Friday, May 30, 2008

This Just In

Well, the whole not existing on paper thing is kinda getting in Starr Ann’s way. Her fake papers got her on the plane (Starr Ann claims Osama bin Laden’s probably flying commercial, it’s so easy), but she needs a little bit more in the way of credentials to get inside Walter Reed. Celia Susan claims to have the proper materials, and she’s heading up there.

Bottom line, Starr Ann hasn’t made it to Lane yet. Lane knows she’s there, though, and she’s not real happy about it. Seems like Lane basically wants to put a pillow over her head and pretend the world doesn’t exist anymore. And who knows, maybe that’s a pretty good short term response. Only thing is, Starr Ann is determined to be right there when the pillow comes off.

Anyway, yesterday when Starr Ann realized that Celia Susan wouldn’t get there until at least late tonight, she took up the offer of a Posse rider who lives about an hour and a half away. Yep. Starr Ann had supper and spent the night with Heather and April, of Wishful Writer fame. You know how even when something momentous is going on, your brain still tries to make all the normal observations and things, just to keep you grounded? Well, when Starr Ann called to check in last night, she told me about three times how nice that bathroom of Heather and April’s turned out. So, I’m real thankful for the hospitality of those cowgirls.

And Jodie says Starr Ann has something cooking. She’s given Jodie the job of getting in touch with Jamila’s folks about the possibility of letting us borrow Jamila’s riding boots for a few days. More on that as it develops.

Lately, I feel like I ought to be calling this the Starr Ann Dispatches.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Separation by degrees

Lane was freezing inside a C-5 Galaxy high above the Atlantic Ocean as Jamila’s casket was being lowered into the earth somewhere in Dallas yesterday afternoon.

Just a few weeks ago, they were both hot and whole and secure in believing that nothing could ever come between them.

We heard from Lane again late last night. This time it was by phone. Her voice was as flat as it had seemed in that first email about the attack. Is it possible for a person to be in shock for this many days?

Jodie and I took turns talking to her first, and all we got were a bunch of single-syllable responses.

When Starr Ann took the phone, I could tell things were going pretty much the same for her. Then I heard Starr Ann say, “What if I fly up there to be with you?” Her expression dipped a little bit, and she said, “But I want to, Lane.” Lane must have actually gotten a whole sentence or two out then, because Starr Ann just listened for several seconds. When Lane was done, Starr Ann cradled the phone in the crook of her neck to free up her arms. She folded them across her chest and said, “Okay. I won’t.”

That was about it. Starr Ann disconnected the phone and handed it to Jodie, saying, “I’m going to take a shower. Margo, would you book me a flight on something, I don’t care what, to Walter Reed? The sooner the better.”

Jodie asked, “Should I pack a few things for you?”

Starr Ann just called over her shoulder, “No, I have my emergency pack, and this is definitely an emergency.”

Starr Ann’s probably landing in Washington, D.C., right about as I’m writing this.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Falling between the cracks

Our house feels like some kind of command center. There was another brief email from Lane, written just a few hours after the one I posted on Monday.

The doctors moved up the surgery on her leg. It's already done. And since they had her moving around on crutches by Monday night, with plans to ship her back to the states yesterday, Lane emailed us that she'd requested permission to be flown directly to Dallas, where they're holding Jamila's funeral this afternoon. That request wasn't denied. Apparently, it wasn't even addressed. She thinks they're initially taking her to Walter Reed.

Since Monday night, Jodie, Starr Ann and I have taken turns talking to what seems like about a thousand Army people, trying our best to get somebody to listen. We just knew there had to be one person in there who cared that a seriously wounded eighteen-year-old woman was desperate to say her final goodbyes to another eighteen-year-old who'd put her life on the line, and lost it, in Iraq.

Finally, late yesterday, the phone rang. A woman calling from the hospital where Lane was being treated. She wasn't willing to say who she was, but she did give us the number of a lieutenant colonel in Fort Story, Virginia. She said to call this woman about Lane and Jamila. Said to not ask how we'd gotten her name, because the officer would not tell.

Of course we called. Starr Ann did the talking. And this woman was real roundabout, but Starr Ann thinks she's going to try to help us out. Only thing is, we have to quit drawing so much attention to the case and stop calling other people about it. She said we just have to wait for word about what they're going to do with Lane.

So we're waiting. And hoping with all our might that Lane's on a plane headed for Dallas right now. They're burying Jamila at two this afternoon.

Monday, May 26, 2008

An email arrived sometime in the middle of the night

She sounds way too calm. So far, this is all we know.


Sorry you haven’t heard from me for so long. Had a little accident and am in the infirmary after the Medevac got me to [redacted]. Me and Jamila and a bunch of other soldiers from the engineering unit were headed to [redacted] to do the surveying for [redacted] stuff so we wouldn’t need so many convoys – you know they just bomb and snipe the shit out of us when we convoy. I’d tell you how scary it’s been in the month since I got here, but I just ain’t got it in me to talk about it right now.

Me and Jamila were sitting next to each other all cozy-like and we were glad the ride was almost over. I think we were in [redacted] region. We’d been trying to sleep. We never get to sleep. Our skin was spitting sand. It blows everywhere. Breathing it. Stinkin’. Even when it’s pitch black it’s hotter than hell. Mortar fire started and hit the truck ahead of us. The driver took evasive action, but it was a clusterfuck. We all grabbed our rifles and our small artillery crew started firing back at what? Nothing? Couldn’t tell no way where those bastards were coming from. Smoke was everywhere and it seemed like the rain of mortar and machine gun fire was never going to stop. Something hit my leg and it felt like the fires of hell ran up to my neck. I had to rip off my t-shirt to wrap it up. Blood was everywhere and I just remember thinkin’ as I was looking down at the pile of chitlins that was a leg that it wasn’t really my leg so it’d be okay.

The firing stopped about then. Either that or I passed out. All I know is the last thing I remember was looking over to check on Jamila and she was just laying there all crumpled up all funny like—she was turned all unnatural—it didn’t make any sense. I didn’t even see any blood.

Next thing, I woke up on the helicopter and that’s the last I remember for a long time. What the hell am I gonna’ do? I thought maybe it wasn’t true, but it was. I couldn’t even tell her I love her one more time.

I’ve got to find a way to see her mom, just don’t know how I’m going to do it. I can’t even tell them that she died trying to save somebody or something – she was just in the wrong place—in the wrong country—where we’re all doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. That there was no damned reason at all for her to be dead.

Ain’t nothing going to be right ever again. Not in a world that’d take her and not me.

I’m being shipped back to Landstuhl where they are going to operate on my leg again.

I have to go.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Not Again This Year

For the last few years, Starr Ann gets in a real testy mood as Memorial Day approaches. It's because we know the mainstream media is once again going to allow this administration to trot out their boy for another two-faced, insulting display of solemnity and compassion over our country's fallen soldiers.

This year, Starr Ann's come up with an idea. And she has asked me to enlist the help of anybody who happens to read The Starr Ann Chronicles.

Here's the deal. Tomorrow, we target every hypocritical article we can find that shows President Bush feigning sorrow at Memorial Day ceremonies.

First, make up a template of your general remarks, and be sure to stress your objection to the media's part in this administration's annual charade.

Next, be sure to copy and paste your prepared opinion into the comments section of the articles you find (especially those articles run by local media) or into an email when commentary isn't available.

For extra added value, you can take a few seconds to customize each comment by copying and pasting into your statement a line or two from the specific article you're criticizing.

Jodie, Starr Ann and I have made a pact to each visit 10 separate publications and leave a strong protest about the travesty of this lying, cheating, war-for-oil president being allowed full rein to play pious, compassionate leader on Memorial Day.

We really hope some of you think this is a good idea and will join in.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dang! A Fiction Blog

My best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) and I have discovered something real cool. Yep. It's a brand new lesbian blog. But get this - it's fiction! What a concept, eh?

We just discovered Lesbians From Space this morning, and after reading their first seven posts (that's all there are so far), we're totally hooked on the storyline. If you like lesbians (heh), like space stuff, and like fiction, hop on over there and check out what Comet Rider and Space Girk are up to. But hurry, because the plot is ongoing, and you wouldn't want to miss out on anything.

Fiction blog. Wish I'd have thought of that. Good luck, Commanders!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Blast

As I may have mentioned before, my best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) is the world's best at getting a party together STAT. So, there we were, expecting Lane and Jamila to arrive in mid-afternoon, and Starr Ann had the party ready to launch by late morning. Still wouldn't tell me what her big surprise was, though.

Afternoon came and went without one sign of the kids. Which was a little bit comforting. It felt good to know Basic Training and tech school hadn't made Lane grow up too much. At the same time, though, Starr Ann and I'd really been looking forward to having the girls all to ourselves, if only for an hour or so. Dang, where does time go?

By seven, most of the Posse had arrived. Still no Lane and Jamila, but things were cranking into high gear by their own selves.

Lori had somehow rigged up a lighted footpath between her Riding Cowgirls Ranch and our Happy Hands. It was quite beautiful, and I still don't really understand how she did it, but that's Lori for you. Lori also brought a lot of marshmallows, on the off chance Reeflightning didn't make it on time, since she had to travel so far. But right as Lori started to get the campfire going, Reef arrived. So, all good. The marshmallow specialist was in charge of the marshmallows. Anyway, Lori was supposed to be on hot tub patrol.

Everybody was having a real good time when, about eight or so, here comes Lane and Jamila walking through the door. Dang! Talk about two beautiful kids full of life and so in love you could see it a mile away! It was like a pheromone cloud rolled in with them. I mean it, the place started rocking.

Our puppy Bates came running from who-knows-where and made the leap of his life into Lane's arms. That boy just about wiggled in two, his tail was wagging so hard. And in a surprise move, he took to Jamila right away. Still in Lane's arms, he twisted his neck and leaned over toward Jamila's face. Of course, we all know Bates, so there was a collective gasp, and we all held our breaths. But he didn't even try to bite her. Just licked her face.

Starr Ann said, real matter of fact, "Prolly smells more like Lane than Lane does," which broke the tension enough that everybody laughed. Lane had the decency to blush. Black women, though, have an unfair advantage. Jamila might have blushed, then again she might not have.

After their entrance, everything just took off. What I remember is real patchy. At one point, I was in the pasture in bare feet, dancing with Frannie, Tigger, CJ, and the -inas. Funny thing about the -inas. Gina surely remembers being at the party, but I got a message from Nina this morning saying she was sorry to miss the hoedown. Just goes to show you Nina's so in love with Gina she truly doesn't know where she is half the time.

There was another point when I spotted Starr Ann, Cap'n Dyke, and Frannie huddled up real close, like they were talking real serious. Then they all three at once threw their heads back and laughed real hard. Don't know why, but the sight of that just made me so happy I almost couldn't stand it.

On my way out to check on the horses, I spotted yet another lovely Posse member, JoeyJoe, emerging from that lighted footpath with Lori. That made about the fourth cowgirl I'd seen Lori on that path with. What the heck?

I said, "You chargin' for this shuttle, Hahn?"

Lori didn't bat an eyelash, just whipped out this little pad of post-it notes and started writing. She tore off the one she'd written on and said, "Here you go, Margo. I'm actually booked solid, but I'll fit you in at 11:30. Meet me right about here."

Smiling real appreciative, all I said was, "Thanks," and I went on to the barn.

Well, guess what? There was no need for me to go checking on the horses. Lane, Jamila and Bates were already in there handing out carrots. Jamila was inside Lightning's stall. Lane saw how surprised I looked and she told me not to worry, that animals just seemed to take to Jamila. Sure enough, Lightning was being a perfect gentleman.

Right then, the door slid open. It was Starr Ann. All four of us spent a few seconds smiling like crazy, just happy to share a few private moments.

Starr Ann came over and bumped shoulders with Lane. She asked Jamila, "Wanna hear any of the good oil on Lane, Jamila? I know a few of her secrets."

Jamila kissed Lightning right on his muzzle and came out into the shedrow with us. "Sure. I want to know it all. Wish we had more time."

I said, "There'll be plenty of time someday. We completely understand how anxious you are to see your folks."

A little wave of sunlight passed across Jamila's features at just the mention of her parents. That was real nice to see. I can't tell you how happy Starr Ann, Lane, and I felt for Jamila right then.

Anyway, a loud hoot from outside made us all jump and go look. Almost everybody had congregated around Reef's campfire, and somebody must have said something hilarious, because the whole Posse was just about in tears, they were laughing so hard.

I lost track of Jodie and Starr Ann for about half an hour after that, and I should have known it had something to do with Starr Ann's surprise. It sure did!

All of a sudden, Starr Ann and Jodie came up to us all at the fire and hollered, "Snowball fight!"

I couldn't believe it. This is only May, for Goddess sakes! See? Every winter, Starr Ann stockpiles a bunch of snowballs - fills up our freezer and the freezers in all her bunkers. This year, she even made Jodie let her load a bunch of 'em in her freezer. Anyway, Starr Ann always waits until July or August, in the middle of the summer's worst heatwave, to break out the snowballs and have our snowball fight. It's unheard of for her to spend her snowballs in May. But there they were, in a bunch of piles spread all around the field, far enough from the fire to keep them from melting before the battle.

It took a minute, but everybody caught on pretty quick and in no time the snowballs were flying everywhere, people were screaming as snow exploded against their warm bare legs, and squealing as crushy ice got dropped down the backs of their shirts. Five minutes of fleeting mayhem, and it was all over. Or so we thought. Everybody was out of breath and giggling, when Starr Ann said, "Uh-oh."

All eyes turned to where Starr Ann was looking. Jamila had held back a single snowball and was standing there carefully holding it, with an evil look in her eye.

Giggling, Lane said, "Toss it, Honey Girl, it's gonna melt."

Jamila looked down at the quickly vanishing snowball, and her evil expression turned real seductive. She gave Lane a challenging look right before taking a big bite out of that snowball, then holding it out toward Lane. Guiding it by holding Jamila's wrist, Lane took the next bite. They did that until that last one of this winter's snowballs was all gone.

The girls had to leave early the next morning to make their flight to Jamila's parents' house in Dallas. Before they left, they confirmed what we all pretty much knew already. They're being sent to Iraq. Real soon. They'll be there before the month is over.

Right now, what we're doing is staying focused on the fun we had at that party. Not thinking too deeply about what we can't control.

Oh, speaking of the party, somebody left a pair of chaps near that path to Lori's place. They look like Frannie's. Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Party Tonight!

Real nice of them to give us so much notice, but Lane and her new girlfriend Jamila are on their way home and should be here late this afternoon.

We're so excited we can barely get the plans together, but we're throwing them a party. Nothing fancy. We just wanted everybody who loves Lane to have a chance to see her. They're only going to be here for the one night, because Jamila misses her mom and dad real bad and can't wait to get back to Dallas, where Lane said they're practically holding their breath until they get to see their daughter again. Apparently, on that last visit Lane hit it off pretty well with Jamila's parents. So the girls are spending the rest of this leave with them.

We're kinda disappointed we won't have more time with Lane, but heh, she's a kid in love.

Lane said they have something real important to tell everybody, so Starr Ann and I are officially inviting the Posse and anybody else who cares about Lane, or cares about bourbon, or tequila, or dancing barefoot in a pasture that's so muddy it feels like Crisco between your toes, or sneaking off to share some moonlight with another cowgirl, to come on by for Lane and Jamila's party tonight.

To tell the truth, we're a little edgy about meeting Jamila. We heard she's different. Rides English.

Anyway, hope we see you here. Starr Ann says she has something special planned. Evil thing won't tell me what it is.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Feelings, FEMA, and Frogs

So, I was cutting our grass yesterday, right? I know. I know. Lawn is bad for the environment. Believe me, we're planting trees like crazy at the Happy Hands Ranch, looking forward to the day when the area around our house is lawn-free. But for now, we still have to mow, and because the horses tend to founder on sugary weeds in late summer, we keep the pastures cut so they're grassy instead of weedy. At least we never use herbicides or pesticides. Ever.

Anyway, I was riding along and I saw movement near this muddy spot out by the tall cottonwood. Yep. It was that frog up there. I took that picture of him and on the way inside to show it to Starr Ann, I named him Rickles.

As I reached Starr Ann, I teared up and blurted out, "Look at this baby I almost ran over with the tractor. I almost killed this adorable thing."

Starr Ann looked at me real hard before glancing at the photo. "Yeah, he's something, all right. Looks a little like Bates, doesn't he?"

It was true. That dark, judgmental expression looked a whole lot like our weird little puppy does right before he bites somebody. My heart just melted. I really did start crying then.

Starr Ann's words got real swirly, as if she were talking to a little kid. "Hey, Margo, you know how I always let you and Jodie send me off to one of my bunkers when I'm PMSing?"

Starr Ann could really get off subject. "Yes."

"Well, how would you like to spend a few days in one of the shelters?"

"No, thanks."

"Now, Margo, don't be hasty. It'd be good practice for when the Feds start rounding people up in the FEMA camps."

I laughed. "Who needs practice? We go underground. We eat freeze-dried food. We sneak out at night to care for the horses. We get real pale." Seemed pretty straightforward to me. "Don't see a need to practice."

"What about if I call Celia Susan and you two hole up in a bunker together for a few days? That sound fun?"

"Starr Ann, what makes you think I'd want to go off to one of your bunkers and play FEMA camp emergency sex slave with Celia Susan?"

"Give it up, Margo. Your room isn't that far from mine. Does the phrase 'Put this somewhere, the guards are coming' mean anything to you?"

I guess I started crying again. "Awwwww, now I'm missing Celia real bad."

Starr Ann put her arm around me as she walked me to my room. "I know you do. Now just pack up enough clothes for three days, okay? I'll be back in a few minutes."

"But what about the grass? And you know how directionally challenged I get during PMS. Prolly couldn't even find a bunker."

Starr Ann said she'd take care of all that, so I packed some stuff up and went outside. Starr Ann's so thoughtful sometime it just makes me cry. I broke down again when I saw these signs marking my way.

Dang, but Starr Ann loves me. Doesn't she?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Conversation Barely Overheard

Jodie's colleague, Karmen, came down from Boston for the weekend. Karmen and Jodie teach at the same university, only Karmen teaches English Literature, instead of American History, like Jodie. Anyway, Jodie served a big dinner Saturday night so everybody could get to know Karmen.

After supper, I passed by Starr Ann and Karmen in the living room and snagged, not deliberately or anything, a few words of their conversation.

Karmen said, "Oh, yes, I read Margo's blog each day, so I know quite a bit about you already."

Starr Ann smiled real big and I think, but I'm not sure because I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but I think Starr Ann nodded while she was smiling and took a sip of her beer.

So Karmen went on, "For example, yesterday's piece was quite nice. I especially liked the symbolism in that one."

Well, Starr Ann's eyes got that one sparkle in them, the one that means she's caught somebody out. At least I guess that's what her eyes did. I wasn't paying that much attention. And Starr Ann said, "I don't think Margo put any symbolism into that one. Before she wrote it, she said she had "big issue fatigue" and wanted to just go write something mundane. Something absolutely face-value."

Karmen slowly put her wine glass down on the counter. "Oh, no, Starr Ann. This is my specialty, my field. That piece was loaded with symbols, metaphor, and figurative language."

Starr Ann does not possess a genuine rapt expression. Trust me on this. It's just not in the girl's facial repertoire.

So, Starr Ann gets this rapt expression on her face and says, "Are you sure? Well, since it's your specialty and all, maybe you could write down some of it. Gosh, I guess I just don't know Margo. Or else I don't know how to read. Or something."

Karmen was happy to do it. Come Sunday morning, Karmen dropped an envelope off at our place on her way out of town. In the envelope was an essay. An essay on the symbolism of my last post, the one titled Unremarkable. Anyway, here's Karmen's essay:

Symbolism in 'The Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) Chronicles Post - Unremarkable
Let's define the word first; this word 'symbolism'.

The term "symbolism" is often limited to use in contrast to "representationalism"; defining the general directions of a linear spectrum - where in all symbolic concepts can be viewed in relation, and where changes in context may imply systemic changes to individual and collective definitions of symbols. "Symbolism" may refer to a way of choosing representative symbols in line with abstract rather than literal properties, allowing for the broader interpretation of a carried meaning than more literal concept-representations allow. All forms of language are innately symbolic, and any system of symbols can form a "language;" even a binary system. Human oral language is based on the phoneme. The written word is symbolically representative of both the symbolic phoneme and directly to the cognitive concept which it represents. Symbols are not the creations of mind, but rather are distinct capacities within the mind to hold a distinct piece of information. In the mind, the symbol can find free association with any number of other symbols, can be organized in any number of ways, and can hold the connected meanings between symbols as symbols in themselves.

Having defined, somewhat, the idea of symbolism, let's apply this idea to 'Unremarkable'. I flex this exercise for one reason: the author's friend asked me, and I quote "If you had to describe it, how would you? What was it about, as you saw it?" unquote. Now, I cannot state that I've never searched for or found symbolism in The Starr Ann Chronicles before – that would be an untruth. Indeed, I have soared in Hilarity Clouds and dipped in the Symbolic Seas of the Chronicles many a time, but to be asked how I 'saw' it, well, that was something altogether new.

So, without further ado, let's do this.

Dawn is breaking and Margo Moon's (MM) best friend, Starr Ann (SA) (the one constant in MM's life) is standing beside the bed with coffee (a stimulant that causes one to wake up). MM asks why they are awake (mayhaps the eternal question 'why are we here'?). Starr Ann replies that they are going to the pond (life's beginnings in the primordial ooze) to watch the sun rise (a new beginning). SA reminds MM 'how cold it gets in those last few minutes before dawn. And how damp.' (things are always 'darkest' or 'worse' before the dawn) and gets MM a hoodie (warmth, reassurance).
Next, they walk hand in hand to the pond carrying coffee (love and alertness travelling towards a beginning). They travel through all the 'old' places (leaving the past for the promised light ahead) and MM notes that SA has real, nice hands (dexterity, protection, healing).

Next everything is quiet – even nature herself (relaxation), waiting for the anxious (this is obvious, so nothing to see here, move along) Sun to rise (revelation and enlightenment). Suddenly a bird bursts in 'with the most intricate, twirly, show-off birdsong you ever heard' (childlike happiness; carefree). SA giggles and MM knows this will cause her to 'crack up' (not follow status quo; possibly revert). MM tries to stop SA by 'knocking her on the arm' (connection with the breaker of rules), misses (she doesn't really want to stop her) and falls back (backsliding away from adulthood), making a noise and scaring 5 (five is the number of 'divine grace' and the sign of the mediator between the goddess and her children) deer who run towards them and then away from them (deer direct one to pay attention to one's inner thoughts – think of their antlers as antenna into and out of the brain. Here, perhaps, the deer are saying 'pay attention to the world when you have to, but it's okay to run away from it when you want').

SA, Our Trickster and Mind-Player, is laughing, but helps MM to her feet (I don't think I need to interpret this – pretty obvious) then high-fives MM. They've missed another sunrise. They do not want to grow up.

Dang. I had no idea. I'm either deeper and smarter than either SA (hi, SA) and me put together ever imagined, or symbolism has a life of its own, or Karmen is totally full of it. Heh.

Friday, May 9, 2008


It was still dark this morning when I woke to find my best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) standing beside my bed holding a thermos of coffee.

I said, "Why are we awake?"

"Because we're going to the pond and watch the sunrise like we haven't done in about a million years."

"Oh." I got up and started dressing.

Starr Ann poured us each a cup of the coffee. "Don't forget how cold it gets in those last few minutes before dawn. And how damp." She opened my closet and picked me out a heavy hoodie.

Holding hands on one side and our cups on the other, we strolled through all the familiar places - out our double gate, across the middle pasture, over the creek trickle, along the narrow woods path, up watermelon hill, through noodle pass, and finally around the pond rim to the side where we were facing east. Starr Ann has real nice hands.

The quietness had texture to it. Seemed like everything - trees, dirt, animals, grass, just everything - was hushed up trying to hear the Sun rustling around under that black horizon, all nervous, getting ready for today's big appearance.

Then this one bird couldn't stand it any longer and started in with the most intricate, twirly, show-off birdsong you ever heard. It was so over the top, Starr Ann got to giggling, and when Starr Ann giggles, I can't keep from cracking up. I went to knock her on the arm to get her to shush, and in the dimness I missed. Ended up falling backward and kinda not exactly screaming, but just making a little bit of a surprised sound. Well, that caused about 5 deer, who I guess'd been sleeping just beyond the cattails, to jump straight up in the air and first run in our direction, then stop, then run the other way.

Starr Ann was bent over double, she was laughing so hard. Evil thing did have the decency to help me up, though. Eventually. Once we were both upright and gettin' it together, we slowly turned to look across the pond. The Sun had already slipped up and clear of those distant treetops.

Starr Ann high-fived me. "Missed it again."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spring Sprucing Up

Storms last night and Starr Ann's having cleaning fits. Must be springtime. Anyway, our electricity went out for a while, and that never fails to remind me of when Starr Ann and I were little. First time we lost electricity at the orphanage after Starr Ann got there, I ran down for her the list of all the things that wouldn't work until the lights came back on - no toaster for the nuns to make our breakfast, no washing machine, no refrigerator, and no toilet flushing. Yep, Starr Ann was so little, she fell for it when I told her we couldn't flush the toilets without electricity.

One spring when a big storm hit, Sister Blissie Marie found Starr Ann all bunched up in bed, trying to hold it. Well, Sister Blissie was the type to get to the bottom of things, so she eventually worked the truth loose from little Starr Ann and hustled her off to the bathroom right away. I clearly recall my punishment for telling that tiny lie. I had to be Sister's right hand girl for spring cleaning that year.

So anyway, those storms last night aren't the only reminder that spring is really here. Starr Ann's been tornadoing through everything in sight. She's cleaning, spiffing, cozying, and fluffing. It's what springtime does to her. Poor thing.

This year, instead of feeling guilty for not having the spring cleaning gene, I've decided to tidy up a few things here at the Chronicles. Yep. I've updated the Posse list for one thing.

And since you can never have too many good women riding alongside you, we're real happy about gaining three new Posse members.

JoeyJo over at Soon to be Discovered and Sallyride, her Lipizzan, will be riding with us from now on, Nina will be cantering in from Closer to Fine on her gray speckled horse Tumbledown, and our great friend CJ from Current Jam is looking for the perfect steed.

Hi JoeyJo, Nina and CJ! Feel free to pick out and display one of the Posse buttons on the right. If you want to. By the way, here's my chance to thank Lori from Hahn at Home for coming up with those most excellent Posse buttons. Starr Ann and I love us some Lori.

Let's welcome these fine women to The Posse and hope their first ride with us isn't too death defying. But you never know.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What A Mess

On Saturday, as soon as we realized Eight Belles had died galloping out after the Derby, one of us turned off the TV, somebody else opened the fridge and picked out four nice carrots, and before we even realized what we were doing, we were out in the pasture pampering our horses with treats.

I could barely take my eyes off Trickster's fine, long cannon bones. In thoroughbred breeding, the muscles have gotten stronger as the skeletal system has gotten finer. Huge rubber bands rigged to fragile matchsticks. Half a ton of horseflesh supported on those bones the circumference of my forearm. If you let yourself think about it too deeply, standing up seems a miracle. Running on those legs should be downright impossible.

We hated everything about horse racing in those minutes and hours after she died. And in horse racing, there's a whole lot to hate.

But the reality is that the industry does exist. And wishing won't make it go away. Neither will turning away from it completely. Like economic sanctions that hurt the poorest the most, a boycott of thoroughbred racing would hit the horses first and foremost.

After Ruffian shattered her leg on the backstretch at Belmont Park in 1975, ten years of hard times for thoroughbred racing followed, as people understandably stayed away from the track. But little actually came of all that. Fans wandered back, and there were few real changes.

Being born into today's world is like stepping in chewing gum. The more you try to get clear of the mess, the worse it gets. No matter how hard we try, we all pollute. Most Americans pay taxes that help support our wars. Ethanol reduces fossil fuel dependence, but takes corn away from the world food supply. Horse racing can be terrible, but turning away from it is worse.

We all sat up Saturday night talking about whether to ever watch another race. We decided we will. We'll probably even watch Big Brown's Preakness and Belmont. But we're going to do something else, too. We're going to do what we can to put pressure on the industry to get rid of the whips, to ban the racing of 2-year-old babies, to convert all racing surfaces to safe synthetics, and to really penalize trainers caught drugging their horses.

Getting rid of whips is a no-brainer. The playing field remains level because none of the horses are getting hit.

Waiting until horses are 3 years old would be a huge change, but anybody who knows horses knows it's the right thing to do.

Statistics show a marked reduction in injuries over synthetic surfaces, so again, a no-brainer.

And drugging? Right now, a trainer who gets caught drugging a horse is merely suspended from the racetrack. All that means is that he or she can't physically enter the gate. His or her racing organization rolls along, with the trainer orchestrating everything by phone and Internet.

Starr Ann and I have turned our backs on the track a few times now. But we always come back. This time will be different. We're staying right in their faces, demanding sensible reforms until they have to listen, and supporting organizations that are making headway.

As for the beautiful filly herself, we console ourselves with knowing her body was hot, pumped, and full of adrenaline when she went down. Shock, perhaps Nature's kindest process, took over quickly. Confusion was probably Eight Belles' strongest sensation for those few seconds before the needle went in. If she'd gone down on a casual trail ride, as horses sometimes do, she wouldn't have had the benefit of swift euthanasia. So for that part, we can be thankful.

Starr Ann had a dream Saturday night. It was a pretty one. Two fillies, one jet black and one a very dark gray, running wild and free on sound legs without riders. That's all the dream was. Just Ruffian and Eight Belles tearing through an unfenced pasture.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

This tribute stands on Th'Mound, and I could think of none better.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Don't Drink The Water

Jodie took some photos of Amelia and Smokey yesterday morning. We're having that pond checked for drugs.

Happy May Day!