Looky What I Found!

JAS and Beth in full circus costume for The Field Of Cloth Of Gold

I’ve been doing a bit of browsing through ancient files copied off from a long-gone PC, and discovered this image. It was taken during one of the times that Beth and I participated in the Circus World Museum/Ringling Brothers Great Circus Parade.

That outfit is really… pink. And really… purple… And really… poofy… and really circus, to its core.

I absolutely hated the costume, but I wasn’t the one picking out outfits. It was custom designed and sewn as a sidesaddle costume for me as part of the “Field of Cloth of Gold” troupe, by the wardrobe mistress of Ringling Brothers circus. I’m not a pink and purple and frills sort of gal, and never was. This was the frothiest, pinkest and purplest glittery concoction imaginable, with lots of fake jewels and my very own crown. I’m sure it’s what most little girls who ever fell in love with a Disney Princess imagine themselves wearing. Even if it wasn’t my cup of tea, these kinds of costumes are intended to please, and from the crowd reactions they did.

Six of us rode sidesaddle on our matching red-bay Morgan horses, representing queens of England and France. Our costumes were a palette of matching shiny satin pastels–pink, pale purple, soft green, and pale blue, each color outlined with panels of gold cloth and the whole coated with lots and lots of glittery circus jewels. The horses were draped with trappings of gold and “jewels,” and even their bridles and saddlecloths were covered with sparkly gold cloth and circus jewels. The entire troupe included dozens of costumed riders, each as spectacularly costumed as the last. We looked like the ultimate in medieval bling.

My mare Beth (also known as The Greatest Horse Ever) was quite a trooper, as she had to present herself as the perfect ladies mount for spectators whilst literally surrounded by any horse’s worst nightmares–lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), elephants, snakes, the odd pygmy hippo and baby giraffe, and a score of other unusual critters, dozens of marching bands, over fifty antique circus wagons pulled by teams of thundering draft horses, and unimaginable crowds of spectators (at just one of these parades alone we had over 1.5 million spectators!). Oh, yes, and there also were television crews from the major networks and PBS that would run up right in front of us or from either side with extra lights to shine in Beth’s eyes, with crew sporting all sorts of spooky equipment. That was always fun… almost as much fun as the balloons popping and clowns shooting off blanks from their pistols as they raced about.

Nary a snort. That’s my girl.

She never put a foot wrong throughout, my Beth, even though she was anything but a dull or placid horse.

I’ll have to rummage around and see if I have some better photos of her in her hey day. I may even have some photos around of her with her last foal, Knight, a rascal if there ever was one, who grew up to become part of a U.S. Forest Service’s Search and Rescue Team.

Hm, I wonder where those are…

Guess I’ll have to take a road trip through my old CDs!

Merry Christmas!

Nativity by Gerard van Honthorst

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.

This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

A Fork in the Road

I’m feeling pulled in two directions regarding what I post here on Butter Side Down. That’s come about because I want BSD to be a family-friendly blog, a place where my friends enjoy a bit of chat over the fence, watch the bunnies and snuff the flowers. And that’s mostly how it’s been, with nearly 200,000 readers finding their way here since December of 2006.

It’s been great!

However, I’ve discovered over the last several months that I have a little fly buzzing about that’s been increasingly demanding attention, and it hasn’t gone away even though I regularly swat at it.

I have two sets of readers. They have totally different expectations. The first set are the friends, met and unmet, that are looking for neighborly chit-chat.

The second set, however, comes to read the posts scattered throughout BSD that express my somewhat jaded opinions regarding politics, environment, energy and other such topics… posts on “issues” instead of about our favorite bunnies and blossoms. They’re equally good people that come to read those posts, but they have different interests and a different focus.

It has made me feel increasingly divided about what I decide to post. I’m constantly asking myself which group of readers I am “talking” with when I write a post.

Circus Riding Act Par Excellence

It’s a rather uncomfortable feeling, a bit like being part of a circus act, precariously perched way atop two galloping horses… but in this case the horses aren’t actually harnessed together.

Not. A. Good. Idea.


The Shovel Awards Blog

The Shovel Awards.

Butter Side Down will continue the friendly over-the-fence natter that has comprised the vast majority of its content. You probably won’t even notice much difference if you come here for the bunnies and the blooms.

The Shovel Awards blog, going forward, has opinion and commentary on “issues” — just about any issue that annoys, irritates or otherwise catches the attention of not just myself, but also two other bloggers who plan to contribute in the future on an on-going basis

Go on. Check it out. Even if you aren’t one of BSD’s “issues focused” readers.

And rest assured… we’ll continue chatting here.

My Equestrian Bucket List

Got this meme from a fellow equestrian a while back. Given how much I love memes (not), I put it aside, and finally dug it out tonight to fill it out. Here goes:

Which of the following have you already checked off of your equestrian bucket list?

  1. Gallop along the beach.
    Gallop on a beach? In Wisconsin? Have you seen our beaches? Like you think you even could gallop around all the trailers unloading ice fishing shanties from the shore?
  2. Win a blue ribbon, even if it’s for the egg and spoon race!
    Does it count if you’ve glued the egg to the spoon?
  3. Enjoy an evening of equestrian theater, from major touring productions such as Cavalia to local performance troupes.
    See #1. Like we’d ever have the chance here in Wisconsin?
  4. Try your hand at cattle work. Find out what it means when they say a horse is “cowy.”
    Oh, Lordy, I can just see what the local dairies would do if I had ever gone out herding their prize Holsteins… yeah, that would have gotten me shot right quick, I’m here to tell ya.
  5. Jump! From crossrails to cross-country obstacles, experience the thrill of soaring over fences.
    I’m assuming you mean jump various obstacles whilst mounted on a four-footed beast, not by, say hurtling oneself at them in futile hopes of getting over? If so, then yes–already done that. Lots. Even did a tad of jumping while riding sidesaddle with my late beloved Beth, the World’s Best Horse. Ever. So we can check this one off.
  6. Fall off and get right back on again. Conquering fear is empowering.
    Yeah, right. Let me slap whoever wrote that up the side of the head to see if I can shake a few of their brain cells into functioning. It’s SO noble. Uh huh. Especially when your horse stumbles while he’s cruising at a nice bold canter and you do a triple cartwheel through the air while your horse equally spectacularly crashes, leaving you both with injuries that are damned nasty and only by a miracle not deadly. Empowering, my a–.
  7. See the majestic white Lipizzan stallions of the Spanish Riding School.
    (Shhhh – don’t tell anyone…. I’d actually love to do this–it really is a bucket list item for me!)
  8. Come to a sliding stop on a well-trained reining horse.
    Done a few of these on a badly-trained brainless Appaloosa named (fittingly) “Bobo” who could jump the moon but loved to pitch riders into the standards just for giggles, but never did one of these on a reining horse, well-trained or otherwise.
  9. Take a lesson with your equestrian idol, _________ (you fill in the blank.)
    Sadly, The Lone Ranger never answered my letters asking for his schedule of clinic dates, before retiring his mask.
  10. Nurse a horse through a crisis and back to full health.
    Yes, and discovered to my chagrin that they’re much better patients than I am, although I’ve drawn the line at providing bedpan service, ungrateful owner than I was.
  11. Watch the horses come through the Head of the Lake on cross-country day at the Rolex Three-Day Event.
    No, but I’ve seen a Belgian draft horse charge through a five-foot tall manure heap and jump a four-foot fence to escape a particularly nasty stinging horsefly. Does that count?
  12. Have the courage to do the right thing for your horse, even when it’s not easy.
    Like what, deny her carrots when she’s had more than The Official Carrot Guru says she should? Puh-leeze–that’s not courage. It’s being “daring.” (waddya mean, I’m sarcastic? NOT! I’m ironic. So there. Nyaaah.)
  13. Attend the Kentucky Derby dressed to the nines-including hat!
    Strike that one. I don’t like mint juleps. Too sweet.
  14. Tackle a trail accessible only by horseback and enjoy the view.
    What view? The view of my riding partner’s horse’s butt scampering off down the trail after dumping her when a vicious fanged maple leaf blew past on the ground and touched his hoof? That view?
  15. Take your dream vacation on horseback.
    aHAHAHAHAHHA! My dream vacation involves lots of down time with fluffy pillows, no alarm clocks, sacks of candy and a case of Frey port wine. The horse is more than welcome to come along if it brings its own corkscrew and snacks.
  16. Master the sitting trot.
    Duh. This one just cracks me up. Sets of cavaletti’s followed by three-foot in-and-outs… (as in a series of three jumps in a row, each three feet tall, with the horse taking one stride in between, for those of you who haven’t ridden hunters or jumpers) without stirrups AND without reins was part of the regular practice routine back when I was riding hunters. Not just for me – for everyone. Master the sitting trot. Hee hee hee. Um, that would be a “yes, already done that. (who wrote these?)
  17. Ride a fine-tuned horse in your discipline of choice, be it dressage schoolmaster or barrel champ.
    You mean like the time I was talked into taking out a highly trained eventer through an Olympic training level cross-country course, because I was naive enough to believe his owner when she said “if you think any of the fences are too hard for you, you can just go around them.” Little problem: my friend neglected to tell the horse that, and being a very talented and competitive eventer, Horsie thought jumping was more FUN than carrots and apples, and the bigger the fence the BETTER and ALL fences were made to be jumped. I’m guessing it must have looked like the equine equivalent of putting a Piper Cub pilot behind the controls of an F-18 fighter and slinging him off a carrier via the steam cat. Screams optional. I’m here to tell you it was six miles of sheer unadulterated terror… but, damn, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
  18. Watch polo. Even better, try your hand at it!
    Actually, I’ve played a bit of polo, and am totally lousy at it. But, boy, could the Morgans I rode kick butt in a good game of broom polo.
  19. Feed, muck, groom, ride. Repeat daily.
    If this is on anyone’s bucket list, they need their head examined. My bucket list? Owning the horses and having somebody else always do this for me. Daily. For free.
  20. Wake up to a whinny every morning.
    If I was waking up to whinny, it would mean yet another Morgan spent its night scheming out a way to go over, under, around or through a “horse-proof” fence and was demanding breakfast at 4 a.m. by shoving its nose into the house. Does this sound like a life ambition to you? No? Me neither.
  21. Fly down the track on a Thoroughbred.
    You haven’t experienced a gallop until you’ve galloped a just-off-the-track-Thoroughbred who has learned to do one thing in its life (run like hell, with no on-board brakes as standard equipment and about as much steering mobility built in as an oil tanker) and the pig truck arrives unannounced to drop off a load of angry full-grown porkers in an open pen right next to the arena. Yeah, that’s a bucket list item everyone should aspire to have. Special note: be sure to have clean undies waiting at the point you figure your crazed mount will finally stumble to a stop in exhaustion. That will ensure that you can obtain a “newly freshened” feeling after you drop to the ground and kiss it fervently in sheer and abject thanks for your survival.
  22. Meet one of your favorite famous horses in person.
    See “Lone Ranger” above. I always did want to meet Silver.
  23. Ride bareback, bridleless … or both!
    Well, duh, I’m guessing whoever wrote this one was born into money, because the rest of us rode that way because it was cheaper than putting lots of wear and tear on that expensive tack. What, that’s not why you’re supposed to ride bareback and bridleless? It’s supposed to be a mystical experience?
    *eye roll*
    (Remind me again, did I already ask who wrote these stupid questions?)
  24. Share a bond with your horse that’s deeper than words.
    I leased a Thoroughbred for a while who would fight with me over who got the last spoonful of our shared hot-fudge-coffee-flavored-ice-cream sundaes. Does that count?

Whew – that it! That’s the end of the meme. Aren’t you glad we had this moment of sharing?

*snort redux*

Poking Around Under The Hood

Doing some changes under the hood to the code and layout. If things appear wonky off and on for the next several days, that’s probably why.

We’ve had 14.5″ of snow since last night.

Fourteen and a half. Inches. Of. Snow.

The local Fox TV meteorologist says that it’s the seventh largest snowfall recorded for a 24-hour period since the State started keeping records. It’s a bit… much… even for us.

The wind was incredible, too, so we have some amazing drifts, a few more than three feet high.

Right now, Michael is testing out our new snow thrower, creating a path for the bunnies to get around the yard more easily to get to his shop. It’s a powerful but small electric model that is a replacement of the one we bought last year. That one had a factory defect, which made it eat its own drive-belts like candy. We finally boxed the thing up after repeatedly fixing it, shipped it to the manufacturer and asked for a new one. Within two business days we had a brand-spanking new replacement in our frustrated paws. That’s my idea of how customer service should resolve legitimate problems with defective items!

We filled the feeders before the storm hit, and I’m glad we managed to get that done. We had a rush of cardinals as evening set in, looking for dinner. They’re the first birds I’ve seen all day, as the heavy snow and winds have sent all the wildlife into deep cover.

One thing this storm has done: I always want a white Christmas, even if it’s only an inch or two of snow. It just makes it seem like “Christmas,” somehow, to have snow.

After today, I think that’s covered, for this year at least!