Category Archives: Seeing the world

Boogie-Woogie Piano

boogie woogie land-photo-d-stewartToday, the 88th day of the year, is Piano Day. So CBC Radio q told me. One or another piano has kept me company almost all my life. And one very battered music book.

My sister bought Boogie-Woogie Land when she took piano lessons. So her playing was my introduction to boogie-woogie. That, and the book. There was a lot in it. The notes themselves – you could hear the music just by looking at them. Photos of glamorous people in Cafe Society nightclubs in New York City. And a short history of boogie-woogie and explanation of its techniques.

Many years later, on Holger Petersen’s Saturday Night Blues, I heard Meade Lux Lewis play Pine Top’s Boogie-Woogie. Wow. Lifted me right out of my music book. I didn’t know you could do that with ten fingers and 88 keys.

Sammy Price dedicated his music book “to all those who feel a tingle up and down their spines when the strains of boogie-woogie are to be heard.” Here’s some of its story that he told.

Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons at Cafe SocietyThe Birth of Boogie-Woogie

On many occasions I have been referred to as one of the third generation boogie-woogie pianists… The first song that I ever learned to play on the piano was a blues. Even before that I recall a strange melody… Its title was “The Livery Stable Blues.”

Perhaps the reader is wondering why I have mentioned the blues. Let me explain that this is the basic foundation of boogie-woogie… The same chord structure used in playing blues may be used in boogie-woogie fashion by utilizing a repeated bass movement in the left hand and playing the melodic strain of a composition with the basic chords of the blues as a guide…

I believe it was originated by a piano player named Clarence Smith, who was perhaps better known as Pine-top Smith… He knew that when he took a strain of the blues and played this repeated bass, a new effect would be achieved. This he called boogie-woogie.

I have talked to a man named J. Mayo Williams, who is particularly familiar with Pine-top’s recordings. Williams met Pine-top in the middle Twenties and soon realized that here was something new and important in the field of blues and jazz. A series of conferences were held and in 1928 the first records were waxed in Chicago. On this historic day Pine-top talked continuously during the recordings to a mythical character in a red dress…

pianists mary lou williams and hazel scottBarney Josephson then opened Cafe Society Downtown in New York City and with his customary foresight he engaged Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis and others who were top-notch at both the blues and boogie-woogie. Then came an event that thrilled some and shocked others; the first jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. Despite the fact that many of the critics were completely without understanding of this new music form, the recital was a success and boogie-woogie at last became respectable…

Here, thanks to YouTube, is that 1928 recording of Clarence Smith playing his Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie and telling the woman in the red dress to “shake that thing”. Oh yes, this is your grandma’s piano.

Willow Grove Settlement

On the road to St. Martins in southern New Brunswick you see a sign in a clearing on a corner. Willow Grove Black Settlement Burial Ground, it says. Behind it is a large cross and a tiny church. You stop to take a look.

sign-cross-and-church-2016-photo-j-stewartThis small meadow marks the memory of a once vibrant community, the Willow Grove Black Settlement. Its significance goes beyond local history, to the War of 1812 between Canada and the United States as well as slavery in the US.

The tiny church is a scaled-down replica of one that stood there a hundred years ago. Looking in the windows, you see photographs of what that church looked like, and the community around it. Also notices and papers pertaining to the settlers and land grants of 200 years ago.

inside-church-2016-photo-j-stewartThe cemetery is beside the church but there are no longer any individual grave markers. Two large granite markers tell you the history of the site and the settlement.

burial-ground-markers-oct-2016-photo-j-stewart
L: Edmund Hillyer Duval… R: The Black refugees arrived May 25th 1815… (tap to enlarge)

The settlers at Willow Grove were African-Americans who escaped the United States during the War of 1812. Royal Navy Commander Alexander Cochrane invited them: “…they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies…”

A Proclamation, 2 April 1814

cochrane-proclamation-2-apr-1814-loc.gov
2 Apr 1814 Proclamation by Vice Admiral Cochrane, Library of Congress (tap to enlarge)

So slaves took him up on this offer. Some joined the British armed forces, in a newly formed Corps of Colonial Marines. About 4000 people left the Chesapeake Bay area in 1815 on British vessels. Many went to Nova Scotia, others to Trinidad. But nearly 400 came to Saint John in New Brunswick on HMS Regulus.

The new settlers received grants of land east of Saint John. Each grant was about half the size of those given to white settlers who also came. The land was less arable and farther away from the desirable Saint John River Valley. Still, they made a community here at Willow Grove. They farmed, ran businesses and raised families. They built a school and the church.

willow grove hwy-111-base-rd-nb google
photo Google Streetview – on Hwy 111 at Base Road, east of Saint John airport

Over the following century, the community dispersed. The church burned down in 1931, grave markers in the cemetery disappeared. Only the cleared field where they stood remained.

But in the 1980s, descendants of the Willow Grove settlement brought back their history. They built the tiny church, using photos of the original. The sign and cross tell passersby what this place was, invite you to stop. Invite you to feel the lives lived there.willow grove baptist church-2016-photo-j-stewart

 

Ma Bell

Our landline was not working. So my husband calls BellAliant. Customer service representatives are all busy, would you like a call back? Thank you very much, he thought, and pressed the number for yes. Bell called back, a technician will come next day.

dog with phone photo d stewartThe technician came and fixed the line outside. He explained the problem clearly and said if it happens again, call. Ok, and thanks. Great service.

Then a call from BellAliant, a recorded customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who placed the call, the recorded voice asked. I pressed the number for no. We will call back, the voice responded. Recorded voice did call back and my husband answered its questions. That’s the end of it, we thought.

The phone bill arrived. A charge for a “Call Trace” – $5. No date, no number, nothing explaining what this was. So a call to BellAliant to ask. It means a call back, the customer service representative said. You used the menu option to receive a call back from someone you called.

Undisclosed service fee

The only call back we had asked for was our call to BellAliant. To fix the phone service that they provide us. An option in their phone menu, but with no warning that a charge will apply for using it.

Then it is listed on the bill with no details of when or to whom the “Call Trace” was made. They must know – they’re the phone company! And, in this case, it was made to them, to report a problem with their service.

The day after making that call to BellAliant, the phone rings. It’s the recorded voice from BellAliant, a customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who made the call, it asked me. I hadn’t been, but I said I was. I now know it’s the only way to make them stop calling.

It was a short survey. The service representative did her job well, the wait to get through wasn’t long. So BellAliant can tick the box for a happy customer experience. However, there was no opportunity to give the reason for the call in the first place.

They tape the calls they receive. So they can tell on the spot if a customer is satisfied or not. I’d like to call them again, and talk to a real human, to tell them why we called in the first place. A problem with the service we pay them to provide. But it would only generate another automated customer satisfaction survey call from them!

Ernestine the telephone operator would be proud. Ma Bell is still Ma Bell.

Dinner Talk

Swiss Chalet in Saint John, two 20-something women with a toddler Swiss_Chalet_quarter_chicken-2011-Tabercil-wikicommonseach and one infant. Four full meals. One child picks at his food, the other has eaten all he wants. One woman eats her meal, the other appears to be done. All the plates are still full. Side dishes, most still full, been pushed away.

One toddler goes exploring, over to the next table. He reaches as high as he can and pulls napkins and cutlery off. The woman sitting there smiles and talks to him. The child’s mother doesn’t notice what woman on cell phone wikicommonsis happening two feet away. Her head is down, over her cell phone. She is reading and texting. The other woman doesn’t notice either. She is chewing french fries and talking on her phone.

Finally the child’s mother looks up to see where he is. “Come back here Randy” she says and apologizes to the couple. They say it’s ok, they have a grandchild the same age. Randy sits in his chair. Mom goes back to texting.

The other mother goes to the washroom, baby carrier in one hand and phone held against her ear with the other. She returns, still talking on her phone. Both women continue texting and talking to people who are not in the restaurant.

Randy climbs down from his chair and goes to yet another table to pull things down and hang off restaurant patrons’ legs. Occasionally, his mother looks up from her screen to see where he is. Sometimes she gets up to retrieve him. He screeches when she demands he sit still. She goes back to her texting and reading.

Birthday Boy

birthday cake with sparkler wikicommonsWaiters head over, bearing birthday cake with a sparkler. They surround the table, clap and sing to the other little boy, who has stayed quietly in his chair. His mother continues talking on the phone, glancing up as they finish to say thank you. Then she returns to her call. The other woman texts throughout the entire thing. Birthday kid eats his cake and looks confused. The waiters are gone and everyone at his table is back to ignoring him. Randy screeches, baby sleeps, moms talk and text on their phones.

Randy’s mom looks up long enough to realize he is tired and is not going to shut up. “Ok, I’m taking you outside” she says. She puts her phone in her purse, gathers both boys up and leaves. Randy screeches all the way. The other mother puts her phone down and gets the baby ready to go. She asks for boxes for some of the food. Thank heavens, there is enough left to feed them all for another day. While she waits for the bill, she talks to her baby and to the couple sitting beside her, apologizing for her nephew bothering them. “It’s ok,” they too say, “we have grandchildren that age.”

Thankfully, Randy hadn’t made it to our table. While the child’s behaviour was understandable, if not desirable, that of the mothers kid-and cell-phoneswas not. Talking neither to each other nor their children, engaged solely with people somewhere else. We were fascinated by it and repulsed. Happy birthday, little boy. You deserve better than what you got.

junk email aug 2018
From a spam email I received recently. I highlighted the probably accurate – and scary – figure.

Five years later

I wrote this the day after it happened five years ago because I needed to cleanse my mind of this hideous family outing. I didn’t post it then though. Maybe it was just a “when I was young” old fogey complaint. Everyone had a cell phone, and always seemed to be on it doing something. Part of life. But others still talk about the omnipresence of phones, even little kids. The kid who wrote this widely-shared essay would be about the same age as the two little boys in Swiss Chalet.jen-adams-beason-fb-may-2018

Justify

Justify belmont-time-nbcsportsA big chestnut colt won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Five weeks ago, Justify won the Kentucky Derby. Three weeks ago, he won the Preakness. So he won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing. It’s the second Triple Crown in three years, also second Triple Crown in forty years.

The jockey of another big chestnut colt was there watching Justify baffert-greets-ron-turcotte-2018 belmont stakes-nbcsportsdo it. Ron Turcotte could see the blue and white pole at the side of the track. It is 31 lengths from the finish line, marking the distance by which he and Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont, and the Triple Crown. No horse ever has matched that margin (76 metres) or Secretariat’s track record time.

Secretariat-pole-2018-Belmont-nbcsports
Frontrunners passing Secretariat pole 2018 Belmont Stakes

But Justify won the extraordinarily long race, at 1 1/2 miles, wire to wire. He was first out of the gate, and he kept his lead. For what felt like a long, long time, all the other horses were keeping up with him, just back a bit. Keeping up but not increasing their speed. Still, I was terrified. Someone was going to go into overdrive somewhere in that last half- or quarter-mile. “Pull him back, Mike, he’s got to save something for the stretch.”

Justify 1st, Gronkowski last to 2nd

gronkowski-last-2018-nbcMike Smith knows more about riding horses than I do. Justify did have something left. He pulled ahead a bit right near the end, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Gronkowski. That order of finish was a total surprise. Gronkowski was a long shot who wasn’t even near the pack for much of the race. And then he flew past horses to the front, almost. If you’d bet that unlikely combination, you’d have made some real money.2018-belmont-official-results-nbcsports

Justify is the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown in its 99 year history. His name and silks join theirs in the small field at Belmont Park honouring the winners. The silks of red with yellow stars justify 2018-triple-crown-plaque-nbcbelong to the China Horse Club, co-owners of Justify. In the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he wore the colours of WinStar Farms, the other owners in the partnership.

With luck, we’ll see Justify run again this year. Maybe the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August and the Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs. In 2015 American Pharoah won the Breeders’ Cup but finished behind Keen Ice in the Travers.

Justify_2018_Belmont_Stakes-Mike-Lizzi-wikicommonsjpgJustify is the son of Scat Daddy and Stage Magic. He has a lot of Northern Dancer in him, through both parents. 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew is his mother’s great-great-grandsire. A  Man_o_War_winning_Belmont-1920-wikipedia chestnut big redgeneration back from there on his dad’s side, there’s Big Red, Secretariat. Another few generations back and you’ll see the original Big Red, the big chestnut champion Man o’ War.

Mary Jo Kopechne

kopechne 1969 july 27 nydailynews.comKnown best as “the girl in the car”, Mary Jo Kopechne had a promising career as a political worker in Washington. She was idealistic and enthusiastic – the sort of person you want to see in public service. Then she died at Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts on July 18, 1969. The car she was in, driven by Sen. Edward Kennedy, went off a bridge. He survived. The next week, she would have celebrated her 29th birthday.

Mary Jo was born July 26, 1940 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Joseph and Gwen (Jennings) Kopechne. Her grandfathers were coal miners. Her family had been in the Wyoming Valley of north-eastern Pennsylvania for 250 years.

Soon after she was born, her parents moved to New Jersey. She graduated from that state’s Caldwell College for Women in 1962 with a business and education degree.

Montgomery, Alabama

St_Jude_School_June-09_chris-pruitt-wikicommonsAfter graduation, Mary Jo moved to Alabama. There she taught school at the City of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic mission in Montgomery. From its establishment in 1938, it served both black and white community members.

Selma to Montgomery March Day 5 The_Abernathy_Children,_Ralph_David_Abernathy,_Juanita_Jones_Abernathy_and_John_Lewis_lead_the_line_up_and_beginning_of_the_March.-leaving-St.-Jude-for-State-Capitol Mrsdonzaleighabernathy-wikicommonsSt. Jude was put in the spotlight in March 1965 when it opened its grounds and doors for the march from Selma to Montgomery. Harry Belafonte organized and paid for a concert there that last night of the march. The “Stars for Freedom” rally included Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Joan Baez, Sammy Davis Jr., and many more.

White parents didn’t like the attention this gave the school so they pulled their kids out. Just as it had become de facto integrated, St. Jude became de facto segregated.

Washington D.C.

Mary Jo had left Montgomery by then. She moved to Washington where she worked as a secretary for Florida Democratic Senator George Smathers. A year or so later, she began work for Sen. Robert Kennedy.

During Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, she was one of six aides called the Boiler Room Girls. They compiled and analyzed data and intelligence on primary delegate voting probabilities.

After Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Mary Jo left Washington. She was devastated by the loss of the man who represented the ideals of social justice in which she so strongly believed. But she didn’t leave politics. She moved to Colorado to work as the campaign strategist for the former Governor’s Senate campaign. Then she returned to Washington. She worked for a political consulting company, one of the first, organizing campaigns at all levels of office.

Chappaquiddick

She kept in touch with friends from Robert Kennedy’s office. The party in Chappaquiddick was a reunion of the Boiler Room Girls. Ted Kennedy was the host, and he left the party with Ms. Kopechne.

Chappaquiddick_bridge-Edgartown-MA-2008-Arwcheek-wikicommons
The guardrails on the bridge at Chappaquiddick were added after the accident

One week after her death, Kennedy appeared in court. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily injury. The judge suspended the mandatory jail time, saying Kennedy “has already been, and will continue to be punished far beyond anything this court can impose.”

“A man does what he must…”

Later that night on television, Ted Kennedy quoted from his brother John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage. He said, in part:

A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressure… Each man must decide for himself the course he will follow… For this, each man must look into his own soul. [NY Daily News July 27, 1969]

An odd – even audacious – choice in light of the circumstances. Legal charges, an ongoing investigation and controversy about his actions the night of the accident. However, his words somehow close the circle of the Kennedy decade.

Kennedy_bros-John-Robert-Ted-July-1960-US-Senate-wikicommonsThe youngest, and only surviving, son quoting the elder brother who ushered in the 1960s. Such hope, dashed by assassination. Then his brother Robert assassinated, another loss of hope. The decade ended with this third tragedy, the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. An accident, but a messy and mysterious one. She was not a Kennedy, but her life was entwined with theirs in terms of her beliefs and work. Her death also.

Mary Jo Kopechne 1962-Caldwell-College-yearbook-wikipediaTed, his wife Joan and Robert Kennedy’s widow Ethel attended Mary Jo’s funeral in Pennsylvania. Joan, who was pregnant at the time, later miscarried. Joseph and Gwen Kopechne moved back to Pennsylvania. They received a settlement of $141,000 from Kennedy’s insurance. Joseph died in 2003 and Gwen in 2007.

The movie Chappaquiddick is now, or soon will be, in a theatre near you.

Martin Luther King

I don’t remember what I was doing when I heard that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed. I do remember the shock and horror I felt. The loss and hopelessness that it signified. Even to me, a kid. But a kid old enough to understand what he was saying, and how important he was. How important his message was. He was the hope.Martin Luther King with wife Coretta Scott King 1964 wikicommons

Then two months later, Robert Kennedy was shot. Another hope, gone in the flash of an assassin’s bullet. It was like some horrible circle was closing, taking down those in whom we all had invested so much. First President John F. Kennedy, then five years later Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. The killing of those whom we believed would make change. Would indeed make America great again.

Lorraine Motel sign, Memphis TN wikicommons1968 was a bad year. There were no giants left. No individuals who spoke with the authenticity and lyricism of Dr. King. No presidential candidates who made you believe yes, we can!

Four decades after Dr. King

Forty years passed and Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States. Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers rolled into one. If any of you ever rolled your eyes when someone over 50 said they feared for his safety, think of this: that person remembers those assassinations.

Dr King with dog in car, photo signed by him 1964 Florida wikicommons
“For Toby Simon – With great respect and warm [illeg] – Martin Luther King”
Fifty years on, Donald Trump, a president whose electoral campaign and time so far in office has spurred different memories of 1968. George Wallace, former governor of Alabama, also ran in the 1968 presidential election. Fears again felt by those old enough to remember. The white supremacism that we thought was gone, clamoring again at the White House.

Civil_rights_leaders_meet_with_President_John_F._Kennedy-28-Aug-1963
l- to r: Willard Wirtz (Secretary of Labor); Floyd McKissick (CORE); Mathew Ahmann (National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice); Whitney Young (National Urban League); Martin Luther King, Jr. (SCLC); John Lewis (SNCC); Rabbi Joachim Prinz (American Jewish Congress); A. Philip Randolph; Rev. Eugene Carson Blake partially visible; President John F. Kennedy; Walter Reuther (labor leader); V-P Lyndon Johnson partially visible; and Roy Wilkins (NAACP)

Pegasus World Cup

This Saturday, January 27, is the 2nd annual Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida. The richest horse race in the world, it costs one million dollars to enter. The total purse is $16 million, up from $12 million last year. That’s the million each from the owners of the twelve horses running, plus $4 million from the Stronach Group which owns the track.Gulfstream_Sunshine_Millions_2006-Aht820-wikipedia

It is a Grade 1 race, with a distance of 9 furlongs or 1 1/8 miles. That’s one furlong shorter than the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s open to 4 year olds and up. So horses from the previous year’s Triple Crown races are eligible. With January 1st being the official birthday of Thoroughbreds, those 3-year-olds have turned four. For many of them, it’s a final kick at the racing can before they take up stud duty.

Arrogate 1st Pegasus winner

arrogate after 2017 pegasus world cup winIn 2017 Arrogate won in a track record time, ridden by Mike Smith (Watch race on NBC). Named American Champion Three-Year-Old Male in 2016, Arrogate won the 2016 Travers Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic. In the Classic, he beat favourite California Chrome, winner of 2014’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness and Horse of the Year in both 2014 and 2016.

Gulfstream_Park_Clubhouse_at_Hallandale_Fla. 1930s postcardGulfstream opened in Hallandale Beach, Florida in 1939. The Florida Derby began there in 1952. The Canadian Turf Handicap started in 1967 in honour of the many Canadians who winter or live in Florida.

One of those “snowbirds” was Sam Russo. His wife was my mother’s best friend from childhood. They lived near the track, and Sam worked in the betting windows during their winters there. It gave him a good excuse to go to the races, he said. He loved Gulfstream, and I loved his stories about it. Sam passed away in January 2017.View_of_first_turn_of_track_with_crowds_in_stands_at_Gulfstream postcard

In this Saturday’s race, 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner is entered, along with other top finishers in the Classic. It will air on NBC and TSN at 4:30 ET. It will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app as well.

Horse Fun Show

Saturday was a horse fun show at Butternut Stables in Hampton. And it was fun!horses by ring for show at butternut stables

Riding students on school horses, visiting horses and riders. A barn open house and bbq. Warm, sunny weather. A good thing because the yard and barn were full of horses, people and dogs.

It was my first time in a show. As the day neared, I got more and more scared. I weighed the validity of every possible excuse to not take part. Assuming that my preferred horse was sound and that I was too, I couldn’t come up with any good reason to bail.

The number of horses available was finite, the number of potential riders was not. The horses could not be overworked. Maybe there costume-kids-photo-jim-stewart.would be so many kids wanting to ride that I could do the “adult” thing and offer my spot to them. Fingers crossed!

The road alongside the stable was filled with vehicles as far as you could see. I took my helmet with me, in case my plan failed.

Saddle up

Elizabeth, the owner, said “You can saddle Jamie. You’re up for Lady rounding polepole-bending next.” “Are you sure he’s ok? Is anyone else riding him? I don’t have to, if you need him.” “He’s good to go,” she said with a little smile. Like she knew exactly what I was doing.

Saddled up and waiting, another rider asked me if I was excited. I figured saying I might be sick at any moment was more than she wanted to know, so I just went with “terrified.”

Then Jamie and I were called. My teacher Dani opened the gate for us. “Back straight, sit up tall,” she said. I did, and stopped thinking about the people lining the rail and the timer. Jamie and I loped up one side, trotted the poles and loped for home. We did it – in a respectable time! Yeehaw.

Nervousness? Gone. Next was keyhole, and we were first up. A line laid on the ground in the shape of a keyhole. Run in, turn around and run out, as fast as you can without touching the line. I’ve ever only shoe-race-photo-jim-stewartdone it playing around in lessons. Fortunately Jamie had more experience. We did it.

The shoe race – where I realized, after we started, that circling and dropping a horseshoe in a barrel was not going to be as easy as I thought. I slowed Jamie, got it in, then we knocked over the barrel. Disqualified.

Show Ribbons

Finally, the flag race. We loped around the ring, plucking flowers off poles held over the fence. Jamie shied at one flower, but I managed to grab them all. We got second place!2nd-place-ribbon-photo-jim-stewart

Whew! My competing was done. Jamie did more work than I. He went in a few more classes with another rider. He and I joined other horses giving rides to non-competing kids. And we took a teddy bear teddy-bear-photo-jim-stewartaround the ring in the costume class. Mya the teddy bear won second place.

To top it all off, I won a 1st place rosette. High points in 16+ group. I was the only one in that group. But I am very proud of it. I am also proud that I can now say that I have competed in a horse show.

timbit-pic-jim-stewartThanks, Elizabeth, Dani and the ring crew. Thank you, Wendy, for being there. Thanks, Jim, for taking pictures. And thanks especially to John Perkins – I wish you could have seen Jamie and me go!

School Horse

To call yourself a rider, one  horse can give you your best final test: a school horse. Horses ridden in lessons build up knowledge of school horse dennywhat makes a good, and bad, rider. When you can ride a school horse consistently well, you can say, why yes, I do ride.

School horses are the most even-natured and tolerant creatures in a stable. That is why they give lessons and the divas of horsedom do not. School horses will figure out what the mixed cues you’re sending actually mean. But not forever. When they deem it time, they require you to do it correctly. They make you search for the answers of how to ride.

Like every student at Butternut Stables in Hampton, I started on Denny. He is an old hand at lessons. He is quiet and gentle with little kids. With older students, he assesses their abilities and acts accordingly. Sometimes he helps you learn and sometimes he simply amuses himself. Just depends how he feels at that moment.

Anything a neophyte rider can do wrong, Denny knows. Anything a horse can do to foil a rider, Denny knows. He has a neck of steel that he can lock in place if he wants to go a different direction than you want to go. An hour on Denny is a full workout – legs, arms, and patience and willpower.

Ride on the wind

oreo and me leaving arenaBut Denny and every school horse I’ve ridden like to show you what they can really do. When they figure you can handle it, they’ll take you for a ride on the wind. “You wanna go faster? Okay!” You can only hang on. You’re trying to remember what you’re supposed to do. Your human teacher yells ‘legs, seat, reins!”

With or without you doing anything, your Pegasus suddenly snorts and stops. You put your parts back where they belong in the saddle. Then, as if he had never seen that vast plain in his ancestral mind’s eye, your horse goes back to plodding along.

At some point, you learn how to keep your legs, hands and seat where they’re supposed to be. Your horse slows down when you ask, speeds up when you ask. You’re working together. And running like the wind is fun. Yeehaw!

After riding other Butternut horses, I went back to Denny. I wanted to see what I’d learned. Quite a bit. What a massive thrill when we agreed on what we were doing!jamie and me in outdoor ring

But he’s a tough examiner and I never passed my finals with him. Denny and his stablemate Oreo recently retired to a life of leisure. Both great teachers, they will be missed by their students. Happy trails, boys.

Sadly, Oreo’s trail ended too soon. He passed away Oct. 26th. Robin’s Moocho Denero (his registered name) will not be forgotten.