Thursday, October 21, 2010


I was sorely tempted to take a photo of a nice steaming pile of road apples for this post. But why add to the mountain of objectionable content already stinking up the internet? That said, I don’t find poo too offensive. Poo happens. It’s organic. It can even be a personal growth experience. One I’d like to provide, in excess, to a certain gas station owner in my county. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ever have a day, or an hour, or even five minutes of pure contentment? You’re happy and successful; all is right with the world. Okay, I know those situations don’t last long, but let me share one with you:

I’m in the process of buying a new truck, a much nicer one then I’ve had. Let’s just say hot cars have never been a priority in my life. I should own stock in the bumper sticker that says, “Don’t laugh, its paid for.” For the last 17 years my husband and I have valued owning our vehicles outright. You can probably imagine what sort of vehicles can be paid for with cash out of your wallet. The last couple of years though we’ve entered a more comfortable stage financially. We can’t afford Mercedes or Porche, but the general appearance of our cars is improving. The truck I’m trying out now is owned by a friend: F350 Powerstroke with an extended cab. Ten years old. Hitched to my aluminum horse trailer it looks pretty nice. This friend generously gave us the truck to try before we buy.

And so Monday night I make my way, horse trailer in tow, to a 4H club ride night about an hour away. My daughter and I have a wonderful time with friends we enjoy and our horses remain healthy and well behaved. Proud to practice good stewardship of time (a near impossibility with horses), I leave early to get home and spend the rest of the evening with my son. Glancing at the fuel gauge I note that it would be wise to stop at a gas station. I pull in, swipe my card, and begin filling the tank. As it fills I look to the trailer in bliss—I love my horses, my family, the most likely soon-to-be-mine snazzy truck I am driving. I am confidant and content as I check the number of gallons pumped so far. It takes less then two seconds to morph into an idiot.

I am putting gas into a diesel engine.

Truck Driving for Dummies: Never, ever, put gas into a diesel engine.

An ugly, poo related word jumps from my lips. My heart races. I instantly call my BFF who is a few minutes ahead of me on the way home (to a pot roast dinner with her husband). This very thing happened to her F350 not long ago. I wail and moan, rant and rave. Like the best of friends she turns her truck and trailer around and returns to the station to commiserate with me and offer trailer space for my poor equine BFFs who are wondering why we’re stalling when an overdue dinner waits at home.

The first thing I do, after moving the truck away from the pumps, is tell the somewhat suspicious gas station attendant what is happening. I tell him I am sorry and that a tow truck is coming to remove the vehicle. BFF and I discuss what to do with the horses. My husband out of town, I am humble and grateful to have good people around to help. Briefly I consider calling the truck's owner. On second thought, the vehicle will be fine after the tanks are pumped and will rest safely at a reputable shop for the evening. My shame on public display already, I decide to wait until the morning to call and confess the deed.

After roughly two hours of waiting for tow truck, removing horses from one trailer and loading in another, and hitching my trailer to another truck, I’m ready to go home. Whew, what a night. I need to go to bed and rest my wounded ego. But no.

I have scarcely pulled into my driveway when Truck Owner Friend calls. They are wondering if something is wrong. Seems a sheriff showed up (10 o’clock at night) at their door. Supplied with the license number of the truck, the sheriff says a certain gas station owner is appalled that I would leave a few turds on his precious pavement and needed to get the law involved to ensure they are removed. Pronto.

At this point my inner 13-year-old makes an appearance: “Like, OMG! No way!”


I live roughly an hour from the scene of the “crime.” At this point in the evening there is one thing Mr. Gas Station can do with a few turds—Puh-lease! Proving the lengths a person will travel for a friend, Truck Owner takes care of the offending turds littering decent society. I have a feeling I am going to be buying this truck.

After calming down, being reassured the truck will be fine, and mapping the other gas stations I will now be patronizing in that particular area of the county, I pondered the positive side of poo happening.

Besides making one humble, dealing with poo makes one ever so much more compassionate when faced with the mistakes of others. And there’s nothing like experiencing poo to discover who your real friends are. Real friends stand beside you while the embarrassing smell emits from your life; they help you clean up; they remind you to laugh.

Thinking there’s an uptight gas station owner that needs a bit more poo in his life…

Monday, October 11, 2010


Congratulations to Wanda Rosseland--a real Montana cowgirl--who won a copy of Sonoma King. The book is coming your way, Wanda.

Now I'd like to welcome Sonoma King author Gretchen Jones (a real Nevada cowgirl) for a few questions about the book, writing and, of course, horses.

Sonoma King is your first published book, how long did it take you to write, illustrate, and find a publisher?

It took about nine months to write and illustrate. We had over thirty rejections before it caught the eye of Capitol City Books. Then it took nine months or so to publish in book form.

Tell us about owning/training race horses. Are they often like Sonoma King--talented but unwilling to run in the beginning?

I raced both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds on the Fair Circuit in Utah and raced in Denver, Colorado. Most horses are willing to run but the starting gate scares and excites them because they have to burst out at a full gallop and can only anticipate when the bell will ring. Stallions can sometimes be more difficult to train and run because quite often they have their mind on other things.

How is Arabian racing the same/different from Thoroughbred racing?

Arabian horses are raced at the same distance as Thoroughbreds. Since they have more stamina (they are called "hot bloods" because they have more red blood cells on the skin's surface then most other horses, thus can expel toxins quickly and recover faster. They also have a large, loose hanging wind pipe for greater air intake) they can run longer distances, but normally they run the same distance. Usually up to a mile.

Do you have a favorite horse that inspired the character Sonoma King?

I believe Sonoma King is a composite of most of my favorite horses. He has alot of try--my good horses do--and he is very loyal. I have had some that were very loyal and knew me even after I had been gone for a long period of time; they would whinny in recognition and run over to me. Horses are loyal to their friends and remember them even after years of seperation.

What were your favorite books as a child?

My first favorite books were by C.W. Anderson, Billy and Blaze. I also loved King of the Wind, The Black Stallion Series, Misty of Chincoteague--I guess all the books by Marguerite Henry. I always liked the well illustrated books. I am still not fond of cartoonish illustrations.

Suzanne Graves passed away. Can you tell us a bit about your friend and co-author? Did she get to see the book before she died?

We worked very hard on the book. Unfortunately she passed away before it was published. We did art shows together before we decided to write and illustrate children's books. We had a good time figuring out our plots. She was excellent at editing because she had been a teacher. We both knew little boys and girls dream of horses and the activities they do.

Sonoma King returns in a sequel. Tell us about the next book.

In the next book Robin and Sonoma King are invited to race in the prestigious Ascot Cup in England. They fly to England and get ready to race. There is lots of adventure in this book as well. Researching it was alot of fun and makes a person delve into other parts of the world.

Tell us about your life with horses now. Do you still ride/train?

Yes, I still train and show my Arabians in reining, pleasure and cow horse classes. I usually train for cow work on a flag and I also use sheep to teach my horses how to watch, stop, and turn them. Emily (horse pictured above with Gretchen) and I showed for years in those classes. She isn't too fast down the fence or on the circle but she is a super cutting horse. Unfortunately, there are few shows for Arabian cutting horses so she is mostly ridden on trails. Emily is great over/through any obstacle because she grew up on the Hat Ranch in northern Arizona. This is part of the Al Marah Arabian Ranch.

Thanks so much, Gretchen--best of luck with your horses and we'll look forward to more Sonoma King adventures.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Since they pranced in King Solomon's stables, Arabian horses have captivated the imagination of man. Sonoma King continues a tradition of romance and fantasy that follow an ancient breed. This tale for young readers is reminiscent of Walter Farley's famous world of stakes races and a black stallion that runs like the wind. Illustrations and full color art, a female protagonist struggling with emerging adolescence, and intriguing details about Arabian horse racing make a familiar storyline welcome.

I recently had the chance to review a new book celebrating the majesty of the Arabian horse: Sonoma King. A short chapter book for young readers, Sonoma King has a familiar storyline: A youthful owner struggles to maintain her faith in a black colt of untapped talent that eventually develops into a competitive race horse. Of course, challenges and danger loom at every turn of the plot, but I won’t spoil it for you. Unfamiliar with Arabian horses? Allow me to introduce them before testing your literary knowledge of horse story classics for a chance to win a free copy of Sonoma King.

I have strong opinions about what I like in a horse. Top on my list? Intelligence, beauty, and a personable nature. Horses cost way too much to keep these days and I like mine to function under saddle and as living art. To that end, the Arabian horse is my hands down favorite breed.

It’s fascinating to consider the history of the Arabian—the oldest pure breed in the world. Arabians have danced across the desert since Biblical times and are the original war and race horse. Though spirited, Arabians have a deeply sensitive and intuitive spirit and lived closely with human beings from the beginning. Desert lore says the Bedouins even slept in tents with their horses.

My first Arabian—Sunfire—couldn’t have been a less appropriate mount for a ten-year-old girl. The neighbor’s green broke pasture pet, Sunny was naughty and spirited. I vividly remember my first ride on the seven-year-old gelding the day we brought him home. Sunny danced the length of our quarter mile driveway, his feet barely touching the earth, while I perched on his back, my stomach churning with fear...and absolute exhilaration. He was the opposite of my wicked Shetland pony, Sally, and the epitome of childhood fantasies birthed by reading classics like The Black Stallion. Though Sunny never slept in my room, he became a trusted best friend and soul mate who helped me navigate adolescence. I remain a huge fan of the breed today because of our relationship.

Today I have my own The Black, a metallic chestnut stallion who, despite his coloring, is still a fantasy come true. I can think of no better therapy then turning him loose for a good gallop. Like his ancestors before him, Eli is a drinker of the wind and, for me, the horse of a lifetime.

The following questions relate to these classic middle grade books: Black Beauty, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, Misty of Chincoteague, The Black Stallion, and King of the Wind.

The first person (email me through my website: to correctly answer all ten questions will win a lovely hardback copy of Sonoma King. For everyone else, the book is available through Capital City Books ( for $20.95.

Which book’s author was handicapped and died at the young age of 57, only five months after the book was published?

Which books feature horse racing?

Which book is said to be the sixth best seller in the English language?

Which book(s) is/are based on a true story?

How many of the above books are authored by women?

What are the names of Black Beauty’s best horse friends?

Which books were made into movies?

Which stories begin, or are centered, on an island?

Which book was written to inspire humane treatment of horses?

Which book(s) became a series?