"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meet Jake

For someone who writes, there is always a person in our life that is so colorful one can’t help but believe that they must have been born for no other reason than our character sketch. Our farrier, Jake is just one such person. Now obviously I don’t believe that is the only reason for his life, but it is for certain, I had to write about him.

Jake was recommended to us by a friend that had often used him to shoe her horses over the years. I will never forget her description of Jake. “He’s this big, huge guy, with gigantic, tattooed muscles and to tell you the truth, he is a little scary when you first see him; but he does a really good job!” she said. Now my friend is just a little thing, so maybe that is why Jake seemed so huge to her…I have a nephew that is 6’8”, one that is 6’5” and a son that is 6’3”, so when I finally met Jake, he didn’t seem so big to me. Scary? Uh uh. Well, maybe if I met him in a dark alley, he might seem a little intimidating.

Jake is a Sioux Indian with dark skin and a long pony tail, which without, he would not be true to his heritage and identity. Yeah, he has a few tattoos and he might be a little gruff and rough around the edges, but underneath it all, we have learned this guy has a heart of gold.

I will never forget the first time he came to shoe our horse, Lady. The people that we bought Lady from warned us that Lady didn’t typically like men. She was a lady’s horse, they said. Over time, we learned this was indeed true. We always believed the reason she took to Matt so well, was because he was young when we got her, and he didn’t yet seem like a man. But right off the bat, I knew Jake and Lady would do just fine when I saw Lady giving him soft nuzzles while he talked to us about what he would be doing. Seeing this big, tough guy reciprocate those nuzzles revealed a great deal about who this man really was.

Some of our conversations have helped us understand Jake is a man that cares greatly about his craft, but also about his customers and most of all the horses. Another time I was able to see this side of Jake was when he proudly showed us a piece of jewelry hanging from the rearview mirror in his truck. The daughter of one of his customers had made it for him offered with some kind words that caused him to hold on affectionately to that item. He proudly talked about it to us and others as well, I am sure. When Matt was younger, Matt had made a horse shoe belt buckle for Jake for much the same reasons; and Jake accepted the gift in the same manner of appreciation.

Jake is one of the best farriers we have known. He is one of the few that the local vets request due to his experience and knowledge. He is thorough, quick and neat.  He can do a horse’s shoes in about a half the time as anyone else and the horse's feet will look much better!

Like most people, he admits to little patience with knot-head horses, so I was somewhat worried when it was time to call him to come trim Skeeter’s feet. Matt has been working with Skeeter so he will become more accustomed to having his feet worked on, but Skeeter is still not quite ready to be shod. I was afraid Jake would be disappointed after being so impressed with Lady. When Matt called him, I realized my fear was in vain as Jake assured Matt he wanted to come when he had plenty of time to spend so as to allow Skeeter to get to know him. He also wanted to have the time to try some things that would help Skeeter through it. I should have known. I love to see that kind of commitment to ones job.

Skeeter was trimmed up in no time, and as we suspected, Jake recommended we wait on the shoes, offering Matt some tips to help Skeeter get ready for it. This type of professionalism and dedication is exactly what makes us so glad my friend recommended the “scary guy with the tattoos” …and the heart of gold.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Etiquette - After the Fact

What in the heck is a blog?! I had no clue a few years ago when I first heard the term.

But as time passed, I had a few friends send me links to their blogs, so I began to learn more about what they were. Only half-heartedly though. I really did not have that kind of time to spend on the computer.

As time passed, I began to have more friends pick up the hobby and I could see why it was becoming popular. Then a while back, I came upon a site that listed all the reasons why he liked to blog. He had such good reasons and I could totally relate. So what did I do? I decided to blog. I have always been a little protective when it came to revealing things on the internet, but I decided I could keep things superficial. I just jumped in; not really knowing too much about it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

But Hay!

Yee Haw! The hay is cut, baled and in the barn! I absolutely love that feeling!! We had to hire someone to cut it this year, however; try as we might, we just couldn’t fit cutting into our schedule so that it would be done on time.  Once it was cut and drying in the field though, my husband was able to bale it on the week-end when he was off work.

I love this time of year when it is time to bale the hay. I love the heat, and the work, and the time together as a family. I love the way it looks in the field through each of the stages; I love the clean, neat rows; the familiar smell; and I love the feeling of it being stored safely in the barn for the winter.

This year, my part was minimal compared to past years. I didn’t have to buck any bales and Matt wouldn’t even let me drive the truck to pick-up the bales. I mostly just hung out with the two men in my life, so I wouldn’t miss the experience. I did get in on some raking by hand, however, as our equipment is old and sometimes doesn’t do the job it should.
Yeah, it's old...but it's ours...
As my husband ran the bailer and Matt bucked bales, I was off in my own little world of raking what the bailer had missed, so that the loose hay could be added to another row. As I worked, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the first haying experience I ever remember. It was at my grandparent’s ranch at Paradise Valley, just a little southeast of Bonners Ferry. I must have been about five years old and my family was visiting Grandpa and Grandma.  I believe my cousins were there as well. Some of my memory is foggy, but I know Grandpa was ready to bring in the hay from the fields and we kids wanted to help in the worst way. It would not really be "help"; what we really wanted, was to get a ride on that old, flat-bed Ford when it was time to pick up the bales. I remember my grandpa finally relenting as he said, “OK, but if we get out to the field and you are hot, tired, and bored, no one is going to bring you back in. You will have to stay until we are done.”

Grandpa had 80 acres on his ranch, and we were going out to the furthest corner. He must have thought we were too little to walk back in to the ranch house by ourselves. I don’t remember another thing about that ride. The only other thing I remember is the moment we turned a corner and I saw how far away that ranch house was and I realized I was hot and tired and I wanted to go back to that house. I think the rest of the kids were thinking that, too. One of us must have complained and oh boy, I knew we were in trouble. I don’t remember another thing except Grandpa was mad and we were miserable. This wasn’t at all the fun we thought that it would be. We were hot, thirsty, and the hay was scratchy and uncomfortable. Now my grandpa was an old Free Methodist preacher, who lived totally by the Word of God, so there was no misplaced wrath, or anxiety…just frustration over grandkids that did just exactly what he knew they were going to do. I don’t remember what happened next. I don’t remember if he made us finish out the ride until he was ready to go back in, or if someone took us back to the house. I don’t remember if he just decided to let us walk back by ourselves. I only remember that moment, in the sun, the heat and my discomfort. I remember turning the corner, and knowing full well I had been wrong and Grandpa had been right. The old cliche is so true: "We don't remember days, we only remember moments."  I cherish that memorable moment that is little more than a picture in my mind...but with a valuable lesson attached.

So that’s where my mind was traveling this day as we hayed.  Once I had been brought back to this place in my past, my mind continued on a wonderful journey of its own to other memories of Grandpa’s ranch. I could go on and on with those memories, and that is what I did as I worked.

I don’t know; maybe those memories and those experiences are why I love so much the haying time now. Now, granted I always worry until the job is done. I worry about whether we are going to be able to get the hay cut when it is time. I worry about whether it is going to get rained on once it is in the field, cut and drying, waiting to be baled. And I worry about whether the equipment is going to work well enough to get the job done to completion. As I said before our equipment is old. So old in fact, that it isn’t always easy to find the parts we need. St Johns Implement in Airway Heights is usually the only place that can or will help us. One time in particular when I had to go into St. Johns, the guys that worked there showed me a picture of the piece of equipment that needed the part I was requesting. We all got a good laugh, because in their parts book, there was a hand drawn picture of the exact same piece of equipment as ours; but it was being pulled by a horse!! I laughed when I told them we were still actually using that equipment and so did they. On a side note though, those guys at St. John’s are the absolute best! They never gave up until they found that part; and there has since been more than a few times they have done that for us. Businesses like St. Johns is what keeps me holding on with such fondness for the way things used to be.

So we continue each year: spraying, fertilizing, cutting, and baling…all the things it takes to get good hay. My husband got a small reward this year, when someone saw him in the field and stopped to ask him what it was we do to keep our field so weed-free. Ours was the best looking field out here the neighbor told him! I saw those tired, old shoulders stand a little straighter when my husband heard that compliment offered for no other reason than because it was true.

Anyway, not so sure my guys love haying the field as much as I do. That is understandable though, when they are the ones that do most of the work. But HAY, if nothing else, we’re making great memories and I can’t wait for the grandkids!
"The one I was looking for!"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Letterboxing - A New-Fashioned Treasure Hunt

My Letterboxing Family - "Young" and Younger
My extended family has a new hobby…. Well,
it isn’t
“technically new” for all of us…just some.

It’s called
…and my sister, Kelley, is the one that introduced the family to it. She has been doing it for a number of years and is basically the Letterbox Queen of this area. If you have any experience with Letterboxing at all, you know about “Sondog”. That’s her; and I will bet she has planted more boxes than anyone else in Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding area.

I like to jokingly tell her that I am really the one that got her started on it; I used to dream up treasure hunts when we were kids and make her follow them. Not so sure she thinks I should get the credit, though, for her Letterbox fetish.

Anyway, she introduced it to me a few years ago, but I could never really participate, due to all my time being spent at our newly opened bookstore. But this year, she made stamps for our Mom and Dad for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and having already introduced our older sister, Lynn, to the hobby it just this summer became a family affair.

Mommy's first Letterbox find!
Letterboxing is a fast growing hobby utilizing the internet to connect people with where the boxes are located. One should create a “trail name” and buy or make a stamp to represent this identity. Clues are posted on-line to enable one to track and seek out any available boxes. One will find clues that are complicated - winding you through a series of events before you are able to find the treasure – or one will find a simple little jaunt that can be made by car to a local spot. You get to choose which one is right for you, depending on the time you have available, and your ability to climb or hike in the woods.

The best sight to check out to find the clues and also learn about Letterboxing is http://www.letterboxing.org/. This site will not only allow you to get the clues for a letterbox, but if you are new to Letterboxing it will also walk you through protocol and etiquette that is involved to become a full-fledged boxer that holds to the traditions that keeps this hobby so much fun:  http://www.letterboxing.org/GettingStarted/

A quick "Google" of the term will inform you that Letterboxing began in 1854 in Dartmoor, England. A Victorian guide by the name of James Perrott, placed a bottle with his calling card, at one of the most difficult terrains he traveled.  He included a note to tell others that reached this spot, to also post their success at arrival. No one could have dreamed that it would grow into what it has become today. In 1888, the tin replaced the bottle and self-addressed postcards replaced the calling cards. As letterboxing progressed during that era, people that participated also received their clues and information at the local Pub. Letterboxing pretty much remained a Dartmoor tradition until 1998 when a magazine article was published about the Dartmoor boxes. With that article, the pastime came to America and with the advent of the internet, letterboxing spread like wildfire (well almost) to become what it is today.

This has been such a wonderful experience for my family; getting us together to enjoy the beautiful area in which we live, adding a little exercise, and social time with Mom and Dad, just about makes this the perfect hobby for us. It was a few years ago, I realized I need to spend as much of my spare time as possible with my folks as their age forces us to come to terms with the fact they are not going to be around forever….and this is their time. I delicately balance my last child-rearing years with Matthew and my last years with my folks; when I think of that and all that it means, I feel pretty comfortable with having to sometimes shut out the rest of the world…for now.

Grandpa and Matt find a box using combined skills.
When you see that little blue bird stamp (carved by my youngest sis) with the trail name of “Wild Wind” beside it, you will know that’s me. My son and my nephew gave me that name several years ago when we were hiking on Mineral Ridge. I hate to think of the reason they came up with that name - reading the posts on this blog, however, may give us an indication.  My sister surprised me with the stamp she carved a couple years ago. She selected a blue bird because...well, as I have said before at this blog, I have become a "bird lady".

If you are looking for a fun, new hobby, I invite you to check out Letterboxing. It is a blast. It will get you outdoors, and also provide a great way to learn a little bit about the history of our area.  As this is an organized group, it will eventually even help you make some new friends; as well as help you make some life-long memories.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Let Freedom Ring!

I stood there with the camera around my neck, listening to the roar that was hiding in the pine trees. I turned my eyes skyward knowing full-well I was about to see what it could be. As the roar grew louder, I knew it was headed our direction. It was one of those moments where one actually feels the rumble vibrate in ones heart and literally takes ones breath away. I stood in awe as a (retired) U.S. Navy T-28 Trojan Trainer flew just yards above my head. You would think I could have grabbed that camera strapped to my neck and photographed a piece of history; but instead I just stood there watching, fighting back tears that suddenly sprang up and welled deep from within the place where that rumble had vibrated. It was - as Matt had learned a few years ago - the sound of freedom; and it began our Independence Day Celebration for 2010.

For the last two years a friend has invited us to a 4th of July Celebration that he plans and orchestrates each year. His name is Mel and he was a Colonel in the US Army, serving in 3 wars: World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. My family got to know Mel, when he became a customer at our coffee shop a few years ago. He had recently lost his beloved wife of 60 + years and he often dropped in for a latte and a visit. We grew to love him. Col. Mel was very instrumental in encouraging Matt to go Military Academy rather than enlisted, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Colonel puts on an awesome celebration each year, opening with a bang from the black powder rifles of the CDA Muzzleloader Association, always dressed in period costume reminding of us of our nation's humble beginnings.

There is always a heartfelt, opening prayer; and wonderful music from local musicians. Usually Colonel will say a few words, encouraging us, and reminding us of the wonderful country in which we live. 

The local American Legion will present a 21 gun salute, in honor of our military that have served this country so well for so many generations.  Finally, everything winds up with a marvelous breakfast hosted by Mel at the Clubhouse.

For the last two years, due to Matt’s service in Civil Air Patrol, Mel has invited Matt to stand in Rank with the other military men that are present each year. It has been an incredible honor for Matthew, and really a highlight of our Independence Day experiences. This year, there was a Navy Officer; 2 Air Force Officers - one being a Red Beret, Combat Rescue Officer; and an Army First Sergeant; all present in Rank that Matthew was so very proud to join.

The music was presented by a wonderful group of singers and musicians that rang out several old-time Gospel tunes, keeping the audience clapping, and toe-tapping until they finished with America the Beautiful. Mel invited the children, to come out from the crowd to join him in leading the Pledge of Allegiance. We could tell this had become a tradition for many of the families, because their children - all dressed in patriotic red, white and blue - knew just what to do when it was their cue to participate.

Mel and his daughter made us both feel really special when they told us they wanted us to join them at their table for breakfast and neither would take no for an answer.  Matt and I both loved every minute of it.  We were also able to visit with other friends we had come to know while we had our book store and coffee shop, and Matt was able to visit with several of the Muzzleloaders that he knew when he was a member of that group.

It could not have been a better start to the week-end, thanks to that wonderful Army officer and gentleman who steadfastly reminds his friends each year of our nation's roots, birthday, and hard fought freedom for which we should rejoice!

Let Freedom Ring - It's Independence Day!!