Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Why Writers Write"

Howdy Folks,

We write to tell stories, record our thoughts, plan for things, record history – the earliest known writings were scratches and drawings on cave walls and ceilings. Were they recording their history, telling stories, planning for future adventures? These drawings were often colorful. Today we use words to tell our stories and words can be colorful too.
Long before man learned to draw on walls of caves, and much later create languages in writing there were story tellers, some were called seers, some shaman, some wizards and oracles. Many ancient civilizations had only the story tellers to record their history, beliefs and adventures, these men and women were highly respected, held close by the leaders and rulers, loved and feared by all within the civilization. They told of, and held in their words, the very lifeblood of all these civilizations had become and aspire to become. They were also treasured as entertainment for the stories they could tell inspired great fun and escapades. They could hold their audiences, whether it be chiefs, kings and queens or peasants on the muddy street, spell bound, in their power, while their stories unfolded. Their words were power.

Today, if we choose to write, there exists a great wide and varied need and opportunity to write, from scriptwriters for TV & movies to stories in magazines to ads for commercials and print. All writing can, and should, paint a picture with words, thoughtful, colorful, engaging and exciting. It is both the writer's joy and duty to hold their audience engaged, and slip them into another person's shoes, thoughts and adventure. All the writer needs is to think deep, see it in their mind, and the story will flow.

When we write a story, or read a story it gives us a chance to slip into another person's shoes, their lives, adventures, loves and struggles. We can become someone else; we can travel to far away mountains, cities, lands and times. We can take our readers, and ourselves to places we've been, to record the adventure or we can imagine an adventure so fantastic we can only experience it in our written word, but we can paint it gloriously with our words and thoughts.

That's why writers write. 

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Don't Let It Stop You!"

Howdy Friends!

Each time before I do an interview for a story I worry, sometimes for days, about it. Will I ask the right questions? Will I understand their meanings? How can I possibly write a story that captures their heart, meaning and essence? It often piles boulders of stress so heavy on me I sometimes get belly ache. And even as I begin the interview I continue to fret; am I hearing what they are saying, how can I tell this in an interesting way they will approve, can I capture their message?
I just finished my interview and story for one of the most wonderful horse women whose mission it is to encourage all of us to, "understand the whole horse," Dianne Little. As is my custom I sent my story to her for her approval and she wrote back. "Thank you Dutch.  You have done a wonderful job. I cannot comprehend how you gathered so much insight from my rambling thoughts. Not only are you an advocate for the horse, you are able to put your natural talent to work for that cause." 

I share this because I believe it can be a teachable moment. After the weekend of Inner City Slickers at Heartland Horse Heroes helping the young ladies understand the importance of managing self-doubt, and going for their dreams, and then Monday morning chatting with students at Appomattox Christian Academy about writing and confidence, I thought it might be a good example of how each of us may struggle with our own demons, worry, and self doubt, but if we learn to expect it, wrap our own strength of determination around it and march forward, we can conquer our fears, or at least put them in a box and succeed in our quest.

Will I be just as worried before my next interview, yup, I already am, but it won't stop me. Don't let it stop you.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Heartland Horse Heroes Second – Inner City Slickers Day

Howdy Folks,

Saturday, October 18, Heartland Horse Heroes held their second Inner City Slickers (ICS) day. ICS, founded by Michael McMeel, former drummer for Three Dog Night, is a program where at-risk youth spend a day on a ranch, farm or equestrian center learning through ranch and equestrian chores, activities and fun, by the "Cowboy Code," they indeed are important, they have purpose, can build self esteem, trust and feel honor. There is a real magic in the day and you can read more about Michael and ICS HERE.

Heartland Horse Heroes had invited girls from the Discovery School, and beforehand we had asked for each girl to write a short note about themselves, their fears, worries and why they were at the Discovery School. Michael and I reviewed the stories Friday evening, and they were so sad, tough to read. These 11 girls ranged in age between 12 and 17 and each had already in their young lives endured so much. No wonder self esteem, trust and honor were foreign to them. Let me mention here, we could not hold this program without our fantastic volunteers, some of whom drove 3 and 6 hours to be there.
LaRue Sprouse talking about holding onto your dreams no matter the obstacles
The day started with the participants' arrival, LaRue Sprouse, owner of Sprouses' Corner Ranch and host of Heartland Horse Heroes led them on a short farm tour. She paused at the big show ring and spoke about her own dreams, and the hurdles she needed to overcome to realize them. I took the moment to build on that and encouraged them to look around at the beauty, the horses, the world that LaRue had created. We talked about holding fast to your dream, expect people to tell you, "you can't do it," and forging ahead anyway - The only negativity that can touch you is what you allow, so you have it in your power to brush it aside, to grab your dream.
Michael explains the power of self confidence.
Michael began to talk and engage them, he asked real questions about being let down, about trust, respect. I watched closely their faces, saw some ready to trust him, others roll their eyes as if to say, "Heard all this before, no-one cares." He painted pictures they could see with his words, promised he would always be there for them, promised they could trust him, and themselves, and told them today would be a journey of building trust, confidence and self respect. He asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how much they trusted him – it varied from 5 to minus 8. He was cool with that and said it was a lot better than minus 10, we all had a nice chuckle and a bit of an engaging chat. But half the faces remained hard.

We then handed out journals, and asked them to write their first thoughts of how they felt that moment. On the first page is pasted the commitment they must sign "I believe in myself – If I fall I will get up – If I'm beaten I will return – I will never stop getting better – I will NEVER give up – EVER!" Each time they open their journal they will see their commitment. We encouraged them to write in it daily happy, sad, mad – it doesn't matter, write it.

We created teams or "posses" who would work and play and take the challenges together. Some of the activities were competition, each posse member would help, support and encourage the team. And we set out about the glorious day. First we worked, real ranches have real work, we mucked paddocks and cleaned tack. Of course at first there was a bit of confusion, hesitation but as minutes wore on teamwork and cooperation began to lighten the load, and faces. Always Michael was there to encourage and inspire, as he promised he would be. All the volunteers were, too.
The "Fall Of Faith"
The first challenge was the "Fall Of Faith." A 10 foot step ladder the girls were to step up as high as they could bear, cross their arms and fall back, trusting that the adults, and a few team members would catch them. Great fear and doubt kept anyone from being willing, but Michael reminded them, he, and all of us were there to catch them, they would never fall alone. Eventually one girl went first to great cheers! Then another and another, the cheers and encouragement got louder, funnier and soon even the most timid girl took the fall ... Several insisted on going again as they wanted to step higher up the ladder. I studied their faces, by the end of this first challenge not a single face lacked a smile, all hard faces had melted a little already. And Michael's lowest score was now minus 5.
Relaxing in the sun for lunch
Then lunch, which proved to be a circus of laughter and giggles as each girl relived their "not very scary" fall of faith. Michael drifted among them, as we sat in the sun warmed grass, and told stories about everything from his recording and TV and acting days to his first horse. Then he started roping the "straw steers" and some of the girls had short but successful lariat tossing lessons.
Learning about balance, trust and connection with Sandman's help
It was time to ride now, and LaRue's fine and devoted lesson horses, Donny, Sandman and Penny entered the ring. A few girls were extremely eager, a few timid, a few refused, at first. Now riding time at a "Slicker" is about much more than riding, which is done bareback. It's about discovering the spirit of the horse, learning to hear the horse and facing fears, if there are any, with the help of the horse. I gave a little talk on the connection between horses and humans while volunteers readied the girls with helmets.  First they mingled with the horses, some touched, others hugged, and finally a few rode. And with Michael's promised support and encouragement, eventually everyone rode. I noticed even the most isolated girls began to join in the fun, the posses mingled together, all helped one another. Michael's score moved up to an even zero.
Teamwork, high spirits and reaching high for a goal, the Cowboy Toothpick
For the next hour we played confidence and team and trust building games, the "Cowboy Toothpick," a 12 foot high pole and each posse collaborates to drop 3 rings over the top – it takes real teamwork to get a posse member up that high! But with effort, teamwork and plenty of cheering and laughter they got it done, together!
Ridin' high with new found confidence on the wild Barrel Bull (I wish I could paste here the thundering cheers of encouragement!)
The day's highlight, and most demanding and thrilling challenge, the barrel bull ride, was saved for last. Each step of the way all day is carefully orchestrated to build high spirits, self confidence and trust, and even though each participant by this time had overcome fears, and built trust, in themselves, each other, Michael and our volunteers, that high swinging barrel gave them all pause ... For about a minute. Then cries of encouragement convinced one girl to ride high, and soon everyone rode the barrel bull, laughing, screaming and loving it. Michael told them, "It only takes balance, just like life."
Ending the day with thoughts about living and loving life with self respect, courage, faith, dreams and purpose.
We ended the day back in the barn where we all talked at once, laughed about the silliness of the day and congratulated everyone on their success and spirit of going for it. I looked carefully at tired, dirty, happy faces ... not a single uninterested or hard face could be found. I got the feeling for some of them it may well have been the most fun day they could remember, perhaps ever had. Michael assured them he, and we, would always be there for them, they were never alone again, they could contact him, or us, anytime. for any reason. Michael asked them to write another entry in their journals, that they might have today to turn to, always. Michael's "trust" score had skyrocketed to 15!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Photos by Connie Bloss and Cynthia Drew -

Friday, October 17, 2014

"A Mighty Important Weekend!"

Howdy Folks, 

This is a pretty darn exciting weekend for ol' Dutch, and a whole bunch of other folks, too. This weekend will be our second Inner City Slicker day at Heartland Horse Heroes. I missed the first one, absenteeism driven by my cardiac adventure.    I'd written a story (you can read it here) about Michael McMeel and his program, Inner City Slickers, for at-risk youth for my Heartbeats column in Trail Blazer magazine and worked a year to bring it Heartland Horse Heroes, then went and missed the big day.
Michael McMeel

Michael always comes to an outfit's first "Slicker," that's what he calls the day the youngsters come to learn about confidence, self worth, trust and honor to the cowboy code, to make sure all the volunteers are trained and everything is just as it should be. Since I missed our big day I told Michael he had to come to our second Slicker so we could meet. During our interview for the story, and the communications to become affiliated with Inner City Slickers we had of course talked a lot on the phone, but by golly I wanted to meet the man who created a program that to date has touched the lives of over 10,000 young adults! And meet the former drummer of Three Dog Night, yup Michael sure was ... And he played at our barn dance too back in April, and of course I missed that too!

I know, I'm making this sound all about me, and by golly I must admit to some degree it is VERY important to me – But it's really about the youngin's and their challenges, dreams and desires, and FUN!
Michael and some of our volunteers from the Slicker this spring - Nothing happens without Volunteers -
Michael will be rollin' in a bit before noon today, and I'm sure gonna be at Heartland Horse Heroes to greet him, shake his hand, and drink a cup or three of black gargle with him.
About noon I'll mosey to the barn to meet our world class volunteers and we'll all give the horses a little "Therapy For Therapy Horses," exercises. Our horses are never asked to work without their release and relax exercises, we have the most wonderful volunteers who have mastered them ... Then at 1:00 the children from Buckingham Co School arrive for their Friday afternoon therapeutic riding session. We have a great group of children each week who continue to make terrific strides.
Friday afternoon therapeutic riding at Heartland Horse Heroes
Tonight we'll gather around a campfire for some volunteer orientation and visiting ... and Michael said he'll bring his guitar and pick a song or three. It's no barn dance, but it's gonna be great!
That's the "Cowboy Toothpick"
Tomorrow bright and early the young adults, who are the reason for this shindig, will arrive and the Slicker fun will begin. Michael has a well detailed formula for the day that helps youngsters who doubt themselves experience life changing moments. They'll be facing challenges that teach them teamwork, trust, self reliance, confidence, honor and respect. They'll rope a wooden steer, climb the cowboy toothpick, ride the barrel bull, climb the ladder, ride bareback, tell, and listen to stories and have an all around great day. And by golly I'll be there to see all the magic happen, this time.
Horses bring their magic to heal others

You all have a swell weekend too!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Abandon Kitty Update"

Howdy Friends!

Abandon kitty update – As I've shared before about 2 weeks ago some non caring individual dumped four half grown kitties at our house. Sweet little, big eyed, scared, babies. Three of the four we could catch and love on and we put them in the horse trailer intending to take them to the shelter for adoption. The fourth, who Ravishin' Robbie named, Bullet, was only ever seen streaking away from the cat food dish on the porch. All the shelters here proved to be full. However we were simply not in a position to keep four cats.
Lil Bit, Daniel Striped Tiger and Fluffernutter hangin' out in the tack room (We haven't yet caught a picture of Bullet)

Earlier this year Both our loving kitties, Tigger and Miss Kitty crossed the rainbow bridge, and after many years of their love, silliness and companionship, we surely miss them. Kessy and Saturday do too. We had made the decision at that time we would not have any more cats, we need to watch our pennies. Really.

We could not bear to keep them in the trailer after the second day, so we set up a feeding station in the tack room, and they loved it from the first moment. Well except for Bullet. He still shoots through the porch and seems to eat on the run. I think she/he is faster than the superhero Flash! The others, Daniel Striped Tiger, Fluffernutter, and Lil Bit, love the tack room, barn, Saturday and Kessy, and her 2 acre wood.

Daniel Striped Tiger pretty much hangs out in the tack room. Lil Bit and Fluffernutter roam the barn and stay close to Kessy. Lil Bit is soundly smitten with Kessy, was from the second day. We think Tigger showed her the way, Tigger loved Kessy. They all purr so loudly it sounds like a distant train! Lil Bit won't miss a Coffee Clutch, Fluffernutter enjoys Coffee Clutch too, but wonders around a little more, following the chickens.

The Appomattox shelter informed us they have a program for free spay and neuter, $10 rabies and distemper shots – so we signed them up!  Today we took Daniel Striped Tiger – and Bullet, who we trapped with salmon for bait, to the clinic. In two weeks we can take Fluffernutter and Lil Bit ... And folks we learned from the clinic, cats can become pregnant at four months of age. Sadly these are. We also learned most areas have free or greatly reduced spay neuter clinics for feral cats, and they nip their ears for identification so they never need be trapped again. Bullet will sport a nipped ear.
Lil Bit loves sitting on Kessy's back.
Our dear friend Chris has donated a month's worth of kitten food. The tack room, Kessy's barn and playground are all a bustle with the pitter patter of tiny feet. It looks like the Coffee Clutch is gaining new members. The only ones here not real convinced this was a good idea are the chickens; Robbie says they'll get over it.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Visiting Woodson's Mill"

Howdy Friends,
Yesterday, Ravishin' Robbie and I took a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the beginning of fall's changing beauty. Robbie has long wanted to tour Woodson's Mill, so yesterday we finally did. What a spectacular gem hidden just across the Piney river from the village of Lowesville, a few miles from Crabtree Falls, another must see near the Parkway.
Front view of the majestic building - note the 2 water wheels on the ends - The left wheel powers an electric generator for lights, the wheel on the right turns the grinding wheel, and has turned that wheel since 1840
Mill race bringing water to the giant wheels
Smaller Wheel, this one powers the generator - All power for the mill comes totally ecologically sound from the waters of the Piney River, and has been meandering through the mill race since 1794
These giant cast gears have been transferring Piney River's power from the water wheel to the heavy grinding stone wheels almost continually since the earliest days of our nation.
Yesterday was the final day of milling until spring so luck was on our side and we had a grand tour. We also bought some 100% whole wheat flour and 3 grain pancake mix.  ... "We produce all-natural grits, flours and meals in small batches, by hand, from the best local ingredients available. Our grains are stone-ground slowly to preserve the oils, moisture content, nutrients, and flavor that are often lost in high-speed milling. We do not add preservatives of any kind. And, all the power for grinding comes from the Piney River’s water, which runs the Mill’s overshot wheel and our hand-dressed millstones, making the entire process renewable and sustainable." William Brockenbough – From their website.
Grinding the day away - In the background on the higher level you can see the housing surrounding the slowly turning stone wheel. Turning as it has since 1840. - In the foreground sacks of wheat are being dumped into the floor base of elevators (the small square tubes just behind the scale running floor to ceiling). The elevator's belts and buckets carry the wheat to bins on the third floor, all powered by water, power distributed by a series of very efficient belts.
Woodson’s Mill was built in 1794 by Guiliford Cambell. In the 1840's the Fulcher family added 2 runs (mill stones) the same stones used today! Half a century later Dr. Julian B. Cambell Woodson expanded the company to include an icehouse and lumber mill. Changing attitudes about stone ground mills, the new thinking of a hurry up world, and Dr. Woodson's death in 1963 silenced the mill's grand stones temporarily. During the stones quiet years Huren T. Cambell owned and guarded the mill, refusing to sell any of its timeless equipment, ever hopeful it would again resume operations. Then in the early 1980's J. Gill Brockenbrough purchased the mill, restored it and lived there until his death in 2001. 
The stone wheel grinds patiently, gently inside its housing as it has for over a hundred years -  Not the hopper on top. Below the platform you can see the big belts transferring power from water to stone.
Everyone of the handful of owners loved the grand old mill, and milling way of life.

Owned and operated today by Sarah and Will Brockenbrough with love and respect for the simpler, times, they preserve, promote and treasure a dying art – and fabulous building, with history as deep as our own nation's.
Visit their website to read more of their story and order some wholesome GMO free flour, corn meal, grits, batters and some great old fashioned pancake mixes. If you're near enough, be sure to visit and meet some outstanding folks. They love telling the stories of this historic landmark and the people who built it, ran it, treasure it and share it today.
The mill lake. A storage of power.
Yup, that's me, giving you an idea of the size of the small water wheel.
Be sure to order some!
What a lovely visit we had! Hope you all enjoyed reading about it, and if you ever have the chance, do yourself a favor and drop in, meet some swell folks, step back in time - and linger awhile.

 Gitty Up, Dutch Henry