Horses on the beach.
It's kind of a dream vacation activity, especially for those of us who resented being called horse-crazy even when that shoe actually fit...
This photo and adventure came from CPonies.com in February of 2019. That's me with the goofy hat by the Skyway. My sister (not a horse person. funny story.) in the ball cap. Her friend KB just off the right ear of the horse in the foreground.
But rather than report about it (big beautiful horses, dreamy setting, DOLPHINS!) let's just rift off it for a writing warm-up, shall we?
Story 1 – Shallop
I named him Shallop.
You know, for the boat, but also because of galloping, which is what I thought we would do all the time, non-stop, from morning till night.
I also thought that my very own horse –– not My Little Pony, but –– would be more affectionate, like a dog, but they are not the barking, panting, paws-on-your-trousers animals.
The affection of a horse is more like an ungainly boat bumping against a dock. Shallop would sidle right over me, trampling toes. He left dusty and slobbery streaks on my clothes and sideswiped me with his enormous face. He habitually covered himself with mud for me to brush. He would sometimes not allow himself to be caught.
But we galloped, and his long mane rippled and the sound of his hooves was like thunder.
Story 2 –– Horses in the Sea
They were not making the crossing between Assateague and Chincoteaque.
They were not straying from the tidal flats of Neuwerk.
They were not navigating a deep patch in the marshes of Carmague.
They were swimming on a beach somewhere while others were adrift in snow. They were scented with horse and coconut oil. They had nothing in their heads but what came in through their ears and eyes. They were riding and swimming and the air was soft with salt.
Sure, there's a reason for labels like this.
Which brings me to this summer's cheerful little ditty with the refrain "duh."
The internet is one supersized overshare.
Along with the thousands of selfies and blogs about piffle, plus all those YouTube videos about optimal application of eyeliner, surviving the Apocalypse, cleaning scallops using a shop vac, and SO much more, sites beyond number offer deliciously random information to the careless researcher.
And by careless, I mean "easily distracted."
By which naturally, I refer to myself.
I was on the track of my namesake 3x gr-grandmother, Amy Cole Hall. She lived mostly in Pennsylvania, but also in Litchfield, Connecticut.
Somehow (and it's always a bit of a click-mystery) I ended up on someone else's compilation of documents pertaining to their ancestors, the Sturdevants of Luzerne, Pennsylvania. Naturally, I started reading. The Sturdevants connect to another branch of my family, but I didn't know that at the time.
Oh the eternal difficulty in resisting the temptation of other people's letters...
An exerpt from a letter 14 Oct 1842 from Dr. George Lane Keeney to Salmon Keeney, quoting from a letter from brother Seth: "My wife has been counting up while I notched a stick, and we find we have (9) nine living children, 4 girls and 5 boys."*
Does this seem –– um –– peculiar that a married couple needed to notch a stick to count their living children?
The internet link to the letters is here.
Also among the paper-trail of the Sturdevants is what might be some of my new favorite letters* of all time. Anyone who commits words to paper is aware that the record will live on; it's kind of the point of putting words on paper, right?
I made a sound recording of one letter –– both for the interest of clarity, as the grammar and spelling was irregular, but also because it was fun to voice those words.
*My previous all-time favorite letters? A series of wonderful schadenfreude-inducing Christmas newsletters from a certain childhood friend's unhappy wife (oh! how I looked forward to those each December! Even after their divorce, I kept getting these little masterpieces of misery bedecked with images of holly and jolly St. Nick! I should be more ashamed to enjoy them, but she had such a way with passive aggression!)
In any case, herewith the letter 7 June 1842 from Asahel Keeney to his brother Dr. George Keeney.
It's a brutal catalogue of local gossip. Burn baby, burn.
There's another letter to their sister, Amy Keeney Hall –– not my Amy, but of interest anyhow –– mentioning that poor pitiful Phebe Wilson, who "quit hur husband to keep from starving." Brother Seth writes "we callculated to have visited you this fall but my health prevented If I live untill another fall I will be sure to visit."
I hope he had the chance.
Twig is also the name of a genre of decoration. Twig tables. Twig chairs. Twig frames.
Those enormous Adirondack camps, white birchbark stuff, bent willow rustic chairs? All twig.
I picked up a reference book on the subject at the library book sale over the winter and took the instructions at face value.
And then re-measured and cut most of them again, using my trusty loppers and a measuring jig Daddo would have been proud to see.
Precision is not my middle name, but I was quite careful.
Even knowing that the instructions were crap, I couldn't help but bemoan the injustice of it.
Instructions that don't.
Measuring guides that don't.
Reference that isn't.
Eventually I wandered over to the square yard or so of good cell coverage at the Would-Be Farm –– in the middle of the field –– and Googled some help. Huh. Common theme of the Amazon reviews of the book:
By Day 3, I was grimly determined to best the beast. I studied physics in college. I have been making things by hand and by brain for some years now. I will not be thwarted!
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