Book Report: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

Five Stars Plus

My friend Louise, who is a frequent commenter here, sent me this book after I’d commented that a short film based on it looked sweet. Sweet. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (2019), by Charlie Mackesy, is way more than sweet.

The cover gives you a hint

Everyone with a tender heart, even one hidden deep under layers of armor, should read this book. You deserve to spend time in the world these characters reside in. You need to hear the reminders that love and kindness are what truly matter and that we all are worthy of these things.

The book is gorgeous, too. It’s printed on beautiful, thick paper. The text and images are all hand drawn in the minimalist pen and ink of the author/artist. Your eye just wants to linger on the images, many of which say volumes with no words.

This is the page shared on Amazon, so I feel okay with sharing it.

Louise knew I’d treasure the book, and I’m so grateful she sent it. Lee read it, too, and he also laughed at the mole’s love of cake. I cried at one of the few things the fox said. He treasures friendship as much as I do.

I can think about the dear characters in the book as I walk through the tall, soft grass in my own wild places.

I’m passing the book around the family, then I’ll leave it in the tack room for guests to find and enjoy. I encourage you to buy it and share it. Give it as a gift to a friend you treasure. I know I’m gonna drag my local friends into the tack room to sit with a few of these poetic pages and remember the world we want to create.

By the way, you’re fine just as you are.

Two Dreams, One Came True, One Didn’t (Thankfully)

Let me start with the dream that didn’t come true. I was obviously a bit stressed out from going to work and not knowing where the office actually was. That night, I had a dream that I was visiting my previous job, the previous location for it. Everyone was there, and it had been remodeled with very cheerful colors and furnishings.

They had alcoholic beverages, too.

I chatted with the happy workers, but then, as it often happens in my dreams, I had to pee. I headed to where the bathrooms were, only to find people at workstations in there, cheerfully typing. I asked where the bathrooms were. “Down the road,” was the response.

WTF??

In the dream, I blurted out, “What if you have diarrhea?” The answer was, “We have an Uber right outside!” I went out and yep, there was an old black car. I got in, and the driver sped off. I asked him if he thought driving people to the bathroom struck him as weird. He turned around and smiled at me, saying, “The tips are great!”

I woke up.


The other dream, the one that did come true isn’t that exciting, except to me. The past two rides I’ve had on Apache the Paint horse have made me so dang happy that it’s like I’ve nailed my bucket list. We’ve been improving slowly over the past year, as you probably know.

Honest, he’s happy, too.

Yesterday we did the thing I’d been wanting to do so badly. We went out in the back pasture and wandered around, going up and down the arroyo, and checking out all the fences and trees. We just did it. No stress, no spinning around, no freezing and snorting. We just had a good time.

Hey Drew, we had fun.

Today was just as fun. First I worked with Drew, who’s getting better at his stuff on the ground. His reward was a nice walk together, which we both love. Halfway through was his big reward: he got to eat long grass in the unmown front field. What a dream, hanging out in the shade and relaxing.

So. Much. Grass.

The dream continued with Apache’s ride. He’s just doing so well. We trotted around like we k ew what we were doing, walked all the way across the road (I checked for cars), then headed out to the front field. Rather than getting worried as we got farther from the other horses, he looked around and checked things out. We looked at pretty pink flowers, sunflowers, and long, waving grass.

Wandering around looking at flowers while feeling safe on a happy, calm horse…that has been my dream since things went sour with Apache a couple of years ago. And I’d never been able to ride through fields alone before. I’d been afraid to ride without another person with me.

The view from the pool. Ahh.

Things are better.

Horse Dentistry Hilarity

Yesterday I had lots of fun and learned many new things as Bonnie, the equine dentist, came over to float the teeth of all the horses here (that’s what they call dental work, floating). Everyone was due except Mabel, but I was concerned that she still might need more work, so all got looked at.

I was really impressed at how Bonnie climbed up on the fence and set up a pulley system to hold the horses’ heads up and keep them still while she looked at them. It worked so well! I was also glad that the fence rails didn’t collapse, as they are still just temporarily welded on and a few of them have fallen down. Can’t weld until the drought is over and the fire danger is lower!

Drew having his front teeth straightened out.

Drew went first. He is such a well behaved little guy. The main concern with him is a cracked tooth he’s had since we got him. Bonnie had looked at him last year when he was in training with Tarrin, so she knew about it. The good news is that the crack looks like it’s not getting worse and will grow out. She declared that Drew has a “good mouth.” Let me know what you think!

He’s out of it.

To safely take care of their teeth, the horses need to be mildly sedated, which means you can do all kinds of fun and funny things with them. But the sedation keeps them from getting all upset and keeps Bonnie safe when she’s digging around back there in their molars. When Drew was done, he had a nice nap.

Apache was next in line. He just marched himself into the pen without me haltering him. I was impressed. We have mad a lot of progress in that area!

His teeth were pretty good, too, just due for a tune-up, because his bite had gotten slightly wonky. I’m glad they are in good shape, because I want him to have good teeth as long as possible. Bonnie said horses that are in pastures tend to have better teeth, because they eat a wide variety of textures and don’t get all dried out from not moving their mouths. Interesting fact: horses don’t salivate unless their mouths are moving. That’s another reason not to force them shut with nosebands, I guess. Dry mouths lead to dry innards and bad digestion or ulcers. I say let them move! Eat grass, my friends!

Mabel stood over by Dusty, and I swear she was telling him stories about last time she got hers floated with the manual rasp. But, Dusty is such a good boy that he stepped up like a man to have his turn. He was a bit more of a challenge to work with, since he hadn’t been worked on in a while. It’s important to keep their jaws in good shape, because it’s connected all over the place and can keep them in pain or out of balance. We suspect that is part of Dusty’s reluctance to be ridden. His work was the main reason I had Bonnie come by, because Tarrin had strongly recommended he get his teeth worked on before doing more with him.

Dusty can’t hold his drugs very well, and wasn’t able to stand up straight some of the time. He was leaning hard on the head rest, and slowly getting more and more sideways. We kept waking him up.

It’s good that he was so woozy, because he had a lot of work done. He has a broken molar, but the good news about that is that it broke off cleanly and shows no signs of infections. He can live with it. He also had really pointy canine teeth that were probably causing discomfort. Did you know the canine teeth in horses are the only ones that don’t keep growing their whole lives? Yep. So, now that this one has been clipped off and smoothed (after the photo was taken), he will feel a lot better.

Dusty’s teeth will need more work next time, but they are more balanced and he will be able to bite off grass a LOT better. That will help him gain some weight. And his chewing will also be better. I don’t think he really appreciated any of this, because neither he nor Mabel would come up for dinner later in the day.

At first I hadn’t intended to get Mabel’s teeth done, since the vet had done it when she last choked. But I’m glad I did, because she needed a lot more detail work than the vet gave. She has some imbalances that were probably hurting her and aren’t completely fixed yet, but will improve over time. Some teeth had grown really long and were pressing down on others. Now she’s more even. And she also had a tooth removed.

Getting way up in her grill (note sleepy Dusty behind her).

She was very well behaved, too. All the horses impressed me with how well they handled the dental work. Bonnie said they obviously were handled a lot and trusted people. That’s saying a lot about how far Mabel has come from when she first arrived!

Here’s an interesting fact. I think we now know for sure how old Mabel is. Bonnie said people had labeled her as 5 from looking at her front teeth, but the back teeth very clearly placed her at 10 years old. That makes more sense to me. There had to be some time for her to accumulate some of her issues. Now we just hope we can make her more comfortable!

We talked a bit about weight management on the thin ones and I got some suggestions for inexpensive things to add to Dusty and Mabel’s feed that will put on a bit of weight and give them some amino acids without being quite as expensive as what I give Drew. I’ll go over all that with Kathleen and we will decide where to go from here on that.

I’m glad that the whole tooth situation is under control. I think that one more trim on their feet will get both Dusty and Mabel ready to start more work building muscle. I’m hoping Dusty can be one of Sara’s practice horses for her farrier certification, but in any case, we’re hoping Trixie will be able to make it next week. We are on a shorter schedule for a while, so Apache and Kathleen’s two can get all set. Drew, of course, has perfect feet to go with his perfect mouth. He’s like one of those incredibly healthy mixed-breed dogs, I guess, just full of heterozygous vigor!

I love them all and it makes me very happy to provide good care and love to these sweet creatures.

I Went to Work and Found Rainbows

Spoiler: the rainbow was not at work. But it’s true, I’ve been in my current job 11 months and had never been to “the office” until today. Well, I’d been to the first floor of the building many times, because I’d worked there on three separate instructional design gigs from 2006-2009.

Early departure!

I had a dentist appointment in Cedar Park (same dentist I’ve had for 20 years) this morning and really didn’t want to miss 4 hours of work to do it. Why work at a coffeehouse when Dell has an entire campus full of desks and wifi, and I have a badge to get in? So after my great dental cleaning (I glossed sufficiently) I went to find where the department I’m in has its seats.

A seat.

It was hard to find the cute little place assigned to the department I’m attached to. The stairs to it are unmarked! Luckily a guy I asked happened to have found the place last week, so he showed me, and reminded me where the cafeteria and the coffee shop where Lee and I fell in love were. No coffee anymore, but there is still a little food at the cafeteria.

A ping pong table!

Whoever designed this area took lessons from whoever did the Planview interior, but this is somehow soothing with all the white and light blue. It might be a nice place to work if more people were there. Today there was one other dude. It was quiet!

It’s sorta pretty for a space where no one has their own desk.

Yes, I had to reserve a “workspace.” I felt so modern and efficient. This is something that would take time to get used to, since I make a nest out of my work area. But, that’s not my worry! I’ll probably only come back a few more times before this job expires! Working from home is great, but this was a nice break.

The chatting area. Very near the sanitizing station.

I headed home with a stop by Tractor Supply for horse and chicken food. It’s always a little shocking to see all the changes along my route now that I do t drive back and forth every week. There are new traffic lights, a new gas station, and houses going up. I’ll be back next week, so it won’t change too much.

Welcome back, clacked the storks

The weather is so weird this time of year. Halfway home I hit an intense rainstorm with hail and flash flooding. I’m glad my car has a rain mode. It was clear at the Hermits’ Rest when I got home, so I was able to feed the horses. The second I was done, rain started.

It was dry in there ten minutes earlier!

It stopped pretty quickly, so I was able to feed the chickens. I saw the sun come out, and there was the bookend to my day!

Hooray!

It was a good day, even with all the driving. Time to relax. I hope your day had some nice surprises!

Things We Like

My spouse and I do have a few things in common. Today I was reminded of some of them. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy, which I needed, since the dogs killed another animal friend and that made me sad.

Sorry, buddy. I wish I could pick up and rescue a snapping turtle that somehow got into the yard, but I need my limbs.

I’m happier thoughts, I got something fun in the mail that my friend Deana told me about. It’s the Yarn Tarot. It’s so cute. The illustrations cover knitting, crochet, spinning, and weaving.

Also note my avocado nails.

The main reason to get the deck would be the art, some of which is clever. The deck was designed by Katie ponder, who does seem to know about the crafts. The Fool cracked me up, setting out over the precipice to buy yarn.

And the dog has a sweater on.

The suits are: pentacles a woven star, cups drop spindles, swords knitting needles (duh), and wands crochet hooks. I have a feeling getting weaving to fit in with the pentacle symbolism was the hardest.

See, it’s on a loom.

The twee book is a standard tarot book and doesn’t refer to the art or archetypes, but it’s not a bad book. Just not exciting.

That’s the World card.

So, that’s one thing Lee the Hermit and I both like. Another is pens. We both own so many pens and each have strong preferences. I love to write in my journals, and he did, too, until he started making them on the computer.

Lots of pens.

I got more pens than I intended to today. I thought I’d canceled one set. On well, I will use them all in my horse journal! They are all subdued, muted colors, which will fit with the horses. One impressive surprise was the at one set of pens came with an entire set of refills! That’s a good idea. Some inexpensive sets don’t put much ink in the pens, so yay for that manufacturer. They make theme sets, so I might get more (ocean theme, etc.)

One more commonality.

The final thing we have in common is a love for cute li’l animals. I was really excited to see the storks replaced with two sets of twin calves and their mamas. I’m pretty sure one set are the ones I saw at Sara’s a couple of days ago. Double the cute.

Sweet.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m going to see where I work!

Let’s Learn Horse Stuff

Today was a good horse day. Lee was kind enough to drive me and Sara met me at Tarrin’s ranch where we filmed Drew’s next set of obstacles for the Working Horse Central third quarter virtual show. I learned a lot more today, particularly about my capacity to do things in humidity.

Yep. Not my best skill jogging, carrying multiple objects and trying not to get stomped on by a large animal.

I had already gotten too hot bathing the heck out of Drew and grooming both horses, and I just went downhill from there. It wasn’t even all that hot! Just effing humid.

But Drew looked good and relaxed.

Everyone was kind to me and insisted I focus on what went well, even pointing out that when I dropped the lead rope after the jump he stopped and waited for me. That was way better than running off! I was actually pretty pleased, too.

He had no trouble with the bridge obstacle.

All these photos are screen shots from the video Sara took, by the way. He did very well on some new obstacles, like moving a cup, stomping on a tractor tire full of sand, and doing a series of tight turns. He’s really improving on so many levels. I wish I’d been up to the challenge of all the trotting.

Apache had a lesson after we sat in Sara’s car to cool off a bit to discuss his issues. I needed help with backing up, so Tarrin volunteered to work with him a bit, though she wasn’t exactly dressed for it! He was not thrilled, but got better.

I recovered enough to get in and practice. Sara filmed it, which was really interesting to me. I’m doing better with insisting on doing what I ask. By the end, it was much more smooth. We learned more stuff!

Back up, Jack.

When I finished backing, I had fun trying some of the obstacles with him. What a guy! Other than the backing up obstacle, He did all the things I tried like a champ! The bridge, the turns, the cup! He does have skills! I was so happy.

The thing I’m proudest of, though, was that Apache did his best job ever going through the “scary” corridor and to the trailer. There was only the smallest amount of nervousness! We are learning!

I guess it was worth the heat. That’s good, because this is a busy horse week coming up!

An Early September Walk

I had this idea in my head that since the highs are no longer over 100° I could start taking longer walks. I set out to follow the ranch paths for a while. I was wrong. The humidity more than made up for the lower temperatures. But I enjoyed looking around.

Hermits’ Rest compound from my son’s cabin residence.

I enjoyed looking at our place from the back, which doesn’t happen often, since I’m usually wrangling a horse these days. You can see how tall the ridge past the creek is. The pool house will fit in better when it gets re-painted. It’s still moving along.

I stopped by Sara’s barn to enjoy the little twin calves before heading back. Calves are always cute. I also enjoyed watching the other cattle and bull getting their morning cud chewing in.

Other than that I had fun looking at insects and flowers. I have been seeing these tiny bee-like insects hovering and farting around the flowers, especially the tiny purple vervain flowers. I got what I though was a better picture, but I’m not sure iNaturalist knows what they are. It says bee flies, which I’ll go along with. See if you can find them in the more distant photos!

As usual these days I kept looking at mushrooms. There were some big ones in the pasture. And some smaller ones that made me pretty sure mushrooms inspired the invention of the umbrella.

In addition to bee flies there were other things buzzing around. What I thought were more beelzebub bee killers turned out to be these green June bugs, common green June beetles or Cotinis nitida. I thought they were something else, but they got IDed as such. Hmmm. They are scarab beetles. I got this cool photo of one flying.

It tried to fly out of my view.

Many flowers are coming back after the rain, but the snow on the prairie usually blooms in late summer. It’s a weed, but so pretty.

The other flowers are probably blooming because there aren’t so many grasshoppers now. Now I can enjoy the different colors of the females when they fly. They can be red, orange, or yellow. No photos; it’s too fast!

I hardly talk about trees, but today I enjoyed two. The hackberry by Sara’s barn has always been a welcome source of shade for us. It was full of bees yesterday.

It’s pretty to look at and is often full of birds

And this old cedar elm has been hollow ever since I’ve known it. I wonder how much longer it will shelter random creatures? I’ve seen many bird nests in it, too.

Just a shell of a tree.

I’m glad I was able to spend some time poolside this afternoon. It had gotten all messed up when the pool builder replaced equipment they’d burned out. The dude had set the chlorine to 0. Yay for our pool guy Kathleen found. It’s fixed, and Lee and I took good advantage of it.

Rain is coming again. The white egrets sure look pretty against the dark sky.

Droodles Making Progress

While it’s been rather rainy and my work has been eating into my horse time (work funds the horses), I’ve had time to make progress with my beautiful, dapple gray teenager, Drew (or Andrew or Droodles).

She thinks I’m pretty! Aww.

While there hasn’t been any cantering and jumping (blame mud), there has been a lot of other stuff to work on, and I’m proud of his progress and mine.

I’m proud of me, too, though I didn’t like standing under this hackberry tree full of giant bees.

I’m working on keeping his trot and my jog both slow and steady when we are in hand. It’s improved! We are also practicing side passing and other walk-level activities.

But first, Suna had to groom me. I do like mud. I even had it on my face.

But mostly I’ve been spending time with him and the others, just enjoying the day. It’s paid off!

I like to walk together.

Yesterday it dried out enough to go to Sara’s and practice obstacles for the next couple of shows. We skipped a clinic this weekend because they are hard to do in the ground and I had no driver. Rainy times are not ideal for trailer pulling practice!

See, I ain’t scared of the “bridge!”

The highlight was actually the walk between our place and hers. He was much calmer than in previous trips, and we practiced stopping, starting, transitioning to trot, and staying in synch. We had fun!

I like to walk right behind Sully and her pretty rear.

He got distracted by long grass and other horses once we arrived, but did pretty well practicing. Since I’m just out to enjoy the shows and just trying to improve our skills, I think he will be fine.

Oh, I’ll side pass if I must.

We are trotting much calmer if I just concentrate on it. There’s just so much to remember! What obstacle is next, how to do it right, what side of him I need to be on, whether he’s trotting or not, blah blah. More than my ancient mind can do all at once. So I’ll just have fun!

Sully can do it, too!

That was a pep talk for me. In any case, it’s great to see Sully and her improvement, and to enjoy her and Sara working together.

Sully and I both are working on this new obstacle.

I also took pictures of Sara and her new mat for standing horses on while working with their feet. It’s just the right size! I enjoy doing horse stuff together like we used to.

Droodles gets a break today, as the plan is to ride Apache with Sara on either of her grays. Sully is still working on going forward. Aragorn’s feet are looking well enough he may not need his shoes for a while! Good job to all who worked on his feet!

Note that wet ground after mowing means lots of grass in your tack room.

Now, enjoy bonus photos while I vacuum.

I Try to Cheer Up

I feel sorta silly for being sad about a rooster. But it’s sort of on top of three people I know losing beloved horses recently, too. Livestock? Friends? Fellow beings who enrich our lives? Sure.

Portraits of Carlton make me feel better.

I went out to remind myself of how we are all part of something bigger. Tiny mushrooms said, “Look at us!” I spent about ten minutes just looking at the first one there. So detailed.

I went in and tried to work. I’m glad I’m doing something that requires concentrating. It makes time pass quickly. But it’s not terribly cheerful. So, I decided to do something that would please Lee and make the house look better, too. I put actual china in the old china cabinet that one day I’m gonna spiff up. It looks better with Lee’s family china and my green and purple stuff in it. Some day I’ll find the rest of the china.

That made me feel a little better. It still needs some color. I sure was fond of tan and wood when I built this house.

There’s new life, though. A baby snake said hi.

And now it’s raining again so that feels better. I just needed to remind myself of what is good. Life is good, even when it’s hard and we lose our companions. That’s just how it goes.

Yay.

Honoring a Good Rooster

The morning didn’t start out as well as I’d hoped, though I had an inkling I might make a sad discovery this morning. And yes, I was correct that my buddy Bruce, the best rooster ever to crow, had passed away overnight. He was only 2.5 years old, so I’d hoped we’d have many more years with him.

He was in his glory last fall, when is comb looked cool and all his green feathers were shining.

Bruce was an “Easter egger,” who I’d gotten for free when I got a bunch of other hens from Bird and Bee Farm that I named after Bruce Springsteen’s family and band. I’d hoped he’d father some babies that laid olive green eggs. That was a great plan, but my luck with baby chicks has been very bad. One (Peeper) made it to adulthood, but Bruce did him in. He was a one rooster per flock kinda guy. He was mean to poor Peeper and was a bit rough with some of the hens when he was doing his duty, but good to humans. He was very gentle and quite funny.

Peeper, son of Bruce, who thinks his dad was jealous.

Bruce did crow a lot, but no one around here minded. It was really loud, though, if he happened to do it right next to you! There was much flapping and jumping onto high branches involved as well. In fact, that’s how I realized he was sick a few days ago. There was no crowing, and he was not on his branch.

Headed for the branch to crow.

I guess I’m just bummed that I couldn’t help him and that I won’t get to enjoy those beautiful green tail feathers anymore. I did save some from when he lost them in a fight recently, which is probably what led to his decline. He was a good protector.

I’ll take care of my gals. Henly over there is still with us, even!

When I first had him, he was not an attractive young man, in the middle of a gangly adolescence. I’m glad he grew out of that!

I was an awkward child.

Soon after he got big enough to be a dude, we took on a second rooster, but that did not go well. Clarence was not like Bruce at all. He was mean to humans, tried to kill my sister, and gave me huge bruises. So, he didn’t get to stay all that long. That made Bruce happy. Like I said, he preferred to be the solo chick daddy.

Stay away from me, Clarence.

I had to do write an ode to a rooster once before, in 2019, when the late, great Buckbeak passed away. He was the previous greatest rooster ever. That didn’t make things any easier. Buckbeak was even nice to other roosters, and took care of a huge flock that I got put in charge of when their owners had a disagreement and no one wanted to take care of all the dead ones (there was an owl and an insecure hen house). Now you know why we take so much time and effort trying to protect the chickens here!

He was nothing fancy, but a gentleman, our Buckbeak.

I’ve gotten a bit weepy here, even though I still don’t cry very much these days. I was enjoying a period of fewer chicken deaths, to be honest. I think dealing with poultry has helped me be a bit more of a rancher now, and I’ve tried hard to not get attached to my current hens. One, Buttercup, is from my early bunch (only Bertie Lee is older), and she has stopped laying eggs. I swear she thinks she’s the rooster now.

What??? I’d tell her to stop that if I were still here.

Bruce and I had a good couple of years together, and he sure went through a lot. I think the cold weather this winter wasn’t good for him at all. He lots much of his comb to the cold, which had to be hard. And he had to fight off a lot of skunks and snakes and so on. It’s hard being the biggest of the bunch.

I was always ready, though!

I’ll try to buck up and think about adding to the flock again. At least I still have dear striped Bertie Lee, who’s over three years old and refuses to lay eggs in the new nest boxes, but she’s as bright and perky as ever.

These are all eight of my current hens with Bruce. I bet they miss him. Buttercup, Star, Betsy, Bruce, Henley, Bertie Lee, Blanca, and Blondie.
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