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The Eight-Week Syndrome

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

The Eight-Week Syndrome

I’ve been shoeing horses for a lot of years and I think I’m beginning to learn some lessons about life from my customers. Horse owners come in all kinds of shapes and all kinds of attitudes and philosophies, and you can never really guess what they’ll do. I’ve developed a respect for this. But, regardless of what they do or don’t do, I’ve learned from them that life moves on. Especially in an eight-week cycle.

Let me explain. Typically, horses need to have their feet done every eight weeks. There are some bizarre exceptions to this, but generally the horseshoer shows up every eight weeks. My usual greeting to my customers has always been something like, “How’s it going?” or “How have you been?” These are not rhetorical questions. A lot of horse owners, who trust the care of their horse to the shoer, also trust the shoer with the details of their lives. Horseshoers frequently take on the role of lay therapist, sometimes just being a good listener, sometimes offering advice, sometimes strongly recommending certain actions. I’m becoming more of a listener because I’m slowly learning that advice isn’t really needed. Listening is.

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Graduation

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Graduation

I’ve finally received my doctorate from the University of Oregon. It’s taken me 12 years to develop a Celtic Studies major for colleges and universities, partly due to procrastination and discouragement, partly due to administrative confusion. The only connection this short section has with horseshoeing is that horseshoeing kept me in the real world that the Ph.D. program kept trying to drag me out of. I’m just now finding myself able to turn on my computer without my heart pounding in anticipation of the next administrative botch or the revelation of a deadline I had failed to meet. I am beginning to be able to look at my university’s logo on passing cars without getting sweaty palms. I can drink my coffee out of my university logo mug, while wearing a U of O baseball cap.

I’m not going to describe the horror of this educational experience or the campus politics and other things often associated with university departments. I’m just going to give thanks to my advisor, Dr. Diane Dunlap, and all those horses who helped me through the process. My old horseshoer buddy, Gary, used to give me a lot of grief because he said I always thought too much, mostly about the enormous and unsolvable problems in my life. “You need to get under more horses,” he always told me. “You think too much. Get under more horses.” Thanks, Gary. That advice, although not always followed, has done a lot to keep me going over the years. Thank you, horses. Thank you, Gary.

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Youth Rodeo

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Youth Rodeo

Cowboys and Cowgirls don’t just rise up completely formed off of some cattle ranch, and although some people might disagree, most are not born, they are made. A lot of these youngsters start up on ranches and farms, but the proving grounds for many is the Youth Rodeo. The ages of the participants range from two to nineteen.

Youth rodeo in my part of the Northwest usually has four divisions: Pre-Pee Wee (ages 2 to 5), Pee Wee (ages 6 to 10), Junior (ages 11 to 13), and Senior (ages 14 to 19). For several years I’ve volunteered at these rodeos in what is called the “stripping chutes,” where the lassoes are taken off the steers and calves after their event and the animals are driven into pens, and I am humbled and astonished at the courage and talent of these young boys and girls.

The rodeo grounds where youth rodeos are held are the same grounds used by professional rodeos, and the people and the scenery look much the same. The crowds are much smaller, however, made up mostly of family members. You’ll see the same competitors walking around wearing big earned silver buckles large as saucers, but these will mostly be on children . . . little five- and six-year-old boys and girls, cocky young eight-year-olds, serious and competent eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds. You’ll hear country music playing in the background both before and during the rodeo. You’ll see cowdog puppies on horses’ lead ropes everywhere, and may hear an opening prayer that doesn’t ask for help to win, but to do their best and avoid injury. There will often be a couple of hardy-looking seven-year-old boys or girls wearing fancy cowboy shirts embroidered with the names of local sponsors, and during the opening ceremonies you’ll see tiny little three- and four-year-olds proudly racing their ponies all around the arena, hats blowing off all over, none getting stepped on by horses.

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The Youngest Cowboy

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

The Youngest Cowboy

One of my daughters teaches at an expensive private daycare/grade school facility and she tells me stories about some of the younger students, the four- and five-year-olds. Some of them seem to have quite a time of it. If they don’t get their way, or some other kid takes their toy, they throw all kinds of fits. They cry, scream, throw themselves on the floor, hit everyone around them, run out of the building. The choices are unlimited. The teachers then have to reach into the bag of tricks learned in their child behavior classes at college and come up with some method to quell the outburst without doing any emotional or physical damage to the kid. If they touch the kid they will be sued, of course, by irate parents who do not believe in spanking their children or doing anything else that might traumatize them. These parents probably allocate 10 percent of their income to buy child behavior books and take parenting classes in order to raise the perfectly adjusted child. No physical punishment, no criticism, no loud voices. The child must be respected and allowed to participate in its own development. “I understand you are angry at your little sister, but can you think of a different way to show your displeasure? Setting her hair on fire is not really fair to her. Would you like to tell us how you feel about that?” There are hundreds of themes like this.

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The Pig Who Thought He Could

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

The Pig Who Thought He Could

A few years ago, some enterprising animal lover brought a Vietnamese miniature pot-bellied pig into this country. Being only a few weeks old, it was cute and everybody wanted one. More of the babies were brought in and people paid several hundred dollars for the little black charmers. Then they started to grow up. One of my Idaho horse customers, the finest person I’ve ever known, but who should have known better, bought two of them. If they had both been females or males, things would have eventually worked out all right, but they were a couple, a male and a female, entirely capable of reproducing themselves.

Before I get on with the story of Chester, let me describe what an adult Vietnamese miniature pot-bellied pig can look like. The female in this story, still alive, is so fat she can’t move. She probably weighs eight or nine hundred pounds. If she were ever to raise her head, you wouldn’t be able to see her eyes because they’re buried in layers of fat. She probably couldn’t stand up, even if she wanted to, because her belly is so huge that her feet wouldn’t reach the ground. They’d probably just wiggle in the air like they were sticking out of her sides. Fortunately she is now so obese that the male can’t figure out how to impregnate her, which is good, because she just squashes all her babies anyway. All, that is, except for Chester.

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