Saturday, June 10, 2017
The South High Horseman
Stories and Poems by a Teen Cowboy
Written by Peter Smith
Compiled by Gina McKnight
Illustrations by Kelly Lincoln
Journey to 1956, South High School, Denver, Colorado. In this heartfelt volume of essays, South High teenager Peter Smith writes of cowboys, poachers, horses, rodeos, and much more.
A sincere writer who brings to life his perils on and off horseback.
Available from amazon.com
Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review!
Reviewed By Ashley Tetzlaff for Readers’ Favorite
Saddle up and ride the Colorado range as seen through the eyes of Peter Smith’s 1950s High School Essays in The South High Horseman: Stories and Poems by a Teen Cowboy. There are about ten essays and two or three poems written by Peter as well as about twenty comments from friends that were written in his high school year book. The collection was published by family members as a way to remember and honor their father/grandfather after his death in 2010. The tales cover things like breaking in horses, climbing a mountain in winter, hunting wild cats, thoughts on God and religion, and much more! Recommended reading age is for Middle Schoolers and up.
The South High Horseman: Stories and Poems by a Teen Cowboy is a great tribute to a simpler time as seen through the eyes of a high school cowboy. Reading Peter Smith’s work, it is hard to believe he was a high schooler when he wrote these! They reflect the musings of a much more mature mind. Peter’s dry wit and attention to detail make each stand-alone tale something to be amazed at and chuckle over. I felt like I got a very good picture of what being a cowboy in Colorado was like in the 1950s. I felt the bitter cold nights, the joy of scaring off poachers, the exhaustion of riding from sunup to sunset, the satisfaction of a night of deep sleep after a grueling day of work. Very descriptive and enjoyable. I soaked in every word and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m so glad the family published Peter Smith’s writings so we too could enjoy them. Wonderful read!
Thursday, May 25, 2017
|Kia and Joy learn to love the water|
Trailering Horses: An interview with Curt Courtney
by Gina McKnight
Archived Interview from the May 2017 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.
From Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA, welcome horseman Curt Courtney! Curt is an expert in horse transportation. Riders and horse owners know the importance of providing a safe environment for your horse while on the road. Curt and his wife Joy have trailered horses all over the United States.
Curt writes, “I have been around horses my entire life, my parents were avid trail riders. My wife and I own and ride horses. We know a lot of horse people. We started delivering trailers and all types of cargo/horses all over the United States, which led to opening our own trailer sales company.” Curt continues by emphasizing the importance of trailer safety, keeping your horse comfortable in the trailer, and purchasing the right trailer.
GM: Curt, you’ve an awesome horse history! With both parents loving horses, and being around horses your entire life, you have the experience to help others with horse transportation! When was your first encounter with a horse?
CC: I barely remember my "first" encounter with a horse. I have been around horses since I was a small child. My first was with a buckskin mare named Trixy. My four cousins and I would all get on her bare back together. She would take what my dad referred to as "baby steps" then when you put an adult on her she was a regular step out trail horse. I then ended up with my very own Shetland pony named Babe who took very good care of me and helped me lose fear and gain confidence.
GM: What horses do you currently stable?
CC: Currently we have seven horses. Kia is Joy’s registered Paint mare, then we have Bo who is my granddaughters POA (Pony of the Americas) gelding. We have two minis, a pony, and donkey who is our watchdog. We also have a Tennessee Walker and a Rocky Mountain as well as a Quarter Horse – all mares.
GM: As an avid rider and horse enthusiast, you must ride a lot. Where is your favorite place to ride?
CC: My favorite place to ride would have to be Turkey Creek Ranch located by Newcastle, Nebraska. Turkey Creek Ranch offers 16+ miles of groomed trails that allow you to explore the beauty of northeast Nebraska. Terrain ranges from scenic hilltop views of the Missouri River, to peaceful shaded ravines for a quiet ride. The perfect weekend getaway, Turkey Creek Ranch offers some of the most beautiful horse trails available. The views from up on the hills as you look out over the Missouri River bottoms are simply amazing.
GM: And your best horse?
CC: Kia is by far the best horse on our property. She belonged to Joy’s father before he passed away. She is the same horse every time out no matter how long she goes between being used, there is not a mean bone in her. Joy trail rides. Joy and our granddaughter Calyla have been doing trail challenge courses on Kia. They brought home a championship buckle last year.
GM: As a seasoned horseman, very knowledgeable about horse trailers and transporting horses, what is the most important item buyers should know when purchasing a horse trailer?
CC: As horse owners, we know when we are selling a trailer the risks that come with hauling horses. When we sell a horse trailer, safety is top priority. That is why our trailers are equipped with electric brakes on BOTH axles not just one and they also include a spare tire. I always say going is great, but when you need to stop, you want to stop, and nobody I know wants to sit alongside the road with animals with a flat tire waiting for help.
GM: As a horse owner, I prefer hauling my horses in a stock trailer vs. a horse trailer. What are your thoughts on this topic?
CC: People have used stock trailers to move horses for years and there is nothing wrong with that. After all, a lot of your horse trailers are simply stock trailers that have had options added to them to make them horse specific. We offer a swing wall tack room with removable saddle racks, and once you remove the saddle racks, the swing wall opens and is suitable for use as a stock trailer.
GM: So far you have seen a lot of horses, a lot of horse people, and have had your share of riding history. Can you share a favorite riding anecdote?
CC: A horse memory for us is a bittersweet one. Joy’s dad was near the end of his battle with cancer. His hospital bed was in the bedroom by the window. My brother-in-laws removed the screen from the window and Kia was brought up to the house. She put her head thru the window and nuzzled him. I guess she was saying her goodbyes.
GM: Do you have advice for novice riders?
CC: My advice to novice riders would be to learn your horse and never let the horse decide when you get off.
GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
CC: To me horsemanship is being in the same place as your horse, not physically but mentally being in the same place. It is about mutual respect between you and your horse. It is about understanding each other
If you have questions about transporting your horse, contact Curt…
Gina McKnight is an equestrian, author, freelance writer, and editor at Monday Creek Publishing.
Calyla and Bo establish their bond.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
~ Established 1971 ~
Celebrating 45 Years On Safari
SAFARIS UNLIMITED (AFRICA) LTD
P O Box 24181 - 00502, Nairobi, Kenya
Cell: +254 727 535019
Welcome Gordie Church from Nairobi, Kenya! Mr. Church is a Professional Safari Guide & Horseman. Along with his riding crew, he has one of the best riding adventures in the world!
GM: An amazing adventure to go horseback riding in Africa! What is the best way to book an adventure?
GC: The best way to book an adventure would be to email us at email@example.com
GM: What items will be essential for me to pack for the safari?
GC: See the list below
GM: Your videos of safaris are amazing! Your horses look happy and healthy. Tell us about your horses…
GC: We love our horses; they are part of the family. We typically have between 25-30 horses ranging from a 12-hand pony for Tyga (our daughter) to 16.3 Warmblood cross. We have a variety of mixed breeds all purposely chosen by us to become safari horses. Their breeding consists of South African Boerped, Thoroughbred, Somali pony thoroughbred cross and warmbloods. They live with us at our farm and graze freely on 4,500 acres with all the wildlife. They are totally accustomed to game. We breed our own and have all our young stock coming through. We break them in using natural horsemanship from Parelli to horse whispering. It is always a happy moment watching a guest enjoying a homebred horse whilst on safari. We are lucky enough to have a good reputation in the local horse community for looking after our horses, which in turn means we get offered lovely horses to buy.
GM: Will I choose my own horse, or will you choose a horse for me?
GC: Once you have completed a detailed riding form we will choose the best horse for you.
GM: Seeing the African landscape and variety of wildlife from horseback must be incredible. What about encounters with lions and other predators?
GC: With over 45 years of experience we are probably the most experienced outfitter that has approached predators and other big game of which we encounter almost daily. To see a lion from the back of a horse is a very special and unforgettable moment.
GM: Describe a safari day from morning until night...
GC: After a ‘full-monty’ breakfast we ride in a northerly direction, through a gorge looking for leopard, lions and hyenas and out over the Ololituroto plain, scattered with the occasional balanities tree. Exceptional views in every direction on excellent going for the horses. An excellent opportunity to run along side the plains game. Picnic lunch in the Olomai forest, siesta and a glorious afternoon ride down to the Mara river, with many large pods of hippo and the odd monster crocodile. Dropping into camp for a well deserved cocktail and a hot shower. Followed by canapés by the campfire and a candle lit supper. Off to bed to await the excitement of the noises of the night. Hugging your hot water bottle till morning to be awoken by ‘jambo, jambo’ and a steaming hot coffee or tea to your bedside.
GM: As a seasoned rider and a terrific horseman, what does horsemanship mean to you?
GC: Horsemanship means to me trust, respect, courage and companionship between man and horse. A complete understanding of one another’s ability’s, strengths and weaknesses.
Book your trip today!
A SHORT RIDE IN THE MARA : 6 night ride
14 ~ 20 August 2017
10~ 16 January 2018
MASAI MARA RIDE : 8 night ride
22 ~ 30 June 2017
23 June ~ 1 July 2018
|Gordie at work.|
SAFARIS UNLIMITED (AFRICA) LTD
P O Box 24181 - 00502, Nairobi, Kenya
Cell: +254 727 535019
Friday, May 12, 2017
Do you love horses?
Are you looking or to rescue, adopt, or work with horses?
From McDermott, Ohio, USA, Betty Davison is the founder of Wild Horse Rescue, Inc., a non-profit equine rescue, re-homing trained horses.
We are known for taking in horses that are running at large and Mustangs. Just recently had three horses brought to us by an animal control officer five hours from us because these horses had not had human touch, therefore the average person would not be qualified to work with them. We then work with them to gentle them so the average person can continue their training. We have also had severely neglected and injured horses the we have nursed back to health so could get into a forever home or sanctuary home.
I am the founder and president of our organization and we have been a 501(c)(3) non-profit since 2009. I began working with and studying horses since the age of ten yrs old. I always had horses that people had problems with, so I learned early on how to relate with the horse. I know the basics to working with a horse that has an issue. One must understand what is important to the horse. It is imperative the we understand that a horse is a born claustrophobic, and if they feel trapped they will become very agitated and tense. They instinctively want to get away or out of that restricted state. If they can't get away, then they go into the fight mode. We, the human, are predators in their eyes and they are the prey. All prey animals have their eyes on the sides and all predator’s eyes face to the front. We, here at the rescue, try to teach people to understand how the horse views and reacts to human behavior. That is why natural horsemanship is so important to us. I am soon to be 68 yrs young and have osteoarthritis which is making it more difficult to keep doing what I do. I am searching for a dedicated young person to share my experience and knowledge with so the rescue and our work teaching others can continue. Keeping ones' self-safe while working with horses is a top priority and we strive to impress that to everyone who spends any time around a horse.
We rely on donations, very far and few in-between, to keep our hay supply. We do not have many people who are willing to volunteer, as most only want to ride horses and have fun. Most of the horses that come here, the average person cannot handle. This makes it extremely difficult to get help.
We do not have an indoor arena/covered round-pen, so weather dictates our ability to work with the horses. I have been told to apply for grants, but I must have someone would could write and present the grant request as I know there are certain criteria that must be followed.
Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. For more info check our web site; http://www.wild-horse-rescue.org/
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Riding in Arizona: Blue Sky Ranches
Archived Article from the April 2017 issue of Florida Equine Athlete http://floridaequineathelete.com
Archived Article from the April 2017 issue of Florida Equine Athlete http://floridaequineathelete.com
Miles Buckley has been a horseman for many years. Better known as ‘Bucky’, he is the proprietor of Blue Sky Ranches in Arizona. The first time I scheduled a meeting with Bucky, he was in a pickle and had to round up some horses that roamed too far from the ranch. We rescheduled the interview and talked about horses, riding, and the beauty of America’s west. Bucky, a true horseman, is anxious to talk about horses - “Someone asked me how many horses I’ve ridden and I’ve ridden a thousand or more!”
Blue Sky Ranches offers hourly trail rides in Arizona locations and ranch vacations throughout the historical west, including Mount Rushmore National Park. They promote the promise to ‘cater to the young and young at heart’ and want you to know they have the perfect horse waiting for you…
GM: Nice to meet you, Bucky. Thanks for connecting. Tell us about your horse history…
MB: My dad bought me a pony when I was three years old. His name was Frisky. I probably wasn’t a very good rider when I was three or four years old, but I put a lot of miles on that guy. I would ride him everywhere. He was a great little pony. When I was 11 years old, I saw a horse, a full grown horse, and I remember telling my dad that I wanted a horse. So, my dad bought me a horse. I kept Frisky, too, he was close to 30 years old when he died. I am 64 years old now. I’ve been riding for 61 years.
GM: Of all the horses that you’ve owned and ridden, do you have a favorite?
MB: Actually I have had two favorite horses. One was named Lucky. I really liked that horse. He was a Quarter Horse. If he was a little bit smaller, he could have driven my truck. Anything I wanted that horse to do, he would do it. He was gentle as can be. All I had to do was whistle and he would come running.
Quichie was my next favorite. He was almost as good as Lucky. He was a Quarter Horse, too. But, you know, a friend of mine from St. Louis sent me a Tennessee Walker. My body has become beaten up over the years; Quarter Horses are a little rougher than a Tennessee Walker. When I got on the Tennessee Walker, I really enjoyed the ride. I have eight of them now. They are very easy on the body and a sharp mind, too. Once they learn something, they remember. I wouldn’t trade the world for my Tennessee Walker. When you get older and your body doesn’t heal up as quickly as it is supposed to, a Tennessee Walker is the way to go.
GM: Do you have a favorite horse story to share?
MB: Well, I have many, but this story is one of my favorites. This happened up in Colorado at a place called Stone Mountain. There was myself, my wife, and an older gentlemen named Jerry. We were up there hunting cattle. We were up on top of Stone Mountain, it was a little cool out, and we came to this rocky ridge. The cattle were down at the bottom, in the canyon. It was about a mile ride back to the canyon entrance from where we were on the ridge. I was on a mare named Chewa. She was a great horse; she was the tops. I remember telling my wife and Jerry to go ahead of me to the canyon and wait for me because I was going down over right here. My wife said, ‘You can’t go down into the canyon here!’ I didn’t want to take the time to ride around. Chewa and I started over the side of the cliff, almost straight down. Chewa went down, I went down; I thought I broke a leg, but we were okay. Chewa and I made it to the canyon, we actually beat my wife and Jerry. That’s probably one of my favorite stories because of the horse. Chewa was a tough horse. Anybody who rides horses and rides down a 16-foot solid rock cliff will understand. I was younger then, too. I have a thousand horse stories.
GM: Tell me about Blue Sky Ranches…
MB: We have hourly and day rides. Our big thing is our horseback riding vacations. We go all over; Colorado Rockies, mountains in Wyoming, South Dakota, Valley of the Gods in Utah, and New Mexico. Our most popular ride is in South Dakota. There just aren’t a lot of people who have been in a herd of 2,500 buffalo. We take people right up to the buffalo herd. We go up to Mt. Rushmore, too. All on horseback. It’s a five hour ride to Mt. Rushmore. We end up on top of the President’s heads and you can get your picture taken there. Then we come down to the lodge that was built back in the 1930’s. It’s a really neat place with a lot of history. There’s a lot of game there; goats, sheep, and more.
We get some incredible riders who take part in our riding vacations. If you come, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. We ride where history was made. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a guy by the name of Johnny Ringo, or not, but he was with Wyatt Earp and the rest at Tombstone. I live about five miles away from Johnny Ringo’s grave, about 40 minutes from Tombstone. I live about 10 minutes from where all the Indian wars were started; Geronimo, Cochise. We take people on tours through the old stage coach lines. It should be illegal having as much fun as I have.
We are different than most riding vacations. We let people ride the way they want. It’s not just a line of horses going down the trail. You can ride behind another horse, if you want to, but, there’s no fun in that. That is what distinguishes me between other riding vacations.
GM: What do you do when a horse bucks
MB: Plant your butt to the back of the saddle, try to stay upright in the center of the saddle and keep yourself centered with the horse. Then you follow the horse. When he’s coming down, lean back a little bit; when he’s coming up, lean forward a little bit. This all happens in a matter of seconds. If you take the time to think about it, you’re already on the ground. Instinct kicks in and it’s an automatic response by the rider to stay seated. Bronc riders will tell you, it’s an automatic response. A lot of people make the mistake of going to the saddle horn. When you go to the saddle horn and grab it, you’re pulling yourself forward. When you’re pulling yourself forward, your legs go behind you and you’ve lost your balance, coming off the horse. If you go for the saddle horn, push against it to steady yourself back into the seat.
GM: What should I pack for a riding vacation?
MB: We usually tell people to bring a slicker, because if you bring a slicker it won’t rain. That’s just the way it is. We don’t go during the rainy season. It’s never cold during the seasons that we ride, but I always tell people to dress in layers, just in case. You can always take a layer off if you’re too hot. That’s about it.
GM: Will I get to choose my own horse, or will you choose a horse for me?
MB: It depends upon what kind of rider you are. If you ride all the time, I’ll let you pick your horse. A lot of people who don’t ride much, I will pick the horse that I think fits them the best.
GM: How many people do you take on one trail ride?
MB: I like to keep my groups small – 6 to 8 people. That’s plenty. That way we all get to have a good time. We don’t think we’ve ever ate in the ranch house, even though we have a large dining room. Our place looks over 10 acres of green grass with a creek running through it, and that’s where my horses are. Everybody goes outside to eat to watch the horses. We never eat inside the ranch house.
GM: Do you have advice for novice riders and those looking to purchase their first horse?
MB: I get a lot of phone calls from people wanting me to teach them how to ride. I am not a good instructor. I am a rider. It’s hard for me to explain to people how to ride. My wife is very good at it. It’s best to go to a riding instructor who you connect with. If people think they are uncomfortable riding, they think everyone is uncomfortable riding, and you don’t have to be. I ride so much; I don’t think about it. I just ride.
GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
MB: There are horsemen who are riders, then there are people who sit on a horse. I am a horseman. I ride. You have to understand the horse; helping the horse when you’re riding. Most novice riders set on their horse. There’s a big difference between sitting on a horse and riding a horse. I take pride in the fact that I ride my horse.
Visit Bucky at Blue Sky Ranches.com and book your riding vacation today!
Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio USA. gmcknight.com
Monday, April 24, 2017
Horse and Handler Safety:
A Safety Guide for All Equestrians
by Patty L. McNutt
Most people agree that the avoidance of horse-related accidents and injuries is prime importance. As a Safety Clinician and Animal Behavior Consultant, Patty L. McNutt presents her wisdom and knowledge of horse and handler safety. Patty writes, "I encourage logic and reasonableness in horse handling. These are major factors in preventing accidents and the handling of an injury once it has occurred."
From Blue Rock, Ohio, Patty L. McNutt is passionate about horses and riders. Find more about Patty and the McNutt Farm II School at www.mcnuttfarm.com.
"Equestrian and author Patty McNutt writes an important manual for every horseback rider/owner. McNutt expertly describes in detail the proper way to create a safe riding experience through common sense, handler safety, and proactive thinking. She writes, "Safety is paramount in equestrian activities, whether participating in a local horse show, jumping in the hunt, driving a team, packing into the back country, riding the trails, or just hanging out at the barn." And so true. A must reader for every horse enthusiast and rider; recommended reading." Gina, Riding & Writing
Saturday, April 22, 2017
"Great straightforward teaching guide for EV3 robots."
This book is for anyone who wants to learn robotics!
LEGO EV3 Robotics:
A Guide for Educators
by Dr. Mariappan Jawaharlal
Lego® EV3 Robotics: A Guide for Educators provides a structured approach to teaching robotics to K-12 students. Robotics is a multi-disciplinary subject and teaching robotics can be challenging. Most robotics teachers come from very diverse educational backgrounds: Mathematics, Physics, English, History, and even Physical Education. They need an easy to use, comprehensive guide to give them a solid foundation. This book provides a structured curriculum, from learning to use correct engineering terms to mastering advanced programming techniques. It provides clear explanations, fun examples, challenging missions and sample codes. This curriculum guide covers everything needed to inspire and engage students. It also contains tips for classroom management and interaction with students. The best way to begin robotics is to build and program robots. Any individual who is interested in teaching robotics can go through this guide and follow the instructions to build and program robots. Instructions for an easy-to-build robot, MyBot, are included. For educators, parents, mentors and coaches interested in teaching EV3 robotics, this is the only book that you will ever need.
About the Author
Dr. Mariappan Jawaharlal is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Affectionately known as Dr. Jawa, he has been recognized as an outstanding educator for his innovative and engaging teaching pedagogy. His innovative teaching approach makes learning complex concepts simple and fun as he relates them to everyday life. He has received the Provosts’ Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor given to an outstanding educator at Cal Poly Pomona. Dr. Jawa is founder and director of Robotics Education through Active Learning (REAL), a unique K-12 outreach robotics program that reaches thousands of students each year. REAL has inspired thousands of young students to pursue STEM education. Dr. Jawa is also a co-founder of the Femineer outreach program, which the White House recognized for increasing educational outcomes and opportunities for female Hispanic K-12 students. A Fellow of the Biomimicry Institute, Dr. Jawa has more than 20 years of industrial, academic, entrepreneurial, product design and leadership experience. He is passionate about education and writes blogs on the subject for The Huffington Post. He is also a scuba diver and an avid runner who has completed 25 marathons and recently ran across the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Saturday, April 15, 2017
A short story by Cyrus Alderwood
Sammy Johnson stood alone outside of his old high school, fond memories of his younger years flooding into his mind. It had been twenty years since he had been back for a visit. He wouldn’t have been standing here now had it not been for overhearing a couple of people talking in line at a Shell station while he was waiting to pay for gas. Sammy had never even given a second thought about returning to Richlands High School until then.
Was it ironic that there were a couple of folks far from home talking about the upcoming high school reunion? Was it fate that he was there to hear it? He had not received an invitation to the reunion. That wasn’t a surprise, though. He hadn’t been back to his hometown or spoken to anyone from high school since graduation day.
Sammy stood at the end of the parking lot and took a long drag from his cigarette, dropping it and grinding it out under his shoe. He wasn’t sure if he was glad to have come back. He felt nervous about seeing old friends after all these years. He dreaded being asked why he never bothered to keep in touch. He knew that question would come up a dozen times. In his own defense, however, he never recalled anyone stopping by to visit him. After twenty years, no one came around with a friendly word or to talk about the good ole’ days. And they were just that, the best years of his life. Although Sammy never bothered to look anyone up and stay in touch, he certainly was not hard to find.
He made his way inside and stood nervously in front of the gymnasium doors. Spread out in front of him were old high school yearbooks, as well as photos from football and baseball games, including one of him standing on third base after he hit a triple in the state championship game his junior year. He loved playing baseball, and he was rather popular in high school. He found it sad that the popularity you have as a kid ends the moment you leave school and enter into the real world.
Sammy looked down at the name tags on the table waiting to be claimed, but he couldn’t find his. He grabbed a Sharpie and scribbled his name on one of the blank name tags. He said hello to the woman working the table greeting people as they arrived for their twenty year reunion. Leslie Murray, at least that was her name back then, looked in his direction but said nothing. Instead, she turned back to talk to the two other women from their graduating class, two women that he thought he recognized, but they had put on a few pounds since then and he couldn’t be sure.
“Wow,” Sammy mumbled. “She was a stuck up bitch in high school. She’s a stuck up bitch twenty years later. Some people never grow up,” he said to himself as he strolled into the gymnasium.
Sammy chose to show up fashionably late, partially because he was never on time for anything in his life, but mostly because he was nervous to see how everyone else turned out after so many years. He was especially anxious about how he would be judged in the eyes of his peers. When they remembered him last, he was known to be a bit wild. He was popular, the star of the baseball team, and seemed to have a great future ahead of him. He gave up his baseball dream after graduation and drifted around ever since.
The dance floor was nearly full with old friends and old flames gathered together, attempting to dance like they were still seventeen. Sammy laughed at the sight. He looked around wondering if he was the only person in the gym who hadn’t gained seventy pounds. Women were dancing in groups, giggling uncontrollably to Baby’s Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot and tossing some of their sizable asses around when the song suddenly change to I’m Too Sexy. Another roar of cackling and laughter rose from the crowd that rivaled the volume of the music.
“What the hell did I get myself into?” Sammy asked aloud. He looked around to see if anyone heard him but he realized that no one was paying attention to him anyway.
“Baby’s Got Back, alright. A whole hell of a lot of it!” Chris Redman said laughing out loud as he walked up behind Sammy and slapped him jovially on the shoulder.
“Quick! Man, I haven’t seen you in years! You haven’t changed a bit,” Sammy admired.
“Neither have you, buddy, but from the looks of things I think we’re in the minority,” he said as he nodded to Christie Blevins, the homecoming queen their senior year.
“Remember how smoking hot that girl used to be?” Sammy asked. “Now just look at her. You can’t blame those hips just on kids. I find that hard to believe.”
“No, but I bet you can blame it on donuts, and cake, and every other snack she probably claims she doesn’t touch. Seriously, I’d bet my bile duct that her ass looks like fifty pounds of chewed bubble gum,” Quick said laughing.
Chris Redman, also known as “Quick”, earned his nickname at a young age. Chris was called “Quick” in the same vein of irony that one would call a fat guy “Slim.” Chris was well known for always being late for class…every class. If dragging your ass was a lifestyle, then Chris had mastered it by the ripe old age of five. Whenever someone would tell him to do something, be it his father, his mother, a teacher, or occasionally a local police officer, they would follow their plea with the word “quick!” The nickname stuck.
“Whew, they looked better when they danced back in high school!” Timmy DeLong said as he and Rick Malone slid up beside Sammy and Quick to survey the ladies on the dance floor.
“Some of them still look good, aged gracefully, but some…well, I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself in an attempt not to be rude,” Rick said as he handed a couple of beers to his friends.
“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that I ran into these two salty bastards out in the parking lot,” Quick said. Sammy took a drink from the bottle and shook hands with his two old buddies.
“So what’s the deal with everyone here?” Timmy asked. “I said hello to a dozen people on the way in here and all I get are blank stares. Did twenty years turn everyone into an asshole?”
“I got the same attitude at the check in table, and was outside for at least ten minutes before I came in. Of all the people that walked by, only one of them looked my way and nodded. I thought we were friends with most of these guys,” Sammy added.
“Well, I thought this was supposed to be a party,” Quick said as he chugged his beer. “Where did you get this?” he asked.
Timmy pointed to the open bar on the other side of the dance floor. There were four giant plastic tubs filled with ice and beer in both cans and bottles.
“Hold this,” he said as he handed the empty bottle to Sammy. “I’m going to work my way through this crowd and get us another round.”
Quick began to snap his fingers and prance onto the dance floor in the most foolish sight that Sammy and the boys had seen since high school. He stopped by a crowd of giggling women and mimicked their “rump shake” as best he could without hurting himself while trying not to look too feminine. Sammy laughed so hard that he thought his sides were going to split.
Quick then moved over toward Trent Belcher, a guy they used to all goof off with in Biology. The guy did not have a squeamish bone in his body. He was the first one to volunteer to dissect anything. In fact, Sammy had predicted at the end of their sophomore year that Trent would either be a surgeon or a serial killer. That comment on the last day of class got a laugh from everyone except Trent.
Trent was a chubby guy in high school, but since working behind a desk pushing insurance since dropping out of college, he had really let himself go. He was dancing with a woman that none of them could remember and the three of them began to wonder out loud which button was going to pop first. Would it be one from his tight shirt or the one on his slacks?
It only took a couple of seconds for them to realize that the buttons were not what Trent needed to worry about. He danced like someone out of a bad comedy movie, squatting lower every few moves. Quick grabbed his shoulders from behind and pushed Trent down into a full squat before he spun off him and disappeared through the crowd of dancing women. Trent had split his pants down the crease in the back all the way underneath to the inseam. His pink boxers were enough to turn the giggling crowd of their female classmates into a cackling group of women tripping all over themselves.
Trent stood up as straight as an arrow and quickly left the dance floor. Sammy and the boys couldn’t stop laughing and wondered if Trent would actually come back.
Quick gently worked his way between two women dancing on the other side of the floor with his best cabbage patch move. He recognized one woman as the quiet girl in homeroom during their senior year. Her name was Rachel, but he couldn’t remember her last name. She wore a giant rock next to her wedding band, which did not surprise him. She was nice the few times they spoke, and after twenty years was easily the best looking woman in the room. They locked eyes for a brief second, each with a big smile on their face and having fun, before he gave her a wink and high stepped on over to the tubs of beer.
When he got back to the other side of the gym he found his friends nearly doubled over and laughing hysterically. They grabbed a table and sat down with a fresh round of beers as Rick wiped the tears from his eyes, a big goofy grin plastered on his face.
“You guys think that was funny?” Quick asked. “You haven’t seen anything yet. If these stuck up bastards keep ignoring me then I’m going to have to get really nasty and see how many other people can literally split their pants before I leave this party.”
The four of them sat there for nearly an hour paying no attention to the crowd at hand except to point out random moments of ridiculous dancing or assorted silliness. They took turns going on beer runs between telling stories of old times.
Sammy thought back to graduation day. It was a sore subject with the group so he didn’t bring it up, but it was one of the happiest days of his life. He was turning eighteen the day after and was anxious to get away from home. His pals knew that he didn’t have the best home life and needed out. Living there was a drain on his confidence and he had been battling depression because of the situation.
He had left home early that morning to go hang out with his best friends. By late afternoon they had already managed to use some of their graduation money to have a huge meal, watch the afternoon showing of Wayne’s World, and then jumped into Sammy’s Grand Am and hurried on toward graduation and the various parties that were going on all night.
For some reason that day, Quick had a real need to be on time for once. His mother said she would kill him if he was late for his own graduation. As they sped across curvy Kents Ridge Road, Quick continued to bitch because they were already late for lining up for the march into the gymnasium for graduation. Sammy tried to push it, but he realized he’d taken the curve by the old cemetery a bit too fast and lost control of the car.
When the car finally stopped rolling, the only sound in the ravine was the sound of air coming out of his tires, a constant clicking sound of metal on metal, and the sound of Quick blurting out a string of curse words and insults that were so impressive that it remained legendary to this day.
The four of them gathered their graduation gowns from the trunk of the car and walked to their graduation about a mile and a half away. They managed to sneak into the back of the gym and take the final empty seats unnoticed.
Tim noticed that the atmosphere of the reunion had changed as the music became a bit less fun and took on a more serious tone when it slowed down to Arrested Development and Marky Mark’s Take a Walk on the Wild Side. A couple of their classmates had made their way to the microphone to make random statements of congratulations for someone that just had their third kid, another guy grabbed the microphone, half-bombed, and slurred out how nice it was to see everyone since their ten year reunion.
That’s when they noticed Brad Franklin strolling past them, the cocky bastard. He was the football coach’s son and was treated like royalty by some of the folks in this room despite being the biggest horse’s ass in school history! If there was such a thing as a part-time bully, Brad was that guy. For no reason at all he would flip out and torture some poor kid that he knew wouldn’t fight back, or someone that he knew he could beat up. If you were a kid that could kick Brad’s ass, and you actually did, you had several other members of the football team that suddenly decided to make your life hell when they passed you in the hall or had a class with you.
“That pile of monkey crap walked right by me and didn’t even acknowledge that I exist,” Tim said, obviously offended. “After twenty years!”
Tim and Brad had a ‘history.’ Brad didn’t like Tim the least bit. He decided back in the fifth grade, when Tim got him out in a game of dodge ball during gym class, that he didn’t like the way he looked. So he picked on Tim nearly every chance he got, especially when he had his friends around to back him up. Tim played little league with all of us, but quit because Brad’s dad was coaching the team back then. The coach took his son’s grudge as his own and seldom played Tim, except during mop up duty at the end of a game. Tim decided that baseball wasn’t for him after sixth grade.
Tim got up from the table when Brad disappeared around the corner.
“Where are you going?” Sammy asked, almost worried.
“I’m going to wait until the big oaf is taking a piss and then I’m going to turn the lights out on him and run,” he said laughing. “You didn’t think I was going to pick a fight, did you? I’m not in the mood to have my butt kicked anymore tonight than I did in high school. But nonetheless, I will be right back,” he said as he jogged happily out of the gymnasium.
Tim crept down the hall of his old high school until he stood outside the door with the sign “BOYS” above it. Two guys walked out and he placed his finger over his lips to let them know to be quiet. He didn’t want Brad to know he was there.
Before he walked in the bathroom he noticed another one of his classmates, Brenda Tanner, standing at the end of the hall, looking out the window. She noticed him and turned and gave him a quick wave and a smile, probably realizing that he was up to no good. He hadn’t talked to Brenda since they were juniors. He kissed her once at a party after they had both had a couple drinks too many. He thought about walking down the hall to talk to her but she quickly turned her back to him and continued to stare out the window, as if she were lost in deep thought and didn’t want to be bothered. He noticed that her reflection in the glass showed a very different picture than the pretty girl that just waved at him. He paused looking at her for a moment but then pushed it from his mind to focus on the task at hand.
Tim slowly opened the door to avoid making any noise and walked into the bathroom. He must have made a noise because Brad took a look over his shoulder and looked directly at him and then went back to zipping up. Puzzled, Tim walked into the bathroom as if to take a leak while Brad was at the sink washing his hands. It was only then that Brad acknowledged him. Tim turned and met his stare as he stood behind him, Brad locked onto him as he looked in the mirror to see Tim standing there.
His expression went from one of calm to a sudden unexplained look of panic. Brad bolted from the bathroom, not even bothering to turn the water off.
“Hell, so much for playing a joke on the guy,” Tim quipped before rejoining his friends back at their table.
“What the hell did you to do that guy?” Rick asked when Tim sat down with a fresh round of beers for his friends.
“Nothing, I swear! He spotted me and then freaked out and ran out there like I was going to get medieval on his ass or something. I have no idea what freaked him out.”
“Well, whatever it was he was spooked about, he tore out of here like the seat of his pants was on fire,” Rick added.
Just then, their senior class president, Allan Dalton, took the podium and got everyone’s attention with a spoon to the side of his wine glass. “May I have everyone’s attention, please?”
The crowd grew quiet although there was the constant chatter of the non-sober from the back of the gym and the gaggle of ladies huddled up on the dance floor. Allan gave a heartfelt speech about their high school years, but made mention that he was glad to see that so many had realized and lived their lives like the best was still yet to come. Allan, although a bit of an arrogant guy growing up, seemed more down to earth and a bit like a motivational speaker.
“And now for a toast,” he said. Everyone raised their glasses and bottles in unison.
“To health and happiness,
To days gone by;
To fond memories of friends,
And to a tear in our eye.
To good fortune and cheer,
And to our class song;
To that place in our hearts,
For our friends who have long gone.”
Allan reminded the group of the photos of their high school years posted up along the wall, along with a section dedicated to their classmates who had passed away too early in life. He then called the entire group over to a set of bleachers pulled out from the wall for a group photo. Lynna, the local newspaper operator, had made herself available to photograph the group and make the pictures available for everyone online. As the crowd squeezed together, Sammy and his friends each took a knee on the floor in front of the group.
After the group photo, Sammy, Rick, Tim and Quick took a stroll down memory lane, laughing as they pointed out where they were in photos and reminisced of those fun days. Then they made their way to the wall where photos hung of their friends that had died too early in life.
A gorgeous photo of Brenda Tanner hung on the wall. It was a picture of her in a evening gown competing for Miss RHS. She was stunning. Tim touched her photo, remembering seeing her with a sad look and a forced smile earlier in the hallway. She had developed bone cancer shortly after her college graduation. She died before she could even experience the excitement of her first job.
Next was a photo of Glen Stuart and Ashley Reynolds. They dated off and on in high school but got engaged a few years later. They died in a water skiing accident at South Holston Lake a month before they were to be married. They found Glen floating on top of the water, but her body was never recovered. She was wearing a life jacket, but it must have come off at some point during the accident.
Sammy reached out and touched the last photo hanging. It was a picture he remembered posing for. That image burned in his memory for the past twenty years. Quick’s mother took that photo the day of their graduation. The day of the accident. It was of the four of them laughing on the back deck at Quick’s house at Hidden Valley. One of the best days of his life.
Sammy turned and looked at his friends, his eyes glazed over. “It was good seeing you fella’s again,” he said softly before turning around and disappearing through the gymnasium door. Quick, Timmy and Rick all looked at each other, gave an understanding nod, and vanished just as he did.
“Hey Allan,” Lynna called across the gym as the crowd was beginning to thin out. He came over and thanked her for helping out and taking photos.
“I just have a quick question,” she said. She pulled up the digital group photo and enlarged it on the screen of her camera. “Would you take a look at this? Who are these four guys taking a knee on the floor? I don’t remember seeing them at all when I took the picture.”
Allan stared at the photo, his face turning abruptly pale.
“What’s wrong, Allan? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
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