Home > Dispatches > Trip Preparations > 1-28-11

January 28, 2011


Yesterday, I was out walking Siggi when a fellow on an ATV pulled up next to me. After remarking that he sees me out on the road a lot, he asked what I do for a living. My rather cryptic response was, “these days, a lot of groundwork.” I would have given him a detailed explanation if he’d asked me to elaborate, but he did not. Instead, I let him head off into ATV hinterland.

Groundwork: self defined and in the context of my own life: Publishing, pounding the proverbial pavement; trip planning, casting a wide net; horse training, working on basics. Groundwork is the beginning phase of an endeavor. I have, in the past, published, planned trips, and trained horses. However, I’m in the beginning stages of these particular projects.

Publishing: I have a fairly cohesive draft of Raudi’s Story on hand. I’ve put the names and addresses of potential publishers on note cards. I’m writing acquisition editors a cover letter in which I encourage them to read the more lengthy proposal. And I’ve written a more lengthy proposal in which I (again) encourage them to read Raudi’s Story. I now have a cohesive draft on hand. Raudi’s Story is about how I came to acquire her, and the life-changing events that followed.

Trip Planning: I’m casting a wide net and attempting learning as much as I can about route logistics, gear selection, and life on the trail. I’m reading books, talking with people, and checking out relevant websites. Pete’s been reading Joe Back’s The Packer’s Bible to me at night. It’s informative and there’s lots of good information here that is enabling us both to get some of the packing discourse down. For example, Back writes: “If you cinch up plenty tight just before you lead a pony, and then take off, the movement of horse and load, plus some shrinkage of horse and load and a little stretch, will ease the horse while in motion. Use good wide cinchas. When a cinch wears out, have some extras at hand or make repairs. A fishcord cinch, worn half in two, tightened around a horses’ belly, is a sadist’s delight.” I guess I’ll have to put “Find Out What a Chincha Is” on my List of Things to Do. As if I didn’t have enough to do already.

Back did his own black and white illustrations, which are as engrossing as the text.

Last night I talked for a half-an-hour time with Diane Sullivan, who along with her husband Bill has ventured up and down the Alcan with horse-in-tow innumerable times. She provided me with a lot of useful advice, and this morning she sent me a list of Alcan horse accommodations. I will contact these places and let them know we are coming in early May.

Horse Training: It’s important, for our sake, and for the horses’ sake, to continue with what I call Equine Home Schooling. Neither Raudi nor Siggi are seasoned trail horses, so I as a teacher must figure out where they’re at, and plan the lessons accordingly. Sometimes, like yesterday, I have to go back to the kindergarten curriculum. I decided to take Mr. Siggi for a ride, but I could tell as I lead him down to the mounting block that he had other ideas. He wouldn’t let me get on, so I walked him down to the Murphy Road turnoff, pointed him in the direction of home, and mounted up. Mr. Siggi then bolted up the long, straight, snow-covered road. This was the first time he’d ever galloped under saddle, so I was taken aback. When finally he slowed, I got off him and walked. I remembered what Icelandic Horse Farm owner Robyn Hood told me, which was that in such instances, the trainer needs to chunk things down.

So once we got home, I chunked down. Way down. Way, way, down. I took him into the small pen, and did groundwork. I had Siggi stand next to the mounting block, and I got on and off him several times. Then we did this in the driveway. Then we did this in the roadway. Then I had him walk nicely up and down the road.

One of the most challenging aspects of my current job has to do with structure. The above is a simplification. Always, there are innumerable little details to attend to. And it’s difficult for me to break away from one thing and move on to another. I tend to break things up into hourly blocks of time, which works fairly well. But I often run over, and find myself scurrying to do the next thing. And sometimes, there are much-appreciated interruptions. Like today, my neighbor Aubrey brought her little boy Raven over and had him check out the horses.

I don’t talk much with others about my rather unconventional work situation because talking about it makes me feel as though I’m not credible. My income is sporadic. This makes me suspect in the eyes of those who equate success with bringing in a regular paycheck. I also work at home, which to some is somewhat odd. But at this stage of my life, I would not have it any other way. I’m a happy camper.

As I watched the man go down the road on his ATV, I decided that the next time I see him, I’ll tell him about my website, and tell him to check out this dispatch. Undoubtedly, this will further open up the lines of communication.