Three and a half years ago Gryph and I flew in to Dublin, Ireland to work-a-board a vessel ostensibly heading to Malaysia and our dreams of snorkeling Asia. We never even made it to the Bay of Biscay, the Captain being even less sea-worthy than his ship; instead, we fell through the rabbit hole of the (ex)HMS-Enterprise and into a year at Narrowwater Castle, wrapped up in my writing and Gryph’s painting and long walks through spongy fields and enchanted forests where we finally found the remains of the Folly Castle and wild garlic in abundance. It was a time of pubs and music and shape-shifting cameraderie, peat fires and Guinness Stout and whiskey made by Jamesons, ancient stone walls and rainy streets – we learned names for the different kinds of rain, the different flavors of wet days and wet nights and wet winds.
We had to look hard for resonances when we rode in to Dublin, Texas last Friday. We were met by a charming young reporter who had a voice like Guinness and who directed us to the rodeo arena behind the town park. The welcome sign had shamrocks and claimed Dublin as the Irish Capital of Texas – right above a sign forbidding alcoholic beverages. There is no Irish pub in Dublin, Texas. We discovered no castles, no ancient stone walls and no rain. Dublin is a very dry sort of place. We did, however, enjoy visits with a pair of sugar gliders who nested in a Crown Royal bag and two dogs named Bhakti and Krishna. The women at the post office had been expecting us and Gryph’s aerial silks were there as promised. We slept behind the chutes at the rodeo arena and were given the key to the ladies’ loo.
While chatting with the reporter he made comment on our close relationship and communication with the ponies. He said that they seemed more like pets. Gryph and I were talking later that evening and agreed that we don’t think of the ponies as pets at all. We think of them as our travelling companions and co-adventurers – with all of the responsibility and autonomy that that implies. We trust them with our lives and vice versa. When we turn them loose for the night in a pasture of several hundred acres we don’t worry about being able to find them in the morning; they’re right there waiting for us. Although it took us 2 hours to catch Luna Jack the first time, she answers to her name now and comes when we whistle. I really believe that these three ponies have chosen us and this Journey as much as we humans have chosen them. We’re all in this together – good days and bad, wind and rain and drought, grassy pastures and cluttered goat pens, hay barns, guest houses and tenting on the ground, boy scouts and traffic and stray dogs – it’s good to be travelling with friends.
Last spring, after Gryph had headed up to Boulder to pursue her circus dreams and Finehorn was injured, I was feeling like a failure, alone and scared and ashamed. It was hard to blog honestly about what was happening and as I look back now on what I wrote then I’m amazed at the happy face I was putting on the situation. The daily updates were a trifle more forthcoming but it still required some reading between the lines. Into my abyss came an e-mail from a woman I’d never met. Katie Cooper was back in Tucson, AZ with an injured mule after an attempted solo ride across Texas. Her e-mail was encouraging and honest and an offer of friendship with someone who understood my heart because she’d been there herself. What an amazing gift! We e-mailed back and forth and I read her blog, belatedly realizing that she’d reached out to me pretty much as soon as she’d gotten home. You can find her blog at: www.muletriptalk.blogspot.com
Katie was the one who encouraged (and pushed and cajoled) me to get in touch with the Long Riders’ Guild and apply for membership. (She refers to herself as a “Short Rider” but she’s done a Lot more research into this realm than I ever have.) As we’ve communicated over the past 7 months we’ve become friends and it seems strange that we’ve yet to meet in person. That seems likely to change in the near future. Her mule, Butch Henry, has fully recovered and we’ve been talking about the idea of joining forces in Austin, Texas and riding eastward together for an undetermined amount of time after Gryph returns to California. I’m really excited about this possibility and looking forward to having Katie and Butch Henry as travelling companions for however long our paths converge. The only major obstacle to the plan is Katie’s cat, Pita, who needs to find a good home for the duration. Putting her up on Craig’s list or in a shelter are Not options, but if anybody has a way of helping house Pita, please get in touch with Katie via her website (where you’ll also find photos).
This brings us to the topic of current travel plans and our idea of bringing in the New Year in Austin, Texas. The ideal situation for the 3 ponies (and one mule!) is a pasture with grass to eat and water to drink where they can take a week off and just be equines. There are also three women who will be seeking shelter of some sort, ideally with access to town, music, art, a grocery store and a ladies loo. If anyone is looking for a last minute holiday house-sitter we’d love to oblige and are open to just about any possiblity.
Saturday morning we turned the wrong way in our attempt to leave Dublin. We got better directions and turned around, only to be stopped by a USPS delivery truck. There was one more letter waiting for us at the Post Office. The woman driving the truck offered to run back and bring it to us if we’d wait at the end of the road. The wait was short and it was fun to have mail delivered to us on horseback! Getting lost must have been essential to some sort of cosmic timing because in town we were stopped by a man who asked if we needed a place to wait out the impending bad weather. We were welcome at the Dublin Livestock Auction barn where there was a small apartment with two beds and a shower! Heading that way we stopped at Chigger Ranch for BBQ brisquet sandwiches and met the man’s wife who made sure we knew the way. This afternoon when Gryph was practicing on her new silks for the first time we felt the wind change and the cold arrive. Grateful we are to have a haven (with wifi!) before riding out on Tuesday morning.