Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Rumor of Heroes

Here’s something I’ve noticed.
Maybe you have, too.

In one paddock is a bachelor band of 5 geldings.
Cisco, seems to be the dominant member of the group. He’s pretty pushy with the other guys. Has that when-you-see-me-coming-step-aside attitude. Doesn’t hesitate to give a nip, if a laying back of ears isn’t sufficient to get the point across.

I’m not making any judgments here. I like Cisco and he likes me. I’m just observing to see what I can learn.

Most people would pick Cisco out as the Alpha horse in that group – until meal time.
Despite Cisco kicking up quite a happy dance when I bring grain out, he DOESN’T eat first. And he doesn’t eat SECOND, either. He eats THIRD.

Buddy gets the first bucket. Buddy is very quiet, shy, even stand-offish. Has had bad experiences with people and rarely lets anyone approach him, though he may occasionally stretch his neck in to grab a bite of apple. I don’t see him horse-play much, though he might when I’m not around. And I don’t recall him being particularly assertive.
But while Cisco might have a go at grabbing somebody else’s bucket, it won’t be Buddy’s. Cisco defers to Buddy, without any action from Buddy that’s discernable to me.

What I find interesting is that the second Bucket goes to Jackson.
Back before Buddy joined this crew, Jackson was in Cisco’s paddock and Cisco was unquestionably the boss. If Cisco wanted a taste of Jackson’s grain, Jackson yielded away from the bucket.
Now, however, Jackson gets bucket number two and Cisco leaves him alone about it.
Apparently, because Jackson and Buddy have become pals. Jackson keeps Buddy between himself and Cisco and Buddy steps between them, too.

I know it's the common thing for horses to pair up within the herd, to have a “best friend” for grooming, keeping the flies off, and for security. But I wonder whether it’s also true that this team is also usually comprised of a “hero” and a “sidekick.” The hero of the pair seems to stick up for his sidekick and protect him from the more dominant horses picking on him. I’ve seen this in three pairs of horses now, for certain. Others might or might not be the case, I can’t be sure.

I guess this is another reason I prefer horses to humans.

Too bad we don't look out for each other the way some horses do.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Mon Jan 26, 4:33 PM

BAY CITY, Mich. - A 93-year-old man froze to death inside his home just days after the municipal power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills, officials said.

Marvin Schur died "a slow, painful death," said Kanu Virani, Oakland County's deputy chief medical examiner, who performed the autopsy.

Neighbours discovered Schur's body on Jan. 17. They said the indoor temperature was below zero Celsius at the time, the Bay City Times reported Monday.

"Hypothermia shuts the whole system down, slowly," Virani said. "It's not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they're burning."

Schur owed Bay City Electric Light & Power more than $1,000 in unpaid electric bills, Bay City manager Robert Belleman told The Associated Press on Monday.

A city utility worker had installed a "limiter" device to restrict the use of electricity at Schur's home on Jan. 13, Belleman said. The device limits power reaching a home and blows out like a fuse if consumption rises past a set level. Power is not restored until the device is reset.
The limiter was tripped sometime between the time of installation and the discovery of Schur's body, Belleman said. He didn't know if anyone had made personal contact with Schur to explain how the device works.

Schur's body was discovered by neighbour George Pauwels.

"His furnace was not running, the insides of his windows were full of ice the morning we found him," Pauwels told the newspaper.

Belleman said city workers keep the limiter on houses for 10 days, then shut off power entirely if the homeowner hasn't paid utility bills or arranged to do so.
He said Bay City Electric Light & Power's policies will be reviewed, but he didn't believe the city did anything wrong.

"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbours need to keep an eye on neighbours," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."

Schur had no children and his wife had died several years ago.

Bay City is on Saginaw Bay, just north of the city of Saginaw in central Michigan.

Freedom of Speech

I’m not a Republican or a Democrat.
Far as I can tell each is worse than the other and any distinctions you want to make between these cozy bed-fellows would have to raise hair-splitting to the level of a martial art worthy of its own film genre.
To me, the whole two-party thing is like a little game of 3-card Monty.
Strictly for suckers.

I’m not for the Democrats.
And I’m not for the Republicans.
I’m for America.
Not the America of history.
The America of The Dream.
It’s a dream only to be found in the rantings of irascibly uncompromising old patriots and in the diaries of young, dead poets.
And, of course, in the lies of politicians.

“Liberty and Justice for All.”
That’s the Dream.
Got a nice ring to it.
Thing is, you can’t get to either one of those things without going right through the middle of downtown Truth.

I want to know the truth.
Whatever it is.
However good or bad or embarrassing or distasteful or unthinkable it might be.
And I want to tell the truth.
However good or bad or embarrassing or distasteful or unthinkable it might be.
Because "the truth will set you free" --- and ONLY the truth will set you free.
But first, chances are it will make you mad.

There’s a saying, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Two films I watch every now and again, just to remind myself of that: Triumph of the Will, and Night and Fog.
If you haven’t seen them, I recommend a viewing.

Hitler and the Nazis (no, that’s not another new opera-metal fusion band) are an important lesson for us. Adolf’s Germany is a perfect example of what can happen when people get swept up in emotion and fail to exercise a little critical thinking.

That brings me to President Obama.
As I've said before, if President Obama does good, I'll be happy as a clam to say so. But he doesn't get a free pass from me just because he's NOT George Bush, or because he's half-black, or because millions of starry-eyed sycophants apparently prefer “believing” to thinking.
I find some of his ideas as frightening and as dangerous as anything the recently-departed, would-be King George spat up.

But Obama's ideas don't scare me as much as the millions of otherwise well-meaning folks who demand unquestioning belief in their new saviour. When I recently I expressed some of my reservations about the new President and cited some easily verifiable facts from Obama's own campaign website and from the congressional record, I was immediately set upon by Obamaniacs who either don't bother to check the facts, or don't even CARE what the facts are.

That’s mob mentality.
The goose-step mentality.
It terrifies me.
Whether at a lynching, or a soccer game or a rock concert or an inauguration, it terrifies me.

And the knee-jerk intolerance of the neo-cons has now apparently been transferred to the Obamaniacs right along with the mantle of office. Judging from the personal attacks they leveled at me, they seem perfectly ready to burn me at the stake or commit me to an institution for daring even to raise a question – demonstrating the very intolerance that they so recently condemned the Bushvolk for displaying.

Cautious optimism MIGHT be in order, pending Mr. Obama’s actual performance, but some folks are dancing in the street like Jesus has just landed on the White House lawn and put up a "mission accomplished" sign.
A little pre-mature, I’d say. I think celebration of such mindless emotional fervor is dangerous, and rubs right up against stupid.

It might be good to reflect that Hitler, as far as we know, never personally murdered ANYone. It was all done by "loyal" followers who decided to go with "hope" and "faith" instead of critical reasoning.

My research and experience teach me this:
Be careful what you believe in.
And WHO you believe in.
And WHY.

Me, I'll never be a "good German."
Wouldn't bend over and play that part for Dubya and I'm not going to do it for Obama, either.
As long as I have a brain, the gentleman is going to have to EARN my respect like anybody else.
Maybe he will.
Hell, I HOPE he will.

But if he does, it will be with actions, not just words.


(art by Norman Rockwell)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Tao of Spartacus Jones

There are only two things in life that are really important.
One is love.
I forget the other one.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No Reason in the World

The barn cats and some of the ponies, including mine, often do this very thing.
There's something about it that touches me, emotionally, more than you'd think it would.

I don't mind.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Mama Done Told Me....

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day.
Today Barack Obama will become President of the United States.
Obama’s been trying hard to make you connect those two dots.
Instead of coming to town riding on a pony, he's putting the spurs to the memory of Dr. King. He’s trying to convince you that his election victory is the ultimate consummation of Dr. King’s dream.


Dr. King dreamed of a time when each person would be judged only by “the content of his character” and not by the color of his skin. King didn’t just want a Black man to be President; he wanted a GOOD man to be president, and not be denied the job just because he was Black. I don’t believe King would have endorsed a militaristic corporate pimp dedicated to business as usual, just be cause he happened to be Black.
Or half Black.

King was a stand-up guy who spoke out in no uncertain terms against the war in Vietnam and the depredations of the US government. He was anti-war, pro-justice, and risked his life to say so. Eventually, it cost him his life.
It’s hard for me to imagine King spending $45 million on a party for himself. More likely he’d spread that bread around to folks who hadn’t seen three squares in a while – and we have plenty of people in that situation.

Obama wants to increase the military, escalate the war in Afghanistan. As a Senator, remember, he objected to the war against Iraq not on moral or legal grounds, but because he thought it was the “wrong” war. He nevertheless voted to fund it.
He voted for that bail-out for the rich boys, too.
Now, he’s surrounded himself with a group of “the usual suspects” certain to ensure the continuation of “business as usual.” He spews the same brain-dead pablum about the hyped-up “war on terror” as his dry-drunk predecessor; he pledges loyalty to Israel no matter what kind of ironically nazi-like atrocities they pull on the Palestinians, and he’s probably going to let Bush et al saunter away from a list of felonies long enough to make the average criminal doing 25 to life look like a Cub Scout.

You’ve heard of “guilt by association?”
Well this is the flip side of that same old propaganda trick: “nobility by association.”

Anybody fool enough or knave enough to mention these two men in the same breath, deserves a good whipping.

The above photos of Hitler and Obama?
That's a stupid comparison, too.


Out-running Winter

If I could climb up on my pony's back
no saddle
no reins
just trust
Maybe we could out-run winter.


Monday, January 19, 2009

No Term Limitations

Time to put the "con"
in "neo-con."

Prosecute Bush et al.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Common Song

I met this pony a while back.
Everyone had taken to calling him "General," from the last part of his name.
I didn't care for that.
So I started calling him "Canto" and it stuck.
I think he preferred it, too.

The first time I looked into his eyes, I saw something familiar there.
Seen it before.
In the eyes of rape victims.
In the eyes of abused children.
In the eyes of prisoners who'd been tortured.
And in the mirror.
He didn't trust anyone.
Couldn't afford to.
Too many betrayals from too many people.
Too much pain.
You'd have to be stupid to set yourself up for that again.

He wasn't stupid.

From what I pieced together about him from different sources, he'd had a hard time of it and had come close to being put down as dangerous.

So naturally, I liked him.

For a time, my own pony shared a pasture with him, and they eventually became pals. I made excuses to offer proximity to him if he wanted it, and poco a poco, he began to tolerate me.
Maybe my pony convinced him I wasn't such a bad guy.

I haven't seen him in a long time now.
Probably won't ever see him again.
But I can't help thinking about him from time to time.

I hope he's all right and has been able to let go of some of his anger, try for a little peace.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Looking for Freedom

They say they came here looking for freedom.
They found it.
And destroyed it.


(Artwork by David Behrens

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dream or Nightmare?

America isn't what it used to be.
And it never was.


(art by JD Challenger

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Twelve The Hard Way

Twelve degrees, that is.
Looking at sharp cold and biting winds for the next few days.
Glad my pony has a good run-in shelter and some pals to stand next to.
Funny, I worry about the cold, but horses handle the cold pretty well, as long as they have plenty of hay and can get out of the wind.
I guess I'm the one who doesn't handle it so well.


(artwork by Lorna Dillon)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ridin' Away

I'm all saddled up
And it's time for ridin' away
If I ride fast enough
I might catch up to my yesterdays
There's no one I'm leavin' behind
Who'd want me to stay
That's just as well when it's time
For ridin' away.....


Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Chief

White is the color of winter.
Her Winds come from the North.
And her gift is knowledge.


(art by Frank Howell)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Motorcycle Mustang

Mildred: What're you rebelling against, Johnny?

Johnny: Whaddya got?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Revel Without a Pause

As if you'll live forever

As if you'll die today.

- James Dean

Friday, January 9, 2009


Three minutes may not seem like a long time.
But a lot can happen in three minutes.
You can boil an egg in three minutes.
Or jog a quarter of a mile.
If you’re a boxer, you know that in one 3-minute round, you can throw – and get hit with – a lot of punches.

If there’s a fire at your house you’ll have MAYBE three minutes -- probably less – to survive. The first most important thing you should know about fire is that FIRE IS FAST.

A free-burning fire can easily double in size every 30 seconds. In three minutes, a fire can go from the size of a match to a “flashover” that ignites an entire room and everything in it, reaching temperatures of 1200 degrees F. No living thing in that room will survive.
Fire is fast, all right.
But smoke is even faster.

During that first three minutes, toxic smoke snakes its way through the structure, seeking the highest level, via the path of least resistance. Visibility can rapidly go from normal to zero. The fire, itself, might be in the basement, but the smoke will quickly make its way to upstairs bedrooms carrying deadly carbon monoxide. Of the approximately 3000-4000 friends and neighbors who lose their lives in fires every year, most die from smoke inhalation long before flames ever reach them…

The fire company I’m a member of is a volunteer company staffed by – you guessed it – volunteers. About 70% of the approximately 1 million firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers. Let’s use us as a more or less typical example.

There are no firefighters at the station on stand-by, ready to roll when an alarm come in. When you call 911, that call goes to the county dispatcher who summons (“tones out”) members of the appropriate fire company via the pagers we all carry. Firefighters must get to the station for the trucks and equipment before going to the scene of the call.

Let’s suppose your smoke alarm goes off and you call 911 within 30 seconds of the fire starting.
Let’s suppose from the time you dial 911 to the time the fire company gets toned out, only 45 seconds elapses.
We’re over one minute already.
Let’s suppose it only takes two minutes for our nearest firefighters to reach the station. We have a couple of members who live only a half mile away, and they’re fast.
Let’s say we roll out within 30 seconds of arriving at the station.
We’re up to 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

Let’s say you live only a mile from the station and road conditions are good and we arrive in one minute.
Each of our three fire trucks is designed to carry a driver and one other person. The driver stays with the vehicle and operates the pump. The other firefighter leaps out and grabs an SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus). Let’s say it takes no more than a minute for that firefighter to fully gear-up, break out a hoseline and be ready to attack the fire or search for victims.
It’s now been 5 minutes and 45 seconds since the fire started.

But two firefighters aren’t enough. It takes two guys to handle the hose. Two more to do a search and rescue. And that one guy to operate the pump. The first responders can’t do much until additional firefighters arrive, probably in their private vehicles. Once they’re on-scene they’ll need to gear up…

We’re already well past that critical three-minute mark by the time we can do anything to help you. And this is a BEST-CASE scenario.
No point in kidding ourselves.
The simple truth is that for that critical first three minutes, you’re on your own.
You’ll have to be able to self-rescue, if you’re going to survive. That boils down to three little words: GET OUT FAST.

And once you’re out, STAY OUT.
It isn’t the flames you see that will kill you; it’s the toxic gases you CAN’T see that will take you out. The fire may be relatively isolated, but the smoke isn’t. You don’t have to breath much of it before you’re disoriented, incapacitated, unconscious.

The best way to self-rescue is to have an emergency plan already in place, and make sure that you and every member of your household knows what to do in a worst-case scenario.
That means you have to PRACTICE it, not just TALK about it, and you’d better practice it more than once.
And practice in the dark.
Most deadly residential fires occur between midnight and 5 am. But even during the day, you may have to escape in zero-visibility conditions.
Remember, smoke rises. So the safest place is near the floor.
Teach your family to GET LOW AND GO.

Have two exits from every room. If one of those is a window, install an escape ladder and practice using it. Make sure that the smallest person in your home can reach it and that it’s easily accessible, no furniture or piles of domestic detritus in front of it.

Early detection is critical to your survival.
That means SMOKE ALARMS.
Be sure you have a working smoke detector on every floor and in every sleeping area. Install more of them than you think you need. Test them once a month. Replace the batteries twice a year.
This is the single most important thing you can do; it just about doubles your chances of survival.
And smoke detectors are cheap.
A lot cheaper than funerals.

Last weekend, at around 2:50 Sunday morning, fire engulfed a 2 story home in Richland, NY.
One person escaped.
8 people died, including 4 children, ranging from 6 months to ten years of age.
There were no smoke detectors in the building.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Against the Wind

Against the wind
I'm still runnin' against the wind
I'm older now but still runnin' against the wind
Well I'm older now and still runnin'
Against the wind

Bob Seger, "Against the Wind"

The American Dream

Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself -- and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty.

- Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt (Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain), aka “Chief Joseph”

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ride a Wild Horse

Ride a wild horse
Against the sky
Hold tight to his wings
Before you die
Whatever else you leave undone
Once ride a wild horse
Into the sun

Sunday, January 4, 2009

La Pucelle

As if in a dream
We once shared a kiss.
But this is not our time.
No time for bliss.

Soon the thunder will roll,
Soon the crows will cry.
How the blood will flow
When the arrows fly.

And I will ride at your side.
Yes, I will ride at your side...


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Well met!

I don't exactly get a welcome like this every place I go. No wonder I find reasons to hang out at the barn, even on a frigid January day. If there's something better than a horse seeing you from across the paddock and coming, unbidden, to greet you, I don't believe I know what it is.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Winter Horse


For all your kind words...

....we thank you!

sj & K

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Fiery Horse with the Speed of Light....

I being prepared physically, mentally and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.

-- from The Lone Ranger's Creed

Now the good guys are bad guys,
The bad guys are worse and
To tell them apart's quite a task.
Perhaps I was blessed or
Perhaps I was cursed by the
Hero who wore a black mask.

Now honor's a thing sold for power or gold
And truth is a thing we call "spin."
And I yearn for that day,
Long ago, when, they say,
A good guy had some chance to win.