Friday, December 21, 2012

"FEATURE FRIDAY – Santa Claus"

Howdy Folks,
Since Feature Friday is about "People & Horses Helping Horses & People" featuring Santa Claus today might be a stretch, but I've seen plenty of Christmas cards and art where Santa makes his deliveries in horse drawn sleighs. And Santa Claus does deliver presents to horses all over the world too. I have that on good authority. And since Feature Friday is about spreading the word about the good that people do to help others, and share love, build smiles and spread goodwill, I think Ol' Santa fits right in. And besides, Ravishin' Robbie requested it.

Some say Santa Claus has his origins with the life of Saint Nicholas, a fourth century Bishop who gave gifts to the poor. Some say it was the poem written by Clement Clark Moore, "An Account of a Visit from St Nicholas," for his children that gave birth to our modern day understanding of the "Jolly Old Elf." Thomas Nast later gave us the look we all know and love with his cartoon published in Harper's Weekly in 1863. Stories abound as to how Saint Nicholas transformed over the years to our beloved Santa Claus, and each of these stories are steeped in the kindness, giving and love for others.

Ah Santa Claus. Who among us has not smiled as we dropped our spare change in the red metal bucket hanging next to a Salvation Army volunteer dressed in a Santa suit, ringing a tiny bell and wishing us all Merry Christmas? Santa Claus is the main attraction of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which has long been the official send off to the Christmas season.

Santa Claus carries with him, in his sleigh, in his sack and I submit in his heart, not just trinkets, toys and presents, but the very spirit of the Christmas season ... Love, caring, happiness and sharing. When you're out and about and see the children lined up waiting for that all important moment when they, perched on his lap, have Santa's ear, don't you smile and chuckle sometimes in spite of yourself? Ah, friend, that's the magic of Santa.

When your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews assure you they've been good and promise to be good all year, that too is the magic of Santa Claus. For you see, the magic of Santa is the spirit of goodness, goodwill and peace.

When you set out the plate of cookies and cup of milk for Santa with your children, or remember years gone by when your children were just tots and they knew without question he would soon be in their very own living room slipping presents under the tree, don't you feel the love and excitement in the air? That's the magic of Santa.

Santa Claus has a special kind of magic. A kind of magic that can brighten every heart, young and old, rich or poor. Santa Claus doesn't ask that we do anything to feel his magic, except to be nice. Isn't that a grand kind of magic? 

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"The New Facebook Profile Pic Choice"

Howdy Folks,

The past few days chatting with our wonderful friends on Facebook about my new Profile Pic has been so much fun! I hope you all had fun too! Yesterday I'd selected the two finalist photos, posted them on Facebook and asked for opinions. So many friends pitched in to help decide it was like a party! It was suggested I ask Kessy which one she liked best. So this morning at Coffee Clutch that was just about all Kessy, Saturday and the gang and I talked about ... It's a tough decision to change for me. I've been using the cover of my novel ever since it's been published.

Ravishin' Robbie had done such a great job snapping photos it was hard to even narrow down to the first group. We'd started the photo shoot just fooling around.

 Then we did a few ground work exercises.
 When I took a break, Kessy came over to look at what was so interesting on the ground. She loves to do whatever I do ... Look closely at the picture to see how hard she is looking to find what I might be studying , when all I was doing was resting my back.

We fooled around a lot more, too.
 I took another break. When I sit down like this, Kessy always stands over me, and I pull myself up by her mane.
 We were still just lovin' on each other, and Robbie kept snapping away, and we got this one.
A Kessy Hug

And this one.
Kessy's Kiss
After much discussion this morning, Kessy said I should chose the one I like best ... she said she looks stunning in all of them!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry & Kessy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"One Of Those Perfect Mornings"

Howdy Folks,

Still air, crisp and cold, but still and quiet greeted Saturday and me as we strode from house to barn. Kessy stood watching us, her breath steaming upward. She's funny in the morning, not much of an early riser. She will on occasion come right to me for a scratch and a hug, but she has her share of mornings when she'll stand back a few yards and watch all sleepy eyed and content. This was one of those mornings.

She stood about ten feet from the barn, and by the looks of the frost on the ground all around her, except for the circle of frost free dirt where she must have slept, she hadn't taken three steps yet. She watched patiently, well sleepily, as I went about the morning routine of calling the chickens and scattering their scratch (the Juncos beat the chickens in today), feeding Saturday and fetching her hay and 4 ounces of grain. When I called her and rattled the grain can, Kessy managed a stretch. One of those giant, legs way out in front, dip all the way down low with eyes clenched tight shut, followed with an entire body, dust flying shake, stretches.

Trying her best to, and pulling it off quiet well, look only mildly interested in me or breakfast, she strolled in a most dignified manner into the barn. She carried with her the air of a movie star walking down the red carpet in practiced steps making sure everyone had time to admire. I pretended to snap photos from every angle and called out, "Autographs … Autographs please!" She pretended not to notice, but I discerned a head tilt as if to say, "Yes, lovely aren't I?"

It was one of those mornings where Kessy could not be bothered with hugs … So I gave three. Big ones.

I settled into my chair next to Kessy, as she munched her hay, Saturday lay at my feet. The chickens had all come and gone. Juncos, Cardinals, Chickadees and Doves now controlled the chicken scratch. Oh and, Miss Kitty and Tigger had stayed in the house, too chilly I reckon. The train whistled far in the distance. It was one of those mornings I could even hear the rumble and clickity-clack.

It was one of those perfect mornings … We hope you have one too!

God Bless & Gitty Up.
Dutch Henry

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Annabelle told me they had-"HUMMINGBIRDS IN PA IN DECEMBER?"

Howdy Folks,
I called Annabelle last evening, she says "hi" to all her facebook and blog friends she never met but loves dearly. She thanks everyone for the cards and gifts, they, and thoughts of you, cheer up her room. She was extra excited for me to call this week because she had really fun news that she wanted to tell everyone ... If you're new to the blog, Annabelle bird is a long time dear friend in PA who taught me much about birds, wildflowers and heirloom plants. We have a lot of history together. For years I had a bluebird trail on her farm which I monitored by horseback. She would stop me as I rode past her porch for a detailed report each week. When we moved to VA in '06 I kept in touch weekly. About a year ago dear Annabelle moved to a nursing home and now she looks forward to our chats even more. I tell her about the VA birds and she tells me about the PA birds.

Our phone visits usually start out with the details of the birds visiting the feeders outside her nursing home window. Not to much going on there right now she said, just the normal Chickadees, a few Juncos, House Finches and Gold Finches. I told her it is really warm here, too and our feeders have about the same attendance, but we get a few Cardinals and Red Breasted Nuthatches, too. We agreed the warm weather and abundance of natural food had our feathered friends enjoying nature's bounty in the wild.

There's a local radio show that Annabelle listens to each Saturday morning all about local birding. In past years we had both been regular callers, and of course listeners, but sadly the station does not stream on the internet so I've not heard the show in 6 years, but Annabelle usually gives me the highlights each week.

Rufous Hummingbird
Well this week's highlight was all about Hummingbirds in Berks and Lancaster Counties, PA in December! … There were several (7) "confirmed" sightings of Rufous Hummingbirds at feeders, December 11 – 15! I know folks are reading this in places far from PA and where it stays much warmer year round, but it gets mighty chilly in PA by December and Hummingbird sightings are very rare indeed by November! Many folks who feed, though, will keep feeders up through November for the stragglers. 

But a Hummingbird sighting in mid December is something extraordinary for sure! Of course any sighting of a Rufous Hummingbird in PA is worth getting excited about as they are rare there anytime.

Allen's Hummingbird
And there was even more December, Hummingbird news from PA that Annabelle had to share. There were 3 sightings of the very rare indeed Allen's Hummingbird, too!! I had to go to Cornell Lab of Ornithology to even read about it so I could tell you! They say, "Extremely similar in appearance to the widespread Rufous Hummingbird, the Allen's Hummingbird breeds only along a narrow strip of coastal California and southern Oregon." …. What was this little fellow doing in PA in the winter? How did he get there? Both the Rufus and Allen's sightings were confirmed by several very knowledgeable birders and one of the Rufus and the Allen's were even banded! Wow!

The most common Hummingbird on the East Coast is of course the Ruby Throated, and in the summer months Robbie and I hang plenty of feeders and have as many as 50 of the flying jewels on our porch at a time here in VA. We always keep a few feeders up until the end of November … Next year we'll keep them up until New Years!

Some very exciting and unexpected news from Annabelle, for sure. And to add a twist to this story … Yesterday during Coffee Clutch with Kessy and the gang I had asked Kessy how many weeks yet until the Hummingbirds returned … It was that thought that made me call Annabelle yesterday.

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Singing and Riding in the Rain"

Howdy Folks,

It wasn't as if the dark midday skies hadn't tried to warn me. It wasn't as if Kessy hadn't tried to make her opinions known, by walking away when she saw me grasp her halter from its peg on the wall. I chuckled at that, for she'll do it about half the time. It's a game she enjoys. Sometimes she'll even run a lap around her wooded pasture, bucking and snorting. I just sit on the old stump by her barn and wait and she comes to me, when she's proven it's sure enough her idea. The eye she cast skyward as she stood next to me, now that was a bit unusual.

But you know, by golly, it was Sunday, and Sunday is the only safe riding day in deer hunting season, and even though it was growing darker, and more windy by the moment … we were heading out.

As we readied and tacked up I asked Kessy if she thought it would hold off until we got back. I said one nod for yes and two nods for no … She shook her head and snorted. I didn't know for sure what that meant, so we did our pre-ride exercises and I swung up in the saddle, called Saturday and we were off.

It was like riding into the sunset, without the sun. Sort of like riding into the darkness.

But I had a plan … I have this little Christmas tradition I started just two years ago when I found an old stone foundation and fireplace chimney deep in the woods, well off the trail and in a part of the forest we rarely ride. It's a beautiful spot, the old homesite, but difficult to get to in good weather with good footing as the banks are steep and the brush thick after leaving the trail. But atop the knoll, by the old foundation the view was beautiful and the setting as peaceful as any I've ever enjoyed. Towering ancient Oaks had kept underbrush from crowding it out, and all around the foundation is an almost open lawn. It was easy to see why some long ago pioneer had selected that little hill above the wide stream to build a home.

The first time we'd ridden up to it had been Christmas week and I got lost in thoughts of children all snug by that warm fireplace eagerly anticipating Christmas morning and guessing what surprises their parents may have for them. I pictured the hand-hewn kitchen table and chairs, on a dirt floor, and an old rocker by the fire. I could see the children sitting on a rag rug, knee to knee, by the hearth singing Christmas songs. I remember singing Oh Holy Night, well at least most of the first verse, right there as if those children could hear me caroling outside.

Well, I'd decided each year around Christmas I'd ride up to that old homestead and sing, most of, the first verse of Oh Holy Night to those youngsters of long ago. The brush seemed thicker this year, the footing was slick as Kessy climbed the hill, but surefooted as ever, she made her way safely to the tired old chimney. The yard and chimney welcomed us like old friends. Then the clouds opened … I sang a few lines  anyway, tipped my hat, tossed a smile toward the hearth, then turned Kessy down the hill.

In those few moments what had been slick footing turned into pure grease and the straight line downhill didn't feel like a good option, so I angled Kessy down toward the trail. The brush was thicker but the way safer and soon we were back on the solid trail. But an hour from home, and it was raining like it meant it.

Kessy didn't say much as I untacked and rubbed her down. I put her cooler on as the temps really dipped and she was wet to the bone, like me. I heard her snort as I headed for the house.

It took me all afternoon to get warm, but it was a fun ride and after all, if a fellow's set on keeping a silly tradition, he might as well get soaked doing it! I don't know if this is a Christmas story or not, but that's what Kessy, Saturday and I did yesterday.

Gitty Up,
Dutch Henry