece in half, stuff a piece of Extra in her mouth, and her jaw is off to the races. 

What she wanted from the medical profession was a Botox shot.  If she could deaden the muscles causing her eye to flutter, she could continue to chew without worrying about limited sight in one eye or even the stares of check-out girls at the supermarket.  Instead of a plastic surgeon, our physician referred her to a neural surgeon.   Insurance wouldn’t pay for a plastic surgeon, but it would pay for the neural guy.

Before the surgeon would discuss the twitch, he gave Ginger a drunk test.  He made her touch her finger to her nose, walk a straight line, and recite the alphabet backwards in fifteen seconds.  She failed.  Then he asked her a series of questions: do you confuse right from left, hot from cold, up from down.  She failed.  The surgeon decided he wanted to look at her brain so he scheduled an MRI for the following Monday.

The neural dude called us the Wednesday before her procedure.  He had thought about it and decided that there was a drug that might help Ginger. His office called the prescription into a local drug store.  I picked up the pills; and since she’s more diligent than I ever thought of being, Ginger called the drug store to make sure she would have no ill effects from drug interaction.  The pharmacist assured her she would be fine.  The instructions said to take one pill a day for a week, two a day for the second week, and three a day the third.

In the mean time, my wife had her semi-yearly dentist appointment.  Our dentist noticed a couple of blisters on the roof of her mouth and inquired about the what, when and where.  The what was very hot spaghetti sauce.  The when was about a week and a half before.  The where was, obviously, the roof of her mouth. 

Ginger’s mouth seemed to be taking too long to heal so the dentist decided to do something.  Our insurance company really likes generic drugs.  So of course, she prescribed a very expensive, non-generic cream to put on the blisters.

On the Saturday before the MRI, the mild discomfort in Ginger’s mouth transformed into pains shooting up and down her throat.  This didn’t seem normal to either of us, and instilled the fear of cancer in Ginger.  We decided to visit the urgent care center. 

With flu season in full force we still got to see the doctor within two hours.  The physician said the wound looked ulcerated.  There seemed to be an infection, but he couldn’t rule out the cancer.  He asked what Ginger was doing for it.  So she handed him the prescription cream. 

He read the ingredients and said, “Yea, this would make it worse.”  He was right.  It had.  According to the physician, the ointment contained steroids, which would suppress the body’s natural defenses.  We ended up with an infection on steroids growing unencumbered by nature’s defenses.

He referred her to an ear, nose and throat guy.  In the mean time, he prescribed a mouthwash with a variety of ingredients that had to be mixed or “compounded” at the pharmacy.  We hurried to a local drug store the doctor’s office assured us could handle the order.  The young lady behind the counter compounded the mouthwash in short order.  That’s compounded, not generic, so our insurance didn’t like it either, which made it expensive. The instructions were simple: “Swish and spit every two hours.”

The evening went well, and the next morning Ginger’s mouth felt better, but at some time in the night, the mouthwash had transformed from a liquid to a solid.  Instead of swishing and spitting, my bride was forced to chew and spit.  The next day, Sunday, we rode the horses and then parked the horse trailer in the drug-store parking lot while we went in for more mouthwash.

The same young lady manned the counter so I shook the bottle clunking the mouthwash for her.  She was nice and mixed us up some more of the compound, no charge.  Ginger took it every three hours during Sunday.

Ginger had her MRI scheduled for 9:00, the next morning, Monday, and I was going with her.  I planned to do the farm chores and let her sleep in. I asked what time she wanted to get up.

She considered it for a minute.  “We’ve already talked to David and Mike.”

This confused me.  “About what?”

“About the wavy teeth.”

That cleared it up.  Our small palomino horse had wavy teeth, and we had discussed it with our vets, David and Mike.  “Yea we have.  What time do you want to get up?”

Again, she thought hard about her answer.  “If you have a choice between the thin one and the thick one, pick the thin one.”

Once again I had entered the world of the confused.  “What are we talking about now?”

“Your colonoscopy.  If you have a choice, pick the thin one.”

Sounded like good advice, but didn’t answer the question. “I appreciate that, but what time do you want me to get you up?”

“Let’s see.”  She thought for a moment.  “My appointment’s at 11:00.”

“No.  Your appointment’s at 9:00.”

Our conversation went on like that for about twenty minutes before I decided I didn’t need her input that badly.  I’d get her up at 7:00.

When Ginger rose, her mouthwash was solid again. She seemed more lucid, but still not prepared to discuss world hunger.  She’d been up a while before I found her sitting at the kitchen table with an assortment of medicines, vitamins, and supplements in front of her. 

I said, “Babe, I don’t think you should take any more of the brain surgeon’s medicine.”

“You’re probably right.”  She popped a pill in her mouth.

“I’m serious, you shouldn’t take anymore of those brain pills.”

“I won’t.”  She ate another pill.

“Have you taken that pill yet?”

“I don’t think so.”  She reached down and picked up a little white pill.  “I think this is it.”  And she popped one of the other pills.

“Are you sure?”

“No.”  And she swallowed another pill.

“Just stop.”  I held both hands up, and she stilled.  We checked, and the pill she had pulled out matched the ones in the pill bottle.

We made it to the MRI, dropped by a lab for a $900 blood test, and called the urgent care center requesting them to send the mouthwash prescription to another pharmacy.  I dropped Ginger by the house, picked up the third bottle of mouthwash and still made it to work a little after lunch.

Ginger called me later Monday afternoon and informed me the batteries in the living room remote were dead and we needed some double A’s.  When I got home with the batteries, I found six remotes lying on their faces on the kitchen counter. Their battery compartments were open and empty.

“Hey babe.  What’s up with the remotes?”

“The living room one stopped working. I figured it was the batteries.”

I waited for more, but it didn’t come.  “I can understand that, but how about the others?”

“I thought I’d check all the batteries.”

“But you don’t have anything to check batteries with.”

She just gave me a blank look.

All but one of the remotes were lying dead in the kitchen.  I put them back together, but the remote from the living room that started the whole mess was missing.

Ginger barely remembered where she had been much less where the remote was.  We looked in the kitchen, bedroom, and even the barn before we found it in the bathroom.

Every morning that week, after Ginger stopped taking her brain pills, she woke up smarter.  We read in the literature that one possible side effect could be confusion. 

Wednesday morning she went to see the ear, nose and throat guy.  He looked at that sore in her mouth, the one that she managed to worry about even when she was on her brain medicine, and agreed it was burned.  To heal it, she should leave it alone.

Wednesday afternoon we both visited the neurologist that had prescribed her brain medicine.  After we sat in the waiting room for the expected hour, he walked in the room and introduced himself to me again and asked, “How’s our patient?”

Ginger, who had nearly resurrected her right mind, answered.  “That medicine you prescribed was terrible.”

“But how are you doing?”

“It made me ditsy, bad. I’m still not normal.”

“But how are your symptoms?”

“I was forgetting things and had a hard time putting words together.”

“No.  How is the symptom you came in for?”

Oddly, Ginger losing her mind had drawn out attention away from her  twitch.  “It may be better. How was the MRI?”

“Let’s talk for a minute before we get to that.”

Ginger went through the brain medicine symptoms.  When she wound down, the surgeon said, “Then you probably should stop taking the pills.” That’s the kind of observation that makes a surgeon worth the money we pay him.

Ginger pointed to her chest.  “And I’ve developed this rash.”

He looked up.  “You’re allergic.  You should definitely stop taking them.” I considered this bonus advice.

According to the MRI, Ginger had a small stroke sometime in the past.  Sometime in the past meant not this week.  It could have been last month, fifty years ago, or even in utero.

Ginger’s mouth got better, and the experience convinced her to quit smoking. Her brain continued to improve, and up until our latest bout with the medicine she was really close to normal. The brain surgeon did send her to an eye doctor who gave her Botox for her twitch.  It bruised her and made the skin around her eye swell.  The twitch never went away completely, and it came back full force before the bruising went away. 

What bothered me most about our experience back then wasn’t the money or the time we wasted. It was a what if.  What if Ginger had been in the hospital when the doctor prescribed that brain medicine.  In the hospital, she may have seen a doctor three minutes a day. Would he have noticed she was confused? Would he have known it was the medicine?  Would he have thought it wasn’t working and prescribed more?  Or prescribed additional medicine trying to solve a problem he caused.  Ginger was in no shape to know what was causing her problems, so she couldn’t have stopped it.  Her symptoms were the kind of thing to get a person declared incompetent and put in a home. 

 I can take credit for her most recent problems. They asked about allergies, but I never considered the anti-seizure medicine. I never thought they might use it for knee surgery, but what do I know. Ginger’s about over her latest battle with the brain medicine. She’s found a local eye doctor who can treat her eye twitch, and her new knee is working great. But I’m still bothered by that old what if. What makes it worse is that this time Ginger did get the medicine in a hospital, and even though we had seen them before, we didn’t recognize the symptoms. The environment in the hospital is so foreign, and she was getting such a combination of drugs that we didn’t put it all together until we got her home. I’ve added a new question. We have conquered so many diseases, so many problems that plague man, but how many people are trapped in hospitals today because of the drugs that were supposed to help them.

Take care of your loved ones. Pay attention when they’re being treated and the drugs they’re taking. Make conscious decisions. Help them.

Modern medicine is a wonderful, but terrifying thing.    

Welcome Home

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Ginger, my lovely wife, and I just returned from an Alaskan cruise. We had three days in a boat then seven on land. Our 49th state is beautiful. On the ship, everything we could want was within walking distance. Then during the land portion, a lovely young lady named Shayla did an excellent job of taking care of us. We discovered that we like being taken care of. Now we’re back in South Carolina feeding horses, dogs, fishes, the cat, and of course, ourselves. Welcome home.

Our air travel is worth mentioning. There was one occasion when we were sitting, looking at a plane out the concourse windows. The board said that flight would leave at 9:00, and that it was on time. Of course, it was already 9:17 and the doors weren’t shut yet. I suppose that could be considered airline humor. Our own flight was originally scheduled for 7:33. It was postponed several times and the gate changed twice. At one time the projected departure time hit 9:55. Then it actually moved sooner to 9:41. I asked the airline’s agent about it. He said the time did change, and we were scheduled to depart at 9:41, but it’d probably be late. Funny. It didn’t leave until well after 10:00.

Salmon

Salmon

Enough about travel. What I really want to discuss is food. It seemed to be a theme through the whole vacation. On the boat our biggest problem was when, which restaurant, and what we wanted to eat. This wasn’t new. We seem to have a history of eating copious amounts of food on vacation.

Early in our relationship, Ginger and I visited Colonial Williamsburg. After a whole day of touristing, we were hot, dirty and very hungry. We spent some time looking for food before we discovered Martha Washington’s Inn. Unfortunately, they had an upscale clientele. Everyone was dressed in suits and ties except us. We were in tee shirts and jeans. They were clean. We were dirty and sweaty. They were polite. We were hungry and facing the most impressive buffet I’d ever seen. There were four different types of shrimp, every meat you could imagine, breads, and I feel sure there were vegetables. But after 27 years, it’s not the vegis I remember. We stuffed ourselves. You know how you can eat until you’re full, wait, and then eat more. We did that multiple times. We actually stood and was preparing to leave when we saw the dessert table. There were cobblers, ice cream, and five different cheesecakes. We ate even more. It was all we could do to crawl back to our motel room, lie on the bed, moan, and swear we’d never do that again.

And we didn’t, for a couple of years. We were visiting Myrtle Beach and discovered an all-you-can-eat, seafood buffet. Delicious fried fish, shrimp, and crabs. Again, I’m sure there were vegetables, but who cares. We ate past where we couldn’t eat any more. Then we ate more. We found ourselves in our motel room again, moaning, swearing to never do it again. And we didn’t, until the next night. It’s not that we didn’t know better. We’re just very weak people.

During the cruise, we never ate to the point where we were comatose. We didn’t need to. We could eat as much and as often as we wanted. This wasn’t a sprint. It was a marathon. On the Lido deck they started serving food at 5:30. I was usually there at 5:30. I don’t know when they quit, but it was well after my bedtime. All that eating was exhausting. They had a bar for appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, pastas, and of course, desserts. The dessert bar stayed open even when the others were closed. We ate everything. We found ourselves talking about our mid-afternoon snack while devouring lunch. If we planned to go to a show in the evening, we’d make sure we ate before, to prevent getting hungry, and again after to hold us over until breakfast. It was great. We’re so weak.

Heavier than we were, we came home to a house void of food. It wasn’t a mistake. We intentionally ate it all before we left so it didn’t go bad. We didn’t know we’d come home with a food Jones demanding we eat every hour. On vacation we could have eaten less, came home lighter, integrated easier, but it was there, we were there. The price was right.

We’re acclimating. The refrigerator is full again, and yesterday, I actually went three hours without eating. It was hard, but everyone needs a goal. I would like to say we won’t ever do it again. But we all know it’s not true.

Have I mentioned that we’re very weak people?

Children deserve to be disciplined

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Hi guys. We’ve been having fun. Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been having fun. Now I’d like to get a little political. I want to talk about disciplining children. You need to know that the only child I’ve been involved with is my stepdaughter who was fourteen when we met. I haven’t been involved with the actual training of a child. In my opinion that makes me perfect for this subject since I really have no idea what I’m talking about.

Punishment

Punishment

Children need to be disciplined. What came to mind when you read that sentence? Putting the child in a corner? Whipping them lightly with a switch? Locking them in a closet? Hanging them by their thumbs? Most people have strong feelings about how to punish children, but I don’t want to get into that right now.

Children need to be disciplined consistently. I have not raised a child, but I have a horse. For him, walking down a woods trail in the spring is similar to one of us was walking down the middle of an ice cream buffet. He’s surrounded by his favorite flavors: poplar, maple, oak. All he has to do it reach out and take a bite. For McKenzie, my horse, that’s a trail ride. If I ever allow him to start eating, he buries his face in leaves and loses all desire to walk down the trail. He doesn’t worry about little things like keeping all four feet under him. He falls. He trips. He wanders off into the woods. To stop him, I have to correct him every time he tries to eat. The important part is every time. If I stop him nine times and then lose focus on the tenth, and he’s able to grab some maple leaves, (his favorite) he has learned that sometimes he gets maple. He doesn’t really know it’s maple, but he knows he likes it. So he tries harder to eat, because sometimes he succeeds. If I can stop him ten out of ten tries. He stops trying. He concentrates on the trail. It’s much safer for everyone, and we both enjoy the ride more.

Children need to be disciplined consistently by their parents. When my wife bought her first mare, Scooter, she was pregnant. We purchased the mare but not the baby so Scooter stayed with the seller until time to wean the colt. This was Scooter’s sixth baby. My wife had started riding her and grooming her. Scooter was over the baby thing. She would allow the little guy to nurse, but that was it. She never disciplined him. He was allowed to do whatever he wanted. By the time he was a full-grown stallion, he was a jerk. One thousand pounds of bone and muscle jerk. If his own momma didn’t care how he acted, why should he listen to anyone else? And he didn’t.

Not only does my gelding need to know what he can’t do, he’s more comfortable letting me be the boss. If I’m telling him what to do, then it’s my job to take care of him. To protect him. He might try to be boss, but he really wants me to be in charge. He feels more secure when I am. How many human children want to be boss? They push the line, but only because they want to know they can’t cross it.

I know that horses and humans are different. But do you know any kids who get their own way, sometimes. Sometimes they get away with talking back to or even hitting their mother. Crossing the road. Spanking the dog. Even worse, do you know any kids who’s parents think it’s cute when they misbehave, some of the time? Then when they’re tired of having a brat, they punish the child.

That’s it. There has to be a line and every time the child crosses that line, he has to be corrected. Whether it’s don’t argue back, don’t hit your mother, don’t cross the street alone, don’t steal food from the pantry, don’t beat the cat, or don’t stab your sister. Whatever it is, draw a line and every time the child crosses it, discipline them. I know every time is hard. But it’s the only way it’ll work. It’s the only way they’ll know you’re the boss. In the long run, it’s easier than bailing them out of jail.

They deserve it. McKenzie deserves to be able to walk down a trail without worrying about snatching leaves. He deserves to know that someone stronger than him is taking care of him. Scooter’s baby deserved to grow into big, strong stallion instead of a problem no one wanted. Every child deserves to live free of worry. To know the difference between good and bad. To know someone is taking care of her.

Every child deserves parents who will take the time and trouble to discipline him every time.

The Stupid Check

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Have you ever locked the keys in your car? Left a diamond bracelet in a hotel room? Sent an e-mail to your boss without the attachment? Profaned an officer of the law? Flipped off a motorcycle gang? Shot yourself in the foot?

scribbling

The company where I used to work spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to proceduralize the prevention of human errors.

First, they divided mistakes into categories. Rule based, knowledge based, skill based.

Then they developed a series of questions to decide if you were in a situation likely to cause mistakes. Is it first thing in the morning? Is it right after lunch? Are you getting ready to go home? Did you just have a break? Do you need a break? Do you feel time pressure? Is it real? Is this your first time? Have you done this ten-thousand times? Are you insecure?

Then they published tools to help you through these problem areas depending on the type of work you do. There were tools for workers, supervisors, and managers. Tools for people who work with their hands and people who work with their minds.

If you work in a cube and need to think, hang out a do not disturb sign. If you’re working through a procedure, check, circle and mark through the procedure step. Repeat the steps you did just before lunch or break. If you feel time pressure talk to your boss. She’ll tell you it’s real. If you’re assigning work to a person, make sure he knows what he’s doing.

And of course, there were meetings with forms and checklists. There were small laminated cards personnel had to keep on their persons at all times. If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Don’t get me wrong. I ride in jets. I’ve had my body ravaged by surgeons. I live within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant. I definitely believe people should avoid errors. And these procedures do work. But does complicated make things better?

I’m a simple person. I’ve always had the best luck with a simple stupid check. Basically, before you hit enter, before you close that hotel room door, before you drive away from home, ask yourself, “Have I been stupid?” Before you lower that jack, before you torque that bolt, before you walk out that door, ask yourself, “Have I been stupid?” Before you call your spouse, before you tell off your boss, before you slap that police officer, ask yourself, “Have I been stupid?”

That’s all there is to it. Before you do anything, whether it’s the first or last thing that day, whether you’ve never done it before or if you’ve done it a thousand times, whether you feel good or bad about it, ask yourself, “Have I been stupid?”

It’s so easy, and so hard. The question’s easy. All you have to do is stop, and consciously consider if you’ve been stupid. It has to be a conscious, separate evaluation. It’s easy to do. The hard part is taking the time. You’re almost done. All you have to do it hit that button. Lower that jack. Walk to your car. Take the time. Stop. Breath. Think. Have you been stupid?