Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm Handing Out Signs...

I love Bill Engvall. His "Here's your sign" saying is most appropriate in so many circumstances. If Bill was in Salt Lake (I understand he has a house in Park City) I would appoint him the official "Sign Giver" to the following people:

**
The parking enforcement officer, a woman we call "The Parking Nazi" because of her anti-equestrienne bias, was double parked on the west side of the Conference Center, writing out tickets for the illegally parked vehicles. She was stopped in the right hand lane, double parked with her lights flashing when an elderly lady, late for the concert, pulled up behind her and got out of her car.
"When you move can I have your spot?" Elderly lady asked the Parking Nazi.
Elderly Lady, here's your sign.

**
I was stopped at the light at the corner of State and South Temple, waiting to make a right turn, when a van pulled up alongside me. The front seat passenger rolled down her window and asked,
"Isn’t your horse cold?"
"No," I replied.
"Really? How can he not be cold?"
"He's wearing a fur coat."
Concerned van lady, here's your sign.

**
A woman walked up and down the carriage line last night, petting all the horses, and asking their names. When she got to me she asked,
"Does your horse have a name?"
"No," I replied, "I just say: Hey, you!"
Lady, here's your sign.

**
A man in the same group walked up to Charlie (which is the name of the horse I was driving) looked underneath him, and asked,
"Is that a stallion?"
"No," I replied, "we rarely use any of our stallions on the street. They get a little feisty."
"Oh yes," he said, "I've seen those wild stallions in Hawaii. I'm not from here."
Obviously, sir. Here's your sign. Hold it up high so the mother ship sees it and takes you back home.

**
Last Saturday I went out to help Ro stage. It was extremely busy. Usually, I bring my metal "Carriage For Hire" sign and park in the unused east side of our staging area. That piece of prime real estate is ours. We pay for it with our yearly licensing fee, and it's where Ro parks (with the sign in her window) when she stages. I, however, forgot to put my sign in my car before I left the house that day, so I had to park at the barn, put all my gear on, walk two blocks to the train, take it three blocks to the station closest to South Gate, and walk another block to the staging area. All while wearing my 17 layers of winter wear. And I only had on one pair of socks so my feet were slopping around in my boots, making walking a chore.
Slave Driver, here's your sign…

Monday, November 29, 2010

Absent Friends, Empty Lockers

A blog doesn’t write itself, but there are times I wish it would. This is one of them.

Several weeks ago, we lost a driver. His name was Don, and he'd been with us for a couple of years. He was brought into our employment by his wife, Audrey, who also drives. Previously the employees we'd had named "Don" had all been as dumb as a box of rocks. So much so that at one point we imposed a moratorium on hiring men named "Don", just because the quality of Dons we'd experienced had been so incredibly subpar.

This Don was the exception to that rule.

Don was a quiet man, quick with a funny quip, there to assist if you needed help, and always willing to pitch in where needed. He had a gentle hand with the horses, and took exceptional care with his favorite co-worker, Libby. We were shocked by his unexpected passing of a heart attack, and his absence has left a hole in our small tribe.

And we not only lost Don, but Audrey has decided to be taken off the schedule for the time being. We're patient people; we know she’ll be back when she feels the time is right. And we'll welcome her with open arms when she returns.

Every once in a while I find myself saying, "Damn it, Don."

It's a reaction to his not being there. He wasn't there when I needed a roll of electrical tape to wrap my shafts with. He was tall, and wasn't there to help those of us like myself who are vertically challenged and need stuff from high places. He wasn't there when we were trying to figure out the best person to send to South Gate to place our traffic cones prior to the mayhem we knew Black Friday would be. He wasn't there when I had to change the time on my very confusing watch from Daylight-Savings-Time to Not-Daylight-Savings-Time. His turquoise truck wasn't parked in its usual spot in front of the barn when I turned the corner yesterday.

But I'll tell you where he was; He was with us when we toasted him Friday night at Dees for breakfast. He was there when we discussed how he took care of our carriage batteries. He was there when we talked about the person who would be driving Libby, wanting to make sure she was paired with a co-worker that would love her like he did. He was at South Gate with us last night when we talked about his funeral service, the moving music that reduced the most stoic of our clan to tears, and his gravesite up next to the fence in the cemetery with a great view. And he's there every time we look at the sign-up calendar for December: He was looking forward to the Christmas carriage driving season, and his signature is on every single day from November 26 to December 31. Ro couldn’t bring herself to scratch it out, so when they make up the schedule, they just work around it. And it's appropriate, because he's still with us in spirit, hanging around the carriage barn, just like he did every week from Tuesday through Saturday. And his headstone sits in the office, custom designed by the last trainee he had, waiting for spring to be set on his grave. By the time they set it, it will have acquired that special "horsey" smell we all love.

The day after Don's funeral, I ran into one of his step daughters; She thanked me again for everything the carriage company had done. For the horse drawn hearse that took Don from the church to the cemetery. For the drivers that showed up in our finest carriage driving attire. For our support in this trying time.

I replied that we hadn't done anything special. Don was part of our family too.

And damn it, we miss him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

These Boots Are Make For Walkin' (In Snow)



One of the most important pieces of equipment I have for winter carriage driving are my boots. Working in winter without the proper footwear is, simply put, insane. Because, for me, if I'm warm and dry I can go for hours; If not, I'm screwed. The winter weather in Utah comes in varying degrees of moderately cool, cold, and cold & wet. Cool and cold don’t need much preparation for me. My winter boots are not the stylish type one could pick up at a regular shoe store. Mine are the heavy duty kind you buy at places like Sportsman's Warehouse or Cabela's. In other words, boots heavy enough to use as a weapon.

Not all boots are carriage driving ready. Unlike some winter activities that allow the participant to walk, thus helping circulate blood flow, we do a lot of either sitting or standing around, sometimes in several inches of snow. I have two metal screws in each of my feet due to bunion surgery several years ago, so cold transference happens at a faster rate for my feet then to other, non-metal infused folk. So I take my footwear seriously.

It helps to start with a good brand of boots. I've used Coleman, Sorel and Ranger. The Sorel boots were warm but because I used a charcoal foot warmer, the sole melted, so I do not find them durable. I like the Ranger boots the best because they have removable liners that can be dried separate from the main part of the boot, thus expediting the process. Plus I have yet to melt the bottoms. However, even though the Ranger boots as labeled "Water Proof", they are not, in my experience, 100% waterproof. They are more like "Water resistant." And in my field water resistant doesn't cut it.

First I check my boots for any damage. If I have any separation issues, cuts, or melted spots I use Shoe Goo.
I "repaired" the soles of the melted Sorel boots with Shoe Goo, but I don’t wear them for work because the Shoe Goo soles don’t work as well as an insulator as the original rubber plus there is no longer any tread on them and that makes them slippery to walk in. I keep them at home and wear them when shoveling the driveway.



Next, I remove the liners and laces because they just get in the way. Then I brush off any dirt/shavings/manure still clinging from the last time I wore them.

Then to the suede/leather I apply a product called "Sno-Seal." It is a beeswax based water proofing ointment-like substance that comes in a jar. It works best if the boots are warm because it helps melt the product deep into the leather/suede.


After I apply the Sno-Seal, I let the boots dry for a while, then I apply Kiwi Camp Dry to any fabric areas of the boot.
It is a silicone spray water proofing agent. I usually apply two coats, just to be sure. Then I let then whole thing cure for a day or two and test it under running water.

Finally, I have a warm water-proof pair of boots I can use five nights a week night for the six weeks of Christmas carriage driving, so my feet stay warm and dry.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Listing:

I have all this irrelevant stuff I'm doing over here;

Getting ready for the upcoming Christmas Carriage Driving Season ( I need to find the rest of my winter gear)

Writing and addressing my Christmas cards (I won't have any time after November 25)

Shopping for Christmas gifts (see previous statement)

Cleaning my house (both my mother and my brother are coming to visit. The level of chaos and clutter shame me. We're used to it, others, not so much. So I clean)

One of the things I've been contemplating is getting rid of some stuff. Not junk, mind you. And not crap I want to donate to the D.I. or Salvation Army. I'm talking good stuff that I just don’t do anything with any more. Stuff that I love, or that I use, just not so much. Could I live without it? Yeah. I just drag my feet about the actual getting rid of part. I used to sell a lot of stuff on ebay, but now I'm too lazy to deal with the mailing of it so I put stuff on KSL.com to sell locally then I don't have to mess with the shipping.

For example, in my garage I have a thing called a Hit-Away. I'm thinking of selling it. It's basically a softball on a string attached to a pole. You whack it and it winds around a pole, then as it unwinds you whack it again. It's for people to practice their batting skills with. Hand/eye coordination. But I’ll tell you what it's really good for: bashing the shit out of something without getting arrested. That's right. Have a fight with your kid? Don't pull a "Facebook Mom" stunt and shake them to death. Go out to your Hit-Away and crack the crap outta that softball with that Louisville Slugger until you feel all that pent up rage Melt-Away.

You know, maybe I'll wait a bit on selling the Hit-Away. At least until after Christmas. Or maybe when The Kid goes away to college.

Anyway, one of the things I'm contemplating selling is the best gift ever. It's one I gave mind you, not one that I got. But I love it just the same. And I would have killed to have this when I was a child. We had to use carboard boxes to make our "stables".




Available for immediate occupancy; spacious two stall barn on acreage only limited by your imagination. Comes complete with hay storage up top, wall to wall shavings, and sliding doors front and back. Exterior features full fencing, jump standards, and cavaletti. Also included are appliances such as grass cutters and hedge trimmers. Methane gas heat. Border Collie security comes standard. Owner willing to include some amenities such as bagged corn and oats, and tack trunk. Don’t miss out on a fantastic starter barn.













(No, I did not put Wednesday the cat in the barn. I was taking the photos and she climbed in it herself. Distracting in a Catzilla kind of way? Yes, but it does give an idea as to the scale.

And trust me, if I had the time, and someone else willing to play "Breyer Horses" with me, I probably wouldn't get rid of this either.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spaghetti Western... Kind Of

I've been trying and trying to edit a video we made about two weeks ago at the barn. Nothing subversive, mind you, I just wanted to put some text over the video. And… for whatever reason, my editing software keeps freezing up. Maybe because it's the crap that came with the computer, who knows. Anyway, since it's been a while and I cannot seem to get this POS program to do what I want it to, here for your viewing pleasure is a regular day at the barn. With apple spaghetti.
video

(MBA has a food dehydrator. To make dehydrated apples she needs to peel the skin and core the centers. She decided that instead of throwing them out to bring them into the barn and sharing with her co-workers. That is what Ro is handing out to the horses.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MIKs* And Other Stuff...

Sorry; I've been away, leaving this stale and sad reminder of a bad year. It's been a nasty rotation around the sun for a lot of people and I'm blessed with all the good things that have happened in my life. I apologize for my public wallowing in the pity pool. Too much all at once. I should not have dumped on you, constant reader.

I attended the annual Utah Romance Writers of America conference this past weekend. Our keynote speaker was New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan,

along with noted authors Jessica Day George, Bree Despain, and Victoria Dahl. Along for the ride, and to scout out new talent, were literary agents Laurie McClain (Larsen/Pomada Agency, San Francisco, CA) Heather Osborn (Tor) Amy Moore-Benson (AMB Literary Agency) and Borders Books romance buyer Sue Grimshaw. Tagging along with Christine Feehan was her agent Stephen Axelrod, who is not looking for new clients, (and with a stable of folks like Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Julia Quinn he's already pretty busy) but he did sit in on an author agent panel and gave his valuable input into the agent/author relationship.


The atmosphere was both festive and emotionally charged. After all, get a group of mostly women (with the exception of three male writers and a couple of tag-along husbands) and the estrogen levels expand like an erupting volcano. Add in a lot of ambition and a dash of desperation and you have a mix of people driven to succeed.
Plus we had these two guys wearing kilts serenading us during dinner and the book signing.

And these two guys hung around all weekend, until Annie and Laurie won them as a door prize.








Anyway, I should get back to writing my regularly scheduled blog next week. I have a synopsis to make ready and twenty pages to submit and I've been working like crazy to tweak it.


* Men In Kilts.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Year Of Intermittent Sorrow



The Rollercoaster of Stress has been ricocheting around the twisted track at full speed this year.

It started with a fire at Ro's house in the early hours of New Year's Day, and continued when back problems, and car problems threw a big ol' wrench into the mix. Losing two dogs of our own, plus Harley the barn dog, a dear friend's medical issues, her dear friends freak accidental death, and this morning the passing of Mr. Slave Driver's father have labeled 2010 as "The Year That Couldn't End Fast E-Freakin' Nough."

I like it when the pendulum of my life swings in a low, slow, methodical arc. We don't win the Lottery, but nobody falls off a donkey on the way down the Grand Canyon. Literary Agents don't knock each other over to sign me for representation, but nobody's says, "Quit now. Take up golf. Or croquet."

At least not yet. There's still three months to go…

So today, in honor of The Year That Sucks Ass, I'm showing you my happy place. I love it there. It's a beautiful, spiritual place, ethereal with quiet grace and stunning vistas.

Moab.



The original Moab, according to Wikipedia, is "the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in modern-day Jordan, running along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea."

Our Moab is in Utah, south of I-70, close to the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers.

So if your year has been anything like mine, take a deep breath, have a relaxing beverage, and enjoy.













Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Does This Carriage Ride Make My Butt Look Big?



The Grandkids riding out on one of the teams. This sport is a family affair.

When I'm at work sometimes a customer will jokingly ask if they or their party of passengers are too heavy for the horse. It's one of the stupid rants that the RARA's use in their Litany of Lies: That the carriage and passengers are "too heavy for the horse to pull." I explain to people, "The carriage weighs about four hundred pounds and is balanced on the four wheels. This makes it 'rolling weight.' At about a *buck-fifty, I pull the carriage in and out of the storage barn. The average horse can pull at least twice his own weight, and that's dead weight, not rolling weight. We limit our passengers to four adults and two small children (as opposed to four adults and two children who look like they just ate two small children.) So for a horse like Tony, who was once a competitive puller and weighs in at around 1800 pounds (at a conservative estimate) the max weight he could pull would be around 3600 pounds. Subtract the weight of the carriage and driver, and divide the balance by six, that would give a cushion of 500 pounds per customer. At which point, by the way, the wheels would probably come off. So are you too heavy? Not unless there's something you're not telling me…Like you're wearing lead underpants and have pockets stuffed full of Plutonium. Otherwise, we're good.


The "Boat"

We went to the Draft Horse Pulls at the Utah State Fair last week. To those of you who have never been to a horse show where they have "Speed Events" (Pole Bending, Keyhole Race, Barrels, etc) speed horses love love love what they do. They get cranked up at the gate even before they break the laser beam timer thingy. The same thing happens with these competitive draft horses. They are trained to pull when they hear the hook hit the metal, and if the "Hookers" (the guys holding onto the doubletree that the hook gets hitched to) don't get the heck out of the way they'll end up with smashed ankles. Because when it's time to go, this team juggernaut goes!



They started with the "Lightweight Division" and MBA fell in love with a Shire team named Briggs and Stratton.



Briggs and Stratton, waiting for their turn.






They were the first team out of the competition, but they win in our book for Best Looking Boys. The "boat" or sled, which you'll notice is NOT balanced on four wheels and is in arena sand, weighs 4000 pounds empty (which everyone pulled quite easily) while none of the teams (light, medium or heavy weight) exceeded 5000 pounds in their combined weight.



Everybody is watching the action.

The winning pull in the Lightweight division was 9000 pounds. The winning pull in the Heavyweight class was 11,600 pounds. Or there about. They weighted the sled with roofing shingles, and they ran out at 10,000 pounds and had to ask people to be the weight.



So the winning team was less than 5000 pounds and pulled dead weight of 11,600. So are you, your husband, your teenage twins, change-of-life toddler and Goldendoodle "Fritzie" too heavy for a ride?



A team of the "Big Boys"

Not so much.


This was the Heavy Weight winner's Victory Lap, complete with grandson riding the horse.

* I weigh about 150 pounds, not counting my lead underpants.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Love For Sale


On Sunday The Kid and I stopped by the Super Adoption event hosted by No More Homeless Pets in Utah and PetSmart. They have this event twice a year, filling the PetSmart parking lot with huge tents full of pens and cages. The idea is to get as many of the local rescues and shelters together to showcase the pets they have for adoption all in one central location.

I have to admit that I had toyed with the idea of getting one more dog, but after seeing the dynamic currently going on in the house, with Luna and Mindy getting along well, I decided that bringing another dog in right now would be too soon. Mindy just last week realized that she was here to stay, not just a guest. The turnaround came after we took her with us to a bar-b-que at a neighbor's house, where everyone brought their dogs. Luna ran around like, well, a lunatic, playing and chasing while Mindy hung back, shyly, eventually going from person to person, making friends. She wasn't allowed to make friends with any of the dogs; Luna, in protection mode, growled at any of the canines that got close enough for a butt sniff. It was just as well, since Mindy was the tiniest dog there and might have gotten trampled in the raucous fray anyhow. When we returned home, her entire attitude changed. We'd brought her to a place full of other dogs, and then we'd brought her back home. She pranced, she bounced, she displayed an attitude of happiness, joy and self confidence she hadn't before. So I'm okay with the status quo.

But I did want to foster a cat. Not adopt a cat. Foster. Which I think several of the people who know me in real life were a bit shocked by. I'm not a big fan of children; I love my own child. I don’t want to hold your baby, or watch your toddler, or even hear funny stories about what you kid did with a booger. I often say, "I like other people's children as much as I like other people's cats." But you have to understand that at one point in my life I had not one cat but two. Tigger and Sparkles were barn cats we had when we owned our farm in Missouri. And when we moved, knowing we were going from a rural area where the cats had the freedom to roam, explore and hunt, trying to turn them into house cats just wasn't going to work. So the woman who purchased one of our horses, Nightmare, for a Hippotherapy program, also took both cats. It allowed the felines to stay in an environment they were familiar with, a stable, and do what they loved to do, hunt. So, just as I love my own kid, I loved my own cats. Enough to give them up for a life they would enjoy.

So when the call came out via Facebook that NMHPIU would need foster homes for both dogs and cats after the Super Adoption event, I answered. After all, I have platforms available to me (my blog, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook) that enable me to promote a specific animal for adoption, which I know the fine folks at shelters are unable to devote time to, due to their quantity of animals. Plus I have room for a cat; literally. I have a bedroom in the basement which is used for storage. There is enough area for a cat to climb and explore, yet also have seclusion if they want. The cat will slowly be integrated into the dog domain, so as not to traumatize her further. And hopefully, someone will see her profile and decide to give her a forever home.

So may I introduce to you Wednesday. If you are looking for a sweet cat that needs a home, please consider adopting her.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The 95%ers

Our success rate for trainees is low- only 5% of the people we bring in to train actually continue as an employee for at least six months. Even though we "pass off" a driver after 4-8 nights out, once they've shown proficiency at the job, we still bitch at them continuously correct bad habits when we see then doing something which is either not sanctioned or unsafe. I tell my trainees that I do it to make them a better driver. After all, they go out with a different individual each night, and while we will occasionally compare notes, there is no set training format. So somewhere down the line we might have forgotten to tell them what to do if their wedding party is late (wait time is charged at $20 for every 15 minutes), what to do when they damage a car and the owner isn't around (leave a card), or which hotel canopies they are not allowed to go under (the Hilton).

As a trainer I can never tell if, once trained, a driver will stick around long enough to be considered an "success." As Crazy Shelley put it, it's not worth the brain space to remember someone's name if they're not going to be around very long. We go through so many people that the few brain cells that I haven't nullified with copious amounts of alcohol cannot manage to keep all the names straight. I have much better luck remembering the names of the dogs (but not their owners) I encounter up in Memory Grove or going for walks that pass us at South Gate (Juno the Border Collie, Etienne the Saint Bernard, Jack the Pug puppy and Lola the miniature Australian Shepherd).

There are candidates that I remember because of their quirky behavior or outright stupidity, but being that this is a public forum I won't mention names. I don't relish a law suit because I call someone stupid and it becomes a matter of public record. But I will say that there is a sector that I pity because while I as a human can recognize that an individual is useless and will soon be gone, either through trial and error error error or attrition, half of our workforce never knows what they will come up against next or how long they must endure them.

And that would be the horses.

Whether it's a heavy hand at the bit, commands that come out as either a squeak or a roar, or continuous flapping of the lines as an indication to pick up speed, our training horses (Cleatus, Tony, Charlie, Rex) go the distance when it comes to babysitting. For example, Cleatus, when asked to make a right turn on the way out to South Gate at a street that we normally do not turn right at, will stop, turn his big head to eyeball the driver, and wait for the trainee to change their mind and go straight. It is his way of correcting them. He is patient (more so than I will ever be) and forgiving when faced with an idiot. I've told many people that Cleatus, if he had thumbs and spoke English, would render my job obsolete.

This occupation is one where attention to detail is of the utmost importance. It's the difference between having a successful evening or a nightmare in progress. Safety is our number one concern, for the horse, the passengers, and the driver.

Note the order in which I placed those.

So if a trainee isn’t continuously watching the flow of traffic, getting over to the right out of the way of vehicles, properly holding the correct kind of lead rope, or leave their hooked up horse unattended in the barn lot while they go and get the one thing they forgot to put on their carriage before they left the barn, it's an issue. So when I see an issue, I’ll call the new driver on it, because it'll be that one time that I don’t which will lead to bad habits and sloppy safety. So if I bitch correct them, it's for their own benefit.

And if I happen to kick them off of the box and into the path of the oncoming Trax Train, it's for the horses benefit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Replacements

Mindy's car ride home.

We acquired another dog. She's not the dog we originally went so see, but she's the one we came home with. Mindy is her name, and she wiggled her way into our laps and hearts at the Utah Animal Adoption Center.

This is a bad photo, she isn't that bug-eyed.

As far as they can tell, because she was a stray not an owner surrender, Mindy is five, and classified as a long haired Chihuahua. I think she's got some Dachshund in her, because she has a v e r y l o n g b o d y. Also, because of her ears, some Papillion, which would make her a Papshundhuahua, which is not only difficult to spell but hard to pronounce when drunk. Whatever her breed, she's been at the Humane Society for six months, arriving on her last day from the pound. In other words, she was sent to the Humane Society before she was to be destroyed, having used up all her allotted time at the county animal shelter.

Right now we are in the "getting to know you" process. She's a little thing, but both vocal and fast. So far she's exhibiting signs of separation anxiety and hoarding. Plus she's aggressive towards Luna, who just wants her to play the "Chase me!" game. We know it'll take time; it's not like we haven't been through this before.

Mindy had a heartbreaking way of working her head between the crook of your elbow and your chest. She is content to simply push her weight, all 10 pounds or so of her, up against you and cling like Velcro. She doesn't squirm, dig or paw, she just rests, as if disturbing you might make you go away. Living in a shelter must be a tiring thing, since all she wants to do is sleep. Except when we go for the occasional walk. And her Most Favorite Person is The Kid.

She likes to sleep a lot.

Luna, adopted on April 1st, has turned into a model citizen. Of course, making sure she cannot get into trouble has helped exponentially. She no longer has an all access pass to the backyard via the dog door, as anything left around made its way out there. For a while the lawn looked like we decorated with shredded newspapers, dissected flip-flops, and discarded pool filters.

One night, Mr. SD and I were walking her when the neighbor's Pit Bull, usually in a high fenced yard with a "Beware of Dog" sign on the gate, charged across the street at us. Mr. SD ordered Luna to "SIT!" which she did, and I used the Aggressive Dogs in Memory Grove trick, saying in a rough gravelly voice, "NO! BAD DOG! GO HOME!" The dog did retreat a bit, but turning it charged me again, teeth bared, all business. I repeated the "GO Home!" command and it did finally returned to its yard.

Luna loves her pool.

After returning to our house we witnessed this dog charge another family on an evening dog walk, and with the help of another neighbor got the aggressive animal back in the yard and the gate secured. Mr. SD was pleased with Luna's reserve, but also stated that if the Pit had come after me he would have released Luna to defend me. I was thankful that we didn't have Mindy with us, because that would have been a chaotic mêlée of epic proportions.

Luna likes to keep an eye on things going on out front.


Anyway, our inventory is back to "Main dog and Auxiliary dog."

In other news of interest, my submission of the first 25 pages of my novel, The Carriage Trade, finaled in the Utah RWA's Heart of the West contest, and will go on to be judged by a literary agent out of San Francisco. I won’t find out how I placed until October 9, 2010, but it's a win anyway, because an agent is looking at it, and I didn’t have to write a query letter or a synopsis.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Pirate Gig!

Last April Ro got a call from Christus St Joseph Villa, a senior living center in Salt Lake City. August of 2009 we hauled Charlie Horse and a carriage over and worked their Pirate themed Family Day. We had a blast. Prior to last year, "The Boys", also known as Hardrock and Coco, were the employees responsible for this job and they approached it with their normal laissez-faire attitude. In other words, they never dressed up for the part. But because Ro and I did, the lady in charge of the event fell in love with us.

Anyway, last April Ro got the call, "Would the carriage company please reserve August 21 for St Jo and could Ro and Slave Driver be the employees who work the event?" Because the Pirate theme was so popular last year that they were thinking that they'd do it again, but only if Ro and I were coming, otherwise they'd go with a different theme.

Thank god, because if it'd been a Luau, our choice of costume would have been a 'Hula Girl' or the 'Roasting Pig'. Neither of us can pull off 'Hula Girl', at least not without making everyone sick.

Well, Ro responded, "Hell YES we'd be there!" And then she called and had me circle the date in big red marker in my appointment book. And then she reminded me several times over the course of the summer. And when I signed up to work on that night because I forgot she erased my name and reminded me again that we were doing what we lovingly call "The Pirate Gig."

This year St Jo had a surprise waiting for us, a big ass Pirate Ship stationed at the entrance… Charlie is just about the most "street broke" horse you'd ever see, but I still asked Ro to jump down and walk next to him while we passed it. Charlie has to work with frail and old, and getting him jacked up right before we stick frail and old into the carriage is not a great idea. But he passed it with only a glance, and was his usual funny yet professional self.

Some of the residents don't want to ride, but they do want to see Charlie.(Obviously, Ro and I play second fiddle to Charlie. Just like downtown, nobody gives a crap about the driver, it's all about the horse…) So, their assistants will wheel them right up under his nose. Charlie is great with both kids and people in wheelchairs. The chair doesn’t bother him a bit, and he drops his head so they can cuddle with him. We have horses at South Gate who, if given the opportunity, will use a human as a scratching post, rubbing their big head all over them. But Charlie never does that, which is good, because a horse can head toss a child like a Hacky-sack.

We integrated a few new features to both Charlie and the carriage this year. On the carriage, we added a big flag complete with wire so it's continuously waving (thank you, MBA, for the suggestion) and little flags on the back. The parrot we got for Ro ended up on the carriage dash, as it wouldn't exactly sit on her shoulder without looking like a prop in a Monty Python sketch.

I added a beard and moustache to my costume, to enhance the air of scallywaggery to my pirate carriage pilot character, and Charlie got a hat with a red plume and a colorful little hair extension with carrots on the end. Sorry, but pony beads in a horse's mane is too much of a pun.

Anyway, I know the real reason you tuned in is to see the photos. So here they are: