Sunday, November 13, 2022

Another Cat Who Went to Heaven (On Earth)

November 13 2022

This is a horse blog… but cats are horses too!

Cosmic things are swirling around in the Universe. It’s supplying us with answers we didn’t even know we had questions to.

It starts with Edgar Raven. We’ve been friends with Edgar for over 2 years now, ever since he tried to raise a brood in Connie’s Big Tree. (You can read that ultimately tragic story starting with April 2021 on Forevermore the Raven blog.)

Edgar still shows up most days asking for (well… demanding, really) some food. He’ll first go to Connie’s place and get some treat, then he’ll show up in my tree and holler at me. We’ll give him just about anything - a dead mouse, chicken scraps, egg, cat food, dry or wet.

Connie put an old can of cat food out one day last week, and instead of Edgar eating it, Connie looked out her window and saw a gray cat eating it! Now, we have Oscar Wilde Cat, a badass black cat that roams up and down the crick, but we hadn’t seen this cat around before.

The next day I saw the gray cat trying to drink out of a water trough. Connie went and got some more wet cat food and set it out and the cat was so skinny and starved, it let Connie pet him while he ate.

So, Operation Cat Rescue starts. Connie got him more food and water - he was terribly skinny and dehydrated - and set up a little box with a blanket in the sun. He was happy to snuggle in there warming up, and eating, while we were outside cleaning a storage unit. Then he felt so right at home already that he walked into the storage unit and supervised while we moved boxes and things around.

We decided to lock him in the big pump house at night, with an old cat box with a cover and several blankets, and all the food and water he wanted, mainly to let him rest and keep Oscar from harassing him if he showed up.

And, in honor of a starving cat Barney that was found and rescued at the Lost n’ Lava ride in 2015 and subsequently adopted by Helen, we named him Barnaby. He’s a tom cat, not sure how old.

He loves Connie’s big dog Stoney. He loves to help with things if you’re working outside - no way this was a wild cat. (And really, nobody would drive this far out to dump a cat.) He must have once lived at some ranch with people and dogs because he’s very personable. 

And he loves his new home, his private Barnaby’s Pump House, where he’ll snuggle into his many-blanketed bed day or night, and eat up all the food and water we can give him, and show up to visit if anybody walks in that area and calls him. He’s already put on a ton of weight and looks and acts like a regular cat now.

And - possibly even more cosmic, Barnaby showed up here the very same day that my brother’s beloved Bear cat went to Cat Heaven. What does this mean!?!? It means something.

Barnaby is the perfect quiet gentleman now residing at The Flying Cloud Retreat.

He has adopted this place and that’s it. The end.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

One Heck of a Halloween Hillbillie

November 8 2022

I lean forward, as still as possible in the saddle, talking to my horse as he flies along, telling him what a Good Boy he is, how strong and powerful and phenomenal he is, how lucky I am to have him, how lucky I am that he willingly and happily carries me so swiftly over these trails. One of his ears flicks back to listen to me, then flicks back forward as he rockets forward, devouring the trail, focused on his mission of flying through the desert.

A preface to this story: Hillbillie Willie looooooooooooves DWA Barack, his pasture mate. Barack likes Willie - maybe a little love returned, but Willie loooooooves Barack. They can easily go to rides without each other, but when they go to rides together, things can get complicated if/when they don’t ride together.

I wasn’t sure what Hillbillie Willie and I were going to do at the 3-day Owyhee Halloween ride, the last one of the season. A 50 and some LDs (25 milers)? All LDs? At this ride last year, after Willie finished his 50, he gas colicked and was on IVs till midnight. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I have been forever since paranoid. Over his 5-year endurance career, he’s completed 26 50-mile rides for 1065 miles and never had a metabolic problem until last Halloween, but now I always ride him with a heart monitor and watch him like a hawk from the start to the end of the rides. And always worry. 

I got the 50-mile monkey off my back in April, where we completed a 50 in the Owyhee Tough Sucker ride with no problems. We’ve done LDs the rest of this season, and our last ones, 3 days at Old Selam, were some of the funnest rides I’ve ever had on Willie. There we met and rode with Jo and Jake the Tennessee Walker, and with LDs I had many less hours of worry about Willie than if I’d done three 50s. 

So at this 3-day Owyhee Halloween ride, when I saw Willie’s pals Jo and Jake pull into Ridecamp, I knew what we were doing. We’d ride 3 days of LDs with Jo and Jake! 

That was my plan anyway. Apparently Willie had other plans cooking.

Day 1

Willie and I met Jake and Jo at the starting line of the 25-mile ride. Barack wasn’t going out today, so we would see him at the end of the day, since our vet check was out of camp.

Willie is so much more relaxed at the start of endurance rides now (thank goodness!). We walked around to warm up in the chilly below-freezing morning, and when it was starting time, off we went beside Jake and Jo, calmly and at a sane brisk pace, into the Owyhee desert, with the snow-covered (already!) Owyhee mountains ahead of us. 

The first loop zipped by quickly, into and around Oreana, past the bee hives (that are no longer there), along the AK-47 trail to Dudley’s cut-off and up Dead Cow wash, down to Fossil Creek, the two pals Willie and Jake pacing well together, trading the lead, going side by side. Willie has this thing where it’s important to him to be the boss of other horses. At home he is #3 of 4 horses…. he might even be #4 of 4. He bosses Barack around, but it may be that Barack just lets Willie boss him. But at this ride, Willie and Jake would be cruising side by side, and Willie tried pinning his ears and turned his head to Jake, I could be the boss of you if I wanted.

Jake just kept cruising steadily along, not a nod, not an ear flick of acknowledgement, nothing.

Willie, ears pinned and head shaking: I really could be the boss of you.

Nothing from Jake, not a flicker of notice.

Willie gave up and zipped alongside his friend. After the vet check and a lovely loop home, we ended up crossing the finish line in third and fourth, but the first place horse didn’t get a completion, so Willie and I ended up in second, and Jake and Jo in third. We’d walked in the last mile, so Willie’s pulse for the 10-minute CRI was an awesome 44-40 (!), despite the brisk pace we’d maintained all day. Icing on Day 1’s cake is that - shocker! - Willie got Best Condition! Which really is almost impossible, with me being such a featherweight, and weight being figured into the calculations. It was a good day!

Day 2

Willie and I and Jake and Jo planned to ride together again on the LD. A possible complication was that Connie was also saddling Barack for the LD. Willie stood right next to him and knew his best pal would also be out on trail today.

And so Willie and Jake hit the trail together again, but today Willie was on fire and he had his own agenda for the day. I had to fight with him at times to Slow Down! At times he’d cruise along with Jake, and when he pulled away, he’d eventually consent to letting Jake catch up. But foremost on Willie’s mind today was that somewhere out here, his best bro Barack was also out on trail. I could have told Willie that Barack was behind us, but Willie was hot to trot (or pace) and he turned his attention away from Jake, and toward that cute gray Shagya mare SS Chevelle, ridden by Julie Bittick, up ahead of us. 

About halfway to the vet check, I just had to let Willie go catch up with Chevelle, as fighting him was doing neither of us any good. He practically flew along (I kept an eye on his heart rate monitor) and caught up with them just before the vet check, Willie’s pal Jake long forgotten. Normally, at the slower pace I usually ride Willie, he’s already pulsed down below 60 by the time I dismount at the vet check. We came in much faster today, and his pulse was 77 when I got off, but it only took him a minute to pulse down. Not bad, and within what he can handle.

And after he vetted through, I got him set up with food, and he started to nibble, then suddenly realized - Wait - where is everybody? Where is Jake? Where is my best pal Barack???? The gray mare he’d arrived with that was eating near him no longer interested him.

I was able to keep Willie nibbling until - oh $hit oh dear, I could see Barack approaching in the distance. And once Barack whinnied a half mile down the road, Willie’s world abruptly turned upside down. He lost his bananas. Pulse shot up from 50 to 137. Frantic whinny, whinny, whinny, walked all over his food, Whinny, whinny, cry, beller, holler, whinny whinny. In fact, Barb McGann, who was taking pulses in the vet check, walked over to see who the unruly two-year-old-never-been-to-a-ride-acting horse was. “It’s Willie,” I said miserably.

Nothing could console Willie or shut him up until Barack had pulsed down, completed his vet check, and walked over to stand beside Willie. I don’t think Barack whinnied back once except for that one time approaching the vet check. 

Willie was so happy to have his best bro back beside him, though he would not eat unless I held his food dish for him, because, you know, food tastes better when mama holds the food dish and hand feeds him.

Our out-time was the same as Julie and Chevelle, and I quickly bridled Willie and shot out of the vet check with her, so he could forget about his beloved bro he was leaving behind. And Willie was happy enough again with his cute company on the loop back to camp and the finish. 

Julie and I traded stories, while Willie tried his bossy-face on the mare. He sidled up beside her on the two-track trails, pinning his ears and tossing his head at her, I could be the boss of you if I wanted.

Chevelle pinned her ears and tossed her head at Willie, Bugger off and behave!

Willie quickly dropped back, Yes ma’am, and behaved, all the way back home, wondering why his macho charms did not work on this mare. Chevelle set a nice comfortable pace and Willie was happy to chill with her. We finished second again, and I looked forward to seeing what Willie’s 10-minute CRI would be today - 

But wait! 

At 10 minutes, when vet Jessica was ready to take Willie’s first CRI pulse, I could see Barack and Connie down the trail, approaching the finish line! OH NO! If Willie saw Barack, his pulse would shoot up to 130, and blow any chance at High Vet Score or Best Condition! 

I turned Willie away from facing the finish line, held my hands up around his eyes like blinkers so he couldn’t see Barack coming behind him, and held my breath, praying that Barack wouldn’t whinny. Jessica took Wilie’s first pulse, which was 44, we trotted out and back with Willie still not seeing Barack who was coming in closer and closer, Jessica waited the requisite one minute to take Willie’s pulse again, a minute that seemed to stretch out FOR EVER, and she took his second pulse, 40! And then Willie saw Barack and whinnied and thank goodness Jessica didn’t have to take his pulse again because it probably shot up to 130!

Willie showed for Best Condition again, and Connie and Barack showed, and Connie’s few extra 15 pounds (although I tried to cheat and I called out her weight like 50 pounds lighter than she was but nobody bought it) put Barack up by one point or so over Willie for the BC award! I should have filled my water bottles and not peed before I weighed in!

Day 3

I planned to just let Willie pick his own pace today; he could ride with another horse or he could roll today, and cruise as fast as he wanted to go (within reason), while I kept a constant eye on his heart rate monitor.

It was Halloween costume day and boy were there some fabulous costumes on the desert! Debbie Grose and Red sported a wild dragon and elf costume. David and Melissa Laws were wild bandits that first raced around Ridecamp whooping and hollering (Willie calmly watched and wondered who these banditos were), and the trail was open! Mari Smultea, riding Christoph Schork’s horse GE Atticus Golden Sun, took off at a fast clip in first, David and Melissa whooped out next, and Willie settled in behind them. I could only stare at David Laws’ mesmerizing bandito butt crack and laugh, until they pulled over at the first water trough and I let Willie fly on by. 

Mari and Atticus were far enough ahead that Willie didn’t try to chase after; I just let my big horse roll along as fast as he wanted, and we went fast.

I don’t know how to describe it other than it was absolutely magical: My 17-hand* Standardbred ex-racehorse and I flying alone through the Owyhee desert, loose rein, not chasing, not racing, but Willie working hard and fast because he enjoyed it and he wanted to, our steaming breaths trailing behind us, antelope herd in the distance, mist rising along the Snake River, following a new trail along a winding canal, eager to see what’s around the next bend, trotting fast, switching smoothly to a canter when he wanted and a smooth flying pace when he felt like it, eating up the miles in an exhilarating rush. 

The vet check back in camp was relaxing, since his best buddy Barack was in camp next to him, (and I monitored Willie’s pulse, which stayed in the 40s), and the final 6-mile loop was over too soon. We finished second again, with a final 44-48 CRI, and I was shocked again when Willie got Best Condition again - that after flying 25 miles over the desert in a ride time of 2:21.

This horse!!!!!!!

Best Ride Ever! (Again!)

I’m soooo grateful to have this fun, dorky, lovable Standardbred in my life. 

*I have measured Hillbillie Willie at 16.2 hands, but I swear he is 17 hands, which he for sure is at the end of a 50-mile ride and I have to get off and on one more time to get another gate

**Steve Bradley trail photos, Deb's photo taken by somebody, and on her FB page!

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Kitten Who Went To Heaven (On Earth)

October 4 2022

This story is horse-related since it happened at an Endurance ride!

Friday night before I crawl in my bed (car) at Ridecamp at the Autumn Sun Pioneer/Distance Nationals Endurance ride, I am brushing my teeth under the stars, when I hear a “Mew”. Huh? A bobcat? A strange bird? “Mew.” 

I turn my headlamp on and swing it around, looking for eyes. No eyes, no more sound. That was weird. Ridecamp is out in the middle of Desert Nowhere.

Next morning get up to my alarm in the cold and dark, crawl out of my bed (car), fumble around to make coffee, say hi to Karen B who’s walking her dog Pickles in the dark, and “Mew.”

“Did you hear that?” We listen, and “Mew.” That has to be a cat! I turn on my headlamp and we walk toward the big flatbed water truck toting a big tank of water that’s being used to fill the water tubs in camp and on the trail. “Mew. Mew.” Whaaaaaat? Definitely a cat. There shouldn’t be a cat out here! Is it in the truck cab? Inside the water tank?? No. We walk around the other side of the truck. “Mew. Mew.” Where is this thing??

I duck below the flatbed and holy crap there’s a tiny kitten on the tire. “Mew. Mew. Mew.” OMG! Instinctively I grab it - it won’t let go of the tire with one claw, because it’s afraid, but it wants to be rescued but it’s hanging on mighty tightly to that rubber. I unhook the claw and cradle her under my chin inside my coat. She’s clawing me because she’s scared but she’s purring like a noisy 350 horsepower generator.

Ooooooh kitty! A rescued kitten! Where on earth did it come from!? 

But wait - now what! I didn’t have a plan beyond grabbing it. This is beyond my capacity to deal with. I can’t put it anywhere, it will run away. I can’t leave it in my car. It needs care. And I have to leave shortly to go out on the trail to take photos! What on earth do I do with this tiny thing, now that I impetuously committed to rescuing it! 

Of course I walk right up to Dr Mel’s trailer and knock on the door, hoping Mel and Tom are already awake, because Mel will know what to do. She says something from inside the trailer, and at the door I say, “I need help!” The kitten is still clawing me but purring ferociously nonstop. It’s still a bit scared but knows it’s struck the jackpot, and it’s not going anywhere.

And I get an idea, “Karen, Regina has a dog crate in her truck, can you go grab it?”

And of course as soon as Tom opens the door and Mel sees the kitten snuggled under my chin, she goes into crisis care mode. “Oh yea, I’ve got some canned chicken here,” as she’s grabbing cans, “we’ll put some water in this dish here,” as she pulls out and runs water in a little bowl, “and I’ve got some wood chips we can use in a litter box. Yep, her eyes are weepy and she’s a bit emaciated and she’s got a respiratory infection, not uncommon for a stressed kitten. Some food and TLC and antibiotics and she’ll be fine. 

Obviously, her name’s Autumn Sun.”

Mel opens a can of chicken and sets it on the trailer bumper, and I put the kitten down and that was all she wrote. I don’t even have to hold onto her because she is starving and she isn’t leaving that chicken! Karen brings the dog crate, and we bundle the kitten, can of chicken, water dish, cat potty, and even the soft dog rug into the crate and the kitten never stops eating. 

I have to leave so I put the crate in a very conspicuous spot under one of the tents, like right where people will stumble over it or run into it, so that the kitten can see a lot of people throughout the day, and continuously piteously purr and Mew and attract the sympathy of some sucker who might take her home. (Mel can’t take the kitten; she already has too many. I can’t keep a cat; where I live it would get eaten in 1 hour by any number of critters, domestic and wild.)

I worry about that kitten all day while out shooting pictures. When I return to Ridecamp and walk to the tent where the dog crate had been - it’s gone!

I find Mel. “Did somebody take the kitten?”

“Yes, Mike Cobbley adopted it.”

“Well, I was kind of thinking about getting a cat,” Mike said later, “and you can clearly see SUCKER written on my forehead.”

It took Autumn Sun about the same time it took for her to wolf down a can of chicken (5 minutes) for Mike Cobbley, Jessica Cobbley, the two Hyuge dogs and tiny pipsqueak dog to fall under her spell. She adapted to Mike’s house like she was born there.

“Mike’s Sucker Cat,” Mike says, clearly stricken.

Autumn Sun the kitten struck gold at the Autumn Sun ride. I don’t know where on earth the kitten came from, but you can clearly see from her photos that she is wise beyond her months, and she was meant to be where she is now!


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Hillbillie Willie and 2022 Old Selam: Best Ride Ever!

September 7 2022

OMG I love this Standardbred!

And OMG I love the Old Selam Pioneer Endurance ride near Idaho City, Idaho. It’s one of my favorite Endurance rides, in the forest, on some of the best footing anywhere in the USA.

This year I couldn’t handle the thought of riding 50 miles in the heat. I’ve toughed it out before but the older I get, the more I hate the heat and just can’t take it anymore, and I don’t have to. So Hillbillie Willie and I opted for a different goal: 3 days of Limited Distance 25-mile rides!

Willie had done just two 25-milers before. He’s used to 50’s and we almost always place mid-pack on his rides, not fast, not slow, just steady. I never know exactly where we place, and I don’t care. (Willie’s way more competitive than I am.) My main goals are always to have an easy start, a sane, forward horse to ride on a loose rein, and to finish with a low heart rate. Criteria is always 60 beats per minute at the vet checks and at the finish, but when Willie finishes a ride with a heart rate in the 40s, I’m positively giddy.

Day 1:

We didn’t really have a plan, or a riding partner. My goal was simply a smooth and calm start and a fun day. And it all magically happened! We fell in near the front of 18 riders, just because that’s where we were. Simone and Boogey took the lead, and stayed there all day. Willie ended up behind Sarah from Oregon and her handsome Arabian Batman, and ahead of Jo from Wyoming and her big honkin’ Tennessee Walker Jake, and we 3 pretty much stayed together all day with our horses moving well and comfortably together.

Willie and I were both enjoying the faster pace, and the morning was deliciously cool (starting out in the 40s) and we wanted to get ‘er done before the heat came out. As the forest tracks flew by beneath our feet, I had a fast, smooth horse on a loose rein, and I was so happy about that because I had reached half of my goal for the day!

During one stretch on the first loop Sarah and Batman ahead picked up a canter, which became a  fast gallop, and Willie’s big Standardbred trot morphed into his pace (he was a pacer on the track), and ohmigod, we flew. I have never ridden that horse so fast at a pace. 

I wasn’t sure how to ride it but I just hunkered low, as motionless and balanced as possible, leaning forward a tad over his rocking motion, and let him do his amazing thing. Uneven footing, curve left or right on the logging road, he never missed a beat, never put a foot wrong. My mouth was gaping in awe. I tried not to giggle because that throws me off balance. What a thrill! We must have been flying at least 20 mph, which is 2/3 the speed of what pacers can race. I really think Willie was showing off to me a bit of what he could do in his former life!

The 3 of us riders finished the ride together 15 minutes after Simone and Boogey. Willie has the lucky genes (and he’s quite fit) so he was already pulsed down by the time we got to the finish line. “Did he even do anything?” asked Jennifer, who pulsed him in. “Does he ever sweat?”

We never finish in the Top Ten so this time we got to show for Best Condition. Best Condition is judged by the vet to be the “fittest, freshest and soundest” of the Top Ten finishers, taking into account heart rate, metabolic parameters, soundness, attitude, and weight carried.

A Cardiac Recovery Index is an indicator of how a horse recovers after a ride. Ten minutes after finishing, the pulse is taken, you trot your horse out far enough that you yourself would like to pass out, and back to the vet, and a minute later the pulse is taken again. Yep, I was giddy again when Willie’s CRI was 48-42. My goals for the day done! And he ended up with High Vet Score which was icing on the Standardbred cake!

Day 2:

Jo and I decided to ride together because our horses paced so well together. 15-year-old Jake is a massive horse. At 17 hands he makes Willie look like a normal sized horse! 

Somebody must have told Willie he finished second on Day 1 because he was AWFUL for the first 10 miles of loop 1. He thought he was back on the track and supposed to appear in the winner’s circle after the Race. All my 5 years of chill-out training went out the window. Like never before at any ride, he pulled and snarled and bulled and roughly pounded his way down the trail after whoever was in front of him. My hands went numb. I could not convince him to settle down and stop fighting! Jake was no help, encouraging Willie onward. I dropped Willie behind Jake for a while, but that didn’t help either as Jake was hot to run-walk, while Willie egged him on.

Finally Jo and I got into our own little Bubble (LOVE The Bubble - a nice space between the horses in front of you and horses behind you so it feels like you are the only ones out on the trail!), and our boys settled down and cruised along at a finally-comfortable happy pace, I got feeling back into my hands, and the last 5 miles of the loop were back to super fun enjoyment of the smooth trails through the forest, looking for moose and bear, Willie winging around blind corners eager to see what he might encounter!

Willie set the pace most of the day, and Jake would keep up or catch up, and with his smooth running walk, he totally out-walked the Standardbred on the downhill climbs or when we took a walking break. Willie was in awe of Jake’s power walk but he couldn’t emulate it, and he would have to trot to catch up. 

Loop 2 was pleasantly perfect (eager horse, loose rein), and we stopped occasionally for grass, and we effortlessly finished in the Top Ten again. It feels so good to ride a calm, forward horse that makes everything feel so easy. Willie’s CRI today was 40-40 (I was giddy and floored), and he ended up with High Vet Score again!

Day 3:

Our last day was pretty much all magical. Easy start on a loose rein, we had a nice Bubble most of the day, and when we didn’t, Willie didn’t feel the need to try to catch anybody. He would motor along, looking back and checking on Jake, slowing down if he needed to, or picking back up the pace. We had a great time on the cool morning climbing up a winding ridge-line logging road, then back down, an easy downhill you could trot on for miles.

Willie had developed quite the thing for Jake. On Day 1, Willie, who’s always easy-going, pinned his ears at Jake a few times, but by day 2, he would turn his head and gaze fondly at big Jake as we trotted alongside each other. Jake taught Willie it was really is OK to stop and grab a bite of good grass along the way. We grazed quite a bit on loop 2, and I was sad this Best Ride Ever on Willie was coming to an end.

Top Ten at the finish again, Willie had a great 40/44 CRI again. He again had the High Vet Score and this time he got Best Condition! Which, with my light weight is almost impossible, but miracle of miracles, it happened. I’m so proud of Willie!


I had the best time riding with Jo, and Willie really enjoyed Jake as a riding partner. Here, Willie says, “Does this horse make my head look small?”

Now it must be said, while Willie is a fun ride (except for Day 2 loop 1, which we will just expunge from our memories), he is the worst Ridecamper. Always messing with stuff, testing his fencing, trying to nuzzle then bite his camping partner, trying to get into the other horse’s pen because of course the other horse’s food tastes better. 

And while he’s quite independent and I ride him by himself all the time, he’d never be able to handle the stress of solo camping in Ridecamp. So we brought along Regina’s 25-year-old Arab, Mufasa, to babysit this 10-year-old Standardbred. And it worked! Mufasa didn’t really care being left alone, and Willie always had a companion when he got back to his trailer. And Linda’s Indy was camped next door, and both Indy and Mufasa always enthusiastically greeted Willie when he got back. His personal fan club! Hay, whatever works! If it takes a babysitter to de-stress my horse we’ll take it. 

Old Selam has always been one of my favorite rides, and this year was the best ride Hillbillie Willie and I have ever had!

I tried to get all our heads in this selfie but our horses’ heads are way too big!

Thank you Steve Bradley for the trail pix!

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Some-teenth Annual Oreana July 4th Parade

looking back on July 4 2022

If you’re one of the lucky few who gets invited to Parade Mistress Linda’s personalized annual 4th of July Parade in Oreana, well, you get to see the best kept secret in Idaho.

Every year is different. Linda makes plans, plans change, sometimes the morning of the parade. Sometimes the parade comes up the road. Sometimes we go down the road to the Parade. 

Participation is optional by the animals, and sometimes they say yes and march out of the driveway, then change their mind halfway into the Parade and turn around and head home on their own. This year Linda held the Parade at her house so all animals could join in the festivities as they felt like it. 

This year Linda was going to ride Hattie the Mule, but Hattie changed her mind the morning of the Parade and, though they’d been practicing, even with the American flag, Linda decided staying on the ground was a much better option. But riding isn’t essential to a 4th of July Parade anyway. Uncle Sam is, and neighbors are. 

Instead of climbing aboard an equine, Linda/Uncle Sam mounted a ton-hay bale and flung candy to the Parade fans. This was not only fun for the humans, but exciting for the painted and patriotic animals, particularly the goats and pigs, who descended upon the candy faster than the humans could gather it up.

The goats and dogs and horse and mule and donkey and mini-mule are old hands at the annual parade, but the Caspian horse and the painted pigs participated for the first time, and proclaimed the Oreana July 4th Parade a big little town success.


Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Adventures of Linda and Festus


a guest post by Linda Kluge

So it was about 25 years ago I wanted to get a mule for Endurance racing. I had quite a few mules up to that point, but never for Endurance.

I noticed a Missouri Fox Trotting mule in, of all places, MISSOURI! “Festus” seemed like he’d be perfect!

Sonny and Marilyn Hornbaker were my Endurance mentors - they would come pick me up on the weekends to condition in the Owyhees.


Festus was a pain in the ass to load. (But I’m not going to let this mule beat me!). Finally he would load and I was exhausted. And off we’d go.

We went to some 25 mile Endurance rides. On Festus I worked so hard on keeping up. We’d always get lost, so they were at least 30 or 35 milers for us. Anyway, that’s the foundation of this story.

One morning I was going to take Festus on a conditioning ride around the country block by my house in Kuna. 

First obstacle: the scary dairy farmer across the street. (Not gonna let this mule beat me!)

We got by.

Next obstacle: The scary railroad tracks. (Not gonna let this mule beat me!)

Got over ‘em.

Finally made it to the first corner of the block.

We turned on the road - and look what’s coming: a semi truck! I stop Festus so he can watch it go by… but NO he turns and runs with the truck and we are racing the semi - the truck driver is laughing - then he turned off and I got Festus to stop. (I’m not gonna let this mule beat me!)

We turn around and try to finish the second leg of the block. (However we did it, it was not pretty!)

We got to the second corner and turned down the road. Halfway down - oh crap - another semi! And here we go, we are racing a semi again! The truck turns off, Festus stops, and I turn him around to finish the third mile, until another semi starts heading towards us - oh crap - we are in another race!

Finally I get Festus to stop - I am exhausted, almost crying - and some kids playing in their yard are LAUGHING at me! (Once again - I am not gonna let this DAMN MULE beat me!)

Finally I get to the last mile to home, it was getting dark and I turn with relief onto a nice dirt road alongside of the canal. (It’s been about 3 hours since I began this little trek.)

I am almost home, but WAIT. What do I hear in the distance… no… no… the whistle of a train! The tracks went along the side of the road we were on. 

I just froze. The train is approaching and clanging and horn BLASTING, coming straight towards us with its huge front light glaring at us! And Festus turns and does his thing. We are racing a damn train! It is so loud and fast and scary and we are heading towards the bridge over the canal - only there is no bridge for me and Festus!

I said to myself, “Why don’t I fall off… why don’t I just DIE!” That mule was so strong! No way could I slow him or turn him, his neck was like a rock!

Right before the canal was a farmer’s house. By God’s grace I pulled Festus into his yard - I am shaking and crying. The farmer asks, “Are you OK?” 

I said “Yes… I am just being a baby.”

I don’t remember one moment of the last mile home but somehow we got there. It was a LONG DAY!

The End.

That's Linda and Festus on the left, their first ride in the Owyhees