April Showers

It was a pragmatic matter growing up. There were six of us in a small three bedroom ranch house with one bathroom. We took our showers at night because the bathroom was a critical choke point in the morning, with four kids getting ready for school while trying to get in and out of the bathroom before Dad went in with the newspaper.

From the time i left home for college, that shifted. i took a morning shower. Some days, an early afternoon shower, depending on the start time of my first class, or the degree of hangover i carried on any given day. Not just for cleaning up, it was often necessary to get my eyes opened.

Thirty six years of working in a laboratory or office environment had me starting my day with a shower. As ingrained a habit as any, it took a slight hit at the start of the pandemic when personal hygiene was… well… less critical due to the complete lack of socialization.

Since moving to Stonerbrooke in September, i spend hours each day outside. i became a bit of a recliner potato over the cold months, but as soon as there were two or three warm sunny hours each day, i moved outside. Digging in dirt. When i started, there were garden gloves, but now they only come out when there are thorns or thistles. i added a solid nail brush by the kitchen sink to help scrub my crusty hands when i come in for a water break, but i am now doing dirty labor on a daily basis. For the first time in my life.

Yesterday, i spent several hours with a weed whacker, and then with a cordless sander working on a bridge that needs a new coat of paint. It has been raining a bit, so i was a muck-encrusted mess by dinner time. i took a necessary shower while the brussels sprouts were roasting for dinner.

Getting your hands dirty. Getting your body covered in grime. Getting chunks of unknown crud in your hair. Getting to sleep more easily because your body is just tired.

And unlike a career in research, later senior management – where the single most tangible product from a hard day at the office was often just a powerpoint deck – i can see the positive results of my effort.

Tale Spin

Of all of the whack things i do, taking horseback riding lessons has been one of the most rewarding.  Studley picked up an offer for discount lessons at a local stable last year. Our Monday night rides* have become a weekly highlight.

Due to random signals from the travel planet, we found ourselves at dinner Saturday with my friend Autumn, in North Carolina.  She has had a long-standing relationship with horses**, and shares our passion for the sport.  Yammering our way through a delicious dinner, Studley and i were giddy-up with horse tales.

Autumn:  I love horses, but I just don’t get them.  Never really understood them as animals.  What makes them work…. what motivates them.

daisyfae:  They’re just like big dogs!

Autumn:  That may explain it!  I’m a cat person.  I don’t understand dogs either.

Studley: I used to be just a cat person, but Mr. Pickles has converted me. Horses seem to be a lot more like dogs – just big dogs.  Dogs that you can ride!

daisyfae:  If dogs were that big, you could totally ride them!  You wouldn’t want to ride a 1,200 pound cat!

~~~~~~

Last night, we were walking our horses to get them warmed up.  My ride, Rooster, is a clever beast.  An excellent school horse, he is adept at keeping novice riders alive.  At the same time, he is a little lazy, and will often try to get away with the least amount of energy expenditure possible.

He was being particularly sluggish as we worked into the trot.  Mistress Holly, our instructor, brought me her riding crop.

Mistress Holly:  This is how you hold it…

daisyfae:  i’ve used one before, just not on a horse.

Mistress Holly [feigning deafness]: You probably won’t need to use it – he knows you have it.  Try clucking and squeezing first, but if he’s not listening, just give him a good slap with it.  Right here on the shoulder.

To say that Rooster was attentive is an understatement.

Rooster [if he could talk]: Yes, Missy, I was just fixin’ to trot!  I DO like the way you ride me!  Canter?  Anything you want!  Can I get you a sandwich?  Foot rub?

My first full circuit of the arena in a controlled canter happened last night.  And i only had to tap him on the shoulder once.

~~~~~~

After our lesson, Studley came in to lend a hand in the kitchen*** as i put the finishing touches on my holiday baked goods.  We also threw together an easy dinner of pulled pork.****

My dog, now fully recovered, was sproinging around at our feet.  A hundred pounds of optimism, waiting for either a handout, or a wayward dropped morsel.  i don’t feed him from the table, but given his advanced age and recent near-death experience, i was in a weakened state of mind.

daisyfae:  OK, buddy.  But you’re going to have to work for it!  Sit! Siiiiiiiiiiit!  Good boy!  Now, Speak!

Mr. Pickles [squirming, sitting, standing, drooling, sitting again]:  ….

daisyfae:  Look, Pickles!  Studley can do it!  Studley!  Speak!

Studley:  WOOF!

daisyfae [pretending to feed porkbit to Studley]:  GOOD BOY!  What a GOOD BOY!

Studley [wiggle-squirming on bar stool and panting with subservient enthusiasm]:

daisyfae:  Ok, Pickles!  Now your turn!  Sit! Speak!

Mr. Pickles [drool-squirm, sit, stand, shake, wiggle]:

daisyfae:  C’mon, Old Dog!  New Trick!  You can DO it!

A few more rounds of getting Studley to speak, and my goofyass old dog did it!

daisyfae:  Speak, Pickles!

Mr. Pickles:  WOOF!  Bark, bark, barkbarkbarkbark! A-WOOFWOOFWOOFWOOF!

daisyfae:  Good boy!  GOOD BOY!  Now, shutthefuckup…

of course of course

 * probably not a euphemism

** definitely not a euphemism

*** left as an exercise for the reader

**** [nhur, nhur, nhur]