Calm before the stormI’m writing this from Scottsdale, Ariz. Got out of town just before the latest little blizzard hit,
By: By Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
I’m writing this from Scottsdale, Ariz.
Got out of town just before the latest little blizzard hit, jumped on the early morning flight to Denver, had a snack at the airport and zipped on over to Phoenix via a big jet, napping for most of that flight and waking up to the pilot’s end-of-flight Dean Martin croon while looking down at the Arizona mountains baking in the sun below. Very nice.
A 50-degree jump; literally beamed from breezy and brisk to bright and busy, countryside and coolness to citified and callous, natural and spacious to concrete and cramped, cottonwoods and tall grass to desert and cacti and warm.
Neighborhood after neighborhood of retirement communities, lined up like tanks and troops assembled for D-Day, the assault on French beaches and the overrun of German forces during World War II, except in this case the goal is to supply retirees with the utmost in comfortable living.
A combination of perfect weather, super-clean cars, shopping malls, spectacular office buildings and too many empty retail and commercial spaces (thanks to the economy) and everything that Arizona has to offer during the winter months. A perfect climate with platoons of golfers tapping little white balls into tin cups on carpeted greens everywhere.
Confusing at first, for someone like me, who has spent the winter (at least this year) in the not-so-frozen North, even after having lived in southern California for the better part of two decades. It’s just too nice.
Which is the way my horses were feeling back in North Dakota, prior to the little recent storm: confused, especially since one of them has wintered in California before. They thought they might be in Arizona or California or at least Nevada, because the weather in North Dakota has been so unusually mild.
Their barometer or “furometer” was off and it had them confused. Or at least...troubled, but first, let me introduce you to them.
There’s Zip, a sorrel gelding, quarter horse, medium sized and a little dingy, who is afraid of everything and hates being tied up to anything, including a horse trailer, fence, hitching post, pickup bumper, cherry tree, lawnmower and the neighbor’s picnic table.
He’s just a little bit claustrophobic and will jerk until he’s free and yet, at the same time, anyone can ride him from Pippi the poodle to Conrad the cowboy. Just don’t tie him up unless you want to buy a new halter everyday. Plus, you can hug him but he’s a little bit snooty.
Then there’s Paint Ball, a large sorrel, quarter horse gelding, totally out of touch with reality, who rules the group and looks like he was shot in the rear end by someone with a paint ball gun and it never wore off. He has one white spot amongst a sea of copper on his right side buttocks. Very distinctive for someone who acts less than distinguished.
Paint Ball is all about his own needs, especially when it comes to sweet feed, hay and a green pasture. He assumes it all belongs to him, that anyone else is the world is simply an intruder and that he doesn’t have to work for his pay. You don’t want to hug Paint Ball because he’s heartless, indifferent and cold, so why bother?
And finally there’s Blue Rooster McGooster, alias Big Boy and Super Horse. He’s my prize; a hard worker who can team rope, work cattle well, has a wonderful demeanor and loves hugs. People are impressed when they see him because he’s big, has big hooves, and looks like he works out. In fact, you could ride him today and not ride him for two years and he’d still ride the same way when you got back on. He’s very disciplined. And yet, when I got him, the previous owners called him Ugh...as in Ugly, and you could see in his eyes that the name hurt him.
Now, he’s happy, his life is good, and his attitude has made him an impressive figure. And yes, I love Blue Rooster McGooster.
But this mild winter has he and the others confused because, you see, horses respond to the shortened days leading up to winter by growing a winter coat. And it is this hefty fur coat and the underlying fat that insulates them against inclement weather.
Nevertheless, the other day, before I left I saw then congregating in a corner with Paint Ball suggesting that they begin the shedding process, Zip being afraid to do so, since he’s afraid of everything and Blue Rooster McGooster telling them to do whatever they wanted, but he was planning for foul weather to visit at least one more time.
Which might have been what Douglas Everett, the Canadian automobile dealer, lawyer and retired senator meant when he once said, “There are those who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
I’m thinking there’s a chance he might have met Paint Ball, Zip and Blue Rooster McGooster before he said it.
Holten is a freelance cartoonist and columnist from Dickinson.