Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another Horse Story

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…… well, actually in Montevideo, Uruguay, I set out for my normal Saturday at Club Hipico Uruguayo, my mecca – my true home, the place where I spent every waking moment.

Backstory: my parents had gone gallivanting – again – leaving us four kids home alone with some easily fooled caretaker. This time they were in Peru, visiting Machu Picchu, and there they ran into some other Americans from the north shore of Long Island with whom they had – mirabile dictu – good friends in common. Lee and Dick Goldberg - or something like that – and their common friend was one of my mother’s girlhood chums. So naturally my parents invited them home to Montevideo for Christmas, and thus they all arrived together.

My mother found out that Lee liked riding and horses, and so she volunteered me – at 13 years old – to take Lee with me to the Hipico. Lee seemed really old – she was probably in her 30’s – but I sighed and scuffed and agreed. So early Saturday I got her up and we left the house and walked to the highway and I stuck out my thumb in order to hitchhike to the Club. I don’t think my mother actually considered how I got ordinarily got there, or how I was going to get Lee there – she probably believed her hospitality chores completed in arranging for me to take Lee at all. Even though I wasn’t paying much attention, I did notice Lee looking a little nervous about the hitchhiking thing, so I airily assured her that I did this all the time alone and had never had a problem. Really. A truck duly stopped, and we two climbed into the front bench seat and for THE FIRST TIME EVER the driver got grabby and rude. I remonstrated, yelled at him, and demanded to be let off, which he did. Lee was very quiet. I stuck my thumb out again, and the next truck stopped, invited us in to the front seat, and I declined, saying that we would prefer to ride in back. He tried to persuade us differently, but I over-rode him as Lee and I began climbing up the tires and the sides of the truck bed. We hoisted ourselves over, to find a full cargo of offal. If you don’t know the definition of this, picture several large piles of differing cow insides plus a stack of flayed skulls. Lee was now white, as well as quiet, but the helpful truck driver snaked his hand out the window with a roll of paper towels for our hitchhiking convenience which I thought was very nice of him. Lee perched on the side of the truck with her feet drawn up under her as tightly as possible. She did not appear to appreciate the towels.

We duly arrived, and I busied myself getting her mounted on one of my horses. We were finally in the saddle, and a few minutes out of the stable, when I realized that Lee could not ride. At all. Lord knows what she thought she was doing, but she was helpless with this horse. I sighed loudly, and headed back in to get her re-mounted on one of the stables’ hacks – who rejoiced in the name of Viejo (“Old”) and with whom no one, even a corpse, could get into trouble. Off we went for the normal three hour ride through the woods, ending up on the beach where I asked her if she wanted to go swimming, since it was mid-summer (there) and quite warm and we and the horses were sweaty. She said no. I said okay, but I am going swimming so I stripped naked and sprinted into the sea with my horse (the beach was deserted) and cooled off nicely. Came back to an even quieter Lee whose eyes were now very averted from me.

We meandered home, since we had arranged to meet Dick and my parents around lunch time for the traditional Saturday meal at the Club. We finally rounded the corner of the approach, and there the three of them were, looking variously anxious and annoyed. Upon spotting them Lee THREW herself out of the saddle and hobbled at speed to her husband, crying “Dick, Dick, Dick” in a piteous voice. When she reached him she collapsed against him. He clutched her, looking daggers at me, and my parents simultaneously roared at me “What did you DO to her?” I was genuinely bewildered….”Nothing!!”, I said.

In the days afterward Lee and Dick seemed to enjoy their stay a bit better. Mom consciously did not involve me much with them. Lee’s only comment, apparently, was that she thought I might have a hard time fitting in back in the States when the time came. And she was right.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Get Pie!

We are still technically in the holiday season, so here is a belated farm Christmas story. My former housemate was (still is) a seriously playful person who loved Christmas and had many family traditions around it. One of them was a poem about Santa Mouse. Not many people now know the story/poem (it is at the bottom of the page for your convenience) but he knew if by heart and would recite it to complete strangers at the drop of a hat. Years ago he had also carved little sculptures of the significant events in the story – a little sardine can bed with a praying mouse beside it, a mouse holding a piece of cheese, a giant mittened hand holding an astonished mouse, and as the final piece, the mouse dressed as Santa Mouse, with little black boots and a red belted suit and hat and a teeny little pouch of presents on his back. Unbearably cute.

That year, we had gotten a new dog – not a puppy, but an 18 month old rescue dog, very large, who had spent six months in a no kill shelter before we found him. He was /is an awesome dog, but there was definitely a learning curve in his socialization skills. Close upon Xmas, the dog and I were in my housemates’ quarters while they were in full spate of decorations for the house. I had my back turned, but suddenly heard the ominous sound of crunching, and whirled to see Santa Mouse in the dog’s jaws – who was chewing and happily unaware of the impending firestorm. My housemate’s face was a tsunami – he screamed and yanked the remains from the dog’s jaws, to find the little boots and the little hat chewed off and teeth marks everywhere else. One look, and I hustled us smartly out of the room, but I was in a panic. What to do?

I instantly called my sister – when she lifted the phone I said in quiet desperation, “The dog just ate Santa Mouse – what am I going to do?” She said instantly “Oh Jesis Gawd, Oh Jesis Gawd” because she knew the magnitude of the disaster. “What am I going to do?” I repeated…. She said ” GET PIE!”

(Back story: my housemate was a serious eater, and really did not like to share his food. One famous anecdote was of him getting a blueberry pie at one point, and hiding it in his sock drawer so that no one else would get any. My sister’s suggestion was genius.)

“Right”, I said, and streaked out to the car to race down the hill to our local provisioning place. I grabbed the last pie in the case (fortunately home baked) and raced back up the hill and into the house. Then I waited, and soon my housemate came stumping around the corner with a VERY bad look on his face that boded no good either for me or the dog. So I hid behind the door and stretched my arm around it, with the pie balanced on my trembling palm. And that is he what he saw when he came in the house. – just a pie hanging in space. A moment of tense stillness, and then he burst out laughing – and took the pie. The phrase duly passed into family history, and in fact the next year someone made me a pie plate with the legend inscribed on the plate – Get Pie.


Once there was a little mouse, who didn't have a name. He lived in a great big house, this mouse, the only mouse in the whole wide house. He day dreamed he had playmates who were friendly as could be. The little girls would bring their dolls, and dress up and have tea. The boys would play at cowboys or Eskimo or Spanish. But when he tried to touch them like a bubble they would vanish. Now through the years this little mouse had saved one special thing. A piece of cheese- the kind that makes an angel wants to sing. And so that night as he brushed his teeth and washed his tiny paws. He said my goodness no-one gives a gift to Santa Claus. So he ran to get his piece of cheese and after he had found it, Some paper from some chewing gum he quickly wrapped around it. And then he climbed in bed and dreamed that he was lifted high, And woke up to find that he was looking right in Santa's eye. Thank you for my gift he said now tell me what's your name, I haven't any said the mouse. You haven't that's a shame. You know I need a helper as I travel house to house. And I shall give a name to you, I'll call you Santa mouse. So here's your beard and here's your suit and here's each tiny shiny boot. You mustn't sneeze and you mustn't cough, Now put them on and we'll be off. Then over all the rooftops on a journey with no end, Away they went together, Santa and his tiny friend. And so this Christmas if you please, Beneath that tree that's in your house, Why don't you leave a piece of cheese, You know who'll thank you,