Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: Rainbow Pony

There’s no such thing as time when I’m with my pony.
A short visit can last all day and all night.
Sometimes we ride. Sometimes we just walk together.
Sometimes we do nothing particular, just graze and daze, California daydreaming on such an Autumn day...

And sometimes, as is true only of the closest friends, we enjoy being alone together.
There’s a spot on the hill over-looking the pastures, where I sometimes just sit and be.
And my pony will go about his day, pausing every once in a while to look my way.
See if I’m all right.

Sometimes he’ll amble over. Making a special trip just to munch a little grass by me.
Might stay for a while, then wander away again.

Today he came and stood by me.
Stood there a long time.
I scooted over to sit closer to him, and he bent down and nuzzled my cheek, twitching his nose like Samantha on Bewitched.
Then we gazed out over the rest of the herd together.
Watching over them, the wind running its soft fingers through his silken mane.


Rainbow Pony

Rainbow Pony
She’s my one and only
A better friend than anyone else could be
When I’m astride her
I’m a rainbow rider
And she makes me feel like I’m free.

And we go – where nobody else can go
See things that nobody else can see
And we fly – like a shooting star across the sky
My Rainbow Pony and me.

When I get weary –
The world can make you weary –
With all the greed and hate and lies.
I don’t let it blind me.
I put it all behind me.
When I look into my Rainbow Pony’s eyes.

And we go – where nobody else can go
See things that nobody else can see
And we fly – like a shooting star across the sky
My Rainbow Pony and me.

Sometimes I wonder
If the sound of thunder
Is my Rainbow Pony’s herd.
One day, I reckon
That herd will beckon
And we’ll join-up without a word

And we’ll go – where nobody else can go
See things that nobody else can see
And we’ll fly – like a shooting star across the sky
My Rainbow Pony and me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: Shyla

Back in the day, I visited a “hippie” commune or two. What I remember is how hard some of them were trying to find a better way to live. A way with more joy, more love, more connectedness. Put aside jealousy, fear, anger.
No more crime.
No more war.
Tall order.

Of course, most of them didn’t have a clue how to go about it, either.
They were just kids.

Some thought the answer was marijuana – a magic potion that would enable you see something you’d miss otherwise. I disagreed, but they had a point. Sometimes you do need something outside yourself to bite you on the butt and force you to wake up and smell the coffee.

Some thought the answer was sex.
That’s a much better choice, in my opinion. But there was a whole lot more “using” than “sharing” going on as far as I could tell.
Not my thing.

That was a long time ago.
Yesterday’s “revolutionaries” all seem to have mellowed out, burned out, sold out or gotten out.
Not me.
Me, I’m still looking for the road Shangri-la.
Now, where’d I put that map…..?


PS: Can't tell you who or what or where "Shyla" is; it's a secret. But if you guess right, I'll tell you privately.


When the madness of the modern world surrounds you
When it closes in and you feel like you’re gonna drown
There’s a place where you can be free
Where the world is the way it should be
And you know that’s right here with me
And Shyla.

The way the earth’s been ravaged is a crime
We can heal her up one acre at a time
And what better thing can we do
Than to live what we know is true
So I want to be there with you
And Shyla

I know we both desire to save the suff’ring land
This is where we start to live our dreams and plans….

I’ve seen a lot of places, been around
Right here’s as good as any that I’ve found
So if you’d rather dance than fight
And lock all your doors at night
There’s a place where the livin’s right
As can be

What’s in the past is past; let it go
This is your home now I hope you know
Darlin’ I’m just tryin’ to show you,
You see

You belong right here with Shyla and me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: My Guitar, My Caballo and Me

I respect folks who say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they say they’re going to do, and I try like hell to be one of them. I’ve known a couple of people for whom their personal code of honor came first, before any other consideration, before love, before money. I think it’s important to be ready, willing and able to stand up for what’s right, even if you stand all alone.
ESPECIALLY if you stand all alone
I admire and am inspired by people who are.
We could use a few more of them.


My Guitar, My Caballo and Me

Some men are born to be outlaws
Can’t seem to live by the rules
Some think that makes ‘em heroes
Some think it just makes ‘em fools
I never was much for thinkin’
But I think I like bein’ free
Here is my creed: I’ve got all that I need
My guitar, my caballo and me.

Too full of fun and tequila
I once had myself quite a spree
Woke up a guest of the jailer
Looked like the joke was on me.
That night a sweet senorita
Dropped by to lend me the key
No one was around so I slipped out of town
After thanking her first, properly.

Some men are born to be outlaws
Can’t seem to live by the rules
Some think that makes ‘em heroes
Some think it just makes ‘em fools
I never was much for thinkin’
But I think I like bein’ free
Here is my creed: I’ve got all that I need
My guitar, my caballo and me.

I never wanted to own something I couldn’t carry
I like to sleep on the ground and gaze up at the stars
Not much for settlin’ down and I’m not one to marry
My only friends are my horse and this old guitar.

I take a bite when I’m hungry
I take drink when I’m dry
I laugh when the time comes for laughin’
I cry when the time comes to cry
I say what I mean and do what I believe in.
I try to be more right than wrong.
I don’t give a damn who don’t like what I am
I’ve got to sing my own song.

Some men are born to be outlaws
Can’t seem to live by the rules
Some think that makes ‘em heroes
Some think it just makes ‘em fools
I never was much for thinkin’
But I think I like bein’ free
Here is my creed: I’ve got all that I need
My guitar, my caballo and me.

Listen to the song here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


You can hear some of the songs from the Many Ponies CD at the following address:

Let me know what you think!


The Story Behind the Song: A Cowboy for You

In Greek mythology, when Odysseus was heading off for the Trojan War, he asked an old, wise friend to look after his son, Telemachus. The man’s name was Mentor, and he became counselor, teacher and a temporary surrogate father to the boy.

Being somebody’s mentor is a gift, both to you and to them.
If you’re really lucky, you meet a youth who displays all the raw materials of greatness -- strength, courage, integrity, intelligence, compassion --- and you get a chance to help this person fully become the person they are capable of being. You try to share what you’ve learned from what you’ve done, good, bad or ugly. Maybe they’ll make better choices as a result, avoid the worst mistakes.

But it’s up to them to do it, and you can’t take credit for their success if they do -- or blame yourself for their failure if they don’t. All you can do is tell them where the potholes are in the road; it’s up to them to do the driving.

Maybe someday, THEY’LL mentor someone and tell some stories about the mentor they had.
I think that’s as close to immortality as you get.

This idea works with horses and people, too.
An old, experienced “schoolmaster” horse mentors a green rider until he can ride well.
Then that rider mentors a new young pony to become a schoolmaster who mentors another green rider……

It’s the way things ought to be done, and too seldom are.


A Cowboy for You

When the day is dark and long and stormy
And you feel like you might want to hide.
I tell you, darlin’, just you reach out for me
I’ll be the lion by your side.
And when you feel like singin’
So clear and strong
I’ll write you songs
I’ll even sing along
‘Cause you know there’s nothin’ I’d rather do
Than be a cowboy for you.

We’re the sun and the moon
We’re the old and the new
You’re young and brilliant
I’m tried and true
And there’s nothin’ I’d rather do
Than be a cowboy for you.

Parts of my life have not been pretty
Filled with anger, filled with pain.
But I escaped from the dyin’ city –
Now let me make this very plain:
To be with you,
My love, my friend
I’d crawl through hell
A time or ten
‘Cause there’s nothin’ I’d rather do
Than be a cowboy for you.

We’re the sun and the moon
We’re the old and the new
You’re young and brilliant
I’m tried and true
And there’s nothin’ I’d rather do
Than be a cowboy for you.

We’re the sun and the moon
We’re the old and the new
You’re young and brilliant
I’m tried and true
And there’s nothin’ I’d rather do
Than be a cowboy for you.I

And when it’s time for me to go
I don’t want you feelin’ lost and low
‘Cause the sweetest thing I ever knew
Was bein’ a cowboy for you.

The sweetest thing I ever knew
Was bein’ your cowboy….

Listen to the song here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: A Hundred and One Times

If there’s one quality a horseman absolutely MUST have, it’s patience.
If horses don’t teach you anything else, they’ll teach you that.
Whether you like it or not.

Horses don’t know what a clock is.
They don’t give a damn about your schedule.
Or your big plans.
They live in the right now.
Horses do what it’s time to do when it’s time to do it, and it takes whatever time it takes for it to get done.

Everything that’s important to do has to be done when it’s time to do it.
Not sooner.
Not later.
That’s a good thing to know.
You can’t plant your garden in the middle of January because that’s when you have spare time, or wait until August then fertilize the hell out of it, water it incessantly and expect a harvest a couple weeks later.
It isn’t going to happen.
No matter how much you beg, plead, yell, swear, shout or pout.
You have to plant when it’s time to plant.
That’s all there is to it.

Everything that’s important takes whatever time it takes.
If it takes a woman nine months to have a baby, can you put nine women on the job and do it in one month?
Life takes the time it takes.
Not one moment more or one moment less.

You might as well get used to the idea.


A Hundred and One Times

A hundred times I told her that I loved her.
Each and every time my love declined.
You might think I might disdain repeating
She’s always in my heart and on my mind

But today if once again I tell her
All of her resistance may be outdone
And so today if I should chance to see her
I’m going to make it one hundred and one.

A hundred and one times “I love you”
To tell her I still care
A hundred and one times “I love you”
And I’ll always be there.
A hundred and one times “I love you”
What else can I do?
A hundred and one times “I love you.”
My love’s still strong and true.

One day she may come to need and want me
Know that I’m the one she’s looking for
Chide herself for taking me for granted
Long to hear the words she spurned before

I will not abandon or forsake us
Whether out of pain or fear or pride
I want to be what only love can make us
And these words may one day turn the tide

A hundred and one times “I love you”
To tell her I still care
A hundred and one times “I love you”
I’ll always be there.
A hundred and one times “I love you”
What else can I do?
And if that won’t convince her
If that won’t convince her,
There’s only one thing left for me to do
I’m gonna make it
A hundred and two.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: Everything That I Love Best

I guess my idea of "the perfect woman" is a little different from the officially approved version.
Back when guys had pin-ups of Marilyn Monroe-types, mine was Katherine Hepburn.
In my book, those are the things that make a woman attractive.
They're qualities I respect in anyone, and it's as rare to find them in a woman as in a man.

I don't care much for hand-wringing weaklings or air-headed estrogen blobs.
"Cute" is a dime-a-dozen and the trouble with "pretty" girls is that they seem to think that's all they have to do in the world.
That's their big contribution.
They think being "pretty" entitles them to whatever they happen to want, without actually DOING anything to deserve it, without having to earn it, without having to work and sweat for it like everybody else.
Just smile, show a little cleavage and bat your eyelashes.
And, sadly, a lot of the time they're right.
I've seen too often the "pretty" girl get fawned over for doing NOTHING, while the "plain" girl works her butt off and gets no appreciation at all.

Ticks me off in a big way. Maybe you can tell.
I'll take brains and heart over "tits & ass, " anytime.


Everything That I Love Best

She don’t giggle when she talks; she don’t wiggle when she walks;
She’s got a grip like steel and the eye of a hawk.
She don’t wear mascara, spike heels or clothes too tight;
She’s a header, she’s a healer; she’s hell in a fight.
She’s my kind of woman – you can have the rest
Damn, that girl’s everything that I love best!

She don’t pluck her eyebrows or shave her legs,
She knows what she wants but she never begs.
She wears a beat-up Stetson, baggy cowboy jeans.
She means what she says and she says what she means.
Got a chip on her shoulder – tattoos on her chest
Damn, that girl’s everything that I love best!

I’d like to tell her all the things she makes me feel
I’ve dreamed her so long it’s hard to believe she’s really real…

She’s cool in the saddle, she’s a bareback fool.
You wanna play a little poker, she’ll take you right to school.
She takes her whiskey straight and her coffee black;
If she ever gives her word, she never takes it back.
She’s a little like me and by now you’ve guessed,
Damn, that girl’s everything that I love best!

The first time I saw her I knew, like me, she was one of a kind.
Couldn’t help but thinkin’ what a pair we’d make and wouldn’t that be fine?

Now I been jerked around, I been down on my luck;
I lost my job, my dog, my mind and my truck.
I been tossed by bulls and I been stomped by broncs,
I been kicked out of all the better honky tonks,
But I still consider myself truly blessed ‘cause
Damn, I seem to be the thing that she loves best!

(spoken) – That is, except for her pony.
But you know I wouldn’t have that any other way…

Listen to the song here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: My Corazon

She’s in no hurry.
Neither am I.

Maybe it’s because when we first met, first looked into each others’ eyes, we both knew that there was something special between us and always had been, even before we met.
There was an inexplicably comfortable familiarity, more like recognizing an old, loved and trusted friend than meeting someone new.
As if we shared one heart.
Whatever was going to happen was going to happen.
It was as inevitable as sunrise.

Knowing that, it was almost as if it had already happened and took away any uncertainty, awkwardness or anxiety.
Or hurry.
We were relaxed and casual in each others’ company. No airs or masks needed. We’d see through them anyway.
We went for long walks. Mostly silent.
When there was talking, I did it. She listened.
But she spoke without speaking. A nod. An expression. A gesture.
Only 5% of communication is verbal, anyway, according to the experts.

She would sometimes lean her head lightly against my shoulder. Sometimes brush my cheek with her soft lips and I could feel her warm breath against my neck and it gave me goosebumps right down to my soul.

After a time, a day came when it seemed right.
She gave me that invitation, knowing I would never refuse, and knowing I would not hurt her or just use her. I rolled gently onto her, feeling the heat of her body against me in pulses like a heartbeat.
Her heartbeat.
My heartbeat.
Our heartbeat.
And her scent was the fragrance of sunshine.

I let her carry me wherever she wanted to go, moving with her, content to be part of her body and spirit. Hips swaying in a primal samba, she walked into my heart, as we rode through the cool autumn colors.
And she would remain there always.


My Corazon

I have loved before
But I have never known
A love like this,
Like a precious stone.
It’s a love I have
For you and you alone;
You are the beating of my heart
My Corazon.

You’re the warmth
Of the summer sun
You’re the pink and golden glow
When the day is done
You’re the scented sweet caress
Of breezes softly blown
You are the freedom in my soul
My Corazon.

Te adoro. Mi sueno espanol.
Before you, in this world I was alone
All alone, my Corazon.

And the times
We must be apart
I’ll carry you
Ever in my heart
When I sing to you
Of the joys love has shown
You are the chords of my guitar
My Corazon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: Horses Never Lie

I never met a horse I didn’t like.
Can’t say the same about people.
There’s no guile or deceit in the world of the horse. They’re up-front and honest in everything they do.

A two-legged will look you right in the eye and smile and lie to you.
A horse won’t do that.

A tw0-legged will pretend to share your values, to believe in what you believe in, so that you’ll “like” them – because if you “like” them, they can manipulate you into doing things you might not otherwise do – or even might otherwise do, if they just asked you honestly.
A horse won't do that, either.

The flip-side of this situation is true, too.
You can’t fool a horse. They see right past your mask and know you for who you really are.
I guess that’s why some people don’t like horses.


Horses Never Lie

The woman claimed to be my friend
But she was all about pretend
She was a liar
More selfish than fire
More fickle than the fickle wind

Even though I mourn the loss
I know I’m really better off
To be without her for
There is no doubt her
Love was never worth the cost.

Horses never lie
Horses never lie
If I prefer their company
I guess that’s why.
Horses never lie.

Maybe you’re thinking I’m bitter
Well, that’s something I’ve got to consider
But first she used me and
Then she abused me
There’s no polite word to fit ‘er.

But Horses are always real
They never deceive or conceal
They always show
And you’ll always know
What they truly think and feel

Horses never lie
Horses never lie
If I prefer their company
I guess that’s why.
Horses never lie.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Looks like one place I'll be trying to help out is Meadowgate Equine Rescue in Newfield, NY.
They can always use donations of money for feed and vetcare for the ponies, and of kid-sized helmets, boots tack (English or Western). So if you have any old, outgrown riding stuff in the closet...
You can find their website here:

They've got 20+ rescued ponies there now and have brought quite a few back from skin & bones neglect, and abuse.

Another program I applaud was put together by a friend, Dr. Margaret Ohlinger. It's the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program. First of it's kind, and I hope not the last.

They're at:


Friday, August 8, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: Montana

This is one of the tunes on the Many Ponies CD, which we should have samples up for next week. I figure, if nothing else, folks in Montana might like it.


Don’t know what I went lookin’ for
Don’t know what I was tryin’ to find
I can’t remember anymore
I guess I kinda lost my mind

Now you can have your city lights
If that’s the kind of thing you need
I’d rather see the stars at night.
I’d rather be where I can breathe

Comin’ home to you, Montana
Are you still wild and free?
Coming home to you Montana
If I can find my way back
That’s where I want to be.

I’ve been the wayward wind too long
Maybe I’m tired of bein’ alone
Maybe I heard it in a song
Sayin’ it’s time to come back home

I may go lookin’ for a smile
See if she still remembers me
Maybe we’ll walk and talk awhile
Maybe we’ll just see what we see

Comin’ home to you, Montana
Why did I ever stray?
Coming home to you Montana
If I can find my way back…
I’m comin’ come to you, Montana
Why did I ever stray?
Comin’ home to you, Montana.
If I can find my way back
That’s where I’m gonna stay.

Listen to the song here.

No doubt about it, Montana's a beautiful place. Perhaps because it's the about the least populated place this side of the Amazon rainforest. So the tune is certainly an homage to that and I do hope the good people of Montana will enjoy this song.

But there's more, too.

Obviously, Montana is about a guy who wants to go home again.
But what exactly is “home?”
Is it just a geographical location?
I don’t think so.

One of my favorite films is Sam Peckinpah’s classic, The Wild Bunch. There’s a scene in which this gang of aging outlaws, past their prime and past their time, are taking five in a little village in Mexico. The leader of the gang, Pike Bishop (William Holden), is sharing some booze with a village elder, and is astounded at seeing a couple of his trigger-happy desperados frolicking in a pond like seven-year-olds.
“We all dream of being a child again,” the elder shrugs wisely. “Even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.”

Sure, home is where you grew up.
But home isn’t just a place.
It’s a time.
A time when you were new and fresh, and the world was full of wonder and mystery, and every dream seemed possible.

Then you make choices.
The choices all seem “right” at the time, or you convince yourself they are. But every choice you make eliminates some possibilities and makes others inevitable.
Doors close.
Bridges burn.

Maybe you choose yourself right into a corner.
Maybe you lose track of where your choices were supposed to take you, the person you were supposed to be.
Maybe you look in the mirror one day and 20 years have gone by and you’re farther from your dream than ever and you count your losses and ask, like Jake Holman in THE SAND PEBBLES, “What happened? What the hell happened?”

It’s easy to get caught up in chasing shadows on the wall of the cave.
Extrinsic rewards.
Artificial things.
Easy money and fast women (or is it the other way around?) All the trappings, all the symbols of success.
Maybe you do all this stuff, get all this stuff and find yourself asking, “Is that all there is?” Maybe you long for something else, something more, something real.
Did you ever notice it always seems to be the rich, successful guys who blow their brains out?

The thing is, you realize it, too late. Before you can say tempus fugit, you’re so far off course that you’re not even sure what galaxy you’re in.
And way past that point of no return.
And the farther from your dream you’ve gone, the more you long to go back home, find your way back to your Montana.

Some of it’s a longing for possibility. Some of it’s a weariness of responsibility. Weariness of freedom, I suppose, which features responsibility on the B-side and, rumor has it, is just another word for “nothin’ left to lose.”

Part of the thing about childhood for most people is that they don’t have to be responsible for too much. They can kick back and let somebody else drive.
If you’ve ever been on the road a long time and, despite multiple cups of bad coffee, you can barely keep your eyes open and focus, you know that letting somebody else drive for a while has a lot of appeal.

But there isn’t anybody else.
There’s just you.
Just you.

So now it’s the last round and you’re way behind on points, and you can barely hold your arms up, let alone throw effective punches. Yet you know the only way you can win it at this point is by knock-out.
So somehow, you keep going.
Somehow you get up off that stool.
You answer the bell one more time

We’d all like to believe this guy makes it back to his Montana, wherever, whatever, or whoever that means to him.
Blue Bayou

We hope that he recaptures his long-ago dream, the freshness and optimism of his childhood, because, if he does, then there’s a chance we might be able to do it, too.
And we desperately need to believe in that possibility.

Now, I wouldn’t advise you to lay any heavy bread on our hero's success.
But me, I’m famous for playing long shots.
I may be the only person on earth who bet on Douglas over Tyson.

Sometimes, the impossible happens.
And when it does, it's sweet.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Tao of Spartacus Jones

I went to Max's farm to have a look at an 1904 McClellan saddle he was selling "in mint condition."
It proved to be a size 12, just what I needed. It had one tiny place along the cantle where some stitching had given up the ghost, but I could repair that easily enough. Like the weathered leather of Max's face, it was in hard-used but well-maintained condition. Certainly worth the $300 he was asking.
Cash, of course.
No need to get Uncle Sam in on the deal.

Naturally, after spending 10 minutes on the saddle, we spent the next couple of hours talking horses and sipping cowboy coffee makes expresso seem like Kool-aid. And I got the twenty-five cent tour of his place.

Max's farm was about 10 acres' worth. Had a barn with four stalls and a hayloft, a 12X12 tack room jam-packed with saddles and tack and old lariats.

One stall was empty. In another was an appaloosa belonging to his wife (who was at least 30 years younger that he was, god bless him). In another, a fine bay quarterhorse. In the last was a sway-backed old boy with swollen fetlocks and who appeared to be blind in both eyes. His stall had a Dutch "back door" that opened out into a separate paddock.

"That there's Oscar," Max told me. "He's coming up on 34 years old." It seemed to me there was something special in his voice when he spoke that horse's name.
Now, not many people would keep a wheezy, blind, thirty-four year old horse with arthritis. A lot of people would put him down or sell him off to the butchers when the price of horsemeat was high. I remarked on it to Max. I told him I admired his loyalty.

"Well, he ain't going to end up in a can, that's for dang sure." I'd never heard anyone use the word "dang" before. "You see that?"

Max pointed to Oscar's left flank. Just back from the point of his hip were three long, thin white-hair scars and a fourth, slightly shorter. They looked like they might have been made by a rake.

"Let me tell you a little something about loyalty, son," he said. The way he said "son" got my full attention. Maybe because it was something my father had never called me.
He offered me a chew, which I declined.
And then he told me a little something about loyalty...

"I was working at this little spread outside McClusky, South Dakota. Years back it had been a working cattle ranch; now it was a dude ranch. I guess they had 40 or 50 horses. Something struck me about Oscar. He was way down on the pecking order. Maybe I took a liking to him because I've been down there myself. He was just the gentlest, calmest horse — bombproof, some people like to call it. He was always first pick to be some little kid's first ride. Kind of an ambassador of good will.
I don't want to make him sound like a tired old plug. He was about eight at that time and could show some spark if you took him out and let him know you wanted to do some running. He had real good feet, too. I'd bet he had some Arabian in him. He needed shoes like we need more half-wits in congress.

"One particular day, after a hellacious storm, I was going out to ride one of the trails, just to see what's what and I decided to saddle up Oscar for the trip. I figured it would take all morning anyhow, so I packed up a lunch to take along.
It was a cool, windy day, the kind that often follows up a period of heat and humidity like we'd been having, and it was a lovely ride. Oscar and I got along right away and I was riding him just by thought.
Or maybe he was riding me; he sure knew the way as well as I did.

"About mid-day we came to a nice spot where there was a little meadow and some woods, and I decided we'd take a little rest. I ground-tied Oscar to let him graze — he ground tied like he had an anchor on the end of that rein — and I took my lunch over to a bit of shade.
I remember sitting there with little gusts of wind blowing in my face, carrying the sound of Oscar's munching along to me. There's no more relaxing, peaceful sound, to my mind, than a horse chewing contentedly away.

"Well, I always sort of blamed the sardines. Had a couple of sandwiches loaded with sardines and French's mustard. I can just imagine the scent of those sardines wafting right over to that bear's nostrils.

"She wasn't forty yards away.

"Stood up on her hind legs and bellowed. I nearly wet my drawers. I jumped up and looked at her, saw her looking right at me. She was a giant, even for a Grizzly. When she bolted toward me, I got an impression of a ripple of muscle from her nose to her rump, a ripple of power. People see bears lumbering along at an easy waddle and they think bears are slow and clumsy. It ain't so.

"A Grizzly can cover a hundred yards faster than the fastest human being on earth, change leads better than the best reining horse you'll ever see, climb a tree like a cat.
It couldn't have taken her ten seconds to get to me. Probably more like five.

"Your mind can do a lot of racing in five seconds. I tried to remember all that bear advice I'd heard.
Turn and run like hell? No, that's prey behavior for sure, and I couldn't outrun her, anyway.
That would've been my instinct though, if I could have made my feet move.
Play dead? That just seemed like I wouldn't be playing for very long.

"About the time she was nearly on top of me, I got unfrozen, threw my sandwich at her and starting digging at my belt for my knife while I back-peddled as best I could.
At a time like that, if there's something you can trip on, you'll find it.
I did.
Fell on my ass, twisted my ankle hard — pretty sure I heard it go, or maybe just felt it pop. Couldn't get to my knife now — I was laying on that hand. Only thing left was to cover my face and throat with my free arm, curl up my free leg to cover my belly, or maybe to kick at her with.

"When that bear bellowed and charged, I could hear Oscar give a long, shrill whinney followed by the thud of his hooves on the soft ground. Oddly enough, I found that comforting. I thought to myself, looks like my time has come, but at least Oscar is getting away to safety. I was pretty certain he'd head right back to the barn, too, which meant that people would come looking for me. If there was anything left to find.

"I think I started a little chat with God as I squeezed myself into a tight, hard ball and waited for the impact of that enormous body, the tear of those six-inch claws, the clamp of those powerful jaws.
But it never came.
A shadow fell across me like a cloud crossing in front of the sun. At first I thought it was the bear, but it wasn't.

"It was Oscar.

"He screamed and snorted and stood over me flailing at the bear with his front hooves then spun and kick out at her with both hind feet. Kind of amazing, I guess, that he didn't trample me.

"I heard it more than I saw it. I could hear him connect. Sounded like somebody slapping a tree with a sockful of wet sand. I can't give a blow-by-blow account. I was feeling shocky — nauseous and dizzy and a cold sweat. I don't know how long it lasted. Could've been two seconds. Could have been two hours.

"Somewhere along the line, I felt Oscar's soft muzzle gently nudge my cheek and I came around. The bear was gone.
Ankle throbbed and hurt like a sonovabitch, but other than that, I seemed to be all right. Soon as I propped myself up on an elbow, Oscar nickered and grabbed up a mouthful of grass. I think he saw that I was basically ok and when it's over, it's over. Time to eat.
That's the way horses do.

"With the help of a lot of swearing and sweating, I got to my feet and Oscar stood close by while I climbed up into the saddle. Had to mount from the Indian side, which was awkward, but he was steady as they come. I saw then that he had some real deep scratches on the side of his rump.
Real deep.
That bear had landed one good swipe of her paw, anyway.

"I had my ankle in a cast for six weeks, during which time I became the champion one-legged manure shoveler of the West. I told my boss I'd be real interested in buying Oscar. Turned out, she gave him to me as a gift."

Max and I watched Oscar sniff his way over to some clover and nip it down to the roots. He raised his head up while he chewed. His ears pivoted back toward us. Maybe he knew we were talking about him.

Cowboys are notorious for tall-tales.
I'd heard a few.
"That's one hell of a story," I told Max.

He nodded and spat tobacco juice.

"I've never quite understood it, myself. It's a horse's nature to run from danger. That's how they've survived. And Oscar wasn't even my horse at the time. Ain't like we'd spent a lot of time together or anything like that. I don't know why he adopted me as his herd to look after. Maybe he'd have done the same for anyone. Or maybe he just didn't have no use for bears."

Max leaned on the paddock fence, watching old Oscar nibble some white clover.

And I got the feeling that every word of that story was true.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Today we finished up the remaining recording & mixing on the CD.
Brought in the fifth guitarist to have a go at the last tune, and he came through solidly for us.
Maybe I'll get him an EMS cap: Emergency Musical Services!

As always Will Russell in the control room was worth his weight in any precious metal you'd like to name. He manages to be honest and upbeat at the same time. Must have studied yoga.

Mastering is next.

We should have some samples up on our website ( very shortly.
I'm very interested in your response to these tunes, so don't hesitate to comment.

Feeling a little exhausted right now.
But somewhere down the road, if some ponies can be spared some misery as a result, it's well worth the time and energy a hundred times over.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Story Behind the Song: We Will Ride

When I first stood eye-to-eye with Canto it was like looking in a mirror.
He was angry, resentful and didn't trust anybody.
I liked him immediately.

He'd won a few races but apparently hadn't made his owners enough money so they cut him loose. By the time I met him he'd injured a couple of riders, was hell to handle with an aversion to being touched, and the smart money said to put him down.
Fortunately, some people aren't that smart.

The key with Canto was not to demand anything of him, to let him take whatever time he needed to take to figure out that you were all right. There's no way you can "make" somebody trust you. All you can do is be trustworthy and they'll either see it or not. To be trustworthy means you're honest and considerate, you never break your word and you're not just "acting" trustworthy as a means to an end. That might work with people, but horses aren't stupid and they see right through that.

I told Canto that I thought he was an exceptional horse, all right. And I'd love it if he, one day, decided he wanted me to be his rider. I was pretty sure we could have some great times together. But if that day never came, that was all right, too. Because I liked him and appreciated him not for what he could do for me, but for his own nature.

One afternoon I was working around the barn and he approached me and asked if I'd mind scratching his ears a little. I told him I wouldn't mind at all.

It doesn't get much better than that.

We Will Ride is for Canto.
It's on the new CD Many Ponies. Marie Burns sings a duet with me on it.


I know I may never be worthy of you,
Earn your trust and affection. I swear if I do
I’ll show you how good love can be when it’s true
And we’ll ride.

I know you’ve got many good reasons to fear
And it’s best to be cautious, allow no one near
But I’m not one of them and I will make that clear
And we’ll ride

I know that freedom still burns in your brain
Born with a spirit no bit can restrain
With me laughing madly the wind in your mane
One day I know we will ride

And when we look back on our long time of doubt
We will raise up our voices we’ll sing and we’ll shout
And be glad for the joy that we finally sought out
And we’ll ride

We will ride....