Tuesday, December 5, 2023

This Week @ Monday Creek: Handmade


Gifts that Give Back Annual Vendor's Market at the Poston Manor and Event Barn, 
Logan, Ohio


My friends and I went to the annual Gifts that Give Back (gtgb) annual Vendor’s Market last Saturday at the Poston Manor and Event Barn, just on the edge of Logan. My first time at the Barn, I was impressed by the large space, crystal chandeliers, and the hard work that went into facilitating the event. We found amazing handmade items from two levels of vendors; handmade soaps, original art, one-of-a-kind designs in wool and wood, homemade cookies, handcrafted jewelry, and much more. It was a “looking for the perfect gift” extravagance. Here are some of my favorite vendors (click on the photo to learn more)...

Monday, December 4, 2023

Milliron Monday: Letters Home May 16 1960


Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"I was getting a bit anxious about sitting in this apartment watching a baby all the time but I'm sure I'll be much happier out there in the country sitting watching a baby."
― Jody Smith

Jody's letter home to Mansfield, Ohio. Backstory: At 22, Jody is pregnant, attends college, and keeps house. Anticipating the new baby, packages arrive weekly to the Smith household from Jody's parents. Mike is Pete and Jody's Irish Setter living with Jody's parents.

917 Remington
Fort Collins, Colorado
Monday, May 16, 1960

Dear Mom, Dad, and Jessie,
    At last my life-long (all 22 years of it) dream of living in the country seems about to come true. Pete has gotten a job for the next two years as all-round handyman for Professor Birky (this is out where I've kept Starboy). In exchange for feeding the horses, doing farm work, odd jobs, etc., we will get the use of that nice little house down to the north of the lane plus our gas bill will be paid. I certainly hope it won't take too much time from his studies but it'll be a big help financially since we'll be able to rent out this apartment, and needless to say, we'll both, particularly me, be so happy out in the country. I've always looked forward to the day I could look out the window and see Starboy grazing nearby. It's certainly wonderful that the opportunity will be coming so soon. We'll be moving out there about June the 3rd. I'll let you know our new address before then. I had hoped this would mean that we'd be able to have Mike, but Professor Birky was quite emphatic about his dislike of dogs when he interviewed Pete for the job so I guess we'll have to wait a while longer until we're on our own place.
    This summer Pete will be farming and irrigating during the day (for which he gets some extra pay plus the house rent, etc.) and commuting to Denver with Dr. Frandson at night to work at the track. It sounds awfully busy to me but he seems to think he can handle it and still get in 8 hours sleep a night.
    I'm through with my finals May 31, so I'll have a bit of time to get things together for our move to the country. I can hardly wait! The house is unfurnished but we've worked a deal to use the furniture of the couple who worked for Birky this year, until they'll be needing it again at the end of the summer. By then we hope to have a little money to scrounge up some sort of furniture a the second hand stores and such. This will eliminate lots of moving problems for them and for us too.
    Thank you again for the baby furniture. That's really going to help out a lot. Also, thanks so much for the very pleasant surprise of the new maternity clothes. I like those blouses very much and started right in wearing them since it's been in the 80's all week. The brown print blouse and brown skirt certainly are nice too, and I got lots of comments on them when I wore them to school last week. Pete has very much appreciated your helping out particularly with my maternity clothes and hasn't seemed to resent any of the packages at all. In fact, I'm sure he's quite grateful since he's said several times that he's glad I'm able to have such nice clothes to wear and he was afraid we could never have bought so many or such nice ones at this time. I was certainly very surprised when he opened his packages which you sent last week. He's never said much about his own clothes so I thought he just didn't particularly care, but he was tickled to death to get those slacks, shirts, and jackets. He opened them at noon and changed right away into one of the new shirts to wear back to classes that afternoon. Thank you again for sending them. He really looks sharp in them.
    Jess, we certainly did enjoy that ham. Even the bone tasted good! I made navy bean soup with it and it turned out real well. (I used one of the newspaper clipping recipes which you sent a while ago, Mom). 
    I'm glad to see that Maribel Hawk is getting to college at long last. She certainly is a beautiful girl.
    I've been feeling fine and getting more rest now that most of the papers and tests have let up a little. I finally got back my 40 page paper on the Irish poet, James Stephens, and I got an "A+, excellent" on it so I guess it was worth the trip to the Boulder library and all the time I spent on it. I really did enjoy working on it. I've been walking out to the pasture and back occasionally in order to keep up with my exercise since I couldn't ride Starboy with his cut foot. It's really beautiful and green out there. It'll be wonderful to be out there for the next two years. I was getting a bit anxious about sitting in this apartment watching a baby all the time but I'm sure I'll be much happier out there in the country sitting watching a baby.
    Enclosed is one of the usual letters from the college which I thought you might be interested in.
    Pooh is certainly going to be happy out in the country. We keep him in the house and on the porch all the time here since there's so much traffic but we'll be able to let him roam around out there since the house is at least an 1/8 of a mile from the road back up a lane as you probably remember from cart riding down the lane when you were out here last spring. It ought to be nice for the baby too, but I suppose it'll be a while before it'll be big enough to appreciate it.
    Enclosed is a newspaper clipping of the veterinarian float which Pete worked on. The sophomore vet class is in complete charge of the float building each year. I took a color shot of it with my camera which we can show you if we ever get it developed.
Bye for now.

Jody's beloved gelding, Starboy 

Previous Letters Home: 

~  ~ 

Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.


Saturday, December 2, 2023

WILD BEAUTY: An Interview with Ashley Avis

Ashley Avis


WILD BEAUTY: An Interview with Ashley Avis
By Gina McKnight

Archived from the November 2023 issue of Florida Equine Athlete.
No Duplication Without Permission. 

Finding beauty in the wild is not difficult for Ashley Avis. She is an innovative producer, wearing many hats, including writer and director. But most importantly, she is an advocate for horses and finds joy in their relationships and daily living. Residing in Los Angeles, Ashley answered my questions about horses, her endeavors, and more.

Welcome, Ashley!

GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?

AA:  The first time I can remember physically being in the presence of a horse was when I was perhaps seven or eight years old. I have always loved animal stories and had recently fallen in love with Anna Sewell's classic Black Beauty.  

After asking my parents if they would take me for riding lessons, we went to a barn where I got to meet a stunning mare called Delilah.  I will never forget the image I have of her in my memory; she was cobalt black, with a tail that touched the ground.  She was the most elegant, beautiful creature I had ever seen.  

Naturally, that first day (and for many thereafter) I did not get to ride Delilah, but instead a chestnut pony called Little Red.  He taught me many lessons, and my passion for horses grew.  I eventually competed as a hunter/jumper through my childhood and teens and knew from early on that I wanted to write about horses.  It was incredible when that journey came full circle, when I got the opportunity to write and direct Disney's BLACK BEAUTY.

GM: What are your thoughts on the BLM's current management of America's wild Mustangs?

AA:  In a one-word summation, mismanagement.  

Having spent five years working on our documentary WILD BEAUTY: MUSTANG SPIRIT OF THE WEST and now running our nonprofit, The Wild Beauty Foundation - I have now seen and experienced firsthand the shocking and antiquated practices of this federal agency, which refuses to extract itself from the past.  

The methods the BLM still uses to round up wild horses are cruel, inhumane, and deeply antiquated.  Somehow the BLM still considers a low flying helicopter chasing these animals at eye-level, sometimes for long periods of time in extreme heat - a "humane" method of capture.  

Not only is there trauma suffered by the surviving horses, of course - but sometimes they break their legs and necks trying to escape or get back to their families.  Day old foals are trampled in the melee.  There is nothing humane about this.  This is not management.

After these roundups, the BLM separates the families, and places the horses in government holding facilities.  Some of these facilities do not even have shade, or any shelter from the elements.  Some are so crowded; the horses stand in or lay in their own manure or are forced to trudge through flooded corrals.  Numerous equine diseases, some resulting from the BLM simply not vaccinating the horses (as they are mandated to do) have killed hundreds due to negligence.  Few people know that thousands of horses are also adopted by duplicitous kill buyers and end up in the slaughter pipeline in Canada or Mexico.  

Wild horses are supposed to be federally protected by the United States government, and the Bureau of Land Management needs to start acting lawfully in what they were tasked to do - manage the horses, not destroy them in deference to special interest groups such as tax-subsidized livestock grazing.

GM: What can we do as individuals to help save our heritage, our Mustangs?

AA:  People can help wild horses by raising their voices.  By speaking out and spreading the word about what is going on, because sadly so few people know.  If you love horses, or animals in general - you can watch the trailer for our documentary and know, this is wrong.  Awareness is critical.

Through our work as filmmakers, as well as with our nonprofit, we have begun initiatives with children and teens to raise their voices.  I love working with children, and mentorship is a big part of my life.  I also think that people often pay attention to younger voices - and so we have created a national letter writing campaign called "I Stand With Wild Horses".  Children and teens are encouraged to write letters to their lawmakers asking for wild horses to be protected.  Future generations deserve to see these majestic creatures free on the range - just as much as they deserve to see wolves, mountain lions, and golden eagles.

We are hoping that our documentary WILD BEAUTY will become a tool to raise unprecedented awareness, in the way BLACKFISH or THE COVE did for orcas and dolphins.  We are using it to support an important bill called The Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act (H.R. 3656) that if passed, would end the use of helicopters in wild horse roundups.  I think that would be a first major step, though obviously there is still a long way to go in restoring the true ecological balance of our public lands.

To raise your voice, learn more at www.wildbeautyfoundation.org - or you can also add your voice to our petition at www.istandwithwildhorses.com

GM: Your life is intriguing - working with horses, writing, directing. Take us through a day in your amazing life...

AA:  Thank you!  I am so fortunate in that my day to day is never the same.  I suppose the constant is that I am always, without fail, juggling numerous film projects while running The Wild Beauty Foundation.

Perhaps this morning is a good example.  I woke up at about 6am to jump into a remote online session with the editor of a movie I am in post-production on, which I directed last year in the Middle East.  The film is called THE LAMB, and follows the story of an eight-year-old boy who, following the death of his mother - goes on an adventure across the Arabian desert to save the orphan lamb he loves.  The film is entirely in Arabic, so it was fascinating to direct a child who did not speak English, as well as to edit the entire film in a foreign language.

I worked with our editor until about 10am, before running to the airport to board a plane from Los Angeles to South Dakota - where WILD BEAUTY is in competition at the South Dakota Film Festival.  From the Uber on the way there, I did a remote session on my phone - and finished giving the editor of THE LAMB notes. 

Next up in between security and boarding the plane were calls to our composer to discuss changes to the score in THE LAMB, then several WILD BEAUTY Oscar campaign strategy calls. 

Now from the air, I am writing this to you, while my husband/producing partner Edward Winters and I work out the travel details for a trip we are taking next week to Yellowstone, for another movie we will hopefully be shooting in the next year.  My next film projects include CITY OF ANGELS for Warner Bros., and an incredible project about wolves - hence this upcoming trip. 

It's funny, we know how much we juggle at all times, but actually writing that out made me want another coffee!  Ed and I are so passionate about what we do, and sometimes there isn't a spare moment in our days.  However, even when that gets stressful, we try to embrace the fact that there is so much momentum going in all directions.  Particularly right now, for the wild horses.  

GM: When writing a screenplay, how do you maintain thoughts, characters, and scenarios?

AA:  Every writer is different.  I tend to gestate projects for a very long time, and when they feel ready, I then write a first draft rather quickly.  But preceding that always involves a great deal of research, outlining, thinking time. 

After the first draft, I spend a great deal of time rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting yet again.  The nuance really comes during that phase, particularly in the dialogue.

For me, it truly is when you begin to hear the characters you've created start talking - when you have invested so much into their world that your immersion into their story allows you to see them interact.   While you're writing, they may do something in a scene that might surprise you - and when that happens (at least for me) I know the authenticity of what I'm constructing is ringing true.

GM: As a director, what is the key to creating a film that engages viewers?

AA:  That certainly varies depending on the project and the subject!  I think to create a film that will engage viewers, you need to not only be passionate about the story you are telling - but to understand who you are crafting it for.  Is it a small audience, a wide audience?  What is the age range?  And why should those individuals care?  

With BLACK BEAUTY for example, we knew it was an elevated family film that would hopefully reach children and their parents.  But my goal, and the goal of our wonderful producers, was to create a movie that transcended - that also appealed, ideally, to all ages.  And that thankfully happened.  

But creatively speaking, all of the elements are so important.  For me, the writing has to be strong, the visuals have to be elegant and textured, the casting has to be perfect.  The team has to be passionate.  You are only as good as your team.  And over the years I have been fortunate to find a group of amazing people that I often collaborate with.

GM: We know that you are a talented, determined force for animal rights. We are grateful for your enlightening films and hard work to educate the uninformed. What else would you like readers to know about your efforts to protect horses?

AA:  I would love readers to know that each and every one of us can help protect our own corner of the world.  For me, that has become advocating for horses, and other wild species.  But if every person on the planet chose to raise their voice, and do a little something every day for a cause they believed in - the world would be a much more balanced place.

So, pick your corner of the world - and go fight for it!

GM: What horses do you currently stable?

AA:  We now rescue horses, both wild and domestic.  Ed and I have actually rescued over fifty horses and burros since we began The Wild Beauty Foundation in 2020!  

We currently have two wild horses that are with us now, who are called Zephyra and Zion.  Ed and I adopted them following the very first wild horse roundup we documented in Nevada, in 2019.  Zion, a beautiful pinto - was only perhaps a month old when it happened.  Thankfully, he survived and was reunited with his mother - coincidentally, a cobalt black mare, a wild "Black Beauty" in her own right.

I called them Zephyra, for 'goddess of the West wind', and Zion her 'sun'. 

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?

AA:  Kindness, empathy, and immersing into the unfathomable and mysterious connection that is the horse and human bond.  What a spectacular gift those of us who are fortunate to be around horses have received.

Connect with Ashely…

Ashley Avis




Monday Creek Publishing Digest: Hocking Hills Book Fair

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