Thursday Schooling


I arrive at the horse show in Vermont just before the horses do. It is raining vigorously. There are just two client horses coming with the commercial shipper, and I watch from inside the barn as they are unloaded. I lend a hand stretching a tarp over our hay. I step in to help carry a big box of tack.  I unwrap my horse’s legs.  The show groom tells me where I can find scissors to cut the twine that holds a bale of hay and asks me to give a couple of horses a flake each. She also confides that this is her last show with our barn because she is giving notice on Monday and moving to a new job. I don’t want it to be true, so I quickly decide I must have misunderstood her. I want to wait for my trainer to show up with his horses before I get on, but I can lunge. Gidget stands quietly for a quick grooming and I walk her to the lungeing ring.  

She reacts to the new place, giving the rain-gorged creek her most crooked parrot-eye, answering the whinny of another horse, letting a passing tractor blow the wind up her skirt. The show facility has a new lungeing area, shaped like a rectangle on three sides and curved like a bean on the fourth. I’m clumsy with the gate latch. I walk Gidget into the center of the lungeing ring, into the bend in the bean, and stop her to adjust the side reins, which are new, so I’m guessing at what hole they should be on. I remember to walk with her in a large circle, showing her the situation counterclockwise and then clockwise. Gidget settles into working on a circle, trotting and then cantering, with me in the center. A big truck blasts by on Route 106, and my mare celebrates with a buck and a fart and a surge of galloping with her tail straight up. I hold on. I get her back to trotting, and then ask her to walk. I stop her and adjust the side reins again and take Gidget over to the other side of the ring shaped like a rectangle on three sides and a bean on the fourth,  making room for our trainer who has arrived with his horse.

Didn’t it rain?

A friendly staff member of the facility comes and asks how the new footing is. We tell him it’s good. He explains how the lungeing area ended up shaped like a rectangle on three sides and curved like a bean on the fourth. We both finish and go back to our barn to take off the side reins. 

We get on and ride into one of the show rings, because this is what everyone does on arrival day at a show. The same friendly staff member comes, shouting and shaking his fist at us, saying that the ring isn’t open, and we’re gonna ruin the footing, what with the rain. I go tour the property instead, letting my horse see everything I can. She snorts like a crocodile at the dairy cows at the farm across the street. When it’s time to put the horses away, I think about when the friendly staff member had almost finished the new lungeing ring and had three straight sides of fencing up and someone came along and told him that people want a curved shape for lungeing. I wish I could picture him farting and running or snorting like a crocodile, but I can only see him raising his eyebrows or shaking his fist.


I think Vermont is still one of those places that we’re supposed to write poems about. You’ve got time to, if you live there, because mobile phone coverage is spotty at best, and high speed internet is a rare and prized luxury.  I lived there in the eighties, before I cared about the internet and I still wrote poems regularly. My poems were about the biting black flies in the mountains and the crabby yankees who were my neighbors in the city and no one ever read them. Then I got a paying job, and threw myself at adulthood, and (mostly) stopped writing (but especially poems).

Gidget marched around the show ring six times over the next few days, and by the last trip had mostly gotten over the creek, and the tractors, and the too-fast trucks. The cows will still be there next year. I did not misunderstand the show groom, and I will miss her.



When I was a kid, my dad was a businessman. He worked in an office in a tall building with sharp corners and many windows and he sat at his desk and talked on the phone and also went to meetings. He had a secretary and he carried a briefcase. I could picture him sitting in his office looking at papers and sometimes looking out the window.
Every day, when he got dressed, he put on a shirt with a lot of small, white buttons and a three-piece suit which was: a pair of pants with a matching vest with other buttons and a jacket to wear over that (and I knew it was called a sport coat). He wore a tie, too. When he came down to breakfast his necktie was tied but he had always forgotten to zip his fly. This was my job, to tell him to zip his fly. I don’t know if I said, “Dad, XYZ!” but I probably did. That was what we said, “XYZ!”
It stood for, “eXamine Your Zipper!”
When I went away to sleepover camp, I would get a letter or two from my dad, which he dictated to his secretary. These letters were among the very bests thing my dad did for me, and I went to camp knowing they would come, like a prize.
Bufo Americanus, American Toad, Dutchess County, NY
Now I am a grown-up, and almost an old lady, I have a husband, who I sometimes call the Bacon Provider. He has a job in the city, and by this I mean New York City. Every day, when he gets dressed, he puts on a shirt with lots of small, white buttons. Sometimes, he carries a briefcase. He doesn’t wear a tie to work, but he does have a secretary, although she isn’t called that, she is called his assistant. He rarely forgets to zip his fly.
At the farmhouse where we spend weekends, there are toads. They’re like the size of an apple, maybe, and speckledy brown and bumpy. Toads come out on our patio and just sit there. They have grumpy, frowning little faces, and brown all over bumps, and their front feet turn in. Maybe they make a toad noise but I haven’t heard it yet.
Anyway, sometimes the toads are there when we drive up to the house, sitting in front of the garage door. Other times, when we are driving down the driveway to leave on a Sunday night, there is one of the toads, sitting in the middle of the road, not moving at all. I always stop for a toad, not wanting to squish it, and hoping that the lights from the car’s headlights will scare it away. Nope. It doesn’t move. It never does. In the face of imminent danger, it just sits there. So, my husband, the Bacon Provider, he is the one who always hops out. He is a champion of small, helpless things and he walks to the front of the car. The toad never moves. The Bacon Provider stomps on the ground, but the toad just sits there. Some toads stiffen their front legs, to make themselves look tougher. The Bacon Provider very gently nudges the toad’s butt-end with the toe of his shoe. The toad will take a single hop, but it will still be in the path of the car. He has to touch it again and again to get it safely out of the way. 

I think This is all the Bacon Provider does at his job in the city, you know: Walking in front of the car and gently encouraging the toads to get out of the way.