Wednesday, July 20, 2011


In the course of my life, I have met a sum total of three people who could be categorized as "famous".  That word being applied to those likely to be known by a larger segment of the population than us regular folk.  By the term "met", I mean having engaged in conversation beyond "can I have your autograph" (Sorry Bob Griese).

The first was Barbara Bush.  She was the sponsor of the second submarine I served aboard, USS Houston (SSN-713).  Touring the boat while on business in San Diego, she stopped in the Chief's quarters to chat with a few us.  A very nice lady, and while the meeting was brief, I feel that I am better for the experience.  She told us "George doesn't miss being President, but he misses you fellows."

The second was Tony Curtis.  Having served aboard a Submarine Tender in the Second World War, and starring in Operation Petticoat, he was invited as the guest of honor to the Submarine Birthday Ball in San Diego (1997 I think).  Having served in the Navy, he was wise enough to know that hanging out with the Chief Petty Officer's would, of course, prove to be the most fun.  He was exactly what one would expect an actor of his generation to be.  That is, politically incorrect, and absolutely funny.

The third was today.  As it occurred at work, I will adhere to personal policy, and not divulge the details.

The point of this post is not to say "look at me, I've met famous people!"  No, it is simply my observation that upon meeting people who, until that moment, seemed larger than life, I instantly realized that they are merely people.  Perhaps more successful, richer, or well known, but still flesh and blood people. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Small Projects

When it comes to riding, particularly trail riding, I'm always looking for ways to improve my gear, while not spending a grunch of money.

One item that has continued to be a minor irritant is carrying water.  At first, I carried Nalgene bottles in the horn bags. This is okay, at least until one is removed for drinking.  The other gear in the bag settles to fill the void, requiring the availability of two free hands to clear a space and return the bottle.  This also draws your focus away from the reins and the horse, which is never a good idea.  Should you be a trailing a pack horse, it becomes downright impossible.

The next method I tried was one of these:

I hung it from the saddle horn, which soon presented two challenges.  First, when going downhill, it would end up on Smokey's neck.  No good.  And, on at least one occasion, it flew off the horn and into the bushes when Smokey felt the need to pull some antics.  Scratch that idea.

I asked myself "what did the Cavalry do?"  As it turns out, during and after the First World War, they used this.  "Great" thought I, I'll get via eBay or some other internet resource.  Except that the going price is about $75+, a bit much to pay for a water carrier.  A tad steep for a drink of water.

Imagine my luck at a recent gun show, whilst perusing a table of military surplus items, I spied this gem:

Yes, folks, that's a M1918 Cavalry Canteen cover.  For the low price of $15.  I already possess a M1944 canteen, and felt that the leather strap and hardware would be easy to replace, so I snapped it up.

Some saddle string leather and a few pieces of brass hardware were all that was needed.  Here's the finished product:

I'll report back on whether this proves to be a good solution to the water problem.

The next item on the agenda:  Lead Rope for the trail.  I prefer to carry a and lead rope, as one may find it necessary to stop and secure the horse to a tree to permit trail clearing, lunch, attending to various bodily functions, etc.  The easiest method is to leave the halter on under the headstall, with the lead rope attached and looped up over the saddle horn.  I use a rope halter, since is it as no metal hardware to break.  I decided it was time to switch to a lead rope which does not have a snap on it, similar to this product from Double Diamond.  Unfortunately, my local tack store does not carry them, and to purchase one via the interwebs, I was looking at close to $30 after shipping, which is a bit much for a lead rope.

Undaunted, I purchased 12 1/2 feet of lead rope material, which, combined with two pieces of electrical tape and a length of saddle string leather leftover from the previous project, resulted in this:

It may be not be pretty, but the total cost was under nine bucks.  And it gave me something to do on a dreary afternoon.

Desperately Seeking Summer

███████████████░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ 44% DONE.
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The rule of thumb here in the Pacific Northwest is that the weather turns to Summer after July 4th.  Apparently Ma Nature has forgotten this little factoid.  While folks in the southern half of the country appear to be getting baked, we seem to be trapped in a never ending Spring.  Or, Fall has started early.  While it isn't cold, it isn't particularly warm either.  And it's raining, with more in the forecast this week.  Bah...
Crystal Mountain Ski Resort record 612 inches of snow (that's 51 feet!), and had their longest ski season on record, running from Nov. 18, 2010 to July 14th this year.  Great for the skiers, not so much for those who ride stock or backpack in the wildnerness.  Let me illustrate.
That's Crystal Mountain on the left.  To the right is Scout Pass, on the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the entries into the Norse Peak Wilderness, which the astute reader will recall is one of my favorite summer riding areas. Unless, of course, it's covered in snow.  Initial reports indicate there is a quite a bit of the white stuff on the ground still, and that trails took a beating from a rougher than normal winter.  My brother-in-law and I are going to take a drive up to Government Meadows Horse Camp sometime in the next couple weeks, and hike in to assess trail conditions before attempting to go in on horse back.  I'm trying to be optimistic about this, but I think packing season will be abbreviated this year.
Al Gore, call your office.

Monday, July 11, 2011


The discomfort in my lower back has not subsided. Standing and lying down relieve the pressure, but prolonged sitting results in a dull throbbing sensation down low. Walking is at times easy, at others a struggle. On Saturday morning, I noticed bruising where there had been none. Growing mildly concerned about the possibility of a fracture, or worse, I visited the Sawbones today.

I'm pleased to report that "Lumbar Contusion" is the diagnosis. The treatment: Alternating ice and heat, Alleve, and beer (I may have added that last one myself).

This constitutes my first visit to a physician since I retired from Uncle Sam's Navy. As my employer provides health coverage free of charge, I opted to take the civilian route, as opposed to navigating the murky waters of TriCare. I was most pleasantly surprised. While there, I disrobed and dressed twice, was examined by the Doc, x-rays were taken and examined by a Radioligist, back with the Doc, treatement discussed, and a tetanus shot for good measure. One hour and ten minutes later, I was sitting in my pickup headed home.

Prior to this, my visits to medical fell under the heading "Adventures in Naval Medicine". A typical experience goes something like this:

Viewing the obviously broken bone in my hand, I proceed to visit the ships "Doc". Submarines only carry a specially trained enlisted Independent Duty Corpsman for medical staff. I was, at varying times, convinced that said training consisted of two things: 1) How to convince someone that they were, in fact, not hurt, but malingering. 2) How to dispense Motrin.

Doc: "Stop malingering. Here's some Motrin. Now get back to work."

Me: "But this bone is pointing in the wrong direction."

Doc: "Yes it is. Stop malingering. Take your Motrin, and get back to work."

Me: "I can't move my fingers."

Doc: "It's getting close to lunch time. Go malinger at Squadron Medical."

A similar scene is repeated at squadron medical, only this time you are sent to Balboa Naval Hospital. Never mind that your hand is obviously broken, drive yourself malingerer.

I was lucky, getting in to see the Doctor a mere two hours after the scheduled appointment. After viewing the obviously broken fifth metacarpal in the x-ray, the Ortho Doc looks at me and asks "what would you like us to do?" (I'm not kidding. You can't make this shit up.)

Uh, gosh, I don't know, give me some Motrin? Reset the bone maybe?

Of course, after said bone had been reset, I was left wondering if I had chosen poorly. No anesthetic or such things. That hurt worse than breaking it did.

"There's your cast, malingerer. Get back to your command." Gladly.

The only hiccup in today's visit came when the Doc asked if I need a note for work. I said no, the only thing this injury is affecting is my ability to ride horses. To which she replied "that's probably for the best."

She obviously does not own any horses.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Art of Getting Out of the Saddle

In the simplest sense, there are two means for dismounting a horse. The planned method, and the unplanned method. The former is, of course, preferred, but does not make good blog fodder.

On Independence Day, Daughter #2's Husband (henceforth known as DN2H), and I went for a trail ride on Weyerhaeuser land north of Enumclaw. DN2H rode Smokey, while I rode Dozer. You may recall, from this post, that Dozermeister has been a tad skittish. This may become important later.

Dozer is shaped somewhat like a barrel, and is lacking in a significant withers. When going down hill, it begins to feel like the saddle is going to end up on his neck. To combat this, I brought along a crupper. Any wise horseperson will tell you to only introduce new things in the arena or round pen. I do not claim to be wise. I put the crupper on in stages, and once secure, let him sit with it for about ten minutes. No reaction, so all must be well.

I put the saddle bags on, again with no problem. Until I started to walk away. This was apparently one thing too many as he started jumping around like a bronc. Oh boy. After a few tense moments, we got him settled down. I removed the crupper. This seemed to calm the youngster, and we soon hit the trail.

The next three hours were uneventful, as we enjoyed the quiet and the nice weather. We were moving up a logging road, when I heard the sounds of other riders approaching on an intersecting road. Soon, a white horse showed up on the trail.

Dozer spooked so suddenly, and so quickly, that before I even realized it, I was flat on my back on the ground. I'm fairly certain the only reason Dozer did not manage to bolt is the fact that old Smokey Joe was standing in the way, with a look on his face that seemed to say "what's all the commotion about?" Finding one rein still in my hand, I jumped to my feet and gave a jerk on it to stop him. As quickly as the rodeo had begun, it was over.

I straightened the bit in his mouth, and climbed back in the saddle. A quick self assessment revealed the bottom of my left forearm to be, well, a bit scratched up. More on that later. A few other cuts and bruises, and my back was a wee bit sore. We rode up to the other party. Lo and behold, it was a friend of ours, and a whole group of her friends. We talked for a few minutes, laughed about my dismount, and then headed in on our separate paths. As DN2H put it "only your family would run into someone you know in the middle of nowhere". This does seem to happen regularly.

I asked DN2H's what happened. He put it rather succinctly: "Dozer did a rollback, I heard a thud, and you were the ground. You got back in the saddle, rode up, and started talking to your friends".

We headed back to the trailer without further event, unsaddled, loaded up, and took the ponies home.

It wasn't til later that the pain set in. It was a hard landing, cuz I don't bounce like I used too. My lower back hurts (sitting down is the worst), and my forearm looks like someone took a cheese grater to it. But, as they say, pain let's you know you're alive, so I'm alive and well. Although it may be a few more days before I climb up in the saddle.

BTW, this was my fault. I know Dozer has been skittish, and I heard the other riders coming. I should have been prepared for his reaction. Had I been, I probably would have stayed in the saddle. Sometimes I just have to relearn a few lessons.