Offerings of a Prize-Winning Poet, Aging Jock,and Recovering Lawyer

Some Provocative Posts to Facebook

by Art on January 16th, 2012

Since these garnered a response of overwhelming indifference on Facebook, I thought I’d post them here.  If by chance you DO want to respond, please e-mail me.  Don’t respond here, as 99% of all responses on this BLAWG have been spam and thus trashed in bulk each time I police the site.  Cheers!  Art

■ Re social classes, have you ever noticed (1) how aristocrats seem to live in the past because that’s where their ancestors established the family? (2) how the middle-class live in the future because that’s where they’ve placed all their hopes? And (3) how the poor live in the present because that’s all they’ve got?  (Posted on Facebook’s Notes ca 30 Aug 2011)

 ■ Re insanity, have you ever noticed how rare it is to encounter an insane individual but how common it is to encounter the insanity of an entire culture? (Posted on Facebook’s Notes on 3 Sept 2011)

■ Re having to run in the “rat race,” in the end doesn’t that just produce more rats? (Posted 8 Oct 2011)

 ■ Re two ends of the political spectrum, I see two ends of the political spectrum. Do you arrange them this way? (1) At one end reside fanatics in general and fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims in particular, i.e., people who need social organizations to be run by father-figures, believe single causes control all complex events, are afraid of change and differences, and transform their fears into hate? (2) At the other end assemble liberals in general and academics, pacifists, and socialists in particular, those who need social organizations to run their lives, believe events are so complex that individual action is futile, are afraid of conspiracies from the opposite end of the spectrum, and transform those conspirators into “them”? So where are we– the political independents– whose vote has elected the last half-dozen presidents of the USA? I say it’s time WE stand up and shout, not wait for our fellow Americans to see how stupid and dangerous both extremes are, how they’re only seeking POWER, not SOLUTIONS to increasingly crucial problems like jobs, pollution, wars. Join me in deciding not to smugly grouse our observations over martinis and beers but SPEAK UP for what now could be called the “Militant Middle” of the world. (Posted on Facebook, 4 Sept 2011)

 ● Re mass media’s curious omission:  Have you noticed how the mass (news)media focus obsessively on good and evil (moreso on the latter b/c blood and havoc video so well), but seldom even acknowledge the existence of what lies beyond good and evil? Is that b/c what lies beyond doesn’t seem plentiful (it is) or visible (it is) or isn’t powerful (it surely is)? Are the media and other folks insane for pretending this huge mass of reality doesn’t exist? Or are we insane for believing it exists? An Old Curmudgeon wants to know. (Posted on Facebook, 14 Oct  2011)

 ■ Re mental “framing” (as per recent neuro-science studies), have you observed how we don’t simply pour a particular bucket of facts into our minds, sort through them, and come out with a viewpoint or solution?  Instead, have you experienced how our conditioning has created “frames” by which we select which facts we’ll consider?  What’s most surprising to me is how studies show we won’t even “see” certain facts that don’t fall inside our frames.  If you have any doubt about the way our minds operate, try persuading someone with strong political or religious convictions to change her viewpoint by simply “giving her some new facts.”  Unless she’s already been taught a conditioned response to your viewpoint, it’s not that she’ll rearrange, reprioritize, or account for the new facts.  Her mind honestly will not even “see” them.  Can this observation switch the calloused buttocks of belly-button fingerers who otherwise spend life’s precious moments clinging to Facebook’s digital onanism?!  (Posted on Facebook, 12 Nov 2011)

 ■ Re constructive dialogue across the political spectrum.  Given the conditioned brain’s inability to “see” facts that don’t fit inside one’s mental “frame” (please see prior post), how do we (or our elected representatives) engage in any meaningful dialogue and solve the pressing problems of our country and planet? (Posted on Facebook on 16 Nov 2011)

 ■ Re the middle of the political spectrum (mentioned in a prior post), isn’t 99% of earth’s population somewhere between the two extremes of Right and Left?  Why do news media and political blogs focus on that narrow 1% and tell us it’s “world news”?  Why do so many of us believe it?  (Posted on Facebook, 26 Nov 2011.)

 ■ OK, how about THIS way to frame extremists the political spectrum?  Can’t you liken them all—both left and right— to children?  I mean, doesn’t the extreme right fear change and differences?  Doesn’t the extreme left fear power and alienation from the herd?  And doesn’t the extreme middle (of which I’m a member) seem to have a hypnotic fixation on their own powerlessness?  (Posted 26 Dec 2011)

 ● Is one test for concrete, practical, down-to-earth intelligence the ability to understand that reality can be DESCRIBED differently at different LEVELS?  That is, can two arguably opposite views be seen as equally valid depictions of life from points of view?  To take two current hot-button issues: (1) Can’t abortion be “bad” at the level of the unborn fetus but “good” at the level of the woman who doesn’t want to be saddled with raising an unwanted child? (2) Can’t capital punishment be “bad” at the level of the death-sentenced person (especially an innocent one) but “good” at the level of those who believe retribution and vengeance strengthen social bonds?  Doesn’t this ability mean many apparently “unsolvable” problems are really just failures to realize the problems themselves are being described from different levels?  Bottom Line: Once each level is given legitimacy, can’t their proponents strive to find ANOTHER LEVEL at which they share the SAME VALUES— and then craft solutions based on these?  (Posted 5 Jan 2012)

 ■ Re being a “radical moderate,” is that a contradiction in terms?  I call myself one― among many still in the closet and others who refuse to soil themselves in political discourse– and I see no inconsistency.  Moderates are those who don’t cling to either end of the political spectrum and don’t believe either end has a monopoly on truth.  So moderates blend or borrow ideas from the left and the right.  Seen from the standpoint of mental “frames,” moderates try to look at the world’s problems as they really exist, that is, outside frames shaped by ideology.  Ironically in a country that was born and formed in pragmatism, currently being a moderate triggers two consequences: We’re assailed by both political extremes and we’re ignored by the press.  “Radical moderates” add another feature to the non-frame game: we try digging to the root (Latin “radix” from which “radical” derives) of problems.  “Radical moderates” trigger an additional consequence: Not only are we dumped on by both ends of the political spectrum and ignored by the press, our solutions seem too innovative (read “scary”) to garner conventional support.  But can you guess who came up with the 40-hour work week, television, and the internet? (Posted 16 January 2012)

Zarahas Gets T-boned in Polo

by Art on January 15th, 2012

Yesterday Zarahas and I survived the most dangerous collision in polo: a T-bone, where one horse at full gallop hits another one turned broadside.  I was umpiring on Zarahas when I saw the ball get whacked in our direction and the hitter (my trainer, Rik Crane) looking only at the ball.  I turned Raa and squeezed him hard to leap out of the way.  But Mr. Casual didn’t leap.  The next sensation was like being tumbled by an ocean wave you’d just been were riding— all I could do was relax and wait for things to come to a halt. Dru was watching and said it looked horrible. When the rolling explosion stopped, I clambered to my feet to check Raa, who had already gotten to his.  Only after standing did I realize, miraculously, I hadn’t broken anything.  Apparently Raa hadn’t either as he walked off the field with me and didn’t wheeze or limp. The guy who hit us split his lip deeply inside his mouth, but otherwise it seems he and his horse weren’t injured either.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get Zarahas on the field to umpire again, but if I do I’ll damn-sure carry a do-it-now persuader, a.k.a. whip. Now, of course, soreness has set in for both of us but, at least for me, it’s nothing a Jacuzzi and drugs can’t handle.  Chalk it up to another near-death experience for that charmed Arab Zarahas.

Zarahas + Stem Cells

by Art on October 8th, 2011

Only in the last year have I learned my favorite horse, Zarahas, my former polo-playing stallion– with his split-and-bowed tendon– wasn’t just facing a career-ending injury.  It was life-threatening. (Viz, Barbaro, that fantastic race horse of a few years ago who had million-dollar surgery on his broken leg, only to break down the good one by standing too long on it.  Result?  Euthanasia.)  So about a year ago I trailered Zarahas up north for stem-cell surgery. One surgeon sliced a chunk from his butt, the cells were processed to materialize the stem-cells, and then my ace-veterinarian inserted them in Raa’s injured leg.  So he’s had 6 months of non-riding rest (except when Raa would rear and jump around in his corral, waiting for his twice-daily hay.)  This was followed by 6 months of (verrry borrrrrring) riding at only a walk (despite his wanting to gallop.)  The last 6 months he’s been cleared for trotting; so we’ve been doing that routinely– last month taking a moonlight ride cross-country for five miles  (Just him, me, rattlesnakes, and coyotes).  He still does his tricks for treats (bows, counts to three, kisses, etc) and whinnies when he sees me exercise or play polo on the other three horses, but I’ve got to hold down his activity til he’s cleared to gallop.  I’ll let you know when that happens.  Cheers!

Update on Zarahas

by Art on October 4th, 2010

                                        UPDATE ON ZARAHAS  (as of 2 October 2010)

 Mr. Yin, meet Mrs. Yang.  In three months Raa has swooped from an extraordinary injury (bowed and split rear tendon) to extraordinary improvement. 

 Until two days ago he’d been confined the last six weeks in a 20’ X 20’ pipe corral on a therapy facility in Jamul.  Three times a day he’d been led into a barn, cross-tied, and his left rear hock wrapped with a compression device that pulsed 40-degree (F) water around the injury site.  The apparatus, called Game Ready, was introduced to equine sports after use on professional football players, reducing swelling around strained, sprained, and torn tissues.

 Two weeks into this regime, Dru and I observed his treatment.  No sooner was Raa cross-tied in the barn than he spotted half a dozen goats in an enclosure 200 yards away.  Although he’d reconciled with steers (as predatory participant in a team-penning contest), he seemed convinced these smelly horned creatures were Satan’s minions.  When the therapist compassionately closed the barn door, Raa anxiously muttered, “Now they’ll creep up and jump us when the door swings open!”  The therapist assured us, “Raa’s usually quite the gentleman.  Just stands quietly and seems to like the pain-relief the treatment brings.”

 For six weeks every Saturday I drove the hour-plus round trip to visit Raa in Jamul.  I rubbed him down, groomed him, talked to him, fed him an apple and his usual pocket treats.  Not sure if his treatment was working, one thing became increasingly clear: After eight years of excitement from weekly trail rides and polo, Raa’s mood was depressed. 

No longer whinnying and tossing his head when I climbed from of my car, he’d wait til I reached his pipe corral, then slowly shuffle towards me with drooped head.  His sole solace seemed to be a pregnant Morgan mare in the corral next to his.  “He neighs love-calls to her every time we lead him to or from the barn for treatments,” chirped the therapist.

Last Thursday was Zarahas Liberation Day.  At the start I didn’t know that it would last nine hours and require navigation through a dozen thunderstorms.  At 8 a.m. I set out to pick him up in the truck and horse-trailer Kip Hering generously lent me once again.  Delayed by a road-blocking car wreck on the two-lane, winding road to Lyons Valley, I arrived at the Jamul facility around nine. 

 I greeted Zarahas, clipped on his halter, and led him to his mare friend’s corral.  Ever the romantic, I thought they’d like to say good-bye, but forgot that neither knew today they’d likely part forever.  Only after clambering into the trailer and seeing her disappear as we drove off did Raa neigh loud and longingly.

 We reached San Marcos at eleven, after stopping for some gasoline.  Two miles later we pulled into the elaborate equine treatment facility.  Raa backed immediately out of the trailer, relieved he could stop shifting weight in response to stuttering patterns of rain-hampered traffic.

 At noon three doctors and I bent to watch the computer screen as one of the country’s best ultrasound consultants plied his magic wand along Raa’s lubricated leg.  I barely held down my elation when I saw much of the surrounding adhesions had released around the tendon and the split itself had partially closed!  These positive results surprised the doctors too.

 We talked about stem-cells as the next stage of Raa’s treatment.  Currently there were three places from which to harvest stem-cells in this new field of equine medicine: From an embryonic/fetal source, from bone-marrow, or from fat cells in the injured horse.  After a free-wheeling session of Q&A, I chose to use ones taken from Raa’s ample Arab butt. 

As we waited for his surgery, I groomed Zarahas and chatted with a vet’s assistant.  Raa was too tired or nervous to show off trick responses to my cues of Bow, Count, Shame, Are You Bad?, Are You a Nice?  The only trick he’d do (for treats, of course) was Can You Give Me A Kiss?

 After general and local anesthesia, Raa locked his wobbly legs while pressed against the operating wall by one vet’s assistant, his nose pinched by a twitch held by another aide.  The sterile operating arena measured 15’ X 15’ with padded walls and trays crammed full of cellophane-sealed surgical tools.  The surgeon climbed upon a stool and sliced a five-inch gash along the top of Raa’s left buttock.  Scooping in the gap with his forefinger, he pulled out three thumb-sized globules of fat. 

 These would be processed by a lab in Poway to extract the stem-cells bound inside.  The vet next deftly sutured the incision while an aide streamed glue around the borders of a bandage we hoped Raa would leave in place at least a couple of days.

 By 3:30 Raa had recovered from his drugs enough to be half-coaxed, half-pushed back into Kip’s trailer; neither apple nor alfalfa hay were strong enough to lure him in.  As Poway was on our way home, I GPS’d us to the stem-cell lab, turning large arcs in the parking lot to avoid backing up.  Feeling like a transplant courier, I dropped off the insulated box.

 Keeping Kip and Dru updated with my cell phone all day long, the instrument was handy one mile out of Poway.  What to do with lab instructions just found lying on the seat beside me?   By phone a lab assistant said they should have been delivered with the fat.  Not wanting to turn back, I faxed them to the lab at a Fed Ex store.

 Around five p.m. two tired but triumphant travelers drove the quarter-mile driveway to Raa’s home at Hering Ranch.  Still groggy, Raa stumbled from the trailer.  I led my alpha equine to his “herd” of my three Thoroughbreds in three adjoining corrals.  As he touched their noses one by one, I glimpsed recognition and relief course through his weary frame.

“And here’s April, the Mare Mountain I told you of last week.  Ten years old and polo-trained, I bought her to relieve you of your duties on the playing field.  If you continue healing as you have, once more you’ll be the trail-riding horse that you were bred to be.  But no matter what, Zarahas, you’ll always be my favorite horse.”

                                                                   ######

END OF POLO FOR MY ARABIAN

by Art on August 13th, 2010

END OF POLO FOR MY ARABIAN

                                                        (13 Aug 10)

 It looks like Zarahas’ chukkers are over.  Two months ago I heard him gasp slightly as we started a workout of ascending and descending a mile-long hill.  Although he never limped, I noticed when de-tacking him that his left-rear fetlock (like our ankle) was mildly swollen. 

 Two days later I played him two chukkers of polo, between which he stood with his weight shifted off of the stocked-up leg.  In both chukkers he gave me full effort, never limping or favoring that fetlock.  Seemed okay, right?  Dead wrong. 

Next week two low-resolution ultra-sound views revealed what horse folks call a “bowed tendon,” meaning it was stretched out of its normal length.  That injury is often career-ending for performance horses, i.e., ones asked to do strenuous sprinting, stopping, bumping, and turning, as in polo.  Still, the last three years have seen medical breakthroughs in equine surgery and stem-cell repair of damaged tissue.  So I clung fast to this hope. 

Two days ago Dru and I trailered Zarahas north to San Marcos to be examined by the county’s best equine surgeon and the West Coast’s top ultra-sound vet.  (Thanks, Kip Hering, for the generous use of your truck and trailer.)  I asked Zarahas to bow when we greeted the surgeon; he did. 

 As Raa stood quietly (without anesthetic) for high-resolution ultra-sound, we got the bad news.  His tendon was not just bowed but split down the middle.  “In my 30+ years in the business,” said the ultra-sound vet, I’ve never seen a tendon split this way.”

 Zarahas, aged 16 (life expectancy 30), had played polo for nine years.  In good health he might have enjoyed ten more years of the sport.  Not now.  But he’s more than a polo mount; he’s our pet.

So we trailered him south to Jamul, one of the best equine-rehab facilities around.  Three times a day Zarhas’ fetlock will be strapped to a machine that delivers compressed cold to the tendon.  (The machine, called “Game Ready,” was first developed for professional human athletes.)  Tapering the frequency but lengthening the time of each treatment, these treatments will extend for a month.

 In September we’ll trailer him back to San Marcos to see what ultra-sound shows.  Then we plan to have our own vet inject his fetlock with stem-cells (“nature’s own medicine cabinet.”)  If all this works, Zarahas will be able to take gentle rides on river-bed trails and become my bareback taxi around Hering ranch.

 As you see, we’re sparing no expense.  Unlike most polo players, I never considered giving him away or putting him down.  Still, the latter is a sad possibility if (like the racehorse Barbero) he avoids standing on his hurt leg so much that his good leg breaks down from the weight.

 So, as we’ve reluctantly learned from life, we do all we can but can’t control ultimate outcomes.  Tomorrow I’ll play two chukkers of polo on Chloe and umpire two more on Khourney— surviving members of “Raa’s herd.”  Then I’ll drive down to Jamul and give Zarahas much talking and petting and loving and treats, plus bites from a big red apple.

I’ll post any significant news about Raa.  Thanks for all your cares and concerns.  Cheers!  Art

Postscript to Furloughed Horse Story

by Art on October 28th, 2009

Here’s what happened after my Arabian’s 30-day furlough ended back in June, 2009.

Someone asked if Zarahas “got with the program” after his furlough. My answer?  Sort of.   He didn’t altogether duck out of ride-offs or riding into a crowd, but would only ride-off when he found himself already close to an opponent’s horse or asked to lean hard against someone trying to ride us off. But he still refused to close in for a ride-off after we caught another horse from behind.

Actually, the very first game I played him after his 30-day furlough he ran me full-speed into a goal post and knocked me off his back!  That gave me another chance to lie on the ground, stunned, but thinking “Well, I guess this is narrowing my chances of dying from Alzheimer’s or cancer!”

Actually, it’s the 2nd time he’s created a goal-post collision (a.k.a. an “unauthorized dismount”) in the eight years we’ve been playing polo.  But I’m convinced he’s “not malevolent, just an Arabian.”  That’s the reason Arab horses are rarely used for  polo: They think too independently.

So, instead of passing the pole on the right or left side depending on which way I’m leaning out to make a goal shot (a good polo horse will alter his direction according to which way you’re leaning), he apparently decides as we’re approaching the pole which way HE will pass by it, regardless of me.

After he’s knocked me off he comes back, stands over me, and asks, “Hey, Boss, I thought horsemanship was the art of keeping the horse between you and the ground. Why did you let THAT happen?”

Sometimes, as he’s waiting for me to get up, he performs one of his tricks, like “bowing” or “counting.”  See?  I’ve just got to love that horse.

The Best Polo Shot of my Life

by Art on July 7th, 2009

 

Only in tournaments do I now free my warrior.  “I’ll do whatever it takes,” it warns.  “That’s why I brought you,” I say. 

 

Time’s running out, our side is behind.  Suddenly teammate Susan breaks away, streaks toward the goal with the ball.  I cover her six and ride off a rival as she blasts her shot towards the goal.  It slices wide to the right!  “Go, Zarahas!” warrior yells and my Arab leaps toward the ball at top speed. 

 

He reaches it ten yards before it would sail out of bounds but we’re still too far to the left.  Warrior leans out to the right, grunts and whips a desperate forehand across and under Raa’s neck.
 

We plunge out of bounds, see only a blur of white and the foot-wide gap between posts at this slant.  Regaining my balance, reining in Raa, I hear the crowd’s roar: Warrior scored!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six seconds before "The Shot"

Six seconds before "The Shot"

                         THE SCENE: The Margarita Invitational, Hering Ranch, 16 May 2009…

“SHATTERED!” in POLO (PLAYERS’ EDITION) JAN. 2006

by Art on June 24th, 2009

                                          AWC’S Slight Revision of Published Story

  

       With six screws and plates in his shattered collarbone, Art Campbell, 61, of the Lakeside Polo Club, is recovering slowly.  More interesting than being tossed over his thoroughbred’s head during solo polo practice, was what happened afterward.  Art lay on the field, pulled out his cellphone, and called his wife, the novelist Drusilla Campbell.  “I think I’ve broken my collarbone,” he said.  “Would you mind driving out here and taking me to the hospital?  No, wait,” he added feeling his collarbone. “The bone still feels intact.  I’ll call you back in five minutes.” 

 

       When Art’s horse came back and stood over him, Art reached for the bridle, heard a series of snaps, and felt instant pain.  Drusilla, however, had jumped from her chair when Art first told her the news, and pulled a muscle in her back.  Thinking “Art’s fine, just shaken up,” she swallowed a muscle relaxant for her aching back.  When Art called the second time, she dutifully clambered into her van for the 30 minute drive from San Diego to the polo field at Hering Ranch. 

 

       Fifteen minutes later she called Art on his cellphone.  “Honey… I’m so sleepy,” she moaned.  “I can’t …stay awake… to drive.”  Art said, “You’d better pull over, take a quick nap.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going anywhere.” 

 

       Forty-five minutes later Drusilla arrived, refreshed and alert, and drove Art to the hospital.  “One more chapter,” philosophized Art, “in our marriage of thirty-six volatile years.”

 

       [P.S. As of 7 November 2008, I’ve still got the plate and six screws, but the arm works just fine.  Last week, however, I got kicked in the knee by an opponent’s horse while my horse was trying to overtake it at 35 m.p.h.  Strange, the knee doesn’t hurt much but it keeps giving out on me.  Could it be that I’m 64-1/2 years old and coming apart bit by bit?  Nah!]

Campbell Is Down But Not Out in Polo Tournament!

by Art on June 24th, 2009

       Visiting Australia in May, I just missed being able to see Oz’s Makybe Diva, the greatest racehorse (a mare, actually) in the world. But my consolation was coming home and riding my own don’t-say-whoa Thoroughbred mare in the Margarita Invitational Polo Tournament. In my first chukker I got to drill a 40-yard goal off Chloe as she broke away from the pack and raced down the field at top speed.  I once heard a fighter-pilot say that charging down the polo field on a breakaway was more exciting than anything he’d ever done in a jet plane.  Since I had been only an Air Force navigator, his thought goes double for me.  

 

       In the tournament’s last chuckker our team was down two points. This time I rode my Arabian, determined to stop an opponent who had gotten a pass from his team mate.  As the two of us broke away, he kept eluding my defensive hooks and swats at his mallet as he leaned forward and stroked the ball towards the goal.  I spurred Zarahas one stride ahead of him, so I could take one last desperate overhand whack at the ball itself before it crossed the goal line.  I leaned far out to the left, a move most polo ponies would feel and accordingly shift to the left to keep me on board. 

 

       But good old Zarahas was the typical “thinking Arabian.” In two prior games he had let me get knocked off his back by a goal post when he swerved past it in the opposite direction I was leaning in an effort to smack the ball. So that was the moment he decided he’d leap to the RIGHT. 

 

       Result?  I not only missed the ball but came crashing off his back in front of my charging opponent!  My old rugby reflexes folded me into a tuck and roll, so I wasn’t hurt (just stiff next day.)  The other guy’s horse managed to veer away from my body. Zarahas instantly halted, looked over at me, and said, “Sorry, Boss, I thought you’d prefer me to move AWAY from all the commotion!” 

 

       As a spectator, my wife Dru was standing only ten yards away but was looking at something else. She missed hubby’s tumble until I finished my roll by bouncing up, raising both arms like a gymnast, and grinning for the judges to score my fabulous unorthodox dismount. 

 

       Overall, although my team lost, it was a terrific tournament.  Like landing a plane, any fall is a good fall if you can walk away from it. In fact it reminded me why, at 64-1/2, I continue playing the world’s fastest contact sport: to lessen the chances I’ll die of cancer or Alzheimer’s!  Where else can an old jock find thrills like this?

 

 

 

Polo Moment for an Aging Jock

by Art on June 20th, 2009

This morning (in April 2009  tossed an aging jock a peak experience in his life of sport.   

Writing later in the afternoon, I feel I’ve been tee-boned by an S.U.V.  One week short of turning 65, I’ve gathered in two wobbly knees, several bones repaired from breaks, six concussions, steel plate with six screws inside one clavicle, the other with two shattered halves now overlapped.  My body asks, “How long can this go on?”  It gives a digital salute to Nietsche and asserts, “What doesn’t kill me makes me fokking tired!”

 

I’m glad I dropped my weight below 160 and each day either ride my horses, run beside our dogs, or lever 22 machines with cute wahinis at the Y.  Without all that this morning never could have been.

 

At risk of boring you, let me preface with some details.  This story really starts one week ago at Hering Ranch’s Lakeside Polo Club.  During his two chukkers of a game, my over-thinking Arab horse Zarahas chose to go on strike.  Indeed, two years earlier he’d unfurled another job-action by swerving left or right each time my mallet swooped to smack the ball.  That time I furloughed him a month and he returned refreshed and willing to the polo field.

 

But last Saturday his form of equine strike was refusing to bump or ride-off horse at a gallop.  When I resorted to a whip and spurs to urge him to engage, he upped his ante and declined to even ride into a crowd of moving mounts.  So I furloughed him again in hopes his alpha personality would overcome his genes.  (He’d been bred for endurance races− 50 mile contests− not polo’s sprints, skid-stops, and banging larger horses.)

 

That afternoon I asked Kip Hering if he’d let me borrow Bambi, his big, grey, ex-professional-polo-playing Thoroughbred.  Like her namesake from the tribe of deer, her penchant is for leaping into the next county when she’s slightly cued for speed.  (Whips and spurs need not apply.)  She then goes nuts if asked to stop.  Ever the generous gentleman, Kip warned me of her tendencies before he let me ride his manic mare.

 

Last Tuesday I saddled Bambi for the first time, warmed her up inside the turn-out ring, took her to an ersatz track, and let her “have her head.”  She ran away with me.  Which isn’t quite as dire as it sounds.  I just said, “Sheeite− no way I can bring her back right now!”  But after a hundred yards of trees and bushes flew past at the speed of light, I gradually began to pull her in.  Thinking she’d soon get a little tired, I romped her for a lap around the track, then let her out again.  Same result.  After one more lap?  Ditto etc.

 

Two days later I returned with Bambi to the track.  On the straightaway, three laps in a row, I let her out as fast as she would go.  I was glad to see her come back every time I tugged hard on the reins.  So I tried a fourth− and learned why three times is a charm.

 

Last Friday (yesterday) I rode my jiggy julep to the polo field to practice hitting from five inches higher than from my Arabian and two inches higher than my other in-shape polo horse.  “Stick-and-ball” this exercise is called.  We worked for fifteen minutes− until my wrist complained from swinging a two-inch longer, heavier mallet.  All the while Bambi squirreled and dolphined up and down the field− not hot to trot but clearly rash to dash.

 

So I awoke at 6 today with trepidation lying on the sheets twixt Dru and me.  I drove to Hering Ranch alone, called Bambi to me from her pipe corral and hitched her to the rail at my Shack-o-Tack.  Then I cautiously led Chloe up to her.  Chloe is another head-strong, ex-pro-player’s Thoroughbred, but one I’ve ridden for three years, long enough to “find the whoa” in her.  I fed them breakfast from adjoining tubs.  Unlike geldings, who’d likely kick and punch (with clenched teeth) at each other til they’d settled who was alpha, the mares− fervent warriors on the field− calmly munched their hay.

 

Next I cleaned eight hooves, curried both their favors, brushed them, cleaned their privates, and tied up their tails so they wouldn’t snag a swinging mallet.  Wrapping all their legs inside protective velvet bandages, I velcroed hoof-boots on each fore.  (Alas, Bambi later got a gash on one unbooted hind!)

 

I added saddle pads, saddles, breast bands, martingales, and bridles to each mare, and sheathed myself in leather boots, knee-guards, and helmet.  Then Ego with two lusty Ids sauntered to the polo field.   Bambi would play chukkers one and three; Chloe would play two and four.

 

Just before the game, Drusilla came to watch her own Bambino knight and his uncertain charger.  As part of warming up the not-so-old grey mare, I asked Bambi for a routine “roll-back” (quick-stop, pivot on hind legs, and charge the opposite direction.)  Both rear hooves skidded forward underneath her belly on the dewy grass until she almost sat down on her butt!  Not a positive beginning, but a crucial caveat: Because she wasn’t shod on either hind, I’d better tone down rollbacks in the game and try to halt all field-length dashes in the dirt beyond each goal.

 

In the first chukker Bambi roared around the field like a train-wreck waiting for a crash.  Somehow I managed to stay on and even made a few defensive plays, steering my grey locomotive next to a competing horse and shouldering it aside.  Once she slipped into another rear-leg skid but managed to regain her feet instead of flipping on her back, pan-caking me. 

 

Throughout the chukker Zarahas watched us from his pipe corral fifty yards away.  He kept up a plaintive neigh, “Why can’t I have some fun?”  Once I hollered back, “Because you’re a butthead and still don’t get ridden for a month!”

 

In the second chukker I rode Chloe and scored my first goal of the game.

 

For me chukker number three was another who’s-in-charge on Bambi.  Once we got the ball on a breakaway.  I hit it slantwise to the boards, then tried to check my mare’s frantic dash, so I could whack it once more towards the goal.  Bambi stuttered to a stiff-legged halt and pivoted 180 degrees− right into charging horses!  That equinocide maneuver made me realize her value on the field would be mainly on defense.  Indeed her wild abandon caught each horse I aimed her at and stoutly bumped or shoved it to one side.

 

Fourth chukker, back on stalwart Chloe, we scored two more times, another rush for truly yours.  Now out of mounts, the game was done for me.  But sometimes peak experiences conclude with, “I survived!”

 

Gentle reader, I’ll spare you post-elation details, like removing all that tack, feeding both mares apple chunks, hosing them, toweling off their lowered heads, and letting them roll dry.  I’ll only mention quaffing Guinesses on Kip’s porch with him and friends, replaying highlights of the game.  These recollections stud my memory but are too lackluster to relate.  (Say, that reminds me: Have you heard sex described as “merely poor man’s polo?”  You haven’t?  Fancy that.)

 

Back home, I’ve pudding-ized my aching bodd in our Jacuzzi but my hands are still so swollen they won’t close into a fist.  I’m slumped in a reclining chair while a harpsichord sonata wafts from the radio.  My Zen bird has resumed his perch on my right shoulder.  He’s the one who chirps at me, “Is this the day you’re going to die?”  I grin at him and answer, “Not today, my friend!”

 

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