Wednesday, June 23, 2010
These two people were my and my husband, Mark’s first friends who were significantly older than we were at the time we became friends. I had known of the Col. as a young horse crazy kid wanting to join the Pony Club he was running. PC is an organization that teaches kids the basics of riding English style horsemanship thru a tier based system of education, games, rankings and rallies and requires someone to devote many hours keeping it organized and getting parental help, and much more. The Col. did this job in his spare time for years bringing along an entire generation of accomplished riders here in Montgomery. My parents would not buy me a horse so my involvement was sideline only, but the mystique of the Col. was impressive to me, and he just exuded a powerful spirit and a joy of life was apparent in his ever twinkling blue eyes and easy smile.
Later when I finally got a horse I wanted to learn dressage training from him and took lessons weekly on his farm. We all became friends by our shared interests in horses, bird watching, eating well, and sharing a cocktail or two. He was a fabulous story teller having lived a long and varied life and time spent with him was ageless and endlessly fascinating.
Our first time eating out with them we went to a Chinese restaurant he wanted us to try, and he asked if we minded his ordering for us all. We said of course not and he proceeded to order, in Chinese, to a very surprised waiter and two dumbfounded guests. The meal was marvelous with his off the menu choices but was topped off with his stories of being a colonel for the last mounted US Calvary detail deployed to China when the revolution was forming there, and thus having learned the language.
In our traveling out to their farm on evenings for dinner, Mark and I grew to appreciate the peace, and the dark skies, of the road leading to Pinchona, leaving a harsher world at the last turn off. Col ran his farm with the precision of a military base but there was grace, order, and calm, with a sense that things would always be the same there. Before dinner every night, he made evening rounds of the stable yard, cocktail in hand, to tuck the horses in, a slow procession paying close attention to the animals, until glasses were empty and back we went to the house.
On one morning Mark was out taking pictures for his project on the Old Federal Road, which runs very close to Pinchona, and he happened upon a for sale sign in the ditch, pointing down the road towards the Col’s house. Long story shortened it was the land adjoining the Col’s, we made an offer, bought it, and moved in to a trailer while our house and barns were built, the fences stretched and gates hung.
Col’s first housewarming gift was a gate between our properties so that visiting would not be a problem. It was great to be so close and finally be neighbors with Howard and Sue and we spent long hours yakking over the fence or visiting their house or them here at ours, and they were always quick with help or advice. It was always nice too, to look over the pond to the view of his beautiful farm and see his healthy horses in their manicured green paddocks under the massive oaks and pines. Our first Christmas day here, the afternoon was spent by his hearth drinking hot buttered rums which he heated by putting pokers in the fire until they glowed and then plunged them into our cups of rum, butter, sugar, and cinnamon.
It was also easy to hop on my horses and ride over for a lesson in his arena, where he would sit in his golf by the old pecan tree with all his dogs that would fit in it, and he would give me the orders of what I was to do with my horse. There was never any problem hearing him as he had a drill sergeant voice that carried all the way from his barn yard to my house when he would bellow at a naughty dog or horse.
He is gone now, and Sue went behind him. For many years after he passed I could still imagine I heard his voice and I continued to feel him there, just over the fence. There were Mississippi Kites, birds of great flying skills and beauty that he loved watching, that used to nest in the canopied hardwoods at the back of his farm. I regularly saw two flying over his back paddocks swooping along to catch bugs in the summers. Now the once canopied trees have been greatly thinned, habitat changed, and no longer do I see these birds, nor hear his bellow.
Yesterday I rode my mare over to his place and we walked the edges of the big field in the back, and then I went to the dressage ring to visit the ghosts of him, and the many dogs which were buried under the shade of the pecan. The white sand was overgrown with grasses, the only foot prints were mine, and the fenced area where he used to grow his wonderful Silver Queen corn is just lawn now, but I could almost make out him saying, “Ride in”. This was what he said when he wanted to clarify something to me, or whoever was the student at the moment. Time would be spent “coffee housing” while he explained, or told stories, or just let the horse and rider rest.
As I cantered my mare towards the pecan she must have heard him too as she did the first flying lead change, cleanly, of her life, right in front of where the tires of his golf cart used to park. I told her 'good' as he had taught me to do, and she obliged by stopping on a dime and looked back to me. In that moment, I could feel his presence, his energy still, I could hear his voice, and I missed my older, but never, old, friend.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The rest of my days recently have been spent hiding like a lizard under a rock, moving from shade to shade. I get itchy after a while inside and feel a need to go do something productive outside and then open the door to step out and the heat and humidity hit my face like a blast furnace and zap what energy and motivation that might have been lurking in the back of my brain. It could easily melt what mascara I might have been wearing, into long black smears, and I retreat, again, and hide until dusk.
At dusk, the heat mercifully retreats with the fading sun and there is a deep and profound relief in this. In the fields down the road the cows come out of hiding and graze in peace and comfort before the sun begins its upward trip again the next morning. At this point in the day there is time to get a few more things done outside before settling in for the evening. There is usually the last trip to the veggie garden to gather what ever is ripe and ready for the table.
There are few things redeemable about the oppressive heat of the southern Alabama summer, but eating home grown veggies is one of them. A ripe tomato that still contains the heat of the day, sliced and laid on a piece of toast covered with Duke’s mayonnaise, salted, and generously doused with pepper may be perhaps the finest culinary invention ever made. It is rivaled by the crisp crust of a green fried tomato that melt in your mouth with a sweet and tart melding of flavors that soothe the soul, fried okra, peas and beans, and then there is the corn.
Ah yes, the corn. Silver Queen is the basic, sweet, white and perfect. There are thousands of varieties of corn, but there is none in my book that has any thing close to the rich flavor of fresh picked SQ, shucked, and straight into the heat (this weekend we used the green egg to smoke it, and it was spectacular) and covered with a bit of butter and or olive oil, more salt and pepper, and then devoured. Whether one uses the forward roll to eat their corn on the cob, or the old typewriter form, side to side, either way is a sweet and sublime experience that requires several paper towels to wipe the precious drippings from our faces.
We grow our own corn and have for years, but for some reason my father has become the self appointed Corn Fairy, bringing corn which he buys down at a small farm near the beach, back to family and friends. It somehow, years back, became his mission to be the first to bring the first Silver Queen available anywhere back to town. To this end he arises early to beat the throngs of other buyers, he buys bushel upon bushel, loading the car with his loot, and then upon return, divides it into bags for all to share. I will be freezing and canning some of his corn today for future when all the fresh grown is gone, and will think of him then when I eat it then, my dad, the Silver Queen Corn Fairy.
Friday was the new colt’s third week. Already he has the raccoon shaded eyes where his soft baby fuzz is shedding. The F boy now has an official name after long indecision with great help from many for ideas. He is Fandango. This suits him well, I think, the definition of such being a Latin dance in triple time, a spirited courtship dance between a man and woman, with clicking castanets, twirls, and flourishes. This fellow looks to be doing such a dance when I get to see him frolicking in the pasture, snapping his knees up and popping his feet forward with crisp swings.
Fandango continues to annoy the stuffing out of his mom and I hear her every once in a while squeal at him, or I see her bang her head to get him out of her way. He loves to stand in her feed tub, which I put on the ground for him to get some nibbles too. He can get all 4 feet in there and somehow bend his crazy long legs to get his mouth down there to grab some. This usually doesn’t last long because Joline will just shove him off, and he retaliates by moving around to her bag and biting her. Another squeal at him and he wonders off to find another distraction.
I have hung an empty plastic vodka bottle with rocks in it on his gate and he loves biting it and making it make the noise when it hits the metal gate. He stole my lead rope that was just within reach by his door today and ran off with it like a thief that he was. Great fun he had swinging it around and shaking it as it hung so cute from his little mouth. The little bugger has cute down pat and there is no end to the entertainment watching him. He has also already well trained me to scratch him on his favorite spots, neck and right over his tail, to which he stretches his neck out and tries to return the favor to me, and he does have some teeth in there so that is discouraged a bit.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I do have to make a decision today tho, on the "F" boy's official name to send in the forms to get him registered. The lastest choices are between Fandango, Fedora, Fosse, and Fresco, all having something to do with either his movement, coloring, and/or his siblings/parents' names. I may just put them into a hat a draw. There have been so many good ideas sent my way for this one, really good ones. I am leaning towards Fandango and Fresco the hardest. Off to the post office now still undecided.....hmmm?
On a different note, very often on the farm there is an event, something that happens, that if not witnessed and acted upon, the story would have ended another way, usually not so well. I feel sometimes my job as ward of these animals and this farm is one of crisis awareness, management, and hopefully diversion. I wonder tho, in the big scheme of things whether nature has its own path and maybe I should let it go its own way, but I just can’t let some things do that when I see them happening and know I can do something to change the course.
Yesterday when I was picking veggies in the garden I heard the purple martins raising a ruckus about something so I went to check it out. I saw there was something hanging out of the most southern gourd in the colony and when I got closer I saw it was a baby, some feathers on wings and tail coming in but still in fuzz. It was hanging by one foot, upside down and it could not get back up into the house. There were two other baby faces looking down at it as it tried in vain to flap its little wings and many adults circled the the pole squawking. I ran to the house and got a tall extending duster and went back out and gently pushed the bird back into its house. It was so exhausted it sat at the door not pulling its wing in with it. I gave another push and on in it went. The parents returned and all settled back down.
Then, after a trip to town I stopped at the barn where my ancient mare, Limerick lives and was surprised to see her laying in the field. She whinnied to me but did not rise. Not a good sign. It was obvious when I got over to her that she had been down for quite a while and the grass all around her was pressed down where she had been laying. She was saturated with sweat and both her belly and her nostrils rose in giant swells in desperation to get air, obviously the heat and humidity had overwhelmed the poor girl. It took quite a bit of slapping and hollering at her to get her to attempt to get up, and on her first attempts she fell forward onto her knees and crumpled back down with a big grunt. Finally she got her forelegs out of the way and made one more try, and rose, staggering. I spent the next half hour running the cool hose water over a very grateful animal. She just stood there with her head touching my shoulder, looking me in the eye, until her breathing quieted and her protruding veins retreated, and she sighed.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Then emerged the shoots of leaves and flowers. There was a wave of the color green coming out everywhere, in varying shades of celadon and pale limes and they framed multitudes of spring flowers. The air was full too, of the green pollen that coated every surface inside the house and out, especially cars and the inside of noses. But there was a great relief in this coming of the green. It meant relief from the grasp of winter and the cold and the misery that its grip held, and the horses once again could munch on the green with contintment.
Slowly, the celadon leaves darkened and became more of an emerald green. The grasses in the fields grew taller and put out seed heads that swayed in the late spring breezes, a soft landscape that was easy to relax and fall into a state of optimism with. The air cleared of the pollen finally and the droning sound of the starting of lawnmowers began to fill the air. It was good. The return of the green meant a welcomed peace of mind for all at that moment.
Suddenly, it seems now, it has become hot, sticky, and humid, and thick leaves are a dark deep sea green and cast shadows of devouring black holes. The pond that had, all winter, been a tannin stained brown that reflected a periwinkle sky, is now a pea soup jade, thick with algae. The grasses in the yard, the lawn, a blend of many mysterious unknown varieties, is now growing with a madness that requires weekly hours spent running circles on the lawn mower just to keep in check. The shrubbery in front of the house continually puts out shoots of new leaves which need trimming every other week to keep the view clear and keep claustrophobia to a minimum for folks sitting on the porch. The vegetation is on, now with a vengeance and that means war. I asked for it and I got it. Green is here and it is kicking.
Then there is the pool. Normally our pool is a cool blue oasis that sits between the views from the house to the pond. Recently, it’s been giving me all kinds of fits trying to get it balanced and something fit for anything but frogs to swim in. It had turned a peculiar shade of khaki green that defied all the testing I could do and chemicals I could throw in it, so I gathered up a sample to take to the pool supply place for evaluation.
I stated my plight to the young fellow at the pool place and he nodded with sympathy at my situation and began testing my green water with vials and reagents which turned my green into shades of violet, blues, and reds. The diognosis was not good. It was a bad case of phosphates making my soft blue pool a primordial soup. I was given a tincture of some undisclosed nature and was told what to do.
As I stood at the counter receiving my test results, another lady came in with a similar plight. A woman, who also worked there, took this customer’s sample water and heard her complaint and began testing the sludge. As the worker peered over her bifocals, she shook her head with admonishment and gave her the grim news of what was so dreadfully wrong with this other lady’s pool water.
I stood there and realized that I felt like I was in grade school and had just been given a failed test back from a teacher and was being scolded for my lack of effort or ability to comprehend the easiest and most basic of the subject. It was as if we customers were stupider that dirt and how could fail to do something so incredibly simple as to keep a pool balanced. We were before confessional and receiving our number of Hail Mary’s for our penance, all because of a bunch of green in our pool water. Humbly we thanked our teachers, took their advice, paid them for our remedies, and left to go make retribution.
Yesterday was phase one of this week’s war on the Green Machine with hedge trimmers and bush hogging. Today will be phase two, lawn cutting, three hours riding a noisy machine in the sun. There is a admitedly a degree of satisfaction in the resulting tidiness but there is also the resignation that next week I will repeat the performance and will continue this battle until next fall when chilly temps slow the war with the green. Winter will then come and erase all the greens and all will be grays and browns, once again. At least the horses aren't complaining for now, and the formerly green pool has returned to its soft blue.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
May has always meant we have a big fat hit to our pocket book, first because I had two grandmothers’ birthdays, one on the 3rd and the other one was on the 13th. Then of course Mothers’ Day meant more gifts or flowers. Then my aunt’s birthday is on the 10th. My youngest daughter celebrated her 25th on the 18th and my best friend has one on the 22cd. So lots of giving and celebrating gets done, and I just can’t imagine what goes on in Augusts to cause this trend in high birth rates for May.
The 22cd is always a day that gives me serious reflection and is one of the biggest markers in my life. My brother, David, would have been 21 in June had he worn a seatbelt driving from that lacrosse game on the 22 day back in 1975. He would be 56 now and I can’t really imagine him at that age. In my mind David will always be the age I last saw him. That was the day he left to go back to school after spring break had ended that year. His car was loaded and we all stood on the back porch of my parents’ house and hugged and someone took pictures. David’s look in the shots is one of being conciliatory, and patient, but really wanting to get on back north to his life at college. One seatbelt away from another unfulfilled life, David’s death was my first round of real wakeup call about life, and its partner, death.
Tomorrow is June 3rd and it will hail a huge marker of a day. My father will be 80 years old/young. Emory McCord Folmar was born in Troy, Al eight decades ago and he has lived every single one of those decades with the strength and conviction of a super man on a mission. I know of few who can say they have done as much in one life as he, and I am proud to be his daughter. I will wish him happy birthday wishes tomorrow and toast to his life and continued string of many more birthdays to come.
Here comes the summer. That’ll do May.