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.

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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.

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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.

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Things I Find in my Basement #37

Back when I still had a house of my own, I also had a basement. 


The police came about a noise complaint
In 1988, as now, we were renters, the Bacon Provider and I. We lived in Burlington, Vermont. 

On June 19, 1988, we played Pink Floyd’s “Time” as loud as we could. It was a record we had. Back then, we played records, and we made cassettes to play in the car.

Someone nearby must have called the police on account of the noise.

I remember thinking this was all pretty funny.

These days, we have a storage closet in the basement of our apartment building, and we have to go down there to “take out” the trash. There is a fellow who lives down there who looks and sounds and seems a bit like Young Sideshow Bob. He seems to be about the age we were in 1988 when we played music too loudly.  The sounds we hear coming from the basement of this building are mechanical;  Pink Floyd’s “Time” would fit right in.

I think Young Sideshow Bob also smokes in the basement because the smell of cigarettes comes up into our bathrooms late in the morning when most people have left for work and the building is quiet. We usually see Young Sideshow Bob when he goes outside to smoke; he stands next to the building, or sits on a low wall there. This spot outside our building is visited by many people, and serves as the Crying Lounge for the McDonald’s employees who work around the corner. 

My very first paying job, outside of babysitting, was working the night shift at an Arby’s in the late 1970s. This was my opportunity to learn that I was actually a “white” person, and I learned how to count change, to punch a clock, and to smoke. Even though I wish the folks who work at McDonald’s would go someplace else to smoke or have words with each other or talk on their phones, I do understand that working the register at a fast food joint is hard and sad and worth complaining about.