Getting Back on The Horse

Prose

It is a hot, dusty Saturday in May, and I’m standing in front of an empty corral, cold beer in hand, the fleshy smoke from branding burning my eyes. My shoulders are sunburned, despite cumulative layers of sunscreen and dust. We’ve just “worked” – vaccinated, castrated, and branded, as needed – 300 head of cattle. We’ve sorted them back into cow-calf pairs and driven them to grassland pasture where they will fatten over the summer. Dozens of neighbors, friends, and family sit around the chute, celebrating a hard day’s work.

My mother’s cousin Jeff calls to me from across the yard. Not unexpectedly, his skilled horsemanship helped him gain favored status in my father’s eyes in the fifteen years since I left home.

“C’mon, let’s go for a quick ride. Cool these ol’ gals down,” he says as I limp toward him. I’ve only been sitting for ten minutes, and already I’m starting to stiffen up. He tries to hand me the reins of his old sorrel mare.

I lift my hands in defense, backing away. “Oh, no. Not me, Jeff. I don’t ride horses.”

“You grew up on a farm, and you don’t ride? What the hell is wrong with you?” he asks.

I raise my eyebrows. “You’ve never heard of my infamous horse grudge with dad?”

The author, her horse, and her father, circa 1978.

The author, her horse, and her father, circa 1978.

In her essay  “Getting Back on the Horse,” writer Kara Gall uses a twenty-year “horse grudge” with her father to examine the heart of her relationship with her father. She is not alone in this theme.  Writers Michele Scott and Kate St. Vincent Vogl also speak to their relationships with their fathers and how horses were at the very heart of those relationships.

Horses have captured women’s attention and intrigue for centuries.  For many women, these strong but gentle creatures held their hearts long before any boyfriend, husband or baby ever did. The memory of desperately asking your parents for a pony, and posting pictures of shiny horses to your bedroom wall, is one many women share. But why?

In Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in their Lives (Seal Press / May 2010 / ISBN-10: 1580052665; ISBN-13: 978-1580052665/ $15.95), educator, literary agent, author, and editor, Verna Dreisbach attempts to answer that question. Dreisbach has compiled 27 personal essays from various women writers about their horses—or their dreams of owning a horse. With a foreword by best-selling novelist Jane Smiley, the book includes personal narratives from women who rode as children, those who spent their girlhood years dreaming of owning a pony, and women who have made a lifelong hobby or career out of riding. Each story openly reveals how horses have made a difference—and an impact—in their lives.

If you’ve ever dreamt of that first horse, contributor Dee Ambrose-Stahl will assure you you’re not alone. Jacqueline Winspear suggests we all need to return to basics, and it’s her horse that reminds her to keep things simple. Writers Michele Scott, Kara Gall, and Kate St. Vincent Vogl all speak to their relationships with their fathers and how horses were at the very heart of those relationships. Valerie Riggs, Janice Newton, and Samantha Ducloux Waltz discovered their horses held insight into their marital relationships. Why We Ride shares the enduring and personal experiences these women have had with horses, and is the perfect read for any woman who has ever held a special place in her heart for a horse.

For more information, please contact Jodee Krainik, Publicist, 510.809.3824, jodee.krainik@perseusbooks.com

It’s the Region, Not the Vegan

Prose
“I felt like I was having a bunch of one-night stands with my dinner plate. The intimacy with food that I was craving was not a California thing. It was a Nebraska thing. It had something to do with chicken poop on the bottom of my shoe, the smell of Rocky Mountain Oysters–flame-broiled bull testicles also known as “fries”–on my father’s tattered denim work jacket, and the sound of cows happily masticating in the corral beyond my bedroom window. Somewhere between Nebraska and California, I had lost my connection to the source of my food. And it was time to get it back.”

It’s the Region, Not the Vegan appeared in the anthology Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food, edited by Leslie Miller. Seal Press. 2003. ISBN 1-58005-092-1 This long-overdue rebuttal to the notion that all women are on a diet puts a fresh spin on the joy of cooking. Women both in and out of the culinary profession share their stories about the many ways food shapes and enhances their lives.

Women Who Eat

Women Who Eat

Book Description:

Move over, Betty Crocker. Women are reclaiming their pots and pans, but it’s a new era in the kitchen. Today’s generation of women is putting a fresh spin on the “joy of cooking”—and eating and entertaining. Women both in and out of the culinary profession share their stories about the many ways food shapes and enhances their lives. New York Times columnist Amanda Hesser praises the joys of simple food, and Food and Wine editor Kate Sekules discusses the importance of having a restaurant where you’re recognized. Theresa Lust, author of Pass the Polenta, vividly remembers a childhood making sauerkraut with her grandmother, and Michelle Tea describes her working-class Polish family’s meals as “tripe, kielbasa, shellfish and beer.” One woman owns up to her culinary ineptitude in an era when being a gourmet cook is all the rage, while another remembers preferring chicken nuggets from the cafeteria to mom’s homemade vegetable biryani. Women Who Eat not only presents an illuminating look at food today, but dishes out generous helpings of great prose that are sure to titillate the palate. Recipes are included.

Editorial Reviews:
-Library Journal, October 4, 2003
“These essays explore the intimate side of food that comforts,transports, and takes us home. Entertaining and well written.”–Library Journal

Parallel Parenting

Prose
When I was young(er) and ignorant, I had the typical American fantasy. I’m going to grow up, get married, buy a house, have a family, and live happily every after. After Lydia was born, I kept telling myself roommates were part of college history. Then again, maybe not. While the four of us dance around the living room in circles, our tiaras bouncing, skirts flying and bracelets jangling, the neighbor downstairs knocking on the ceiling and screaming for us to please stop stomping, I think to myself: we are recreating family. We are developing a support network. There are conflicts. There are compromises. There is little personal space, overfilled refrigerators, and definitely no parking…
Breeder

Breeder

Parallel Parenting, an essay about two single moms raising their daughters side by side in a millennial version of “Kate-and-Ally,” appeared in the anthology Breeder: Real Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers, edited by Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender. Seal Press. 2001. ISBN 1-58005-051-4

Book Description:

In this ground-breaking anthology, Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender ask real moms — from Web site designers to tattoo-clad waitresses — to laugh, cry, scream, and shout about motherhood. For every young mom, Breeder offers inspiration, strength, wisdom, and humor. The editors write, “We don’t accept that there is one perfect way to be a family. We know that families have a multitude of perspectives and values, and that people need fewer prescriptions and rules and more support. When we read these essays the first time, we were looking for things that made the hair on the back of our necks stand up– perspectives or stories that were so raw and real we felt an immediate connection with the author, even if their story was beyond the scope of our own life experience. In doing this book, we were looking for the most honest and compelling voices to tell all kinds of stories, because the more truth is told, the more we are inclined to do the hard work of building community.”  Other contributors include Allison Crews, Beth Lucht, Ayun Halliday, Katie Granju, Peri Escarda, Allison Abner, and Kimberly Bright.

Editorial Reviews:
-From Library Journal
Gore (The Mother Trip, LJ 5/15/00) and Lavender, founding editor of HipMama ‘zine and managing director of HipMama.com, respectively, have collected 36 short parenting tales from Gen-X moms. Rich/poor, lesbian/straight, single/married dozens of different lifestyles are represented here with the common theme of choosing motherhood young while pursuing other goals. These are not 35-and-clock-ticking, overly educated, late-in-life moms but the daughters of the baby boomers, who sought motherhood as students, employees, and single girls. Some chapters are poignant (Beth Kohl Feinerman’s lament about not being able to conceive after taking birth control pills for years), while others are very funny (Kimberly Bright’s comparisons of a toddler to a psychotic boyfriend). The writers are self-satisfied but honestly so; here are women who chose to follow their dreams without trading on others. A worthy acquisition that includes a foreword by nationally syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage. Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

—Stella Marrs, self publisher of artistic postcards
“ In Breeder,women learn to trust themselves in the work of motherhood—God’s work.”

—Melissa Ludtke, author of On Our Own: Unmarried Motherhood
“Breeder is a tasty smorgasbord of what women’s lives with children are really like.”

—Nanci Olesen, producer and host of
This is a pulsing, moving collection of essays. Read them now.”

 

Conversion

Poetry

Conversion is a poem that was published in the Spring 1997 edition of The Flintlock.

The Flintlock Spring 1997

The Flintlock Spring 1997

Conversion

She was Catholic
until she married
my father
And though she betrays
no confidence to me
I sense that she misses
confession

The first time I took
the Lord’s Name in vain,
(it was 1979)she scolded me
and sent me to my room.
Crying into the corner
of my trundle-bed
I realized she loved
someone more than me

Our soap opera
picnics were never the same

perhaps because I
resented not being
her only confidant
knowing He knew all
those “certain things
better left unsaid”

I think she wants me to believe
she is as flawless as her God
I want her to be more
like me