Back in the 1980's, Dolly Parton did occasionally go without a wig, believe it or not. She and I had the same Nashville hair stylist, whose charming little salon was right on Music Row. Several times over the years Dolly came breezing in while I was there for my own 'cut and do'. She always entered happy and giggling, and as she came through the door, would chirp, "Hi, ya'll! I'm here to get my crack done!" What she meant was that she was there to have her roots dyed because her natural color was showing through where her hair was parted, but calling it her 'crack' obviously got a bigger laugh. Funny lady!

This was years after the famous Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton partnership split in 1974 -- which, by the way, had inspired Dolly's biggest-ever hit song, "I Will Always Love You". By the '80s, Dolly and Porter had made up and were back to using the same stylist, whose name was Diane. Having the 'right hair' was very important in those days, so maybe the urgent need they both had to go to the same stylist was the reason they finally made up. Hah! Anway, Porter had a pair of big, very hairy Golden Retriever dogs that went everywhere he did, so they were right there in the salon with him every time. Two 80-plus-pound panting dogs lounging under the hairdresser's chair and right underfoot for Diane made it quite a challenge for her to get those hairdos of Porter's done up juuuust right. It was pretty funny watching her 'do Porter's do' while sidestepping his pooches' tongues, toes, and tails.

Diane was great. She was full of fun and was very talented at creating the looks of the day. She gave me the gift of styling my hair for my wedding in 1985. It didn't look like Dolly's. lol

Oh- have I ever mentioned that my husband, Jon, and I got married on the top deck of a riverboat while going down the Cumberland River through Nashville -- during a lightning storm and tornado watch? That is a story for another day, though. It ends with Tanya Tucker doing a strip tease dance on a table at our wedding reception. Stay tuned.

Dolly being Dolly

Porter and one of his dogs

Porter and Dolly in early days - setting the global standard for bouffantes and pompadours

Why I Couldn't Afford to Ride Horseback With Gene Hackman

We used to live in Tesuque, New Mexico, up on a long mesa behind the Rancho Encantado resort a few miles outside of Santa Fe. We lived at the end of a dirt road that ran along the mesa top, and Gene Hackman lived on the same road. (Ali McGraw lived just across the street, but that's another story.)  Anyway, I played on the Santa Fe Polocrosse Team and was out exercising my polocrosse horse on the road one day.  I was trotting along on the side of the dusty road when a big black SUV pulled up right beside me and stopped. I was a little nervous for a second about why some mysterious vehicle would stop in the road like that, but the dark tinted window came down, and I saw that it was Gene Hackman and his wife, Betsy. Gene introduced himself and her to me, and we chatted for a little while. He complimented my buckskin horse, and mentioned that he'd ridden a buckskin in Bite the Bullet- which, I told him, was one of my favorite movies. So, being a friendly sort and because I'd seen him riding in Bite the Bullet and other westerns, I told him that my buckskin, Cisco, was just one of my two horses, and asked if he'd like to come ride with me sometime.  He laughed and said, "Elaine, I don't get on a horse for less than a million dollars." I laughed, too, and said, "Well, I guess we won't be riding together very soon, then."  So- turns out that Gene Hackman wasn't as big a fan of horses as the character he played in Bite the Bullet, darn it.  But he was a nice and friendly neighbor, so I forgave him.   

The Audition

I was thinking about people who have inspired me, and  was reminded of this experience.  

There was a boy who was attending a high school for artists and performers in Denver, CO that is known for being very tough to get into.  His goal in going there- which had required a several hundred mile move for his family, was for that school to serve as his stepping stone to getting into a top New York City acting college, with a career on Broadway being his ultimate goal. Near the end of his senior year in high school, he was on his way to audition for his top choice of colleges- the American Academy of Performing Arts Conservatory in NYC, which was holding its annual western states auditions in Denver.  He had been rehearsing his audition monologue and song for weeks, so he was excited, anxious, dressed nicely, and groomed to the max.

As the kid arrived at the downtown Denver hotel that was hosting the auditions, he noticed a homeless man curled up and sleeping on top of a steam grate in the sidewalk. Although it was a bitterly cold winter day, the man had on only a light jacket, with the rest of his belongings stuffed inside a torn paper grocery sack beside him. People walking down the sidewalk were stepping around him and going on their way. The boy said to his companion, "You go on in.  I'll be there in a minute." and rushed off in the opposite direction from where the auditions were already under way.  He appeared in the waiting area a few minutes later, arriving barely in time to walk onstage.  As he walked through the stage door to his future, his companion asked where he'd been.  The kid whispered, "I had to go buy him a blanket." 

When the pair returned to the street, the man, his sack, and the blanket were gone.

The boy was my son, and it was I who accompanied him that day. Knowing how much it meant to him to be accepted into AADA, and having witnessed his hard work to prepare for the audition, I was moved and inspired by his selflessness on that very important day.  He could have missed his audition.  He could have lost focus, forgotten his lines or song, or been less impressive during his performance due to being rushed.  He knew all of that could happen, and yet he put his own interests and desires aside for another person- someone he'd never seen before and would probably never see again. 

Maybe that day he was actually auditioning for the most important role of his life- serving others, and he hadn't even known it. 

The rest of the story: Honor Nash-Putnam was accepted into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC based on his audition performance, and moved to New York after graduating from high school to attend the conservatory on a full scholarship- having been granted the highest award amount they'd ever given any student (according to the AADA Dir. of Financial Affairs).  

The Best Last Words

My 94 year old father's greatest gift to me was his last two words.  He hadn't spoken at all in weeks.  He lay still in his retirement home bed, seemingly unaware of his surroundings, sometimes groaning softly. With eyes closed day and night, he was hanging on- maybe too tightly, to life.  My kids and I stood at his bedside, saying our goodbyes during what we knew would probably be our last time to see him alive. I sat down beside him, held his thin, life-weathered hand, and said, "Daddy, the kids' school year starts tomorrow, so we have to go back home.  We love you."  

Lying in his bed, with no evidence of awareness of his surroundings and with eyes still closed, my dad- in the full, friendly voice he'd had when middle aged, said in a lilting tone, "Bye bye." Those were his last words, ever.  He passed away just a few days later.

Leon Nash, on his 94th birthday

Rattlesnakes and Bonnets: My First Job

When I was a little girl growing up on our ranch in NM, I had a job.  Most kids have jobs, but my job was a little different from the kinds of tasks that kids usually do to earn a little pocket change. From the age of about six to 12, my job was to be our ranch's official rattlesnake hunter.  I rode my horse all over creation all day anyway, so my dad thought it would be a good idea to make me the lookout for rattlers.  We didn't kill other kinds of snakes, but rattlers were dangerous to people, livestock, and pets, so we killed them when we found them.

My snake-wrangling technique was tried and true. Because I'm very fair complexioned  my mother had made a pink bonnet that I was required to wear any time I went outside in the hot NM sun.  Yes, a real 'Little House On The Prairie'-style bonnet.  Since by the '60's bonnets as a fashion statement had definitely gone by the wayside, I was probably the last non-Amish girl in America to daily wear one.  Anyway, off I'd go, bonnet bouncing, pigtails flying, riding my trusty horse all over the ranch day after day, playing out adventurous scenarios with whatever imaginary friends were in my head at the moment- Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Rin Tin Tin, and even Lewis and Clark.  All the great events of the American west that were pulled from my elementary school history book pages, as well as those exciting 'sagas of yesteryear' drawn from treasured Saturday morning TV shows, happened over and over again, up and down our rural dirt roads and in our pastures- all prime rattlesnake territory!

While in the midst of saving a wagon train from Indians, or saving Indians from the cavalry, I would regularly come upon my venomous real-life foe. It happened a dozen or more times per summer.  On such occasions, I employed a strategy that I'd figured out after learning that the smell of humans will make a rattler freeze in place for up to an hour, trying to be invisible and also to be in the best position for defending themselves- tightly coiled and ready to strike.  With the rattler on full alert, rattling his warning loudly and moving into position in preparation to shoot himself forward to bite the intruding horse and rider, I would take off my bonnet and fling it to the ground just a few feet in front of his/her flickering tongue, while my horse danced about, eager to be far from the sound and smell of a creature that he instinctively knew to avoid at all cost.  The smell of the bonnet- or rather, of me on the bonnet would grab the snake's attention, and since they don't see well, they'd rattle those rattles like crazy, and just wait- poised and ready to strike at that 'thing' in front of them that smelled like a human.

Meanwhile, I would pai-yai back to the ranch as fast as my horse could take me, where I would whoop and yell "Rattlesnake!!" as loud as I could, until one of my parents appeared.  Into the truck they'd jump with gun or shovel- or both, and off we'd go- me racing ahead on the horse to guide the way, and a parent bouncing across the pasture in the truck, back to where the snake was being 'held captive' by my bonnet.  When the snake had been successfully beheaded, the poisonous head buried, and the rattles cut off for a souvenir, I would be paid my whopping 50 cents bounty.

I still have that bonnet, packed away with other childhood memorabilia. Every time I see it, even all these years later, I still feel the shiver that rushes over a person when coming face to face with a rattlesnake.

Slaughtering Horses Makes No Cents

If horse slaughter is ever restarted in the US, it will hurt the equine industry more than people can imagine.   What will occur if slaughter is continued is actually the exact opposite of what slaughter plant developers and their special interest lobbyists promise in their highly doctored blasts of pure spin. 

There will not be fewer at-risk horses. Having ‘dump-for-money’ options close at hand will only STIMULATE breeding, further exacerbating the existing problem of supply exceeding demand. Every back yard breeder will feel entitled- in fact, compelled- to crank out as many babies as they can collect $100.00 breeding fees for, and the value of horses will continue to drop, drop, drop. Why is that so hard for people to understand? In my certification training to become an equine appraiser, that was covered on the first day of class!

Obviously, the way to increase the value of horses is for there to be FEWER of them born- not MORE. 
Grasping this reality requires only common sense and an understanding of basic economics.  Until the entire slaughter pipeline closes to American horses- both via exporting horses to foreign plants in Canada, Mexico, and to any of the proposed plants in the US, there is NO chance whatsoever that the value of horses can rise to former highs.  The problem is that there’s been so much misinformation put out by the special interest predators that people are starting to believe the spin that slaughtering horses within US borders as well as Mexico and Canada will somehow help the equine industry. That couldn't be further from the truth, and the claims simply cannot be supported with facts. The predators push their agenda in hopes that no one will actually stop and do the math.  Their followers obviously have not.  

The whole concept of a high value being created for horses by having in-country slaughter as an option for dumping the overflow is nonsensical. If you want more and more and more horses in America to become worth no more than $500.00, just start opening horse slaughter plants all over the country. That will do the trick, and the predators will literally become filthy, stinking rich while the rest of us struggle to feed our worthless horses.  

Every horse lover, horse owner, and horse breeder in America should be fighting horse slaughter with everything they have in them- if only for their own self-preservation. 

There's No Scarier Sound Than An Ambulance Siren When It's You In The Ambulance

July 3, 2011 / 10:45 PM (MST)

Seven years ago right now, I was lying in the Durango, CO emergency room with a broken jaw, broken chin, concussion, injured back, dislocated shoulder, broken left wrist, sprained right wrist, and big bruise-creating trauma to both legs- from a horse accident. And I wasn't even riding the horse.

I'd been putting my big, beautiful stallion into his stall for the night, when a mare across the aisle nickered her sexiest, "Hey, big boy." The fellow I was holding by the halter in one hand and lead in the other, forgot for just a second that I was there, and instantly spun around away from me, to say 'hello' back, to the flirty mare. My fingertips caught under the cheek piece of the halter, and my feet happened to be positioned so as not give me a way to step with the horse. I was jerked hard into the air and then slammed down face first (well... whole body first, actually) straight into the concrete aisle floor, with no hands handy to catch my fall.

It wasn't too long before I was in an ambulance, speeding through the winding mountains to the nearest hospital, in Durango. My son, Honor, rode in the ambulance with me, refusing to be left behind. It took a few hours to run all the needed tests and to find all my various breaks. That wasn't my best day. Worst of all, my special little adopted daughter, Keyton, was named Rodeo Princes of the big town rodeo the very next day- and I couldn't be there for her big event.

My jaws had to be wired together. Now, that term doesn't sound too bad, until you realize that what that really means is that your teeth are clamped very tightly together by a system of sharp-ended wires that are woven almost like shoe laces from tooth to tooth, and then cut and twisted around each other very tightly until the wires are stretched almost to the breaking point- and so are your teeth.  Not only does that make ones teeth and jaws painfully sore from the pressure on your whole face- which already has a broken bone (jaw), but add to that the fact that the roughly cut ends of the wires poke directly into (and through) the skin inside your mouth, making any movement at all excruciating.  "Eating" became a long, tedious, and very uncomfortable process of being drip-fed Ensure through a tube that had to pushed down my throat about once an hour for the first several weeks. I was flat on my injured back, unable to move or talk, for months. Honor- who was 13, literally moved into my room, slept in his sleeping bag on the floor, and took care of my every need for the rest of the summer- and continued to be my life saver before and after school for several more months after that. My jaw didn't heal well, and the wires had to be re-laced and left in for over nine months. I could probably go without saying that I got just a little tired of Ensure! And, although he never said a word, Honor probably got a little tired of sleeping on the floor! As for me, everything eventually healed and normal life resumed.  I think Colorado missed me, and it was great to be able to see, ride, and train him when I finally got back to HorsePower.  

People who don't love horses ask if I sold Colorado or had him put down; they also ask me if I
hate horses now because of what happened that night. Since everyone who reads this probably loves horses, I don't even have to answer those questions, do I. 

I had a lot of good years with horses, with very few injuries considering the kinds of horses I often helped. Now, I pay the 'spirit of the equine' back for all those great years by doing what I can to help at-risk wild and domestic horses.  That's the least I can do after all they did for me.

How To [Not] Tame A Wild Mustang

[Published by Horse Network Magazine]

When we had a ranch near Santa Fe, NM, we got a call one cold winter night from the US Forest Service.  They had apparently heard that I'm a softie for any person or animal in need because the caller wondered if I would mind taking in a thin two-year old mustang stallion that had been pushed out of his family band by the herd stallion, and was starving. Without the team effort of the herd to assist him, he was unable to paw up enough grass from under the deep snow to sustain him through that especially harsh 
winter.  Of course I said yes.

The next day, after a harrowing six-hour-long, snowy drive deep into the mountain wilderness of northern New Mexico along the Colorado border, we arrived just before dark at the US Forest Service corrals.  We were escorted to the corrals, where we saw a very bedraggled and gangling bay two year old colt standing all alone in the large panel enclosure he’d had been driven into earlier by USFS cowboys. As I backed our trailer up to the corral, I found myself wondering just what I was getting myself into.  Although I'd owned and trained horses all my life, I'd never had an actual wild mustang in my care before. I anticipated that just getting this wild horse loaded into our 'cave on wheels' might be a real test of my horsemanship skills.

As I walked past the back of the trailer and eyed the open slot beside the 'buddy' horse we'd brought along, I imagined that a space just half the width of a two-horse trailer would probably look awfully small to a horse who'd only known wide open spaces in his life.  I walked to the center of the pen and was looking around- considering how best to use fence panels to create a chute for guiding the mustang toward that tiny, now-dark space in the trailer, when I heard a soft "clump, clump, clump".  I turned around just in time to see that 'wild' mustang- who'd never seen a horse trailer in his life, walk right up the ramp into in the trailer, where he calmly started munching on hay. That unexpected display of courage and common sense turned out to be just the first of many surprises that we were to enjoy during our adventure as owners of the mustang we named Poco.

As soon as we got home we brushed and combed- as gently as we could, years of tangles out of Poco's long black mane and tail while he was still in the trailer, and he hardly flinched.  I chalked that up to his fatigue and probable trauma from the trailer ride. We then released him out into a roomy private pen, where he could live quietly for a few weeks while we gave him the groceries he needed to put on some weight, and where he could get acquainted with our other horses through the fence. By the time spring rolled around we’d had him gelded and he was back in fine physical form. We turned him out into our spacious pasture to ‘run free’ with the our herd of family horses.  With noble- and romantic, intentions I had decided to ‘respect his wild origins’ and leave him untamed for life- but Poco had something else in mind.  

All of my childhood movie-inspired images of captive wild horses yearning to be free faded fast as Poco made it quite clear that he much preferred the barn to the pasture, human company to that of other horses, and he thought that having good hay and grain delivered right into a feeder was clearly better than going to the trouble of grazing on wild grass. Suffice it to say that Poco turned out to be more puppy dog than wild horse.

Teaching him to lead quickly became an effort to keep him out of our laps, caps, and pockets. He allowed me to ride him the first time he was saddled, he never bucked a single step with anyone, and the greatest danger that a person could be in while in his presence was having their belt loop tugged on or their hair nibbled.  Poco was like a country boy who visited the big city, liked living in the lap of luxury, and decided to stay.  He never displayed a single trait of wildness or yearning for his former lifestyle.   

Now, I'm not saying that we should capture and domesticate America's wild horses.  In fact, I think that our wild horses should, in most cases, be left to live their wild lives on America's public lands as the longstanding Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act dictates. But, as long as BLM and other government agencies continue on their mission to decrease the size of wild herds on America’s vast public lands, mustangs will be captured and they will need homes. 

I hope that anyone who considers adopting a mustang can realize that in doing so, they are not taking on a horse whose heart will always belong to the wild. Rather, they are creating an opportunity for a displaced horse with an incredible heart and spirit to form a powerful new partnership that will mean just as much to the horse as it does to you. 
Some of our horses enjoying a run.
(Note: Common sense still dictates that wild horses should only be handled/trained by people who have a significant amount of experience with horses.)

The Story of Dom and Keebler

There are examples throughout nature of animals having deep, complex emotions and attachments that we seldom acknowledge.  We buy and sell animals, separating them  from their families, friends, and social groups without any thought of the feelings of loss they may be suffering. We seem to have convinced ourselves somehow that the bonds that we establish  can exist only between humans and isn't a part of the animal world. 

My best lesson in understanding the emotional capacity of animals was when I saw two geldings, Dom and Keebler, being reunited after seven years apart.  They had been pasture mates for just one year in South Carolina, but had not seen each other for the following seven years after Dom had come to join my family and horses on our ranch in New Mexico.

Dom, my gorgeous gray national champion Andalusian gelding, had seemed to settle in to his new life as a member of our free-roaming herd after he'd arrived in New Mexico.  We had no idea that there was a big hole in his life where Keebler, a big beautiful spotted Appaloosa gelding, used to be.  When we were given the opportunity to also own Keebler, we were thrilled and plans were made for him to be shipped from South Carolina to Santa Fe.

The day of his arrival finally came, and we eagerly awaited sight of the truck.  As the horse transport van bringing Keebler made its way up our long winding dirt road through the Pinon forested hills in the distance, Dom started running around the pen we'd put him in,  and was nickering in a shrill call that we'd never heard from him before.  We couldn't see or hear the truck yet, as it was still over a half mile away and was hidden by the hills and trees.  The closer the truck got, the more excited and loud Dom got. As the truck got closer to the barn, we could hear that the calls were being returned with screams that reflected the same excitement.  I let Don out of his pen and he raced to meet the truck, nickering, slinging his head, and kicking up his heels every few steps.

When the driver pulled to a stop at our barn, Dom raced in circles around the truck,  nickering loudly. The handler led Keebler off the truck and the big Appaloosa- always the gentleman before, rushed ahead down the ramp, pushing past the handler, and almost jerking the lead rope out of his hand.  Dom met Keebler at the bottom of the ramp as we unsnapped Keebler's lead rope and let him go. 

With joy that would be obvious to even the most callous skeptic, they pranced and sniffed and whiffled and reared and raced around the barnyard side by side, bucking and kicking the air.  Then, suddenly each stopped in their tracks and just nuzzled each other for a very long time.  Those two horses came as close to embracing each other as horses are physical capable of.  From that day forward, neither ever left the other's side for longer than our occasional rides. If we rode one and not the other, the one left behind waited patiently by the gate, seeming to know that they would be together again shortly. We were often struck with how they even seemed to graze in tandem with their steps and movements matching the other almost identically as they enjoyed their freedom on the spacious ranch. 

Years later, after Keebler succumbed to colic during surgery and died, Dom simply lost his spirit.  He eventually rejoined the rest of our horses in the pasture, but never was 'himself' again.  He died about a year later.

It was during those very enlightening minutes watching animal friends being reunited that I realized how bonded animals can become in a very deep and personal way. 

Author's Note:
Every time an owner sells or otherwise permanently separates two horses who have bonded closely, they are doing the equivalent of breaking up a loving human friendship or couple forever.  Imagine suddenly never being able to see or hear from your best friend or partner again, and you don't know why.  One day you're together and secure, and the next day your partner simply disappears forever.  Sometimes we can't prevent that from happening with animals, but frankly most people don't even try to keep closely bonded horses together. 

It would be a great step in the evolution of mankind if we became more aware of the needs of the creatures around us and focused a little less on the 'man' and a little more on the 'kind'.

Age Ode

I used to write good poetry
But it is good no more.
To make a line rhyme in time
Is just too big a chore.

I used to write of love
And happy days gone by,
But now my mind can't dwell on such
No matter how I try.

I used to write of life

And of youth's great growing pains,
But now I sit in a rocking chair
And listen to the trains.

To think and strain once wasn't needed.

My mind abounded with plenty.
I guess it's 'cause I'm growing old,
For today, I turn'ed twenty.
-Elaine Nash 

An Essay on Hunting

I have been opposed to hunting all my life. Although I grew up on a New Mexico farm and ranch where animals were killed regularly and for various reasons- ranging from their being a food source (beef, chickens, pigs, and even rabbits) to their being a danger (rattlesnakes), I have never gotten used to the idea of killing a living thing- especially for the fun of it.

It’s never been easy for me to see something die. When I was a kid, I witnessed a deer being accidentally shot through the spine, and then watched as that beautiful doe tried to flee down the mountain on her front legs, dragging her hind quarters, and screaming in absolute agony until a second bullet finally ended her misery. Over forty years later, I can still see that doe and hear her tormented screams. From that day forward, I was officially and emphatically against hunting- and even fishing, for that matter.

I’ve always looked at hunters simply as macho men whose egos are somehow boosted by tromping though the woods toting along all sorts of gear and weapons which make the hunt anything but a fair fight. I’ve always seen them as heartless people who like to hunt
 just because they think that killing beautiful wild animals is fun.

“Why don’t they just shoot them with a camera instead of a gun?!” I would ask. I heard every standard “Hunting is alright because it’s for the food.” and “It’s important to thin out the herds.” explanation in the book, but I still flinched at the notion that anyone should enjoy killing anything, any time. After all, that’s what grocery stores are for. “If you want a steak, go buy it!” I’d say. “Hunters are predators. Humans should be more evolved than that!”

And then…. and then…. a few months ago, I had a revelation. It suddenly occurred to me that there is another category that must be included in the great hunt/don’t hunt debate. That category is: Scavenger. There’s prey (the animal), predator (the hunter), and scavenger (me!). It was a rude awakening to realize that I fall into the same category as a vulture! It’s true. I don’t kill my meat. I wait for someone else to kill it, and then I eat it. That makes me a scavenger. Not a very appealing label.

I am pretty skilled at scavenging. If I’m careful, I can make my purchase, get it home, open the package, and get the big hunk of animal muscle into the pot or onto the grill without ever having to actually touch it or even think about what it really is. I can buy, prepare, and even eat my delicious meat dish without having to consider that what I’m enjoying was once a living animal that lived its short life in close quarters in a human-controlled environment with thousands of others like it, and was alive just for the purpose of dying to become food. It’s killed in an inhumane and terrifying mechanized process, and then chopped up and shipped out in nice, pink chunks by someone else- just for me to eat.

Let someone else do the killing. Let someone else do the processing, the packaging, and dealing with the carcass. Just serve me a nice, big, well-seasoned slab of meat on a plate, with a little parsley on the side to give it a nice, civilized appearance. Let’s call it the Hypocrite Special.

Folks like me go out and order a nice big juicy steak- and then eat it with delight, while engaging in lively conversation about how awful it is that someone dared derive pleasure by shooting the deer or elk whose head is hanging above us in the steak house, and is glaring at us with big glass eyes.

So I’ve changed my mind about hunters. They do what I won’t do, and they’re honest about it. They come much closer to earning the right to eat an animal that they’ve stalked in the early morning cold, shot, quartered, and packed out of a deep canyon on their backs, than I do by driving in my temperature-controlled vehicle to the Musak-playing grocery store where I casually select a big package of meat- all nicely packaged in clear, clean plastic wrap.

I still can’t kill anything for fun. I suppose I’ll always be the type who carefully escorts spiders out of my house rather than stomping on them, and I will continue to use devices which produce ultra-shrill sounds that make mice hate my garage and move away on their own, rather than poisoning them. I have acquired a different way of thinking about those who hunt and kill edible game, though.  Yes, I’m a scavenger- but at least I’m honest about it now - and I’ve come to have a lot more respect for hunters- the “predators”- who forage in the woods for food.

The Up Side of Downs

by Elaine Nash
I grew up with an aunt who had Downs Syndrome. When I was a girl, I found her annoying and an embarrassment because she wanted to tag along with me everywhere I went. I was not especially kind to her. One day my mother handed me "Angel Unaware", and insisted that I read it.

Anyone who has a person in their lives with Downs Syndrome- and those who don't, will love "Angel Unaware" by Dale Evans [as in 'Roy Rogers and Dale Evens']. "Angel Unaware" is a tiny, sweet book about their daughter, Robin, who had Downs, and it offers insight and wisdom inspired by life with a person who has Downs Syndrome that is unparalleled in other books. It's an old book, but it's been released many times, so you can still find it on Ebay or Amazon. 

This little book changed my life. It changed how I felt about my Aunt Kova, i
t changed how I view people who have special needs, and it inspired me to develop a deep empathy for others that continues to this day.  In fact, what I learned from this book and from Kova inspired me to adopt my special needs daughter, who has been the greatest challenge- and also the greatest teacher, of my life.

One of the world's great secrets may be that people who share their lives with a Downs person are among the very most fortunate of us. Downs people have such special lessons to teach those of us who will watch and learn and listen.  They remind us that it's the little things that matter- the small, sweet joys of life like holding hands while taking a walk, enjoying the smell of a flower, coloring in a coloring book, or sharing a plate of fresh cookies.  Most of all, though, they teach us that what matters more than anything is just giving simple and unconditional love.

'Angel Unaware' can found on www.Amazon.com and www.Ebay.com.

The Earliest Americans Were Horses

America's wild horses face a perception problem.  They are the victims of much misinformation, historical inaccuracy, and social amnesia regarding their true origin and evolution. Even some studied scholars have failed to absorb the data provided in the most current studies regarding  the wild horses' true origins, their impact on the land, and their value as a true and natural creature of the American wild lands.

Horses are indigenous to North America. That's a fact.  They were here long before  many other species that we hold in such high esteem as our 'native wild creatures'.  In the 1940’s and 50’s,  the attitude was popular- especially among ranchers, that horses were intruders- 'feral' animals borne of discarded livestock, that they are not indigenous to this continent, and that they should be hunted down and destroyed like vermin.  However-- DNA studies done by the University of KY and others in recent years have shown that some of America’s current wild horse bands may be direct ancestors of a branch of the horse ‘family tree’ that was thought to have been extinct here, but perhaps was not. In other words, a small number of wild horses may have evolved on this continent undiscovered, resulting in some of the unique DNA found in a few of the wild horses tested in these studies.

Additional myths are that horses destroy eco-balance in the same manner as cattle.  Not true.  Horses have a completely different impact on the land than cattle do. There are people who say "cattle-and-horses" in the same breath in their analogies of grazing habits, social behaviors, and reproduction habits as though they are the same.  That is far from accurate- and it is those inaccuracies that help feed the notion that wild horses are allowed to run free only as a 'favor' granted by us, and can be fairly shunned by our citizens at will, based on the social trend du jour.   

Whatever philosophies toward status and protection applied to any other native creature must also be applied to wild horses.  Yes, they must be managed, as other wild creatures are- but they must also be protected. It is their right as a species indigenous of the Americas.

Ironically- this is the one national topic that seems free of political bias- as there are both supporters for and detractors of protecting wild horses on both sides of the barbed fence of politics.  If our wild horses do nothing else in this country but make it possible for us all to agree on just one thing- that brutality and abuse against these creatures is wrong- then they have accomplished something that almost no other living thing ever has. 

A bit of the science...
"The longstanding myth that wild horses are "non-native" species is false. The recently developed technology of mitochondrial-DNA analysis provides incontrovertible evidence that today's wild horses are actually "reintroduced" native wildlife species in North America. Horses lived exclusively in North America over approximately 57 million years ago." (Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. in reproductive physiology, College of Veterinary Medicine of Cornell University, and Dr. Patricia Fazio, Ph.D. in environmental history, Texas A&M University).

A Solution That Makes Scents

I have a little rescued miniature Schnauzer named Molly. I've had her for almost seven years, and was told that her age was 'really old', when I got her. So I guess that makes her 'really old, plus seven' now. Molly is completely deaf, almost blind, has three teeth- and she thinks I'm god. The thinking I'm god part works out well for me. I've always wanted to be worshiped, and this was my chance.

Today I had an epiphany about an ongoing problem I've had with Molly. Because Molly's other senses are either absent or affected, Molly has a great sense of smell. When we have company, she doesn't bark when they knock or come in. She starts barking a few minutes after they arrive because that's how long it takes their scent to reach her in her world, which is my upstairs office and bedroom. The problem ha
s been that when someone walks down the hall outside my door (my upstairs entrance), Molly picks up the scent and starts barking. I will admit that it's not much of a bark. Her voice sounds like she smoked for way too many years. Each gravel-y little bark is followed by a harrumphing kind of sound, which my son Honor describes by saying, "Molly chews her words carefully." Anyway when someone walks down the hall Molly barks as soon as their scent floats in under the door. Once Molly starts barking, she doesn't stop. It's like she's really enjoying herself, and she just keeps on woofling. It's not a problem unless I'm on the phone, which I often am with my business. I can't scold her. She's deaf. I can't glare at her. She's blind. I can't stuff a hanky in her mouth. I'm kind. So what to do? Today I found my solution!

I was on a very important conference call, and Molly started barking. It suddenly occurred to me that if Molly couldn't smell the passerby, she wouldn't bark. I rushed (with phone to ear) to my bathroom medicine cabinet and grabbed an old bottle of perfume.   Still engaged in the phone conversation with the movie producer on the other end of the line, I sprinted to the door and sprayed several spritzes of perfume in the space along the threshold plate. Viola! Molly sniffed, turned, and strolled back to her bed for a nap.  No more stranger smell, no more barking- plus, now my very quite, bark-free quarters smell quite lovely!  

Never, Ever Give A Horse Away!

 I'm about to turn this gorgeous 17 hand Dutch
Warmblood gelding, Neon, over to Pat Parelli-
who 'bought' him from me for $2.00.
Advice to  EVERYONE who cares about horses: NEVER, EVER GIVE A HORSE AWAY.  Instead, sell 99% of the horse for whatever price you want- even if it's only $1.00, and write on the bill of sale that you are 1% owner and that the horse cannot change hands in any way without your written consent- and even then only 99%  can be sold.  Add a high penalty ($5K) for anyone who breaks that contract. Be sure that both you and the buyer sign below, and you keep a copy of the document in a safe place- just in case. That's the ONLY way to know for sure that a horse you care about won't be sold for slaughter in Canada or Mexico, where it's still legal. Some very, very nice US horses have been slaughtered because of a loophole in US law.
A little side story...
I bought Neon, a supposed "rogue, killer" horse from actor Val Kilmer (for $1.00) to prevent his being put down (Neon, not Val). He soon showed me that he wasn't a killer at all- he just needed love, respect, and partnership. I eventually sold Neon to natural horseman Pat Parelli for $2.00 (doubled my money!). Just a few months later the "dangerous" Neon was chosen by Olympian David O'Connor as his personal mount to enjoy while instructing an advanced class at the Parelli Center. David gave him rave reviews.  Now, years later, Neon is still living happily ever after at the home of his human partner, a practitioner of the Parelli program.

An Open Letter To The Teacher of My Son

For every teacher, every day, every grade, and every school.

Dear Teacher,
Today, I give you my son. 

For all of his life, I have taught him what I know about his world, his culture, his family, and himself.  I have loved him, fed him, clothed him, and probably spoiled him just a little.  I have doctored him, consoled him, nurtured him, and disciplined him.  I have held him within boundaries to keep him safe, and held my breath while allowing him freedom to explore his universe.

And now, I give him to you. I give him to you to complete the job that I started. 

give him to you with the trust and faith that you will take your mission to heart.  I give him to you, believing in your desire and ability to raise him up to his highest attainable level, and carry him forward into life well prepared to be The Future.

I give him to you, trusting that you will see him as the unique individual that he is, and that you will teach him accordingly; that you will see his weaknesses, but focus on his strengths; that you will treat him firmly, but fairly; that you will set aside your own biases and preferences, and teach him that bias and preference have no place in education or in life.

I give him to you, hoping deep within that you recognize how much he is loved and
cared about; that he is being entrusted to you to build into a person of confidence, pride, generosity, and self esteem; that you will prepare him to face the harsh winds of life armed with knowledge, strength, and judgment. 

He has looked to me for answers and guidance and now he will look to you, his teacher.  Please see him for what he is- the future of our family and the future of the world.  When your job is complete, he will be a man.  He will go forward in life carrying the tools that were forged by you. 

And so today, and for many days to come... I give you my son.

                           by Elaine Nash
Copyright 2004, Reprinted 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Permission to copy and distribute is granted by the author.