Archive for June, 2011

Writing for Christ interviewed Stephen Bly shortly before his death. He was still writing, in his hospital bed. (Just in case you need a bit of a nudge on those tough writing days.)

Follow the second link above, before July 8, for a chance to win a copy of Bly’s Throw the Devil Off the Train.

That post also has a link to Bly’s obit, at his blog. His background might not be what you’d expect in a Western writer. (But, hey, what else is a guy supposed to do with a philosophy major?)

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… seem to be catching on thanks to an innovative company in North Carolina. (This is good for hospital settings, amongst other things.)

Even if you’re not a fan of ties, it’s an interesting story about a family with a drive for excellence, and a desire to build a regional industry.

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This retirement speech by a social studies teacher is worth a read.

hat tip: Touchstone’s Mere Comments

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Shameless self-promotion: Here’s part of Why We Raise Belgian Horses. It’s a historical novel, set in Dakota Territory, shortly before South Dakota became a state. It’s available as an ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Key parts take place around Christmastime, for those of you who need a reminder that summer heat goes away. (We are not having that problem around here. Around here, we’re waiting for summer to hit.) This book was put out in a physical market test edition, and did well across a wide range of people, from teen girls to old cowboys.

Chapter 5

Great-grandfather Buys a Horse

One day when Lars and another driver, Mr. Gregory, were out on the road, they ran into a man selling draft horses.

Lars and Mr. Gregory had taken to traveling together when they could. Between them, they could haul a pretty good load. Traveling together gave them a little added protection. Neither one would admit it, but it also sure beat traveling alone just from the loneliness angle. Lars’s dog Bruno would sit on the wagon, or trot alongside and harass Mr. Gregory’s three dogs, Luke, Paul and John.

The only problem that came up on any regular basis was that one of the dogs was named John. Mr. Gregory, like most of the non-Norwegian settlers, called Lars by his Americanized name, John Anderson. Mr. Gregory liked to be called Mister Gregory, but he liked to call other people by their first name. For that matter, no one in the Dakota Territory knew Mr. Gregory’s given name, if he had one. He told people that he used to have one, but threw it away somewhere. They didn’t know if he hated his name or if he was hiding from somebody or what. On the frontier, sometimes it was better not to ask. So he was Mr. Gregory, period. In any case, Mr. Gregory liked to talk to both his dog and to my great-grandfather, and he called both of them ‘John’ and he thought it was funny.

Lars put up with having to share a name with a dog for a while. He put up with it until Mr. Gregory laughed over some intentional confusion one time too many. Then he told Mr. Gregory that he had three choices: “Call me Lars, call me Mr. Anderson, or change the name of your dog,” he said.

Mr. Gregory was a little astonished. He wasn’t used to John, the person, making any demands of anybody. And people didn’t usually run the risk of offending Mr. Gregory.

On the other hand, since the kid didn’t ask much…

From then on, Lars found himself being called Mr. Anderson wherever the two of them went. It didn’t feel bad. It didn’t feel bad at all. Maybe that’s why Uncle Anders went by Mr. Carlson outside the Norwegian settlement. It had some respect to it.

Mr. Gregory chuckled to himself to see what the name change did to his traveling companion. It was fun, watching boys turn into men.

So, anyway – one day when Mr. Anderson (Lars to you), and Mr. Gregory were out on the road, they ran into a man selling some draft horses.

Mr. Gregory had about as many horses as he needed, but he always took a look at other people’s horses when he got an invitation to take a look. He loved horses. He liked that he’d become a good judge of horses. He liked even better that he had acquired a reputation for being a good judge of horses. He liked being known for something, especially something like that.

There were five horses for sale.

The first one looked about a hundred years old. All right, so that’s too old for a horse. He looked at least 20. Everything about him was sunk in. His back. His eye sockets. His neck. The poor horse was just worn out.

The next two were too young to work, but close enough they could be used in a season or two. They were lighter stock – draft horse with riding horse mixed in. They wouldn’t do as well at heavy hauling as a pure draft horse, but their shoulders were enough up and down they’d do well pulling a farm wagon or a buggy with people in it. With shoulders like that, they’d probably be a little bit uncomfortable to ride over long distances, but for general farm work they looked pretty good.

Oh, maybe you don’t know about horses and their shoulders? You keep your eyes open. You’ll see. Horses bred for riding are built one way, and horses meant for harness are built another. It’s not just a size difference. You look at the shoulders, and the withers (that’s where the neck joins the back – on most horses it’s kind of a hump), and you look at the way the back goes out sideways from the spine. Riding horses are bred to work well under saddles, and that’s different from pulling wagons and plows. A lot of horses through the ages have done double duty, trading off between carrying people and being in harness (just look at the story about Black Beauty, for instance), or even triple duty, if you count the ones used for meat. OK, we won’t talk much about eating horses, even though a lot of people have done it, and still do, for that matter. I like horses too much. They’re too personable, too. Every one of them is different, just like the horses Mr. Gregory and Great-grandfather Anderson (as a young man) were inspecting.

Let’s see, we covered the first three horses already, didn’t we? The old horse and the two young ones…

The fourth horse was gorgeous. Every breeder would want a horse like that. All the angles were right. All the proportions were right. She moved well. She was mild, but paid attention to everything. She was in her prime. Her coat glowed.

Mr. Gregory tried not to look. He needed workhorses. He preferred to buy them grown up instead of going to the trouble of raising them, so he had a standard policy of not even considering breeding stock. “Why feed animals that are too young to work?” he liked to say. “Why pull perfectly good horses off the team just so they can have babies?” he liked to say, especially to teamsters who liked to raise horses on the side. Mr. Gregory nearly forgot himself with this mare. He thought he’d be willing to give her a few months off now and then just to see what sorts of foals she’d have. Just let people laugh at him for changing his mind. It would be worth it. This was one wonderful horse.

Unfortunately, the seller knew he had in his hands the best horse he was ever likely to sell. He wasn’t going to let go of her for anything less than a record amount of money. Mr. Gregory didn’t blame him. Not much. He’d have done the same, most likely.

The fifth horse was also good. He wasn’t a breath-taker, like the mare, but he was quality. Good build. Good bones. Good hooves. He also seemed to have a mild temperament. His eyes twinkled, but in a friendly way. Mr. Gregory had learned to steer clear of horses with twinkles in their eyes but mischief in their heart. Spirit was one thing. Malice was something else. This horse didn’t have any sign of malice.

He was mostly Belgian, and showed it.

Mr. Gregory liked Belgians. Good, all-round draft horse, he thought. The ancient Romans had horses something like this, if you believed their art. The Crusaders had had horses something like this, if you believed their art. Belgians were strong horses, as a rule, and tended to be willing workers, and were maybe a bit more agile than you might expect in a big horse. They were a pretty good bet for frontier work.

Mr. Gregory tried hard not to look interested in the fifth horse, but he nearly dropped his jaw when he heard the asking price. It was too low. (more…)

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1. The neighbor mowed hay today. I love the smell.

2. My vegetable garden still looks more or less like a bare patch of ground until you get close, but seedlings are popping up here and there. Having not marked my garden, or drawn a map of what was planted where, and having forgotten some of what I did in odd side patches, I am wondering what some of these seedlings are. I am counting on them becoming recognizable as time goes on.

3. Out my window right now, I am watching California quail poking around in the part of the yard two of the cats usually use for naps. There is no sign of the cats. I still wonder about going to the door and calling to the birds to run for their lives. Quail are cute, but generally seem about two blinks behind whatever is going on around them.

4. (Yuck factor warning.) Going back to speaking of gardens, I read this week in a well-known magazine that a frugal way to fertilize your vegetable garden is to use human urine heavily diluted with water. Uhm. Having seen my share of mottled lawns, I don’t doubt that urine can be a good fertilizer, and it is nice that a person can get it for free, but should you use it in a vegetable garden? Isn’t this asking for diseases? Not to mention unpleasant smells?

5. My books became available at Barnes & Noble this week, for NOOK. I got my first two sales on my wedding anniversary. My late husband helped with both the books that sold. He probably would have gotten a kick out of the timing, and that one of the books was his favorite. In other book-related news, I was too sick and scatterbrained to work on the work-in-progress today, so I went a little crazy and set up an author page at Facebook instead. At last report, I have one fan.

6. I hear that some of you are having summer, in some cases with extreme temperatures. If we could figure out how to shift whatever excess degrees you had to here, I’d do it. It is unseasonably cool around here, and has been for what seems a very long while.

7. This week, Lee Strobel gave a heads up on Twitter that The Reason Why by Mark Mittelberg was on sale at Kindle for 99 cents. It turns out to be an introduction to Christianity. Good stuff. It’s still at 99 cents when I looked just now, but I don’t know how long it might stay at that price. [Added: Mittelberg’s short book is an ‘update’ of The Reason Why by Robert A. Laidlow. You can read the Laidlaw version here.]

For more 7 Quick Takes Fridays posts, go to Conversion Diary.

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Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner  were on this morning’s Focus on the Family broadcast discussing how Christians can and should engage today’s culture.  Much of the discussion was tied to material covered in their book: City of Man: Religion and Politics in the New Era.

The discussion was worthwhile, and the book sounds like it might be a good one to read.

If nothing else, listen to this 10:16 bonus audio on Early Christian Response to Government. There is much we can learn from people who offered hope during times of severe persecution.

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