Slim

While we’ve all been off wrapping and wassailing and having a good old holiday time, there are some people who’ve been very busy the past few days trying to save a few horses from the slaughter houses. A friend writes that there has been “a huge surge of people dropping off horses, donkeys, and mules like hot rocks,” and most of them — unless someone can come up with the going price per pound of horsemeat-on-the-hoof — are headed for the slaughterhouse.

Across the country it seems, there are efforts to save at least some of the horses by raising the money to ransom them from the people known as killbuyers. In Texas, some rescuers have managed to raise $40,000 in the past few days to buy a herd of 60 already-starved horses that were  jammed into a massive trailer and headed for Mexico. In Oklahoma, Cie Sadeghy continues her constant campaign to save equines, as do others in Colorado, and a group that works coast-to-coast saving draft horses. The list goes on. On top of everything else, they’ve got to find places to keep the horses that are saved, and then try to find people to adopt them. It’s never ending.

Yr’s Truly was reading about the draft horses. It inspired me to write a story for one of those 500-word flash fiction contests. (You try to write a story in 500 words. I dare you.) Well, I did it, entered it, and it didn’t win a damn thing. So it goes. Even though those judges didn’t think much of it, I kinda liked it. Maybe you will, too. It’s short, anyway.

Slim

By Robert E. Cox

The little girl with a golden braid stood waiting outside the auction barn, looking down at the pant legs puddled around the man’s scuffed boots.  Her eyes rose slowly to the dirty rope resting loosely in the man’s weathered hand. The lead hooked to a makeshift halter of orange twine and cracked leather, slack-fitted on a Belgian’s massive head.

The horse’s muzzle was lifted — eyes alert and hopeful, ears raked forward, attentive to rumbling diesel engines and rattling gates of livestock trailers moving through the dust in the darkness.

The little girl’s eyes passed down from the animal’s matted mane to its muscled neck, along its swayed back, and stopped at a jutting hipbone. She looked down.

“That your horse, mister?” She moved some sawdust with her toe.

His eyes were shadowed by a battered hat brim. Under a gray mustache, he smiled. “Nope. Bought him and four more for another fella.”

“What’s he gonna do with them?”

“I expect he’ll send them to slaughter. Down in Mexico.”

“Why?”

“So people can eat them.” He feigned surprise. “Just like cows.”

She crossed her arms on her chest, like her Mama would, and tilted forward on her toes. “Horses aren’t cows.”

“They’re meat,” he offered. “People in other countries eat horse meat, just like you eat cow meat.”

“I don’t eat meat, Mister.”

“How old are you, Missy?”

“Nine.”

 “Where’s your daddy?”

“We don’t know.” She stared at him, her lips in a hard, straight line. “How old is that horse?”

“Pretty old.” He reached up and lifted its lip. “Teeth pretty much gone. Scars. Collar burns.” The gelding stood proudly for inspection. “He did his time, that’s for sure. Probably pulled an Amish plow.”

“Did you look at his eyes, mister?”

The man tugged the halter. The horse lowered its head. “Nice eyes. Seems he’s asking us for something, maybe.”

“What’s his name?”

“Don’t know. He’s skinny, though. Let’s call him Slim.”

The man looked at the advancing line of pickups. “Truck’s coming, Missy. Gonna have to load old Slim.”

“How much for Slim, Mister?”

“Five seventy-five.”

“I don’t have 575 dollars.”

“What would you do with him Missy?”

“I would look in his eyes, Mister. Every day.”

His fingers gathered his moustache, then spread it again.

“Hold him.” He handed her the lead. He walked to a pickup and leaned in. There were words she couldn’t hear until the man backed away and yelled into the window. “I’m not taking that horse, God dammit!” He turned and strode back though the dust. He took the rope and led Slim toward a table. The sign on it said:

                                                      Zia County Horse Rescue
                                              Donate! Save Horses from Slaughter

The man handed a piece of paper to a woman at the table. “This horse is named Slim. He’s yours. You should find a way to get him into the care of this little girl. She likes his eyes. I do too.”

He handed the lead to the little girl and winked. He walked back to the pickup, climbed in and slammed the door. The truck moved off, trailering four horses into the blackness.
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©2014, Robert E. Cox

Happy that at least some of those horses will see the new year, I’m outta here.


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DO NOT BE SHY. JUST BE CIVIL.

Pearls. Well, more like onions.

& Raymond Chandler, the master metaphor-maker of modern fiction, once had his famous detective Phillip Marlow explain that “I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”
In honor of Chandler, and in honor of highschool fiction writers who follow, sort of, in Chandler’s footsteps, Yr’s Truly presents:

The Top Ten 2014 Raymond Chandler Pearl Onion Awards
For, Like, Highschoolers Who, Like, At Least Try…

10. She was like a magnet: Attractive from the back, repulsive from the front.”

9. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room temperature Canadian beef.

8. She had him like a toenail stuck in a shag carpet.

7. When she tried to sing, it sounded like a walrus giving birth to farm equipment.

6. Their love burned with the fiery intensity of a urinary tract infection.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes before it throws up.

4. Joy fills her heart like a silent but deadly fart fills a room with no windows.

3.Her eyes were like the stars, not because they twinkle, but because they were so far apart.

2. Her eyes twinkled, like the moustache of a man with a cold.

And, the Number One Raymond Chandler Pearl Onion Award for, Like, Highschoolers Who, Like, At Least, Try…

1. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

& I’m, like, outta here.

Another cowboy gone. We enjoyed him.

& Yesterday, I was going to go to an auction. Instead I went to a funeral.

Well, it wasn’t a funeral in the sense you might think. It didn’t have all of those trappings like organs and pulpits and flowers and a front row filled with family mourners clutching hastily printed programs bearing a nice picture of the newly departed. It was a funeral perfectly suited to the senses of an old Abiquiu cowboy named Ronnie Patton.

The “services,” should we call them that, were in Ronnie Patton’s ‘church’ — an old adobe ranch house at the edge of a broad pasture of long-used land where horses now graze contentedly, their heavy hooves occasionally churning up a thousand-year-old shard of Pueblo pottery. It wasn’t Ronnie’s house or his ranchland, mind you. It’s now owned by Mickey Simmons and his wife, Sharon Burkard. But over the years of working there, Ronnie’s soul was ground into its soil, right in there with the pot shards. Now, his ashes rest there.young cowboy

Ronnie Patton was a paradox. He lived in a simple house he’d built on a small piece of land not far from the bank of the Rio Chama. Among his neighbors were the famous and influential and wealthy – Shirley McClain and Marsha Mason, the movie stars; Helen Hunt and other heirs and heiresses to fortune; barons of big business and the dot-com revolution; artists, authors, poets, potters, media personalities and others of varying degrees of often self-inflicted importance and notoriety. It is probably more precise to say that they, his neighbors, are the paradox, but that’s another story for another time.

Ronnie Patton was a man of no pretension. Like too many of the old timers who are dying these days around here, I didn’t know him well and I should have made the time to know him better. I’m sorry to say that, because he was another of those people we should learn from, those of a vanishing breed who lived a life of simplicity in an increasingly confusing world, and enjoyed it.

His home sat on a small piece of land he’d earned with his hands – stringing fence, drilling wells, moving cattle, fixing tractors, building sheds, laying pipe, cutting wood – hands so calloused, it was said, he could take the edges off a rough-cut 2-by-4 — without sandpaper. He had no wife, no children, no teevee, seven fingers (or was it six?) and fewer teeth. His possessions were plaid shirts, frayed jackets and a butt-sculpted saddle, a once-blue pickup truck, his ham radio and an uncounted number of cowboy hats, all of them reshaped by the crunch of tractor tires, the weight of horses’ hooves or the general ravages of Time. And he enjoyed it — you could tell that by the always-crinkled smile under his handlebar mustache and the singsong lilt in his voice when he proudly read his cowboy poetry. (more…)

A Republican Describes Republicans. They Won’t Like It.

& There’s a blog item going around these days that’s getting a lot of attention from Democrats because it says that despite last month’s embarrassment at the national polls,  all may not be lost. You read that right: Not lost. Matter of fact, it says the future is very bright for Dems, and very, very, very dark for Republicans. For them, says Chris Ladd, the election was a “prelude to disaster.”

It’s of particular interest because it is written by a … well, by a … Republican. A Texas Republican at that. A rational Texas Republican, if you can believe such organisms exist.

You can read all the whys and wherefores of Ladd’s rationale here — http://blog.chron.com/goplifer/2014/11/the-missing-story-of-the-2014-election/#28114101=0. Summed up, Ladd – a conservative columnist from down Houston way – says that Republicans don’t have a fart’s chance in a hurricane of holding on to their majority in the U.S. Senate two years from now, and their chances of winning the Presidency, in 2016 and far beyond, are only slightly better, maybe having the odds of a little stinker’s chance in a stiff breeze.

It all has to do with deepening Democratic power in the most populous states and the accelerating chokehold on the GOP by the wingnut fringe, which increasingly insists on candidates who cannot appeal to more moderate voters in swing states that determine winners and losers.  If you buy his story, it adds up to long-term disaster for the Grand Old Party.

I’m not here to reprise Mr. Ladd’s arguments. You’ll find them interesting. But, as you read his blog item, pay attention to the wording and what’s between the lines. He seems to have abandoned Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, once in vogue, which said “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Watch carefully as you scroll downward through his arguments, and you will find admissions  and accusations that:

1. The Republican mantra that voting laws they have championed in the name of ‘voter integrity’ are, in fact, a “sham” attempt to suppress voters with “ridiculous and confusing” requirements. Hmmmm.

2. Despite Republican protestations of environmental concern, there are, indeed, “climate deniers” among Republicans in Congress. “One of the…most stubborn” of that breed, Lee (Cash-and-Carry) Terry, last month became only the second Nebraskan of his party to have been beaten by a Democrat in the last fifty years. Note the “one of the.” That says that yes, there are other stubborn Republican climate-deniers in Congress. Hmmmm.

3. Texas, which Mr. Ladd calls the “Republic of Baptistan,” is “militantly out of step with every national trend,” and “at the core of GOP dysfunction.” Forget his description of the people and the pious proclivities of the Lone Star State, this is an out-and-out confirmation that Republicanism in America is, indeed, not a functioning philosophy of governance. Hmmmm.

4. Control of Congress by Republicans – half of them hailing from the good-old-boy Johnny Reb Confederacy — promises to be “two years of intense, horrifying stupidity.” Not only that, but all those pompous patriots from Mr. Ladd’s party who have been claiming that “Benghazi was a legitimate scandal that reveals Obama’s real plans for America” are, well, idiots. Read closely. That’s what he says. Hmmmm.

(more…)

Election, 2014: Of sheepdogs, duckwalkers, super-Stentors & puny, pandering politicos

& Well, the Dems have been pounded into pulp, the Republicans will have control of Congress for the next two years and Obama will have the veto pen.

At least the growing dysfunction in Washington will be simpler to understand — it’ll be Obama down at the White House against the Republicans on Capitol Hill. No finalists left standing in this war to define the American soul. Will it be one of enlightened progress or creepy conservatism? Will it once again blaze a fresh trail into the future, or be content to rest, fat as a croaking frog, on its molding lilypad of laurels?

Will Washington witness an exchange of howitzers for the next two years – or will this madness subside into a moderately meaningful dialog? Oh, what am I saying? Moderate? Meaningful? With Mitch McConnell sitting as super-Stentor of the Senate? With Ted Cruz and Rand Paul slinking around in the cloakrooms vying for leadership of the looney factions? With a President, who will lamely duckwalk  through his not-so-grand finale, valiantly but vainly trying to reason with these salivating fools? Moderate? Meaningful? Please!

It will be humorous, to say the least, to watch the continuing internecine warfare among the scrabbling youngsters of the Grand Old Party, which is neither grand in scope nor old in philosophy, and not a party but a concoction of staunchly encamped and differing tribes of savages, conspiring in different languages and whetting their knives for back-stabbing and other non-Sunday sports.  On one thing they will all agree: Whatever is wrong in the world – from Ebola to ISIS to Obamacare to missing Malaysian airplanes — is Hillary’s fault. On another, when they are explaining two years from now why nothing’s better – despite their control of Congress – they also will agree: It’s Hillary’s fault. And when the volcano erupts in Yellowstone, they also will agree: You guessed it. If not Hillary’s fault, then it’s her granddaughter’s.

Not to say the Democrats are any better. From a raucous faction of fist-pounding patriotic firebrands who historically forced their ideas and dreams and visions into the oft-reluctant American spirit, they have been cowed into a puny party pandering to the milquetoast minions of the politically correct. For leaders, they now offer us sheepdogs.

(more…)

The summit of sport? Bottom of the ninth, of course

& Ok. The Hot Stove League has its fuel for a winter-long fire. Should Gordon have gone for home?

I really don’t have to tell you about this, do I? In two days, it’s been replayed on tv more times than I Love Lucy.

I’m speaking of that video clip of the last baserunner of the last game of the 2014 World Series. As it so often happens in this granddaddy and still reigning champion of  sports-season finales, this one went to the bottom – the very bottom of the bottom — of the ninth inning of the final game.

Roll the setup:

Kauffman Field, Kansas City. Sweat City. On the field, the players’ attention is more focused than the day they looked at their first million-dollar check. In the stands, the popcorn hawkers are wishing they were selling Right Guard. They’d have made a killing.

The K.C. Royals, needing one run to tie and send the fans into delirium and the game into overtime (that’s a reference for football fans. You’re welcome.)

Two outs, K.C. superstar slugger Salvador Perez at the plate, digging in against San Francisco’s as-good-as-they-get, new-paradigm pitcher with the smooth-as-silk delivery and the stone-cold stare, Madison Bumgarner.

Man on third. A single ties the game; extra innings. An out ends all reason for living in the Midwest, and sets the West Coast on fire.

Wait a minute. Why’s the guy on third? Against Bumgarner? Madbum? He who’s given up only nine hits and one run to the Royals in 22 innings and already beaten them twice in this Series, once in a nine-inning complete-game shutout? Wha?

(more…)

Frontline nurses and docs: Deserving warriors of the widening battle against Ebola

& To say the least, the stories of the bravery and risks in the midst of this medical fight against Ebola are riveting.

I’m reminded, in a way, of stories about war. Well-trained and briefed, armored and armed to withstand and fight the fiercest of assaults, warriors move forward to confront a determined, sneaky enemy, trusting that their precautions, their protection and their cunning will see them through to victory. But in wars the enemy also is cunning; there is always a risk.

And so it is today in this war against a determined, sneaky virus. It’s ravaging West Africa. It has sneaked into America. Despite guarded assurances that it will go no further, we still wonder, and hope it won’t. Everybody knows that in wars, things go wrong. We’ve got ample proof of that.

In this war, the generals are away from the front – back in the Center for Disease Control or research hospitals – seeking to understand the enemy and plotting its defeat. The colonels and majors are those behind the lines – providing new chemistry and hazmat suits and the means to distribute the weapons and sustenance to those on the front lines, the doctors and the nurses.

The captains and lieutenants are the doctors, fulfilling the same role as those who led their companies through German fusillades and up the cliff faces of France, or crept with their platoons — carefully, oh so carefully — into nests of enemies hidden in the jungles of Vietnam. We’ve honored them, over and over. And rightly so, just as we’ve honored the foot soldiers, those GI grunts who really win the wars.

In the war against this pestilence – as with any virulent, dangerous disease – the foot soldiers are the nurses. (more…)

Israeli Exodus Numero II: Fanciful answer?
 Too bad we can’t ask Sammy

& This had to happen. Among the current crop of made-for-Facebook people-for-peace posters circulating these days is this:

move israel Yr’s Truly has been thinking about this idea – something like it, at least —  for about 25 years. The idea wasn’t mine. It came from an adventuresome old Polish Jew who’d lived a life that Hemingway would have envied. His name was Sam Kaplan. I called him Sammy. By the time I’d met him, he’d been embroiled in two or three wars – he was even a partisan in those early-guerilla days of the Spanish Civil War. On other occasions, he spent a few days as a guest of Russian and Swiss jailers — problems at the borders, apparently. If you had to spend time locked up, he would say, do it in Switzerland. The cells are clean and the food is to die for. He’d lived a number of lives on a number of continents in the company of a number of lovely ladies, siring, with the help of a Mexican beauty, a couple of sons. He ended up in the Baja, down south of Tijuana in Rosarito Beach, running a little general store and an ice plant.

His idea was even better than the one in this poster. When he told me his idea, with a fanciful twinkle in his eye, I took it mostly as a joke. Now, I wonder, if it’s about the only good idea left.

“It’s simple,” Sammy would say after a sip of wine. “The United States moves Israel to the Baja.”

Yr’s Truly, also having had a few sips of wine, wasn’t taking notes, of course. And over the quarter-century of mulling Sammy’s idea, it has become infused with my own wanderings through the world of what-ifs. Sammy’s dead now – he faced the world for 89 years – and he’s not here to defend himself. He might not say it quite in the words that follow, but he’d probably sign his name to the thoughts, con mucho gusto.

& Here’s what we’d say: (more…)

An internet flash mob of Peppy’s protectors

& Up in Colorado this week, there’s been a lively discussion having to do with some starving horses. Perhaps you’ve heard about it. I’ve personally started to think of it as the Saga of Dual Peppy. I’d never heard of Dual Peppy until a friend emailed to suggest I take a look at a Facebook page, entitled “Justice for Dual Peppy.”

What’s a Dual Peppy, I wondered, and why does he, she or it need justice?

It didn’t take long to find out. The social media and Twitter and the internet in general, I assume, was electrified – at least among people of the horsey set – when some really grim news came out of a barn not far from Colorado Springs. A lady had followed her dog into the barn last Friday, and wished she hadn’t.

Inside, she came across piles of manure – three feet deep, she said – in which were standing eight emaciated horses, with ruts between their ribs. On the ground, she saw some tarps, with big lumps under them. She peeled one tarp back and found a rotting equine carcass, covered with lye, then more carcasses, and some bones. She called the sheriff. At first, the deputies didn’t seem too interested – they went out to take a look and said there was nothing they could do. The ribby horses that were alive, they decided, were not in “imminent danger.”

As happens these days, the story found its way onto the internet, where there was interest. A lot of it. Pictures were posted and somebody recognized one of the still-standing-but-obviously-starving steeds. It was Dual Peppy, a 22-year-old former champion cutting horse – known to many in the rodeo world as one of the best of all time. It was if Muhammad Ali was found waiting in line in a soup kitchen. But for dual Peppy, there wasn’t even soup.

(more…)

Saving horses: It’s no longer ‘in lieu,’ it’s ‘in lunacy’

& You’ve got to hand it to the New Mexico Livestock Board.

They can take a big pile of road apples and turn it into an even bigger pile of horse poop.

Loyal readers of this here Gazette will recall that Yr’s Truly has written before of the massive problem of unwanted horses in New Mexico, and the never-getting-anywhere debate over what to do with them. Keep ‘em and feed ‘em, says one faction. Slaughter ‘em and sell ‘em, says another.

In the midst of the circle-jerk debate-that-goes-nowhere, however, unwanted horses keep turning up. The inspectors of the NMLB are kept busy carrying out their state-mandated duties of picking up horses that are loose, or mistreated, or starving, or surrendered by down-and-out owners who can’t afford to buy milk for the kids, let alone hay for the horse.

And what do the inspectors of the NMLB do with the horses? Well, that’s where we start slogging into the mounting mountain of bureaucratic manure.

Let’s start with a law in New Mexico that says the government can’t donate property it owns. Sounds reasonable – that stops people from giving away county-owned Caterpillar bulldozers and things like that. You just walk into the guv’s mansion and start asking for the bathtub. See how far that gets you.

If you live by the letter of that law [in New Mexico, I know that’s a very strange concept], you can come to the conclusion that the horses seized by or signed over to the NMLB inspectors are the property of the state, especially if no one has claimed the horses within a five-day waiting period. Not many people come a-claiming.  So, the inspector has picked up the poor thing, he’s advertised it on the NMLB’s website for the required five days, and there have been no claims. Now, the state is the proud owner of yet another starving-unwanted-mistreated equine bag of bones which, to the anally-inclined-narrow-minded among us, is no different than a bulldozer or a bathtub, and cannot be given away.

(more…)