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.
One summer during my college years I worked as a dude wrangler (their first female wrangler) at a Colorado guest ranch in the Rocky Mountains. During a trail ride I wrangled on for a group that was there for a corporate retreat, a very gentle draft horse in the line trotted just two steps down a slight incline, and his passenger-- a spoiled, overweight wife of an executive, fell off. She sued the ranch, claiming that the horse had thrown her off 'in a fit of violent bucking' and claimed that it had permanently injured her. I was bringing up the rear in the line of riders, so I had witnessed the incident and knew that she had actually just bounced-- and losing her balance, slid clumsily off the side while hanging onto the horse and saddle horn, and wasn't hurt at all.
The jury trial was months later, so after first deposing me in a phone call, the attorney for the ranch flew me back to CO to be his key witness in the trial. It was my first time testifying in court, but since I had seen the accident occur, I felt that I would have no problem describing what happened. While I was being questioned on the witness stand, the attorney for the plaintiff did his best to make me nervous, hoping I would stumble and give a response that he could use to his advantage. I'm not sure why, but although I was in an unfamiliar and high-pressure situation, he was unable to unnerve me. I even was even able to make the judge and jury laugh a few times with some of my answers when he asked me dumb questions that showed that he knew very little about horses. One example was this exchange:
Her attorney: "How far behind the plaintiff were you when the event occurred?"
Me: "I'm not very good with calculating distances, but there were six horses in line between us."
Her attorney: "Well, can you tell us an approximate distance? Maybe calculate it in horse lengths?"
Me: "OK. It was six horse lengths."
Judge: "Move on, barrister."
I looked around the courtroom, and the judge and most of the jury members were either laughing or trying not to.
We won the case, the woman got nothing but a big legal bill, and I got a few days off from college classes and an all-expense paid 'VIP' trip to Denver with my best friend, who I'd required the ranch to also cover costs for, so I wouldn't have to make the trip alone.
Little did I know then that my brief experience in testifying in that case would give me the confidence I would need almost two decades later when called upon to testify-- sometimes for a full day at a time, in a very long and arduous legal process that my husband and I navigated in our determined effort to adopt our then-foster daughter. We believed that we had to prevent the very bureaucratic child services system from returning her to abusive birth parents who'd both served jail time after being convicted of severe (almost deadly) child abuse. We had come to know them over the course of our daughter's years with us, and felt strongly that if returned to them, it was likely that she would be subjected to more horrific abuse, and might not survive.
We won the case. It took seven years and 16 hearings- one of them six days long, and a long, painful process through four levels of court, resulting in a final, nationally-precedent-setting victory in the state's Supreme Court. Since then, our case has been used thousands of times as precedent to help other families adopt abused, at-risk children when in conflict with the foster care plan for them. (You can Google 'Nash-Putnam vs McCloud' online, and see the thousands of cases in which it was listed as a precedent case to help another child.) I should thank that lady for falling off her horse and suing the guest ranch. In an odd way, her frivolous suit helped us save a life-- and has continued to help many others, since.
Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland, Colorado
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.
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.
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).
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Some of our horses enjoying a run.|
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.
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.
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, it 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.
'Angel Unaware' can found on www.Amazon.com and www.Ebay.com.
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 has 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!
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.