Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Candy Dish Exposé

I've been busy once again. You see, during the winter months I occasionally ski, work my ass off during Christmas carriage ride season, lounge around at Sundance for the month of January, and have time to write. In the summer I have the sun to worship, a pool that requires maintenance, and I try and get a lot of reading in. Also this month I've been working on a piece that is supposed to go into an e-book my sister-in-law is publishing.


Writing this blog is low stress, although I'm occasionally at a loss as to what I should present to you. Did you want to hear about the bloodthirsty croquet game the guys played on Memorial Day? Doubtful. The number of doors slammed in the Kids face when she went begging for Strut Your Mutt donations? Too many to list. At the very least I try and keep it entertaining, but the awful truth is thus: my life is boring, and there just isn't all that much to write home about.

Combine that with the fact that I never have my blogs critiqued before I post them. Although I write them in "MS Word", I frequently will miss typos or formatting issues until after it's posted and then go back and fix the mistakes. And of course there is the crappy sentence structure, the nonsensical paragraphs, unnecessary words, and my tendency to write in run-ons. Or fragments. Being that the 1500-2000 word essay needed for the afore mentioned e-book will be out of my control after I hit that "send" button, I've had to be a bit more cautious during the construction of the piece.

My sister-in-law runs a business that has to do with online networking. She has asked me to write a chapter about my passion. Of course by now you know that my passion is horses, and writing. But writing this blog is a lot like making your mom a ceramic candy dish. You be as creative as you can, glaze and fire that puppy, then wrap it in tissue and present it to her with a huge amount of pride. Now, imagine your mom lives in the Guggenheim and your ceramic candy dish, complete with your childish hand print smack dab in the middle and sloppy glaze sags down the side, will be displayed for the world to see.

It raises the stakes a bit, doesn't it?

So that's what I've been doing. Revising a short essay, based on critiques from my group, that will eventually be published in an e-book. For me writing something that others will read is a lot like standing in front of strangers naked. You folks, who visit here regularly, are not "strangers", and I never receive a critique from you on the regular blah blah posts. Okay, except for the guy from England who found me by happenstance while looking for a software development company with the name "Slave Driver." He stopped in long enough to advise me that my personality was "Contrived" and recommended that I should "Relax".

Clearly he doesn't know me, and has never witnessed my behavior after a glass or six of "Franzia Crisp White". Which, by the way, is yummy, and luckily comes in a 5 liter box, complete with a spout, which is just hella convenient.

So when you expose yourself to others, naked, you allow them the luxury of anonymous commentary. "You're chocked-full-of cellulite here; you have a nasty scar there, and gosh but you could sure stand to lose fifteen or twenty pound, eh?" So I am on a quest to revise and rewrite a piece that will soon expose me, and I'm doing everything I can to fix the flaws.

So, please bear with me. I'll post the "Passion Piece" when I'm finally ready to hit send. Until then, enjoy a photo of "The Ugliest Clogs Known To Man," courtesy of my neighborhood Wal-Mart.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hey, Jimmy, Are You Experienced?

Some times it's good to see things from the driver's perspective.

First off I'd like to say how delighted I am that my friend and former carriage driver, Jumping Percheron's Stacey, has arrived in Korea safe and sound, and unlike her first deployment in the United Arab Emirates, she will be blogging about her adventures this time. During her last deployment her accommodations were a little more primitive and she had very limited internet access, although there was a Pizza Hut on base. She also was not immersed in the culture of blogging then, so she had no fan base to blog to, although I did get an occasional email detailing her dangerous and highly top secret mission, ( Slave Driver winks at Stacey…) and it was nice that I could get occasional updates on her activities. And when she returns home she's supposed to visit us here in Utah. So, YAY!

You can read all about her Korean adventures at 95 Days in Korea

The past week was a long one for me, with late nights and early mornings, and by Monday I was dragging ass, so that's the reason for no post. Sorry, sometimes I do require sleep.

Monday and Tuesday night I had the same trainee. We try not to do that because 1) The seasoned drivers get sick to death of having trainees all the time. And 2) From each seasoned driver the trainee learns different techniques and information. Also we forget to tell them stuff sometimes, or a specific incident, like an appointment being late and how to handle it, doesn't arise. So we switch them around so they may fully benefit from the experience of drivers who have been around for a while. Plus if you end up with the same trainee on consecutive evenings, especially if they have the personality of a wet dishrag, you don't end up committing Hari Kari with a sharpened pencil right there on the sidewalk out of sheer mind numbing boredom.

I was lucky; my trainee's knuckles did not drag on the ground, he spoke in complete sentences, and was entertaining.

For me, having a trainee is twofold; I like driving carriage, so being a passenger up there on the box can be a drag, and 2) we don't get paid extra to train, and part of training is teaching someone to sell. So, even if your trainee, fresh out of the box all new and shiny, is the best damn carriage driver that ever walked drove the earth, if they can't sell a ride they become as useless as tits on a bull. But my trainee was a good salesman, and although we didn't sell too many rides (Monday and Tuesdays are just not big Carriage Ride nights) it was okay.

When I get a trainee, I always ask them what their horse experience is. This usually happens while walking from the barn to the corral. If they say none, I go "Yippee!", because that means 1) I don't have to wipe all that Cowboy Shit off of them and 2) I don't have to re-train their bad habits. This is known as the "We've always ridden our dead horses this way" effect. We have our employees do things in a specific manner, for safety reasons, and I'll take a non-horse person with a lick of common sense over a "Stock Hand" any day. It means less work and arguments for me, so yeah…

Some trainees lie, or inflate their skill level. And in fact I never knew it was possible for a halter to be put on a horse upside down until I spent 10 minutes watching a trainee with "lots of horse experience" actually pull this magic trick off. Of course when she was done I immediately yanked it off and put it back on correctly, but it was interesting to watch all the same. I think this also speaks volumes about how patient and cooperative our horses are. More so than the trainers, I can guarantee that.

"Excuse me, do you know how to work that halter?"

Ro recently spent several minutes interviewing a prospective employee who enthusiastically outlined all her riding experience to Ro. When she'd finished, Ro asked her, "So, what kind of horse do you have?"

The soon-to-be-not-eligible-for-employment candidate answered, "Uh, I forget."

(Cue game show buzzer; Eeeeeeeehhhhh! "Wrong answer!" See, there is a huge difference between a person with no practical horse experience and a lying dumbass.)

When I do get a person who answers the "What horse experience do you have" with anything other than "None" my next question is this: "When was the last time you rode?"

Here is verbatim one of those conversations:

SD: "What horse experience do you have?"

Trainee: "I had a horse growing up."

(Mind you it's almost exclusively an Arab)

SD: "When was the last time you rode?"

Trainee: "Four years ago."

SD: "Did you ride English or Western?" (I'm talking saddle type here. For you non-horsey readers, although there are many different disciplines the saddle type breaks down to two basic styles: English (hunting, jumping, saddle seat, dressage, etc.) and Western (Western pleasure, reining, cutting, roping, etc.)

This is important information for me to know because we direct or "plow rein" the carriage horses, which is more English, as opposed to neck reining them, which is impossible, and an exclusively Western trait.

Trainee: "I don't understand the question."

SD: "Never mind, you've just answered it."

So that tells me the "Horse Experience" they have is zero. Why? Because having a horse as a kid growing up or having grandparents who owned a farm and worked it with a team of Percherons usually means someone other than the trainee got the animal ready to ride, boosted them into the saddle, and let them hack around in the back yard. So their "Horse Experience" is equivalent to sticking a quarter in the slot and "riding" the mechanical horse in front of K-Mart.

Those folks are a little more difficult to train, because 1) they have no respect for the animal because they've been "around" horses "all their lives" and 2) they keep wanting to tell me all about Flicka/Sham/Snowball or whatever the hell their horses name was while I'm trying to concentrate on teaching them how to groom and tack up Jerry/Tony/Cletus or whoever the hell we're driving today.

Then, of course, I had a trainee once who wanted to become a carriage driver because his wife was one, although he was afraid of horses.

As my buddy Bill said, "Isn't that like wanting a job as a lifeguard when you're a non-swimmer?"

Of course, sometimes it's a good experience to for the trainee to see things from the horses perspective.

"Walk on, Ro!"

Friday, May 15, 2009

There's a UFO in My Yard...

That's right, I said it, a UFO.

No, I'm not one of those folks who wears a metal colander to keep "Them" from reading my brainwaves, and my windows are not decorated with curtains made of tin foil...

I have an Unidentified Flowering Object in my front yard.

When the subject is horticulture, I am as sad and pathetic as they come. A complete idiot. When I buy plants I have to keep those plastic name/planting directions tags with the plant or else I can't for the life of me remember what the heck it is. That's also helps me remember what is a weed and what is a plant, so when I do a slash and burn in my flowerbed I don't kill the stuff I've paid for.

Anyway, I was weeding this morning and came across this guy:

Now, I have Columbine, which looks like this:

And the leaves on the new guy kind of resemble those of the Columbine:

New Guy

Columbine leaves


I don't remember buying this plant, and there's no plastic tag around to tell me what it is. So...

If you have any idea, could you clue me in? Then I'll know if I should pull it or enjoy it.

And thanks, because you know it takes a village to raise an idiot.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back To Square One

I went to see Dreamer yesterday. I needed to check on Stan,

Stan Last Week

The "Jabba Head" is gone


And Stan is still shrinking

and The Kid wanted to ride.

Dreamer hasn't been worked in close to a year now, for numerous reasons; Stan, I have a bad hip, laziness, whatever got in the way, it's over now. Stan has reduced in size and ugliness exponentially, so we're planning on working Dreamer again. The Kid wanted to jump him but he needs his hooves trimmed and since he's been off for so long he's a little out of shape, so…not today. He needs a little exercise, first.

Plus, The Fabulous Todd is allegedly moving his hunter / jumper Paint horse to my barn so 1) I will have someone to ride with, 2) The Kid, who absolutely adores the Fabulous Todd, will have someone to jump with, and 3) TFT can drive The Kid to and fro, if they want to hang out together, leaving me free to concentrate on all the critically important tasks I perform daily.

(Pause for maniacal laughter…)

Ahh…that was good. Anyway, after The Kid rode Dreamer we smeared Stan with more Xxterra.

Then I watched while this dog ran around with a piece of twine on his collar, and this cat tried to catch it.

I know. It was stupid, but in an amusing and free way, so, in this economy, you take free entertainment wherever you can find it, right? Right? (This is where you nod, and say, "Why yes, that's why I'm here, reading this")

But before we left we met this little guy, who is adorable.

I love the babies.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bob Wants A Cookie!!!

New for me over here at the Slave Driver blog, a video blog of what carriage driver Kar and I did Friday night while bored out of our minds waiting for some business...

Yes, I know, it's stupid, but we're simple minded and easily amused.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Books, Stan, and the Copacabana

"That which you manifest is before you." —Enzo

From "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein.

I read the above book this week and highly recommend it. Forget "Marley and Me", read "The Art of Racing in the Rain", it's riveting.

Anyway, enough of Slave Driver's book review. I went to see my horse, Dreamer, on Tuesday, and smeared more Xxterra on Stan(for you Confessions of a Slave Driver Virgins, "Stan" is the name I've given to the Sarcoid tumor that is on my horse, Dreamer's, leg.) Here are the comparison pictures:

Stan, April 22

Stan, May 5

I was pleasantly surprised. I could see a marked reduction in Stan's size, and a lot of the chunky, ookie bumps have sloughed off. The large mass on the left (I think of it as Stan's head, and the rest is Stan's body. Kind of a Sarcoid "Jabba the Hut") has shrunken considerably, so yay!

Dreamer turned 20 this year, and is doing pretty well for an old man. He's maintained his weight and, althought not toned at all, (but who am I to judge...) he has no other health issues.

I dragged The Kid along with me because she needed a Marti Gras mask for English class. They're studying Shakespeare. It's best not to ask. I am, after all, the parent of a teenager, so my role in life is to drive, pay, smile, and nod. She shed him out while I ran over to Saddle Up! (no, I'm not overly excited about that store; that's the name, complete with "!") to buy a bag of Strategy. Eventually I'll switch him over to Purina senior feed but for now, since he is maintaining his weight, I'll leave well enough alone.

Today is our semi-annual barn employee meeting. We always have a new crop of drivers, so the meeting is to reinforce the safety rules and policies of the carriage barn. We are pretty much unsupervised out there, so the seasoned drivers end up policing the novices. And unlike our brethren on the east coast, we are fortunate not to have the Humane Society or PETA breathing down our necks every minute of the day.

Mostly, the long time employees just keep the newbies from doing stupid shit. But that's a blog for another day...

Two more things before I wrap this up:

First, I'm leaving you with an earworm, (an earworm is a song you just cannot get out of your head. Annoying, I know, but since I've had this one for 2 days I feel compelled to pass it along to you. Sorry.)

(Feel free to add your own lyrics, or, ignore the entire thing)

(Sung to the Copacabanna by Barry Manilow)

His name was Stanley, he was a sarcoid,
And though we froze him so he'd die he just wouldn’t say good-bye
But then Xxterra came to our rescue
and once applied to all that skin we knew that we were gonna win
Stan went from big to small, someday not there at all
I have science and a good vet,
Who could ask for more?

Get rid of Stanley, Stanley the sarcoid,
Tumor that lives on my Appy,
Get rid of Stanley, Stanley the sarcoid!
Get rid of Stanley and we can be happy
With Xterra! …We'll go for rides…

And second is a WTF picture I took in front of Target. Feel free to discuss. Better yet, make up a caption for it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Don't You Just Love That New Carriage Smell?

As I'm sure you're aware, if you have plans to do something outdoors the weather will be crap, just as if you're stuck inside all day it'll be sunny and 75, even in January. It's pretty much guaranteed.

Saturday I helped Ro with a wedding. We got to use the brand new carriage.

The owners bought it two weeks ago at an auction in Denver. I've just got to say what a pleasure it was to drive a piece of equipment that's hasn't been beat to shit yet.

The wedding job was to shuttle guests from the parking lot of a ward house to the home of the bride where the ceremony and reception took place. I had a thing in the morning so I arrived after Ro did. It was pouring.

I waited for her to return from a shuttle and when she did I noted that she was wearing her duster which was soaked. I don't wear a duster. I'm not a cowboy, and they don't keep you very dry (dusters, not cowboys. I've never tried to use a cowboy to keep me dry but if I ever do I'll report the results)when I wear a duster I look like a matrix/goth prom kid; it's just too long on me. Plus, they're heavy when wet, so I opted to wear my rain gear which, while unbecoming, gets the job done.

Ro also wore her leather gloves which got drenched too, so when she finally removed them they stained her hands orange, looking very festive with her purple nails.

The wedding was in a residential neighborhood,

and the most precious thing about driving a carriage through there is the fabulous "WTF" expressions of the folks turning a corner and coming face to face with us. We even got a few "WTF is that!" looks from cats. Actually it was more like "Dude, that's the biggest f*cking dog I've ever seen!!!" Either way, it was damn funny. We also picked up a tick; that's a phrase I use when someone (usually a child but it's also been applied to drunks) decides to follow us around. One of our ticks was a 3yo girl. Her sister, about 4, had stalked us earlier, wearing only a shirt and nothing else. Nothing. Else.

MBA, curious as to what we do on specialties, stopped by with a Latte for Ro and a coffee for me, which was very nice, but of course it made us have to pee so, being that we were bereft of a bathroom we took turns using the horse trailer. Charlie Horse didn't seem to mind, as he kept trying to pee in front of the Brides house whenever we stopped to drop off/pick up.

Finally, the rain stopped and the sun came out, at least until it got dark.

Of course, by then the damage had already been done. All of the wedding guests had serious mud problems including one of the bridesmaids. On the return ride many of them got mud all over the interior of the new carriage so as we dead headed back, Ro drove and I wiped up mud. It's a glamorous life...

And we did finally manage to dry out, a little. I changed into my tux jacket so I wouldn't look so "homeless guy."

We did, however, run into residents who were happy either way. It was, after all, weather befitting them.

Home On The Range

For any of you who are interested in learning about or adopting one of the BLM's wild mustangs that roam Utah, our own barn fix it/clean it/drive it guy, Cliff, is featured in the Sunday Money section of todays Salt Lake Tribune.

Go here to read the article and see pictures of Cliff naked.

I'm just kidding. I wouldn't do that to you. Striking you blind would make it difficult for you to ever come back and read the Slave Driver blog again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What's Your Specialty?

"Specialty" is a term we use to cover any number of rides, and the only thing they have in common is that they're not routine.

For example, the Gardner Village "Ride With A Witch" gig last October was a "Specialty". So is the Quinceanera that Cliff is doing out in Wendover next month. Ro is doing a specialty on Saturday, and after I attend my League of Utah Writers workshop in Springville I'll be rushing over to the east side of town to help her out with that, although by the time I arrive she will have done most of the work, which involves grooming/tacking/loading/trailering the horse and carriage over there.

Anyway, Specialty's; we have another one this Saturday; it's the celebration of 1894 at the city/county building downtown. The building is an old one, requiring a seismic retrofit several years ago, and our job (well, not me, I'll be shuttling wedding guests from a parking lot to a reception with Ro) is to take Vis-à-vis and deliver five past and current mayors of Salt Lake to the celebration.

We have two Mayors, a city mayor, Ralph Becker, who I drove in the Gay Pride Parade two years ago, and a county Mayor, Peter Carroon, who I have never driven anywhere.
To prepare for this event the five carriages need to be spruced up, which is not a big deal (except for #3 which is a POS, but that's another story) so Ro worked on them yesterday. But also included in the celebration is the display of some of the antique vehicles that the barn owners collect. And that's where it gets fun, at least for me, because I love the antiques.

(Side note: I watch "Antique Road Show, and Mr. Slave Driver states that he can tell the appraisal price of an item based on how ugly I think it is. If I like it, it's worthless; if I think it is the most hideous f*cking thing I've ever laid eyes on, it's priceless. This is especially true if it's an old clock, or French, or an old French clock. He believes I should hire myself out as a "Value Barometer" when someone goes treasure hunting at an estate sale or flea market. I'm more accurate than a guide book.)

So while Ro, Kar and I spent Friday at the barn helping make ready the display carriages I took some photos of them for your viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed vacuuming out the ½ inch thick layer of dust and mouse crap.

The hell with swine flu, I've probably contracted the Hanta virus.

Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry..."

This is a Landau; the top opens down the middle and it becomes a convertable.

And the interior of the Landau

The Stagecoach is very big and tall. Carriage Driver Kar is 5'9". Here she is standing next to the rear wheel.

This is a Clarence Growler Brougham

This is called a Dray

One of my favorites, the Victorian

And the one I do NOT want to go for a ride in...the hearse.