Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Family Members

Over the Thanksgiving break the Epic family added another dog, a horse and a donkey. A treadmill, too, but we won't count it. Mr. Epic and I grew up around horses, but it's been many, many, many (you get the idea) years since we had one as part of our daily lives.

Oh, my. Jerry Sheldon (Epic horse) has lived his entire life in a suburban area boarding environment, surrounded by other horses, and not a great deal of open space. When he arrived and saw all of the "outside," and no equine companionship, he had a horsey melt down. He's a big boy, and one broken lead rope and another broken halter later, I decided he was going to have to have a four-legged best friend.

Did you know there are people GIVING AWAY donkeys? Seriously-go look on craigslist. And if you get one from the West Equine Rescue (I believe they work in conjunction with the Humane Society of North Texas), a lovely lady and her two friends will deliver it to you. It's good form to give them a donation. They have horses, too.

Anyway-on Sunday Tom Leonard (Epic donkey) arrived. He's eight months old, and 350 pounds of adorable. He had never had a halter on before, and it took three of us to drag/push/pull him into the barn. Fifteen minutes, and ten horse cookies later, he was leading around the paddock like he'd been doing it his whole life. Who doesn't love cookies!

Then it was time for introductions. Much over the stall door sniffing ensued, followed by a full paddock meeting. All went well until Jerry Sheldon (16+ hands, 1300+ pounds) decided to get pushy. Tom Leonard doesn't appreciate pushy. He kicked Jerry Sheldon. Twice. Jerry Sheldon decided to be the bigger equine and act civil. For now. I'm pretty sure he's going to get kicked every time he decides to try to get bossy.

Last night second Epic dog made the mistake of running up behind Tom Leonard in the paddock. I've never heard a dog make the sounds she made while scrambling for her life. Those stories about donkeys keeping coyotes away from herd animals-they're all true. That was one little ball of four-legged grey fury. And he was going to kill himself a dog. Fortunately for her, he couldn't get under the fence.

There's a new boss on the Epic farm. His name is Tom Leonard. He can be bribed with cookies.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Horse Heaven

When I was three my grandparents bought me a pony. Several months later our small East Texas community held its annual trail ride in conjunction with a week long festival. My grandfather and oldest sister were riding horses, my middle sister was to ride my pony on the seventeen mile long ride, and I was to ride in a covered wagon with Daddy and others.

As people gathered for the start of the ride, my poor Daddy was confronted with two hysterical daughters. He held me in one arm as I screamed, and pulled my screaming sister off of the pony with his other arm. As he pulled her off the pony, I grabbed the pommel, clambered into the saddle, and stopped crying instantly. As soon as my sister was in Daddy's arms she stopped her wailing, too. Those two got into the wagon, and I joined the other riders.

All of this came back to me this weekend. On Saturday, for the first time in twenty years, I climbed on to the back of a horse. I felt my face split into a grin, and that exhilarating sense of freedom flooded through me. While I'm an awful long way from that little girl, she is still inside of me, and she is thrilled beyond words that her barn will once again be home to a horse.

I must confess though, it feels odd. Almost selfish. It's something I desperately want, but I want it just for me. That doesn't feel right, but I'm pretty sure I'll adjust-especially once the grandchildren start to ride!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Teacher Bliss

My new sentence diagramming books from Barnes and Noble arrived yesterday!!!! I didn't tell Epic Husband and Youngest Epic Son what was in the box because, as much as they love to read, I was pretty sure they wouln't share my delight. One of them finally asked what I got, and when I told them, they just looked at me and shook their heads.

I can't help it; our language delights me, and its structure is facinating.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My bedrock belief is that books change lives. This belief is affirmed every single school year. This year Blake connected with Jem and Scout in a way that he never thought possible; Katie keeps several books going at a time; Cat rediscovered her love of reading and is seldom without a book in hand, and Maria laughed with me when I told her it was okay that her dog chewed the corner of Shiver (a book about werewolves; it’s an irony thing.) Chris keeps reminding me that I promised a poem a day-even though he only does it when we’re on the verge of starting something he doesn’t want to do.

Readers know something that other people can’t understand. We know that books contain entire worlds within them. We know that we can escape in them, that we can find answers, that we can, in the words of W.P. Kinsella “ease his pain.”

My childhood is defined by the horses in my life and the horse books that I read. I read every Walter Farley, Marguerite Henry, and C.W. Anderson book I could get into my hands. I supplemented my hands-on knowledge of horses with what I read in books. I studied British history through reading about Eclipse, father of the modern thoroughbred. I first learned of Ramadan when reading King of the Wind.

Several years ago my husband became concerned as I wept while reading a book. Tears poured down my face as I explained, “She wouldn’t stop; she would have lived if she had just stopped running!” I had been transported back to the 70s, sitting on the couch with my dad and grandfather as we watched Ruffian break down in her match race against Foolish Pleasure. The broken hearted teenage girl reappeared as I read Jane Schwartz’s Ruffian: Burning from the Start.

I sometimes share with my students the gut wrenching passage describing Ruffian’s breakdown, but I have to be careful. Every single time I read it, that teenage girl comes out of those pages, and I find myself choking back her tears.

And that is the crux of what I want for my students-I wish for every one of them that they carry some character, some storyline, some magical, wonderful place, or some great tragedy, with them for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Sitting at the kitchen counter
I should be grading papers
I'm watching that sorrel horse graze
In the bottom pasture.
Coastal's greening
And a light fog covers the hills
On the horizon
Antigone and Creon, Julius Caesar and Brutus and Marc Antony, Macbeth and Duncan
They all just needed
To sit and watch a horse graze