219 Chapters
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Medium 9781574414615

Reflections Before Charging Ahead

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Reflections Before
Charging Ahead

That sentence about my daddy’s influence has got me to thinking. Maybe before I go any further, I should try to figure out exactly why I’ve taken the paths I have. What were the influences that drove me toward horses and hard physical work, while at the same time driving me toward a bunch of graduate degrees? I’m pretty sure my dad had a lot to say about all this, but his influence also had some subtle aspects to it.

He started me off doing pushups probably about the time I first opened my eyes. I could pound the stuffings out of all my little friends by the time I was six months old. No one messed with me!

When I got older, Daddy didn’t push me into sports even though he had been a professional football player, a boxer, an Olympic-caliber track man, etc. He was the complete athlete and had no insecurities on that score. I felt an unspoken push toward sports, but he who always talked with a loud and dominating voice never got on my case if I didn’t excel in a sport, or even if I dropped out of one in mid-season. He was always pleased with any athletic trophies or prizes I won, but never showed any disappointment in me if I failed. In fact one time when I only got second in a company picnic contest where I usually won everything, he blamed himself. That was an unusual event where my dad had to lie down on his back in the center of a circle of kids and whirl a big hawser rope around in a circle about a foot off the ground. The rope was 20 feet long and it must have been an incredible feat for him to swing it around as each kid tried to jump the rope as it swung by. If the kid tripped, he or she was eliminated. It finally came down to just me and another kid, and neither of us seemed to be tiring. Daddy told me to take off my jacket, and as I was doing that, I tripped on the rope as it came around. Afterwards my dad said it was his fault for asking me to take off my jacket. I was surprised.

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Horses and Marines

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Horses and Marines

Another experience I had with horses before I really understood them, was on active duty in the Marine Corps. The Marines don’t usually have a need for horses, but at one base I was the officer in charge of the stables at the Marine Corps mountain survival school, located high in the Sierra mountains of California. I was one of three officers and seven enlisted men who taught at the school. It was great duty. We taught skiing all winter long, often on skis for fifteen hours a day. And we taught rock climbing during the summer months. Our students were Marines from bases all over the world, many of whom had never seen snow, and some of them didn’t know they had a fear of heights until they took our summer course. I was the only officer up to that time who completed a tour of duty at that base and never ended up in the hospital.

I was assigned to be in charge of the horses before I even knew what their purpose was. Some of my friends and I used to race them across the rocky meadows at an insane full gallop, but what the hell, we were Marines, weren’t we? Besides, if we fell and injured ourselves we wouldn’t have to risk our necks climbing around on those 1000-foot cliffs where we held our classes.

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Going It Alone

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Going It Alone

That experience on the mountain taught me a lesson that comes in handy as a horseshoer. Up there, hanging off the cliff, I was alone. No one was going to save me or get me out of that spot. Just me. Horseshoeing is a lot like that. I don’t mean that shoeing horses is facing death every day, but it’s an occupation that you do mostly by yourself. There is no one to bail you out when you get in trouble. If you run into a seemingly impossible task with no obvious way out, you need to find the way on your own. No one is going to rescue you.

Horseshoers choose to wear no one’s uniform but their own, and those who survive the first year of horseshoeing (70 percent of first-year shoers drop out), prefer it that way. We’re often called independent cusses.

In most occupations there is a continuous system of education, training, and what you might call “mentoring.” A plumber or an electrician will undergo a period of training or education and then will usually go to work in a job where there is ongoing supervision. Once in the field, most workers will learn from their contacts with the boss and from other workers.

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Injuries I Have Known

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Injuries I Have Known

Injuries, and threats of injuries, are constant sources of fascination to a shoer. In the old days, horseshoers had a hard time getting life or medical insurance, so great was the risk of working with ill-mannered horses. Perhaps those old shoers had more macho pride or needed the money, but nowadays many horseshoers refuse to work with unmanageable horses. There are all kinds of restraining tricks and devices, but because these can prove dangerous to both the horse and the shoer, the best response is to tell the owner to get the horse some manners and then call. As one rusty old shoer told me, “I’m a horseshoer, not a horse trainer.” If horseshoers practice this attitude enough, word will get out to horse owners that it is their responsibility to train the horse to stand quietly during a shoeing. That way no one gets hurt.

The best time to start the horse’s training, of course, is shortly after birth. It’s easy to pick up a foal’s feet every day until it’s no longer traumatic. I always suggest owners increase the noise and the fuss around the baby so it gets used to it. You can even tap the foot gently with a hammer—anything to get baby used to someone messing with the feet. If this is done with consistency, she should stand nicely for her first trim. After all this training, if she doesn’t stand quietly, the owner might want to take a closer look at the shoer. Like children, horses sense fear, anger, and other emotions in people, and like children, they may try to get away from the source.

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The Newspaper Reporter

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

The Newspaper Reporter

After I had been shoeing about twelve years, a newspaper reporter in Northern California who had heard about me from someone, called to set up an interview. He was interested in my background prior to taking up horseshoeing, and wanted to write an article about that. That was all right with me, and we set up a time when I could be doing a horse so he could observe the process.

I had already started working on the horse when the reporter showed up in his big blue news truck and walked over to the horse and me in his fancy loafers and his reporter’s hat. He had no notepad or pencil, no tape recorder or any other note-taking device. We shook hands. “Is this the horse?” he asked. I looked at him a moment. “Yes.” “Oh,” he said, and just stood there. I said nothing and continued working. Silence. After awhile he asked, “Do you like your work?” I said yes I did. More silence. After a few more minutes he asked, “Is this a hard job?” Once again I stopped. I put my tools down and looked directly at him. “Yes, it is,” I announced. We looked at each other for a moment, and I went back to work, telling myself that this was the poorest excuse for a reporter I had ever seen, and as far as I was concerned, the interview was over.

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Nicky, Miscellaneous Dumb Dogs, and Other Animals

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Nicky, Miscellaneous Dumb Dogs, and Other Animals

Nicky, My Regular Horseshoeing Dog

For fourteen years, I had my wonderful Nicky, a Malamute-Husky-Wolf mix. I rescued her from a ranch in Sonoma County, California, where the owners had just loaded her up to take her to the pound for killing deer. “Ron will take her!” pleaded the tearful children. “Ron, you’ll take her, won’t you? Please take her!” What could I do? I took her. She was my closest friend for the next fourteen years.

Nicky knew horses. She respected them, but was never fearful of them. I often used her to chase a horse in a field when I had trouble catching the damn thing. She would run the horse until it was winded and I could walk up to it.

She was also my psychic bad-horse detector. After I had caught a new horse and tied it up, I would stand back and observe Nicky. If the horse was going to be well-behaved, Nicky would walk around it looking for hoof parings, and sometimes even walk under the horse. If the horse was likely to give me trouble, Nicky would keep a cautious distance and stay at least six feet away. I never could figure out how she knew.

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Chickens

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Chickens

At one point in my life I decided that nailing metal shoes on large animals wasn’t exciting enough, so I became a gentleman farmer. It wasn’t much of a farm, just a corner lot in a suburban tract in Northern California, but to me it was everything. I started with chickens. A real farm has chickens. Wearing my brand-new leather farmer’s gloves, I built a chicken coop out of old scrap lumber and chicken wire. It was magnificent—just like the how-to-build-a-chicken-coop book said. It even had little rooms (the book called them nests) where the chickens could lay their eggs, and where I could sneakily open a back door and snatch the eggs out from under the hens.

I threw handfuls of sawdust all over the bottom of their cage for them to walk on, and went out to get some chickens.

I bought some White Leghorns because the guy at the feed store told me that they were the ones that laid the eggs. I may rarely believe anything a horse owner tells me, but I always believe everything the guy at the feed store tells me. I put them all in the pen. It wasn’t very exciting. They just looked at each other. Over the next few days, except for when my neighbor would throw garbage over the fence for them, their lives were pretty much hum-drum. I knew that cows who listened to music gave more milk, but I wasn’t sure if entertainment would increase egg production. I felt like I should do something for them, so I introduced a different colored hen into the group. She was a Rhode Island Red, actually what is called a sex-link, but I don’t think I can explain that. My children, who thought Dad had gone over the edge, but were rather entertained by it all, to my embarrassment named this newcomer Henny Cluck.

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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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Medium 9780253008589

Indiana VS. Kentucky, 12-10-11 (73-72)

The Herald-Times Indiana University Press ePub

Indiana Hoosiers forward Christian Watford (2) hits the game winning last second shot over Kentucky Wildcats guard Darius Miller (1) during the Indiana Kentucky men’s basketball game at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011. Indiana won 73-72.

By Dustin Dopirak

Within seconds of his picture-perfect, buzzer-beating 3-pointer’s contact with the net on Assembly Hall’s north goal, Christian Watford was prone on the floor and swimming in an ocean of human catharsis.

The Indiana student section didn’t so much storm the court after the Hoosiers stunned No. 1 Kentucky, 73-72, as swallow it whole. The mayhem built outward from the spot where Watford fell on the floor near the scorer’s table on the west sideline and kept getting bigger until fans covered every single wood panel on Branch McCracken Court at Assembly Hall from end to end.

Fans were singing along with the pep band and lifting each other on their shoulders and trying to find players and coaches to whom to express their gratitude. Watford and several of his teammates escaped from beneath the crush of humanity only to bathe in its glow, standing atop the scorer’s table and gesturing to the crowd as if directing some joyful orchestra.

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Medium 9780253008589

Indiana AT Minnesota, 2-26-12 (69-50)

The Herald-Times Indiana University Press ePub

Indiana Hoosiers forward Will Sheehey (10) rips down the rebound as Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Austin Hollins (20) defends during the Indiana Minnesota basketball game at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn., Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. Indiana won 69-50.

By Dustin Dopirak

Tom Crean had prepared himself for exactly this sort of occasion.

The Indiana coach has long been one to let his team play through tough stretches instead of calling a timeout. That’s burned him on several occasions this year in Big Ten road games—most notably during the loss at Nebraska—when teams were able to extend runs with the home crowd behind them, and he vowed not to let that happen again.

But when Minnesota opened Sunday’s game with back-to-back 3-pointers, Crean went with his gut and his base philosophy and let his team play.

“One of my notes to myself in big letters is, ‘Do not let them get on a run, go timeout early,’” Crean said. “But I didn’t want to do that to my team at 6-0, because they were so ready to play. There was no doubt about it.”

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Big Ten Tournament: Indiana VS. Wisconsin, 3-9-12 (71-79)

The Herald-Times Indiana University Press ePub

Indiana Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller (40) manages to keep control of the ball and hit the bucket as Wisconsin Badgers forward Mike Bruesewitz (31) defends during the Indiana Wisconsin men’s basketball game at the Big Ten Tournament at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., Friday, March 9, 2012.

By Dustin Dopirak

Of course the dagger came from Rob Wilson. How else could this one have possibly ended? On just about every previous occasion in the second half when Indiana threatened to finally erase Wisconsin’s lead, the previously anonymous Wisconsin senior guard stepped up with a huge shot to knock the Hoosiers’ back. It was only fitting that he would hit the shot to bury them.

And that was exactly what happened with 35 seconds to go when Wilson swished a rainbow 3-pointer to give the Badgers a 72-65 lead, effectively crushing the Hoosiers’ hopes in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. That shot gave Wilson, who came into the game averaging 3.1 points per game, a career high 30 points, and the Badgers hit enough free throws to take a 79-71 victory in front of 18,484 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and advance to today’s 1:40 p.m. semifinal against Michigan State.

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Zeller Makes Most of Putting on Freshman 15

The Herald-Times Indiana University Press ePub

By Dustin Dopirak

Take 15 pounds and spread it over a 6-foot-11 body, and you’re only talking about a few ounces per inch. The difference between a 215-pound man and a 230-pound man of that height can be noticeable, but only if that man happens to wear tank tops as a standard practice.

When trying to explain the difference between where this Indiana team was expected to finish and where it is, that’s where the conversation starts. With the 15 pounds of muscle Cody Zeller put on his 6-11 frame from the time he arrived in Bloomington last May until the season started in November.

To say the freshman forward from Washington is the only reason the Hoosiers morphed from a 12-20 squad last season to the 27-8 team that’s currently preparing for its first Sweet 16 game since 2002 is to grossly undervalue the contributions of so many of his teammates, and for that matter, his coach.

But Zeller’s gains in weight and strength may have been the most important development of this season, simply because it made all the rest of the pieces fit. Going from 215 to 230 allowed Zeller to play center instead of power forward, where many expected him to play, which allowed the Hoosiers to put five scorers on the floor and allow everyone to play roles that made sense.

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Medium 9780253010285

13 Highway 61 Revisited

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

Game day arrived, and an unusually agitated Roy Allen stood in the doorway to Pete Gill’s office. “Pete, now you’ve really lost your mind! Hitchhiking home from Spurgeon? It’s nuts!”

Pete was studiously shuffling through a stack of index cards. He glanced up expressionless, then resumed the shuffling. “Did you see the looks on the boys’ faces, Roy? I think I got ’em stirred up.”

“I’m not worried about that. We will win the game,” Roy said. “As bad as we looked the other night, Spurgeon is likely to be several degrees worse. And if we play better, which is a real possibility, then it’s you and me I’m worried about, Pete.”

Pete did not look up. “Take it easy, Roy.”

“Listen, Pete, Spurgeon is thirty miles away. And there’s no direct route between here and there. You have to take a bunch of different roads. Hitchhiking so late at night is—well, it’s no simple matter.”

“I’m going to start Stan Klem,” Pete said, lifting out one of the cards. “Don’t you think he looked the best of what we got?”

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28 Invasion of the Little Green Men

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

On Saturday, March 16, 1963, the sun did not rise on southern Indiana. Instead, the sky grew incrementally less dark, mutating from a tarry black into a deep charcoal, then finally transforming into an unbroken medium gray, revealing low-hanging nimbus clouds that scored the land with a diluvial mid-March rain. At the Esquire Motel, Pete and Roy raised the boys for breakfast at nine AM. Beneath an umbrella outside the Merry-Go-Round, Roy put a quarter in the newsstand for the morning edition of the Courier.

The front page of the sports section featured the five Spuds starters staring at readers from center page, as photographed by Bill Adkins the night before on the motel room bed. Roy’s amusement disappeared when he noticed the subheading of the “Sew It Seams” column, beneath the byline of veteran sports editor Dan Scism. It read, “Invasion by Ireland.”

“What are we?” he muttered. “Little green men from Mars?” After scanning the column, he handed the paper grimly to Pete. “Read what the Grand Poobah has to say about us.”

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5 Turkey Run and the White Horse Tavern

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

Pete Gill shoved his way through the front door of his rented bungalow on the edge of the little town of Marshall, Indiana. “Glenda! I’m home!”

“Daddy!” Four-year-old Ellen came running to her father.

“Hey, my little darling! How was your day?” Pete swung his daughter up into his arms and gave her a loving kiss on the cheek.

“I found a shamrock, Daddy!” Ellen revealed a single shaft of clover in her small palm.

“You did! Well, that’s our good luck charm, honey. Hold on to that! We’re gonna need it! Where’s your little brother?”

“Joey’s sleeping.”

“That’s good.”

Pete’s wife, Glenda, appeared at the kitchen door. “So soon?”

Pete pecked Ellen again and set her down to run back to her room. “Don’t lose that shamrock, baby!” Pete kept his eyes away from his wife’s. “I quit, Glenda,” he mumbled.

His wife stared at him, dumbfounded. “Aw, Pete! Are you crazy? Not again!”

“I’m out. Done with it.” Pete dropped his body onto the couch.

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