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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My blog for 10/30/2012 Temporary Title: Silver Strutter Dead CONTINUED

            Maria took her cell phone out of her blazer pocket and called Dixon Wraithmire.  She walked down the barn runway toward the house which clicked her into voicemail after three rings.  She dialed again as she stepped out of the rear door.  At the same time she noticed another one-story building with a drive in door and shed roof that was completely hidden from the front of the barn. 

            She heard a ring she recognized as a cell phone tune.  Somebody had to be in that building.  Maybe Dixon.  She geared up to give him a piece of her mind.

            From the continued fragrance of horse, this was a separated stall area, which could only mean the stud barn.  No breeder in the world would keep breeding stallions in amongst mares.  When mares came into heat, studs could lose their minds and tear down walls.  Could hurt mares, damage themselves, waste their extremely valuable championship sperm.  Stud fees ran into thousands of dollars.  Sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

            Maria slid the drive-in door open enough to see an entirely black interior.  A horse began thrashing, whinnying.  She pulled the big doors wide open and hurried to the noise.

            A blue black sixteen hand Tennessee Walker in all his magnificence, towered over her, his head thrown up, white scelera around his black eyes exposed in panic.  Or passion?  He kicked the stall door, which had a two-by six wooden lower half.  The top was jail bars.  He snuffled toward her, neck arched, ready for war, then snorted.  Reared, kicked at the walls, which Maria noticed were padded with rubber cushions somebody had been nibbling on. "Mr. Ambling Man" was posted over his door.

            She scanned the barn for anything edible, hoping to calm him.  Seeing the lightswitch, she hurried to flick it up.

            Donna walked calmly into the barn with a huge handful of green grass.  “I picked this just for you, my man,” she said to the horse as she offered it over.  “I could hear the commotion from next door.”

            Maria breathed in, grateful somebody was there to help who knew what she was doing, and proceeded to the next stalls.  Two doors down, another horse, “Silver Strutter,” posted over his stall door, was hunched under a blanket at the back of a stall with his head stuck into the corner, nose down.  Horses always ran to see what was going on when somebody entered a barn, so Maria dreaded whatever might be wrong with Silver Strutter.  She mashed her face up to the bars to see better inside.    The edge of a human leg wearing a western boot and denim jeans was visible.  She ran through the barn looking for a feed room and found one locked.  Another room held tack and thankfully somebody had left a bag of oats in the corner with a coffee can inside.  She grabbed a beat up wash tub and poured in some oats then hurried back to Silver Strutter’s stall to attract his attention, hoping to not get killed when she stepped inside.  “Donna, call 911, there’s a person down in this stall.”

            “God save us,” Donna said and pulled out her cell phone as she patted the nose of
Mr. Ambling Man.

            “There’s some oats in the tack room,” Maria told Donna, who nodded her head as she walked past Maria.

            She cautiously opened the stall door and shook the pan of oats toward the stallion.  He finally turned his head to look at her and snuffled.  He was not impressed, but moved around to face her as he approached the pan.  He didn’t look like a killer horse when he stuck his head in and lipped the oats.  She counted herself lucky he wore a halter so she didn’t have to put one on him.

            “I don’t think we should take him out of the stall,” she said to her new best friend Donna as she neared after the tedious call to 911.

            “It might get a little crowded in there with a killer horse a hurt man and you.  “Cause I’m not going inside with him.”

            “Okay, then we’ve got to take him out.  We’ll move him to the next stall down.  That way maybe if  Mr. Ambling Man doesn’t see him, he won’t get more upset.  She clipped a lead from the outside stall hook onto Silver Strutter’s halter and opened the door the rest of the way.  Donna moved down to the next stall and opened the door after pouring more oats into the pan Maria still held up to the horse.

           When she had lured the horse into the new stall, Maria ran back to the stall with the man.  Donna, already there, said, “looks like Killer Strutter stomped this guy to death.”

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My blog for 10/28/2012 Temporary title: Silver Strutter Dead CONTINUED

            From the distance as she approached, the farm’s layout brought up an envy she hadn’t felt for a long time.  Rolling land punctuated with trees clumped in ravines where a tractor might have trouble lay out like green fudge.  Fences separated what she knew to be several permanent pastures deep in planned grass full of millet, oats and several other nutritious grains whose names she had in her notes but not her head.  The whole looked like Kentucky’s miles of bluegrass horse parks.  Lexington had reached a hallowed place in her mind twenty years ago.   Phoenix’s horse farms hoarded precious pasturelands. And Phoenix is where she’d been brought up.   Paddocks of decomposed granite looked neat, but lush was only a word until Maria had seen what the south could provide.  Tears rolled up under her eyelids.  Whether jealous tears or admiration of God’s generosity, she wasn’t sure.

            The driveway wound past the house, red maples bordering both sides all the way to the back of the property. She turned at the barn fork. The red barn color was the only thing traditional. This barn rose two stories from the grass, all the sliding doors, tops of the half doors leaning open, bordered in white paint. Washracks peeked out from the back of the barn a hundred feet to her left. A showplace.

            She stepped out of the Jeep and was swept into nostalgia when her nose hit the mesh of clean straw, horse manure, fly spray and horseflesh.  Heaven.  With a sigh and flick of her hand across her cheek, she headed toward the open doors.  Barns always had open doors--another thing that built emotion in Maria.  Business at hand brought her back to reality.  She strode in as if she owned the place, looking for Wrathmire.

            A small head she took for a pony at first, appeared from inside the first stall on her right, and reached out as far as its neck would allow.  Big eyes, bony face.  Too delicate to be a colt, she must be recuperating or younger than she looked at first glance.  A heavy blanket seemed to swamp her.  Maria patted her nose and regretted not having loaded up on carrots or apple pieces for these babies.  The filly shoved her nose against Maria’s hand, jacket, neck.  There was no sign of a snack nearby--no hay or feeder with crumbs lurking at its bottom.  She walked a little further into the barn, where two more horse heads popped up on the other side of the steel mesh stall doors.  A sorrel with a wide white blaze that was almost fluorescent against the taffy colored hide.  A black whose head rose so high above Maria’s she looked into the stall to see just how high its withers lay.  Every rib showed on the black.  She followed its lines down, found huge knee bones and fetlocks like baseballs.  When her eyes met the hooves they found four-inch corrective pads on its feet.  Her stomach lurched over.  The sorrel nickered at her.

           When she turned back to pet its nose, she saw blisters healing on the backs of its front pasterns.  Wrong.

            Maria grabbed the black’s halter hanging near the entry to its stall on a nail.  She rubbed it head then slipped the halter over its nose, opened the stall and led the mare into the runway as a green pickup truck stopped at the barn door and a small woman stepped out of it.

            The woman said, “hello in the barn.” 

            Maria almost ran the horse over her on the way beyond her to the pasture. “Are you related to Wraithmire?” She opened the nearest pasture and pulled the halter off the horse.  It ran to the far corner of the paddock, put its head down and began eating.  It didn’t take time to blow or snort or snuffle.  Eating was on its mind.

            “No, are you Maria Sebastian?”

            “You must be Donna Kelly.  Yes, I’m Maria.  Excuse me for a minute.” She was having  a problem seeing around the giant red ball of anger that had burst inside her head.

            “Is everything okay?  Where’s the owner?  I wanted to talk to him.”

            “Yeah, I want to talk to him too.  Have a look in the stalls.”  Ms. Kelly, Maria’s client who had come to see the property to perhaps purchase it, turned to the first stall and looked at the tiny filly.  Then she looked in at the sorrel as Maria made her way down to the next stall where a bay with a snip of white on its nose looked anxiously out at her.

            “These guys look a little thin,” Kelly said.

            “No shit.”  Maria led the bay out of the stall down to the pasture beyond the first one where the black still munched in the corner.  Maria turned it out the bay and returned to the barn.

            “Are they sick?” Kelly asked.

            “They’re starving.”

            “Well, why?  There’s a lot of pasture out there.”  She waved her hand in a broad gesture.

            “Exactly.”  Maria moved two more horses to pastures.  “Do you know anything about shoeing?  I’ve half a mind to rip the pads off these mares.”

            “Does the owner know you’re raiding his barn?”

            “Do I look like I care?”

            “Yeah.  Um.  Maybe they’ve been sick?” Kelly said.

            “Is that a good reason for six horses to be crippled up from pads, sores and starvation?”

            “Okay, I’m calling the ASPCA.”  Kelly took out her cell phone and poked a bunch of words into it.  “You know, we’re screwing the willingness of the seller to want to deal with me.  In case I might want to buy this place.  If I ever get a chance to see it.  After we save some horse’s lives.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My blog for 10/27/2012 Temporary title: Silver Strutter Dead




Realtor Maria Sebastian skipped down the stairs of the building in Gainesville, Georgia.  Having been built in 1936, it was no longer used  for basketball but now housed an insurance office, a real estate investment broker, a couple of small spaces for day traders and a marketing company whose product was dog collars.  Part of the old basketball court had been converted to a dance studio where Maria took tap dance lessons.

            She’d fallen in love with tap dancing when she was six years old.  Her grandma put upholstery tacks in the heels and toes of her own as well as Maria’s sneakers, turned on her phonograph and they secretly danced in the garage of her grandma’s house.  Now, so many years later, Maria couldn’t abandon her roots, as she viewed her closet tap addiction.  She obviously couldn’t practice in her carport because the neighbors could see her and tap dancing was a private affair between herself and her grandma. 

            “We don’t need fancy shoes, just so we can hear our toes,” grandma had said.

            Exhilarated, Maria checked her watch and hurried to her white Jeep Cherokee.  Gas for the trip to Gainesville every week was an absolute extravagance that would have made her frugal mother cringe.  But she didn’t plan to discuss it with her mom. 

            If she hurried, she wouldn’t be late meeting her client to show the woman the most gorgeous horse barn in Forsyth County.  It had three hundred acres of rolling pastures outlined with four rail black board fencing.  To date it housed two Tennessee Walker championship stallions, Silver Strutter, a glistening black son of Colorado Strutter, and Mr. Ambling Man, son of Amber Ambler, a slick liver chestnut with gold highlights.

            Breedings were lined up to the moon that would produce an income for that barn for the next five years.  Maria had never seen the studs and was excited to check out the boy’s barn today for the first peek.  The seller, Dixon Wrathmire, wanted a large facility to house the mares that had composite runs criss-crossing the inside stalls.  Two handlers could then switch off exercising the ladies during bad weather.  The sometimes thick pads on their feet needed to remain as dry as possible.  If he could sell the farm he wouldn’t have to take down the old barn and rebuild it with a huge outlay of cash.  He could get the bank to finance the whole thing for him at a new site across the county.

            Maria shoved the hoof paddings out of her brain.  It did not compute that Walking horses with a natural gait should be ignored and the ones born with a pace instead of the traditional ambling gait were “trained” through the use of chemicals and hoof padding into the artificial strut that won championship awards in Shelbyville, Tennessee.  But she was just a lowly realtor and didn’t have to know more than the condition of the rails, the feeders and waterers of the horsefarms she sold.  Three hundred acres, a modest but lovely home, a complete commercial barn and several outbuildings for studs and storage made a tight little package for a breeder planning to grow.

            She sped across the lake, back toward the Chestatee Community of Forsyth County.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Blog for 10/6/2012 JOE THE CAT III


Joe walked on light feet down the driveway with his tail straight up in the air.  He cautiously turned toward the side of the house when he heard a commotion and made his way to the corner.  He sat down, picked up a front foot, licked his white sock.   But he got curious about the noise and peeked north.

The brindle Great Dane, Freddy, tossed a box turtle he’d found into the air.  He caught it then sat for a minute as if to think about what to do with it next.  He shook his head back and forth.  The turtle’s back feet waved about frantically inside the left side of Freddy’s lips, which covered all but the turtle’s toes.  Its head had disappeared inside its shell, nearly covered by black dog lips on the right side of his mouth.

Freddy tossed the turtle again.  Joe walked casually toward Freddy until he was inches behind him.  When the dog suddenly sat down, Joe put his foot gently on the dog’s tail, which Freddy did not notice as he caught the turtle in mid-air.  Joe extended his claws into the tail.

Freddy’s eyes distended, the turtle dropped to the ground with a crack.  The dog’s head darted between his own two back feet as the turtle spun downhill like a hubcap off a car’s wheels.  Freddy ended upside down in the dirt.

Joe sauntered south until Freddy got his feet under him again. 
Joe went up a tree.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My blog for 10/5/2012 JOE THE CAT II


Joe the cat lay upside down on the back porch with his feet in the air.  His paws looked like white tulips dangling on their stems.

The mother watched him from the window when he rose to head for the barn.  With the sunlight from the late spring day behind him, he looked kind of noble in his arrogant swagger.  Next she saw him, he sauntered to the back screened door with a dead mouse in his jaws, and deposited the corpse on the Welcome Mat.  Work done for the day, he headed back to the barn.

Soon she noticed Joe the tightrope walker slowing make his way along the wooden top rail of the paddock out back and light on a 4 x 4 juncture post, where he sat down and looked at Molly.  She swung her head his direction lazily, blew softly, and casually four-footed it over to his post.  Put her nostrils, the size of half his body, on his head.  He used her chin as a scratching post.  She sidled up to the rail.  He hopped onto her rump.  She daydreamed as he nestled down to take a nap.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My blog for 10/3/2012 JOE THE CAT



“What’s that?” the mother said as the baby doll jumped out of the child’s baby buggy and sauntered across the room to the couch.  He stumbled a couple of times on his pink nightie.

“My baby.”

“I see that now.  You shouldn’t torture the cat,” the mother said.  She dashed out of the room.

Millie ran to the couch and rolled the pink gown up, exposing Joe’s stomach.  She fastened it with a rubber band so he could walk.  Satisfied, she ran back to the buggy and picked up a tiny satin bonnet, took it back to the couch and had a problem tying it on Joe’s head while he continued to flick his ears.  When she finished tying the bow under his chin, Joe looked kind of surprised with gray stripe peaks on both sides of his face--like his eyes were open farther.  He stared at Millie before his underlids drug his suddenly exhausted eyes closed.  His feet reached almost to the ground when the five year old picked up his ten pounds and carried him back to the buggy.  She put in his top half then followed up by lifting his back legs over the edge as well.

Twenty minutes later, Joe dashed into the kitchen, hat dragging behind him, dolly gown off one shoulder.  He slipped out of the pink stuff and went to his feeding station to watch his bowl.  Licked the bottom.  Looked at the full water bowl with disdain.

The mother ran by the kitchen table where she dropped a loaf of bread.  She made a trip to the cabinet where she gathered the soft butter dish, peanut butter, a knife,  two glasses and two plates and juggled the items to the table.   

Joe moved to a table chair to watch.

“Don’t worry, Joe.  The magic bowl will fill very soon,” mother told him.

Joe allowed one blink.

She laid out the bread slices and spread butter on two slices, peanut butter on two others.  Walked to the refrigerator, opened the door to grab the jelly.  No jelly.  Lifted the jug of milk instead, then went around the corner to the pantry where a new jar of jelly resided.

She paused at the kitchen counter to wrestle open the hermitically sealed jar after setting the milk jug down.

Joe watched her over his right shoulder while one claw of his left front paw engaged itself into a slice of peanut buttered bread, inching it toward his chair.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My blog for 10/2/2012 WHAT ARE GRANDPAS GOOD FOR?


There was a parade of four children and one large grandpa through this house just minutes ago.  They were on their way to the garage, looking for string with which to make a bow.  It seems one of them found an arrow in the woods, which would remain flightless if not for the grandpa who knew how to make a bow. 

On their way through, they discussed important things such as how to make a slingshot.  All they needed was an inner tube.  But what would they shoot?  Rocks?  No, rocks might hurt somebody.  How about acorns?  They would probably hurt somebody too, in the war they were planning.  But acorns are plentiful this time of year, so they were chosen as the preferred ammunition.  Now they had to volunteer a bicycle inner tube.  One of them knew just the place to find it.

I don’t know what they found to make the bow with, but I know it will work because I know that grandpa.  Aha!  I’ve just been informed it was made of fresh sapling.

Was this grandpa a retired maker of hunting equipment?  No.  Was he once the architect of innovative patents?  No.  The key to this grandpa is he was a boy once.  He was not raised with I-Pads or video games or DVDs or I-Pods or even cell phones.  He never knew about computer screens or keyboards.  Ergo, he had a little time on his hands, between fighting his seven brothers for the only bicycle.  He can still make a go cart that really goes, a bow that really shoots and a slingshot to die for.

Yesterday he taught his son-in-law how to tear a hole in the wall and fix a leaky shower faucet, then drywall up the hole, tape, sand and paint it.

I wonder what our grandchildren will teach their grandchildren.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My blog for 10/1/2012 VANISHED End of serial




On Jerrold’s return from walking Janet to her car, he opened the office door into Natalie, bumping her with the knob.  “Oh, sorry.   I thought you’d gone.  We’ll follow through on your request...”

            “Well, I came back to give you this box I found in my car.”  Natalie reopened the closed door as she pointed at Cherrie standing behind the urn with a huge teary smile on her face.

            “Is that what I hope it is?” He said, and hurried over to the counter.  “Oh, thank God, it is.”  His mind turned liquid with relief.  He looked back at Natalie, standing with a question mark on her face.  “You have no idea how important this is.”  He knew he should capture the box for fingerprints, call the FBI to question Natalie about the possibility of her taking the box.  He quickly weighed that against the publicity the cemetery didn’t need, that VA couldn’t sustain.  It seemed like there was no way to make some people happy.  The exhumation in progress today at the northwest columbarium was at the request of a woman who had moved her departed husband three times already to improve his “view.”  The media had seen fit to deplore the VA’s tactics for mistreating the deceased’s ashes on the third move. 
            If he called in the authorities, the jobs of all the employees would be at stake, along with an investigation that may run for years.  If he did not call them and the issue came up again, the jobs of all the employees would be at stake.  “Would you please give me your phone number and let me verify your address with your driver’s license?” he said to Natalie.  “I am quite sure we will be able to rectify the issue with your mother’s burial site.  Do the papers you have left us include where she is buried at this time?”  Natalie's questions and curiosity vanished.

            When Harold came by with a donut he’d brought for Cherrie, she shared the news of the found Michael Leonard Smith urn, which Jerrold had returned to its proper place in the columbarium wall.  He asked Cherrie if he could take her and her children to Mission Bay park on next Saturday afternoon.  He had some toy sailboats the children might enjoy sailing around the bay.  If Michael Leonard Smith had not gone missing, he would never have had the opportunity to ask Cherrie this question.  His reticence around Cherrie seemed to have vanished.

            Jerrold went home for lunch.  He hadn’t done that in forty five years.  He wanted to share the returned urn news with Janet. When they talked about it, she thought how fortunate that Michael Leonard Smith had gone missing long enough for her to realize what a fine man she’d married.  Her disrespect for him had somehow vanished. “Sometimes you just have to do what’s practical instead of the letter of the law,” she told him.  She recalled a magazine she’d read with an advertisement for hang gliding lessons and rides.  Jerrold’s birthday was next month.

            Vincent had looked under every shrub along the northwest fenceline from the kiosk to the wilderness area which was inaccessible by car.  He saw Harold approach by foot across the grass between the headstones.  Suspicion, on a low setting inside him raised to medium heat. 

            “Vince, they’ve found the missing urn box inside a woman’s car.”

            “Why’d she take it?” he snarled.

            Harold didn’t seem to notice Mitch’s reaction.  “Nobody knows.  The woman said she found it on her front seat and took it to the office.   I wanted to catch you before you turned over every leaf on the peninsula.  I know how thorough you are.”

            Could this be a compliment?  “Where were you when it showed up?”

            On the other side of the columbarium complex with the other crew, looking for it.  I didn’t want to interfere with the funeral. 

            “When are the authorities going to show up?”  So we can all get fired.

            “Well, that’s the thing.  Jerrold and I don’t want to lose our jobs, and don’t want you to lose yours either.  You’re too valuable to this place.”
            Suddenly glad he hadn’t raised his speculation about Harold taking the ashes, Vince didn’t remember the last time gratitude had been in his mind.  His suspicious feelings about Harold  vanished.  Vince wondered if he’d feel this way about Harold if Michael Leonard Smith hadn’t gone missing.  Or been found.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to start job hunting again after all.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to endure being under suspicion of taking the ashes out of the wall.

            Jose finally understood what Vince had told them.  The urn had been found so his job was safe.  He still had peace in his life to look forward to. His fears quietly vanished. While he was looking for the box, he’d decided to take his relatives with him and go to the night school where they could all learn to speak English.  His relatives would be able to find jobs if they could speak this language.  His own English was not very good.  But they all could not continue to live together in this country.  They needed peace.   The loss of the urn and possibly his job helped him make up his mind about this.

            Mitchie was Alejandro’s hero.  He wanted to be just like him when he grew up.
            He would do anything Mitchie told him to.  So when Mitchie told him the urn had been found and it was all because of such a thorough search, Alejandro was proud of himself.
            He hadn’t felt proud of anything in a long long time.  If Mitchie hadn’t told them to search hard for the urn, it never would have been found, even if none of them had actually found it.  Mitchie said that sometimes the harder you work the luckier you get.  And the luck could come from a direction you never considered.  Perhaps from the vanished urn of Michael Leonard Smith.


            THE END