Archives for January 2016

Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 – The Cows Come Home and Frolic!

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Had a wonderful night sleep in our nice and dry tent, only had a little transpiration on the wall of the tent when we got up. Didn't take long to get packed up and ready to leave, finally found a way to get up at 5:00 and be ready by 8:00 (kick Hubby out of the tent as early as possible), and after standing around for a while, we finally set out to the arena. Although less than two miles away, we did a lot of stopping along the way, taking until almost noon to get there. Further, we stood around a long time while the cows were herded around the arena, then finally each group had a half turn around the arena to the waiting crowd of about 700, we heard later. After we left the arena, we went directly to our van, where Hubby took care of the horses and I grabbed a box of books and headed to the registration RV where I set up shop. Thanks to a gentleman who helped me carry a box of books! Several hours and 25 book sales later, we finally packed it in. Hubby had nearly succeeded in getting out of the mud, but in the end he had to have a bulldozer help him out. We headed to Okeechobee where we picked up horse feed and grab a to go dinner from a Vietnamese restaurant along the way, arriving back at Brother Jeff's just about 7:00 as it was getting dark. Horses jumped out of the trailer and started grazing, and Hubby and I crashed into our recliners, where we intend to stay until we are fully recovered!

Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 – Sunny Dry Day!

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Woke up to pure sunshine this morning, yeah! Spent the day dragging everything out of the tent, our bags, all our clothes, just about everything, and spread it or hung it out to dry. A perfect laundry day! Temps were great as well. Hubby feeling a little better, but still having a hard time breathing, so he spent most of the day sitting in a chair by the trailers while I did most of the work. Some folks took a ride in the afternoon, but we were just too tired, and enjoying the day the way it was. Dinner tonight was full of Seminole related history, including a dance around the fire, but I was hoping to make an announcement about the book but was never given a chance. We did our best to talk it up today, but didn't get a chance to reach out to too many people. I did manage to secure a table in front of the registration RV in the vendor area at tomorrow's Frolic, as they call it. Some folks were asked to move their trailers today out of the arena area, apparently with all the rain, there is no chance for anyone to actually drive out of it, so the Forest Service brought in three bulldozers to use to drag them out, and they wanted to get a head start today. Doesn't bode well for tomorrow! Anyway, we had a relaxing and revitalizing day today, ready for the short hop to the Arena tomorrow and the end of the Cattle Drive! I have to say, the motto "It Ain't for Sissies" is a clever device. It should be followed by, "no matter how badly planned, organized and executed this event is, if you complain, you're a sissy." I understand there were a lot of logistic involved, and the unnaturally wet winter didn't help, but there were so many things that could have been made easier and better and more comfortable for the folks involved. The worst part of it all was the food and the way it was handled. They should have had set times for different groups, instead of people having to line up for 20 minutes. There should have better leadership at the circle group level, better communications, more camaraderie, etc. Well, lessons learned! At least on my end. I'm glad we went, but I don't see us doing it again any time soon.

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 – Another Short Ride, In Camp for Two Days

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After another night of warm rain, it finally started to clear out this morning, though not until after we had packed up everything wet. The good news is, we have another short day of riding today, and the camp where we'll be arriving early will be our camp for the next two days. The forecast is for clear and sunny weather, so we're all excited about getting things dried out. More cold hard scrambled eggs for breakfast, more traipsing through wet and soggy swamp before reaching our new camp, which is the ranch of one of the wranglers. It's a beautiful place, and for once, each area is designated for each group, which makes it much more comfortable. Each group has it's own set of corrals, so we didn't have to fight over them. I kept getting different reports as to when the rain would stop, so we sat around under the awning of our circle boss' trailer again, hoping for a long enough break to get our tent up dry. Unfortunately, that never really happened, and though we had some very entertaining discussions with some of the other members of our group (at last, social activity within the group!), it was late when I set up the tent, so it was still pretty wet. I can't remember ever going to be with wet hair, on a wet pillow, in a wet tent, just wet all around. We had another dinner, though this one was actually pretty hot for a change, before heading to bed. The routine has become that, routine. Hard, but routine.

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016 – Rainy Day, Corral Shortage

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Well, rain came in overnight, but fortunately we slept through most of it. We set the alarm for 4:30 this morning, determined to be on time for the 8:00 muster. I ran down in the rain to the dining hall, only to discover they didn't have any cereal out, and they were out of coffee, so Hubby and I went out without breakfast. I managed to grab a couple of OJ's, but that was it! We broke down the tent and equipment in the rain, but just as we were heading out of camp, it quit raining for awhile, thank goodness. Of course, we have our slickers and hats, so we stayed relatively dry, and the warmer temps made it almost pleasant. Hubby is still suffering from shortness of breath, though, a remnant of both the cold air and the incredibly salty food, which always has an effect on him. It was another relatively easy day, despite the rain and the sloppy trails. Clio is still taking swipes at horses that run up on her fast, but otherwise is behaving well. Apollo has gotten used to the crowds, and only pins his ears back on occasion when someone gets too close. This has been really good for them, particularly if we decide to go on more organized trail rides in order to promote the book. Because of the weather, it was decided that we wouldn't stop for lunch, which was scheduled to be just a mile away, but rather head straight for camp and have lunch there instead, so off we went, arriving by about 1:00. Unfortunately, there was a shortage of corrals, and people were racing around, just like in musical chairs, to try to secure their spot. Apparently a bunch of the "workers" had reserved theirs by leaving hats and halters around, which I didn't think they could do, but somehow we managed to get one right on the end, which was a great relief. Some folks had to wait more than an hour for more panels to be set up! This was a small camping area, and the corrals were actually set up inside the cow pasture, so the cows were doing a good job of stealing hay from the horses. Obviously, we couldn't camp near the corrals tonight, so I quickly located a spot between two larger tents, halfway under a tree, and held that spot until we could find our luggage, which, miraculously, was in the trailer right next to us! It began to rain again just as we were setting up, but I still managed to keep most everything reasonably dry, for the moment. Lunch was a small sloppy Joe and a bag of chips (again). I was right in my suspicions about diminishing portions, every meal has been getting smaller. After not getting breakfast (because they didn't bother to put out cereal), we were starving, but sloppy Joe's was not a good choice considering the lack of water (which has been a problem, but has finally been resolved by a truck with full tanks that now shows up at every meal), and the need to wash up afterward. Another silly thing about this caterer, the only napkins they provide is in a cutlery packet, so if you need a second one, you have to open an entire cutlery packet to get it! What a waste! Anyway, after inhaling lunch, I managed to get the tent set up in a light rain. Hubby was feeling so poorly by now, so short of breath, that he is all but helpless. I made him sit in the dining tent while I did all the work. Eventually, everything was set up, but it was starting to get harder to stay dry. We hung around at our circle boss's trailer for awhile, staying dry under the awning, and it was our first chance to actually talk to anyone in our group for more than a passing comment, then dinner and to bed, all still in the rain. Also, my video camera somehow didn't turn off when it was supposed to, so now my battery is dead, and I'll only have my very poor quality phone for photos from here on out. Fortunately, I'll be able to recharge my phone, several people have adapters that fit my phone, and access to car batteries or generators to keep the juice up!

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 – Easier Day, Hubby Performed

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Seven blessed hours of sleep!!! Yeah!!! What a difference a good night sleep makes! Though Hubby's still a bit short of breath, we're both feeling much better, even with the alarm set at 4:50 this morning. We had cold cereal for breakfast in order to shorten our morning prep time, and try as we did, we still didn't make muster until 8:20. When we got there, however, our circle boss informed us that the muster time had changed to 9:00, so all our rushing around was for naught. Gotta love the communication! We haven't been properly informed of anything since we've been here, there seems to be very little interest in creating any bond within our group whatsoever. A bit disappointing, we thought we'd have a tight-knit group in a short time, but so far, no effort has been made. I don't even know anyone's name yet! Anyway, we sat around until 9:00, then until 9:40, before we finally started out on the trail. Having run with the cows yesterday, today we were at the back of the pack, at a leisurely pace, for the approximately 9 miles we covered today, through a lot of water and scrub and mud. It began with a large circle apparently designed to be a photo op down to Lake Kissimmee, then along some more wet trails until we stopped for lunch about 1:00, this time a ham sandwich and chips, which was frankly the best meal we've had so far, albeit slim. At least it was MEANT to be cold : -). A short afternoon of riding brought us into camp around 4:00, where we once again pitched our tent next to the corrals where we found a spot for the horses, along a ditch near the back of a field, next to a couple in a percheron-driven wagon. Actually, they had been parked next to us last night, too, and we got to chatting. We eventually discovered he had the means to recharge my phone, right there in his wagon! Wonderful! We finally went off to dinner, and Roy was asked to perform (an arrangement I have made earlier with Larry, but didn't expect this early in the week. So Hubby performed his Shakespeare monolog "All the World's a Stage" followed by "The Man From Snowy River" which he had just learned last week. While his Shakespeare was brilliant, as always, Snowy River was a bit rough, but he managed to make it through, and the audience that could hear him (which was only a few table at the front because the caterer's generator was so loud at the back) seemed appreciative. Headed to bed shortly afterward, with temps a bit warmer tonight, and cloudier so the moon won't be so bright, we're hoping for another good night's sleep. With a prediction of rain overnight and for the next two days, it should make it interesting!

Monday, Jan. 25. 2016 – Ride Day with the Cattle, Eventually-Percheron Smashes Corral

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Well, I set the alarm for 5:20, thinking we would have plenty of time to pack up, get to breakfast after 6:00 and be ready for the ride by 7:30-8:00, but things didn't turn out as planned. We both had a fitful night, very cold again, very bright with a full moon that made it seem like daylight, only getting a few hours off and on at best. The inside of the tent got wet from the condensation of our breathing, and dripped down the sides, making the whole side I was on wet. The air mattress didn't have enough air in it to stay full when the temps dropped. Outside the tent, frost had settled onto all our gear, which we had put into large garbage bags for protection. Brrr! Suffice to say, it was another bad night, and the cold got into Hubby's lungs even more, so now he is really short of breath, struggling to do the most basic things, like get dressed. It took us a very long time to get up and out of the tent, get breakfast (which didn't start until 6:20, further compounding our tardiness, and consisted of cold, hard-scrambled eggs, burnt bacon, and super-salty sausage-the last thing Hubby needs right now), feed the horses, and get broken down. We finally loaded our packed bags onto the horses and led them down to the circle boss's area, managed to find an overflow trailer where we could put our bags, and headed out amongst a group that was way behind our own at 8:20, twenty minutes past our muster time, so of course, they were gone already. Despite watching all the activity for the last two days, riding in such a large group was still brand new to our horses, and my comedian Apollo decided to have some fun almost immediately, so he bucked and snorted until I came off into the soft and muddy ground. I pulled off to one side and ran him around on my McCarty line for a while. At one point he slipped on the mud, and that seemed to wake him up a bit, but I continued circling him in both directions until he finally gave up, resigned to be a good horse despite himself. I climbed back up, and now, since we were so far behind, we started to jog them, and jog them, and jog them. We tried to stay off to the side of the groups as best we could, and we managed to do that everywhere except certain bottlenecks, like the tunnels under the turnpike, but they behaved themselves for the most part. Nearly two hours of jogging later, we finally caught up to our group, and the cows. By now, Apollo's head was down and he wasn't interested in being silly, and he only took one quick look at the cows when we reached them before putting his head back down. We continued to stay off to one side, but by now the horses were started to get used to the other horses, though Clio started to kick at anyone coming close to us, particularly if they came up fast, so we knew a red ribbon would have to be put on her tail at lunch. One time, though we had warned her, a girl crossed right behind us, and Clio landed one on her thigh. She kind of panicked a bit, but eventually settled down, and later had it looked at by the paramedics, it just broke the skin a bit and I'm sure there will be a big bruise. Such is life around horses, black and blue are the operative colors! We stopped for lunch in a field where the caterers had set up, and Hubby stood in line for lunch while I put a great big red bow on Clio's tail. After getting lunch, (another cold hamburger with chips) we sat around on the tarp that we had brought with us, with Hubby almost taking a nap in the nice warm sun! Eventually, lunch was over, and we headed out again, sometimes getting quite close to the cows as we got more and more comfortable in the crowd. We arrived near the next camp just after 4:00, but had to take a long loop around to put the cows away, so it was 5:00 by the time we arrived in camp, having completed what we learned would be the longest day of them all. Rumors were we had traversed 16 miles, a longer day than we had expected, and one guy even said 20 miles (GPS later confirms 16 is about right). That was definitely a longer day than we expected, and after two nights of non-sleep, we were exhausted. We managed to get our tent up next to the corrals where we put the horses, just made it in time to stand in another long line for dinner, which was again cold by the time we reached a table. Dinner was beef brisket, beans, cabbage and corn, but the portions seemed a lot smaller than yesterday, afraid this might be a trend... Decided their claims of decaf coffee were false, so we skipped the coffee altogether. I asked for hot water so I could make some Sleepytime tea, but there was none to be had! By now we were more exhausted than we can describe, running on pure adrenaline, so we headed straight for bed. Unfortunately, when we headed back to camp, there a girl was just bringing in a large black Percheron and putting him in the stall next to ours. Apparently a wagon had gotten stuck, and the Percheron was brought in while the wagon's owner tried to make arrangements to get the wagon moved. Well for some reason, this horse was not a happy camper, and he kicked and bucked and threw himself at the corral until he literally bent it!! The panel actually buckled into my horses' space, and my guys were not happy about it. I finally had no choice but to report the incident to my circle boss, and the woman in charge of the corrals. The immediate solution, unfortunately, was for me to move my horses to another row of corrals on the opposite side of the camp, so off I went with horses in hand, so tired I could barely walk. After another 30 minutes or so, they moved the Percheron to the cow pens so he could be on his own, but by then, we were in bed, so I left ours where they were, I was flat out too tired to move. Some of the other campers applauded when they took that horse away, apparently he had been restless on previous nights while in the wagon group, and had kept many campers awake. Finally back to bed, where Hubby stayed fully clothed in an effort to stay warm, the chill has really had an effect on him, making him short of breath, but so far, still functioning. Some clouds came over, so at least it wasn't quite as bright as before, we're both hoping for a better night sleep tonight, though the forecast has changed again. It was supposed to only get down to 40 degrees tonight, but it's back to low 30's again, darn it. We've rearranged the bags inside the tent so there's a bit more of a space between me and the wet walls of the tent, I'm hoping that will help as well. Good night!

Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 – Worst Night Ever!

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Well, contrary to our best laid plans, it turned out that sleeping (or not sleeping, as the case may be) in the van was a disaster! The wind whipped around us all night, and we soon realized that this was the equivalent to the "bridge ices first" scenario. The wind under the van made the air mattress ice cold, we were never able to get warm enough, we were freezing and wide awake all night (thanks in part to the coffee, no doubt, which I'm sure wasn't really decaf), and no matter what we did (short of running the van all night, which we didn't do), we had what was probably the worst night of our lives. I finally had Hubby pull a parka off the clothing rack in the van, and that helped me on one side, but the bottom side just never warmed up. We did our best to laugh at ourselves, but by morning, we were pretty uncomfortable, and the chill had started to seep into Hubby's lungs, which is never a good thing. He got a little sleep, but I'm not sure I got any, certainly no more than an hour off and on at best. We turned the van on at last, which helped a lot, then got dressed. Once the sun came up and started to warm things up, it improved, but it took a long time to feel warm again. After locating our group leader's camp, we found out that they wouldn't be moving trailers over until at least afternoon, so we decided to stay on our original plan and head to St. Cloud for breakfast. We unhooked the van and drove to IHOP, where we finally got fully warm, and had a nice big breakfast designed to get us through until dinner. We went to Walmart in the hopes of getting a couple of emergency thermal blankets, but, of course, they were out. We got a few other sundries before heading back to camp. We then learned that the line of corrals were, indeed, the ones that we had rented (and could have put the horses in last night, had someone mentioned that to us), so we moved over to the corral, driving across the field where others hadn't been yet, which was a lot less slippery. We learned several other people had gotten stuck in the mud in the same area as we had yesterday as well. We put the horses together in one corral, and put up the tent. We started with a tarp on the ground, then the tent, then our slickers in an effort to keep the cold away from us, then the air mattress, sleeping bags and quilt. Although the air mattress just fit into the tent, it didn't leave much room for anything else, though we managed to put our two bags along one edge, but it shoved me pretty much into the back side of the tent. The temps were supposed to be marginally higher overnight (37 as opposed to 33), so we kept our fingers crossed that being on the ground would help keep us warmer. Once that was done, I returned to the group leader's trailer to find out when we were supposed to be leaving (which I had understood we would do in groups at a designated time), only to learn that people were just going over when they were ready! I'm getting a bit concerned about the lack of communication, nobody seems to be communicating anything to anyone. I saw a long line of trailers departing the camp, so I decided to join them, having been told that there was a shuttle to bring us back. I headed down to the arena where the cattle drive will end, and managed to persuade them to let me stay near the front, as I would be selling books at the arena on the last day and needed to be close. Farther back it was so wet that trailers were getting stuck just trying to park, they had a tractor there pulling people around. I managed to get into a spot next to a Forest Service semi just off the gravel, so I'm hoping I won't have any trouble getting out later. After making a final check that I had everything we needed, I was directed to the "shuttle" that turned out to be a livestock trailer! Thank goodness Hubby insisted I take my coat with me, I would have been frozen again without it! Twenty minutes later I was back at camp, trying, along with Hubby, to get warm in our tent. Eventually we headed out to the dinner tent, looking forward to getting a bit more information than what we had been able to acquire thus far. Dinner was a couple of beef ribs, a quarter of a chicken, potato salad, corn, beans, and lemon meringue pie, all of which was cold by the time we reached a table. After dinner, the meeting started, and we were basically told our circle boss would fill us in on everything, so we broke down into smaller groups and waited... And waited... And waited. Our circle boss was nowhere to be found. The generator for the caterer was so loud, I don't think anyone could hear anything, so we eventually moved to the other side of the tent and waited some more. Finally, we headed over to the circle boss' trailer, where we finally found her, and she gave us a few facts. It seems another group was supposed to herd the cows in the morning, but that had changed to our group, so we would be heading out by 8:00, though she wanted us there by 7:30. That was it. We had to ask "Where" were we heading out from, and never got a decent answer. So we headed back to our tent in the dark, hoping it would all become clearer in the morning. The wind had diminished somewhat during the day, but it was still quite cold and breezy when we went to bed, hoping for a better night sleep than last night!

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 – Mustering for the Great Florida Cattle Drive 2016

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After an all day rain yesterday that prevented us from doing a thing about packing and making any further preparations, Hubby and I got up early this morning to beautiful sunshine but lots of wind, and a long list of things to complete, which we managed to do by just before 2:00, when we hit the road for Kenansville. After getting the wrong directions from my GPS, we arrived at the right site at about 4:30. After a lengthy registration process, we were directed to an area way at the back of a field where there were trees to highline our horses for the night, as it was my understanding the temporary corrals were not coming in before tomorrow, though I did see a line of them in the middle of the field, but figured they were reserved for workers or volunteers, as no one mentioned them to me. Trailers were already scattered everywhere, and though they said the groups were divided up by region, there didn't seem to be any real organization there. As we followed the trail boss in his Gator, about halfway across the field, which was already wet and muddy, we ended up getting stuck. Lots of folks came out to help, all sympathetic to our plight, and many of them thought THEY were going to get stuck there, too, and that it was only a matter of time before someone did. We were the first that finally did. After unloading the horses, an attempt was made to pull us out first with the Gater (no go), and then with a pickup truck (no go), we finally ganged a second truck to the first truck and finally managed to break free. An auspicious beginning... We finally made it back to the line of trees where there were two or three other trailers, whom we learned were not in our group at all, (nor were either of the others that were there in the same group), so we're not quite sure why we were brought back here, other than to have a place to highline. By now, the sun was getting low, and since dinner was only available for a limited time, we tied the horses to the trailer and walked down to the dining area. Despite the large number of trailers and people in camp, hardly anyone was there for the dinner, which turned out to be cold hamburgers, beans and potato chips, and a hot dog I saved for breakfast. We asked about decaf coffee and were pointed to a pot, but I suspect it wasn't decaf at all. After choking down that meal (which they charged an outrageous $15 each for!), we headed back to camp, a long walk in the rapidly dropping temperatures. The wind was gusting up to 30 mph, and was cold, coming from the north. We managed to get a highline up and feed and water the horses before I started trying to put together a bed in the back of the van. We figured it would be better to sleep in the van, so I got out the air mattress and blew it up, got out the sleeping bags and a thick quilt I had brought along, and changed into our long underwear, thinking that would be enough. We ran the heater in the van until we went to bed, by 8:30, and snuggled up to do our best to sleep, knowing the next week's schedule would include a 5:00 wake up call every day, so we better get used to the early to bed, early to rise schedule!

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 – Ride Day to the Gazebo

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Had a busy and productive day today, doing the majority of our packing and preparation for the upcoming cattle drive. We also spent a couple of hours working on the performance that Hubby is planning to give the cattle drive, we finally received part of the shipment for our promo materials for the book, and even managed to get a ride in, running out to the gazebo in Hungryland, doing lots of jogging, trotting, and cantering along the way. We actually ran into more horses this trip than ever, with two women meeting up with us very near the beginning and catching up to us at the gazebo, and another woman heading out of the park as we were heading in. We got back just before 5:00, just in time for a meet and greet with a pet-sitter, and hired her to come in and play with Lola for 30-60 minutes every day, a small price to pay to save the interior of the RV, which I'm afraid Lola will tear apart if she's left alone without getting a lot more exercise than my brother has time to provide. Finally settled down for the evening, confident we're well on our way to being fully prepared for the week, though we have taken a pause about arriving early on Saturday, as the forecast is in the 30's overnight! Brrr! But Hubby says he's prepared to be adventurous, we'll just have to cuddle and keep warm!

Sunday, Jan. 17, 2017 – Prep and Football and Ride with Brother

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The storms continued through the night, I had to get up and bring the awning in, the wind gusts got so bad. The yard is a swamp again! Watched the playoffs and some other shows in between getting out the tack and attire we'll be taking with us on the cattle drive. Getting everything spit polished! Then towards late afternoon, my brother, who had been working on a cleaning project all weekend, decided he still had enough energy for a ride, his first since we've arrived in December, so we saddled up the horses and headed out the driveway, taking our usual nice 90 minute ride back into the picnic gazebo under the banyan tree in Hungryland. Being so late in the day, there was a lot more bird activity, we saw a couple of storks, a young hawk, and lots of other birds hunting dinner. Being the Sunday before a Monday holiday, there was a lot more human activity as well, we had two vehicles pass us on the access road back to the gazebo, which was unusual. I always thought that gate was locked, but brother seems to think they unlock it during hunting season, and indeed, one of the vehicles that passed us held a couple that promptly started putting camouflage gear on when they parked. Later we heard rifle fire coming from that direction, so obviously, something's in season in January here! Got back just as the sun was setting, and it didn't take long to get the horses, and us, settled in for the night.