Deb Twigg and SRAC in Waverly NY

horse knockerhorse knocker2

A few days ago, I received a call from an old friend; Deb Twigg. She had found on eBay a brass doorknocker in the shape of a horse’s head and thought of me. Deb invited me down to Crooked River Co-op on Broad Street; which she owns and operates. As a gift, Deb presented the doorknocker to me. The doorknocker was a real beauty; made in Waynesboro,Virginia by VA Metal Crafters, copyright 1949.

I met Deb in 2007; when my daughter, Emma, and I volunteered at SRAC. The museum and archeology center had recently opened to the public. For a brief time, I served as a board member. In the fall of 2008, I was volunteering at SRAC when a fellow volunteer told me about her experience helping rescued horses in Newfield, NY. That’s how I came to volunteer at Meadow Gate and meet Pam Watos. It’s remarkable how we are all connected.

Deb Little League image1 (3)Deb grew up in the “Valley” which comprises Athens, Sayre and Waverly. Like so many other small towns in that time period, it was still safe to play in your neighborhood after dark which the kids did every summer night. All the neighbor kids came together.

One favorite “homegrown” game the kids played they called “Gun Tag”; a loose game of tag. To begin with everyone put a foot in a circle, then the kids would chant a rhyme; ‘engine engine number nine going down Chicago line..one train fell off the track do you want your money back’or ‘bubble gum bubble gum in a dish how many pieces do you wish’ or ‘strawberry shortcake, cream on top, how many boyfriends do you got? 1,2,3,4,5 your it’; and of course the old favorite;’eeny meeny miny moe catch a tiger by the toe’.

The game proceeded as follows: the person who was ‘It’ would say “BANG I shot you ‘Phil or whoever’; then, “Phil” had to go to his front porch and sit until someone came from hiding and yelled “Jail Break!” Being chosen ‘It’ proved a thankless job; people sneaking around and running past you in the dark, then once someone was caught, only to see them set free to the sound of ‘JAIL BREAK’. The kids also made up their own yodel, OOOO-AHS; to taunt the person who was it. Nobody could ever guard the porch and find everyone, so it was an endless night of running after people in the dark for that one person who was ‘It’.deb twigg - Little League1

Once Deb hide an extra coat and hat in the bushes as a disguise to fool the person who was ‘It’. She theorized that if the person who was ‘It’ couldn’t recognize her; he/she wouldn’t be able to call out her name and ‘shoot’ her.

At age eleven, Deb became the first girl Little League player in Sayre, PA. The only girl to make the team the first year girls were allowed to play with the boys.

In the fourth grade, Deb’s class studied native American history. The class field trip took the students to the Tioga Point Museum. The museum housed a diverse collection of artifacts created by early American settlers, Native Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, Polynesians, Micronesians, Europeans and peoples from the Middle East. At that time, Native American skeletons were also displayed which added an eerie atmosphere for the young students.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a federal law, enacted on November, 16, 1990, made it illegal for federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to have human remains, funerary objects and sacred objects. The law insured that these artifacts and human remains were returned to Native Americans. So the skeletons were removed.

Tioga Point Museum

spanish hill After the visit to the museum, the students headed for Spanish Hill. Although today a private residence sits on top of the hill, during that time period people often visited and explored Spanish Hill. The students raced to the summit, Deb in the lead; straight up the hill a distance of 230 feet.

Standing atop Spanish Hill, the students were awestruck by the incredible silence which engulfed them. Amazed at how far they could see; the students looked down at the highway far below them. All the kids except one, decided to run around and play games. Duncan, always excluded and picked on by the other students, retreated to a wooded area and played by himself under a tree.

On that particular day, Duncan’s lonely climb and exploration payed off; he found a fully grooved, Native American ax. He became the hero of the day; all the kids gathered around. The teacher had an arm around him in congratulations as Duncan proudly held the ax. It became Duncan’s day! A memory that Deb never forgot.

Native American Fully Grooved Ax

Time moved on and Deb grew up. In the 1990s, she purchased a house at the base of Spanish Hill. The memories of her childhood experiences had faded. Everyday, as she worked on her computer; she looked out her window at Spanish Hill. Often, vultures circled the summit. One day, Deb searched the Internet for local history and discovered the description of a Native American village called “Carantuoan” which fit the description of Spanish Hill.

Deb decided to call up the Tioga Point Museum and ask them what they knew about Carantuoan and Spanish Hill. The person on the other end of the line listened to her question and quickly responded, “Spanish hill is not Carantouan and there are no giant skeletons!”

Surprised by the response, Deb felt challenged to find the answers to the mystery surrounding Spanish Hill and the Native American village Carantuoan. Not one to turn away from a problem, Deb called the president of Carantouan Greenway, Marty Borko. He explained to Deb that Carantouan Greenway simply used the word Carantuoan. There was so much controversy surrounding Carantuoan and Spanish Hill that if Deb ever figured it out; he would really like to know what the truth was.

And so, Deb set out to find answers. She went to every museum and library; photocopied every report, speech, and article she could find about Spanish Hill over the last hundred years. She immersed herself in the documents; people and events seemed to jump off the pages as she read.

louise welles murray7

MoorheadDeb formed deep opinions of the people she read about; they became important role models in her life, even though, she never met them and they had long passed away into history.

The people who inspired Deb were many. Louise Wells Murray who founded the Tioga Point Museum in 1895. Also, Ellsworth Cowles who worked with Louise as a young man and discovered a village site below Spanish Hill in 1933. There were also villains in Deb’s opinion; Warren K. Moorehead, George Heye, and others who did their best to plunder the Valley archeology sites and confuse local history.

Ellsworth Cowes & Son Dick Cowles - 1933 Palisade Village Site

With Deb’s new found knowledge, she visited ‘Pennsylvania Archaeology Research List’, which at the time had an open forum. She started commenting on Spanish Hill and all the things she had learned. To her surprise, the other participants ripped her comments to pieces. One commenter in particular asked Deb, “Why hadn’t you read Pennsylvania State archaeologist, Barry Kent’s book? He stated that Spanish Hill is nothing more than a glacial mound and that locals believing otherwise was simply folklore and myth.”

Deb purchased Barry Kent’s book, ‘Susquehanna’s Indians published 1984. Her recent research helped Deb discover exactly where she felt the state archaeologist had gone wrong. This became the motivation for writing her own article, completely referenced. Deb submitted the article for peer review to The Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology. In the winter of 2005, her article was published.

wooly mammoth dig1Her studies led her to people who had memories of the excavations at Spanish Hill; Dick Cowles and Ted Kier. Dick Cowles helped his father, Ellsworth Cowles, discovered the village site below Spanish Hill. Ted Keir also excavated the site at Spanish Hill; in addition, he worked with the local Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s to preserve the Hill as a historic site.

In 2005, Deb, Ted Kier and Dick Cowles became co-founders of The Susquehanna River Archaeological Center of Native American studies, SRAC. To house the center, they purchased the old Philadelpia Sales building on Broad St. in Waverly, NY in the winter of 2007. The plan was to preserve all of the archaeology of the region that they could and move forward with continued research. They felt that local collections were in dire need of preservation and that more research needed to be done. In addition, they wanted to provide a place where ideas and information could be shared; as well as, a place to educate the public about local Native American prehistoric and historic past.

This past year, Deb lost a good friend and co-founder Ted Keir. Dick Cowles is now 93 and still conducts tours in the museum every Thursday. SRAC also has two archaeologist on staff and excavations to uncover more answers are underway. The center is staffed 100% by volunteers and the doors are open five days a week. It is Deb’s wish that SRAC lasts for years to come and that the community will continue to support the center in the future. She hopes that like Louise Wells Murray, the museum she helped create will be Deb’s legacy to future generations.

If you haven’t already met Deb stop by SRAC. The center’s location is 345 Broad St. Waverly, NY and hours are 1-5 PM Tuesdays – Friday; 11 AM – 4 PM Saturdays. To contact the center by mail: SRAC, PO Box 12, Sayre, PA 18840 or email at Info@sraccenter.org or call 1(607)565-7960. In addition, comments are always welcomed.

Ted Kier, Debb Twigg, Dick Cowles touched2
(right to left) Dick Cowles, Deb Twigg, Ted Kier

Sources: Tioga Point Museum, photo taken by Doug Kerr; Ellsworth and Richard Cowles, photo in family collection

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Beloved Stallion – Fade Away

Fade Away and Barb What is it about horse crazy girls who turn into grown women? The one’s who dream of the perfect horse and continue hoping to find one; even though, we all know that perfect animal may only be a figment of our imagination. And yet the search goes on; we know what to look for; the guidelines have been laid out in novels and films.

The 8-year-old girl in all horse eccentric woman still hopes for that perfect steed. Ask any young rider ‘What kind of horse would you like to ride?’ and the answer you’re liking to hear is something like – “a black stallion of course”.

So what happens when you find that ‘black stallion’? Pure joy; that’s what Barb Barnes felt when she purchased the nine-year-old stallion, Fade Away, in 2011. He had the perfect disposition; calm and intelligent. The stallion proved a good trail horse and excellent around children. Fade Away sired three foals at Windy Ridge; a colt and two fillies.

The years rolled by; Fade Away developed breathing problems and COPD. Barb tried many remedies, but the years took their toll on the stallion. During the fall of 2015 pollen filled the air creating difficult conditions for the horse. Fade Away’s breathing became excessively labored; with each breath his rib-cage heaved and his nostrils flared as he tried desperately to breath. After extensive treatments, Barb felt she had no choice but to put the stallion out of his misery.

Time goes by, but some things are not forgotten. Some memories dwell in the heart and soul as well as the mind. For all of us who had the good fortune to meet Fade Away; the beautiful black Arab stallion; we will never forget his gentle grace.

Fade Away - 2011

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Follow Up on Rabid Fox Attack and Sam’s Cancer

GrayFox photo by Tim Ross

Time has a way of passing faster than one can believe. Last April, a fox trespassed and attacked Connie, her dogs and cats. Johnn shot the fox. Sure enough, after the Game Warden had the animal tested for rabies the results came back positive.

Connie had rabies shots. The dogs and cats were quarantined. Since Connie didn’t have proof that her cats, Oscar and Dexter, received rabies shots; they were quarantined the longest, for six months. Connie locked the cats in her garage with food, water and cozy bedding. She checked on them often; unfortunately, they were outside cats and used to wandering around the property, hunting mice and exploring all the things small felines enjoy exploring.

The garage proved hot, humid and suffocating. The cats complained and complained; meowed, paced and cried to be let out. The hot summer days dragged on and on, but fortunately the cats showed no signs of the dreaded disease. Finally, on a beautiful fall day in October, the imprisoned cats were set free. They dashed out of the garage, free at last.

The dogs fared much better as they did have papers stating when they received rabies shots. Trixie and Molley were confined to the house and not allowed to wander off the property. Connie and Johnn kept a close eye on them. The months dragged on and on. In July, the dogs proved to be rabies free and their quarantine was lifted.

Sam - December 8, 2011 Sam had surgery for ocular-squamous-cell-carcinoma last summer. The vet, Robin Rodgers, removed the mass of diseased cells. She felt there was a good chance the cancer would reappear. Johnn treated the eye with an ointment and returned Sam to the pasture the next day.

Winter came; rumors spread through the local horsey grapevine that one of the horses at Horse Heaven had died; probably Sam. In the meantime, Sam recovered from his surgery. Everyday Johnn examined the eye, looking for signs of the cancer. He found none. The horse made a complete recovery and so far doing well.

Until next time – Happy Trails

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Sam’s Eye Surgery

Several months ago, Sam developed a small fleshy growth in the corner of his eye. Johnn watched the abnormality and medicated it; within a month the pinkish mound of skin grew 50% of its original mass and transformed into a walnut sized tumor. Connie scheduled an appointment with their vet, Robin Rodgers to have the tumor removed. Tumor Before Surgery

The morning sun battled with thick clouds creating a haze over the stables; rain threatened. John, Connie and I waited inside the barn for Robin to arrive. Sam stood peacefully in his stall not realizing he was scheduled for an operation. Before long, Robin pulled her car into the driveway.

Sam Cross-tiedRobin prepared for surgery. Johnn snapped two lead ropes onto the horse’s halter to form crossties.

Eye surgery

Sam received tranquilizers. Robin numbed the eye to stop the lids from moving, and then, she fastened a protective blue cloth over the horse’s eye. Robin sutured the eye open and carefully cut out the tumor.

Tumor RemovedOriginally, Robin felt that the third eyelid was involved; however, she discovered that the tumor had grown deeper into the conjunctiva, but did not involve the third eyelid.

Sam’s advanced age, somewhere around thirty, ruled out any further procedures. Although, Robin removed as much of the tumor as she could see there was always the chance that some cancer cells remained resulting in the disease returning. With a younger animal, chemotherapy or radiation treatments would be used to illuminate the remaining cancer cells; in this case the horses’ immune system would have to take care of any remaining illness. Without performing a biopsy, Robin couldn’t determine what type of tumor she had extracted; however, she suspected ocular-squamous-cell-carcinoma.

Sam and Johnn After Surgery3Ocular-squamous-cell-carcinoma on the eyelid generally appears as a pink mass. Horses with non-pigmented skin areas are more likely to development this type of cancer. Appaloosas, Paints, Halflingers, and some draft horses including Belgiums are more susceptible to the disease.

Sam and Robin Surgery 025Robin explained that in some cases a tumor may be benign and not actually cancerous. A foreign body such as dirt or a splinter could have caused the growth.

Dissected TumorAfter removing the tumor, Robin placed the lump on a sheet and bisected it looking for some type of foreign body at the center of fleshy mass. She discovered none.

“Either it will come back or it won’t. Only time will tell. Hopefully his immune system will be able to fight off whatever cancerous cells are left”, said Robin. “If the tumor comes back in a couple of months, the cancer will probably metastasized to his liver or lungs.”

Sam remained on stall rest for a few days and then returned to the pasture. The days and months passed by. Johnn kept a close watch on Sam’s eye. The cancer didn’t return and the horse remained in good health. With some luck, we all hope that the old Belgium will beat the cancer and have many more years of life at Ballentine’s Horse Heaven.

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Sara Rummel’s Encounter with a Mountain Lion

Sara Rummel

Sara Rummel

A few weeks ago I met Sara Rummel at the Dandy Mini-Mart in Van Etten, NY. A very composed and capable horsewoman; she told me the details of an attack on her horse Denahi and the sighting of a mountain lion several days before the attack.

In the Finger Lakes region of NY State winter days are short; sunset in the early part of February 2015 occurred around 5:20. The daytime temperature ranged in the low 20’s with nighttime temperatures dipping into the single digits. Snow storms passed through the region; wind forced snow into deep piles where it froze on creek beds, pastures and woodlands. On such an afternoon, Sara rode her horse, Denahi, down a partially wooded area on her way home from visiting with her Mother. The short cut led through the woods and connected Crumtown Road with Emery Road.

An old, pasture fence paralleled the trail for some distance, ending just before the path cut across Sulphur Springs Creek. As Sara approached the creek Denahi began to act up and she almost fell off. She urged her horse forward but again the animal refused to move. Sara realized something had spooked her horse, so she stopped and looked around. She glanced to her left and spotted a mountain lion running back and forth along the fence line. The big cat turned, stared at Sara and her horse, then slowly walked towards them. The horse and rider stood motionless; then suddenly, the mountain lion turned, leapt the fence and disappeared into the woodlands. Sara slowly walked her horse forward, crossed the creek, and when she felt safe, pushed Denahi to a canter; leaving the trail behind at Crumtown Road.

A few days later on the night of February 5th, the thermometer dipped to 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Denahi and the rest of the herd, consisting of 10 horses, roamed the open pasture; bordered by trees and brush. At 6:00 that evening, Sara put a round bale of hay out for the horses to eat. Everything was still, except for the quiet sound of horses munching hay and Sara’s boots walking through the snow. A full moon rose into the sky by 7:20, illumination reached 98.25% making visibility excellent and deep shadows crisscrossed the frozen land.

Injury - morning of Feb 6, 2015

Injury – morning of Feb 6, 2015

The next morning Sara walked out to the pasture to feed and check the horses. Denahi stood by the round bale feeder but something was wrong. Some creature or object had torn the flesh from her horse and created a large wound. A gash ran down his buttock, the flesh torn off and the muscles ripped apart. Near-by the blood stained snow exposed where the horse had fallen, laid during the night and then struggle to his feet. Denahi's injury

Before long, Denahi boarded a horse trailer on his way to Cornell University Equine Hospital; part of the University’s College of Veterinarian Medicine. Sara backed her horse out of the trailer and waited for the team of vets to care for her horse. The vets sutured Denahi, applied an antiseptic dressing called silver wound kote, and inserted two tubes to drain the wound. Sara asked the vets if a mountain lion could have attacked her horse, but was told the injury was probably made by a barbwire fence.Denahi - injury just before he received sutures

Denahi with Sara at Cornell Vet School waiting for surgery

Denahi with Sara at Cornell Vet School waiting for surgery

Sara having seen a mountain lion only a few days before the attack had reason to believe that her horse was injured by one. A large animal track, near where her horse had been injured, was frozen in the snow. She contacted the DEC, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, an environmental protection and regulatory agency and reported a possible animal attack. An agent came to the farm, looked at the paw print but told Sara he could not tell exactly what animal the track belonged to; but in all likelihood it was a coyote.

Denahi - drainage tubes

Denahi – drainage tubes

Four days after Denahi’s surgery, a vet from Cornell arrived at Sara’s place to check up on the horse and remove the drainage tubes. The wound did not look good; broken open and oozing infection. The vet said there was nothing more that could be done for the horse.

Sara refused to put her horse down and decided to fight for Denahi’s life. Sara had been posting pictures on Facebook since the injury to her horse occurred; explaining the injury and its progression. One friend commented after hearing that the wound was not healing that Sara should try Underwoods Medicine; a spray on antiseptic. Sara took her friends advice and applied the ointment every day for 3 months without washing the wound.

Underwoods Medicine worked, the wound healed remarkably well. After 3 months of stall rest and no exercise, Sara started to walk Denahi slowly and then introduced him to turnout. Denahi returned to a pasture close to the house. He has the company of an old mare and some cows. Everyday his wound gets better and soon there will be no sign that it was ever there.

Silver Wound Kote

Silver Wound Kote

Injury Opens Up

Injury Opens Up

Wound Heals March

Wound Heals March 15

Denahi's injury as of July 1

Denahi’s injury as of July 1

"Those Eyes" photo of a mountain lion taken by Art G at Philadelphia Zoo

“Those Eyes” photo of a mountain lion taken by Art G at Philadelphia Zoo

As of this date, the story ends here. What happened on that moonlit night in February nobody will positively know; however, one can speculate. Officially, mountain lions do not exist in New York State. When one is sited the authorities will tell you it wasn’t a mountain lion, but a bobcat, coyote or maybe even an ordinary house cat. Farmers, horse people, hunters, loggers, hikers and anyone else who venture into the woods in the Finger Lakes region of New York State or Northeast Pennsylvania will tell you differently. In reality, the animals have been sighted throughout the Northeast. Just mention mountain lions and you will hear of an encounter with one of the big cats. In fact, Anne Shaffer and I saw one while riding in the spring of 2010 near the PA State Game Lands – Number 239, on Chamberlain Road.

How did the animals get here? Everyone has a different theory, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone entering the woods should be aware that mountain lions exist in this region and should take precaution. The Desert USA website suggests the following if you encounter a mountain lion:

1. Do not approach a mountain lion
2. Gather and protect children
3. Keep eye contact and back away slowly, DO NOT RUN, – an act that might trigger a mountain lion’s pursuit instinct
4. Act aggressively, look large, wave arms, shout, throw stones or branches
5. Give the mountain lion an avenue for escape
6. If attacked, try to keep facing the mountain lion and fight back with your walking stick, pepper spray, stones – any weapon that comes to hand.

Be safe and happy trails to everyone. If you have encountered a mountain lion or have a story to share please leave a comment. Comments are always welcome.

Sources
http://www.sunrisesunset.com/calendar.asp; http://www.accuweather.com/en/us/spencer-ny/14883/february-weather/2145725; http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KITH/2015/2/1/MonthlyCalendar.html?req_city=Spencer&req_state=NY&req_statename=&reqdb.zip=14883&reqdb.magic=1&reqdb.wmo=99999; http://www.moonconnection.com/moon-february-2015.phtml; http://www.timeanddate.com/moon/usa/syracuse?month=2&year=2015;http://www.defenders.org/mountain-lion/basic-facts

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Johnn’s Horse Champ

Johnn

Johnn

Times change; people and horses grow older and eventually die. Life at Horse Heaven, in this regard, is no different than anyplace else. A few weeks ago, I talked with Johnn as I stood in Pepper’s stall and brushed down the mare. While cleaning out his desk, Johnn had come across a few pictures of the first horse he owned at the stables. As we chatted, he shared with me the story of Champ.

Years ago in 1987, Connie and Johnn saw an ad in the Pennysaver listing a Belgium horse for sale. The morning of September 5th the two headed for the NY State Fair in Syracuse; on the way they planned to stop and have a look at the horse.

The couple pulled into the drive near the barn. The young man selling the horse explained that he was headed for college and his father couldn’t keep Champ. He brought the horse out for Johnn and Connie to look over. Champ stood about 16.5 hands and weighed between 1900 to 2200 pounds; by any measure truly a large horse.

Champ

Champ

The teenager explained Champ’s training. When logging the father and son first chopped down and topped the trees; to haul the logs out of the woods they used the draft horse. They would lead Champ into the woods and hitch a chain to a log. Champ pulled the log down the logging trail until he reached the truck. One man went with the horse to load the log onto the back of the truck, while the other waited in the woods for Champ to come back. All day the draft horse worked between the two men; walking back and forth up and down the logging trail by himself. If the man in the woods moved to another location, all he needed to do was whistle for Champ to find him.

img021Connie and Johnn purchased the horse and brought him back to their farm. Champ joined Connie’s horse, Dolly, and the beefers in the pasture. Johnn cut trees and Champ hauled logs. The years passed by uneventful until one dark night in early winter. The horses came into the barn for the night and Johnn noticed that Champ’s right-hind hoof looked strange. The shadows crisscrossing the stable made it hard for him to get a good look at the hoof, so he hurried to get his flashlight.

Johnn shone the light onto the hoof. He saw a round hole in the hoof wall; a stone had worked its way from the bottom of the hoof and come out through the front. The discovery surprised Johnn as Champ never exhibited any sign of being lame or in pain.

Champ footIt took a month of stall rest and soaking the hoof in Epson salt, 3 times a day for the hoof to heal. Champ didn’t complain; he simply munched hay, soaked his hoof in the bucket and waited for Johnn to take it out. Johnn often grabbed a coffee in his office while he waited for the solution to work on the wound. By the end of the month, the hoof wall had regrown and the horse returned to the pasture.

A few more years passed by, then one dark night in the cold of winter Johnn opened the barn door for the horses to come into their stalls. Champ fell down on an icy patch in the pasture and couldn’t get up. He struggled and stuggled; first pulling his front feet into position to stand, but his hindquarters refused to follow and he slipped back to the frozen ground.

At first Johnn didn’t know what to do; however, he decided the horse needed to brace himself to get off the ice. Johnn opened the pasture gate, and then, went to the shed where he housed his tractor. He climbed up onto the tractor, sat down and turned the machine on. Slowly, he drove into the pasture and approached the fallen horse. Placing a harness on Champ, Johnn bolted a long chain from the tractor to the horse. Moving slightly forward, the tractor steadied the animal; not pulling Champ but giving him support. The huge horse pulled his front legs up to stand; Johnn easied forward slightly with the tractor and Champs back legs sprung forward bringing the horse to a standing position. Johnn turned off the tractor, jumped down and took hold of the horse. He walked Champ to his stall, looked him over for injuries, and finding non, bolted the stall gate and turned in for the night.

Champ and Dolly

Champ and Dolly

The next morning arrived as cold as the day before. Johnn made his way from the house down to the barn and stood before Champ’s stall. The horse lay in the dry sawdust and again could not stand up. Johnn hurried into his office and called the vet.

The vet arrive and entered Champ’s stall, examined the horse, shook his head and turned to Johnn. “Either his hip is out or his back. It’s a common problem with Belgiums. Unfortunately there isn’t anything I can do about it.”

Johnn looked at his horse laying in the stall, unable to get up and in pain. “Then you better put him down. I don’t want him to suffer.”

To witness the death of a friend and faithful companion is no easy task. The vet prepared the drugs and filled a large needle as he prepared to euthanize the horse. The drug, once injected, quickly shut down the horse’s central nervous system and rendered Champ unconscious. His heart stopped beating and he no longer drew a breath through his large nostrils, but lay motionless.

The vet packed his equipment and left the stables; leaving Johnn alone in the barn. The winter wind picked up and a few snowflakes fell. Johnn needed to bury Champ, but didn’t own a backhoe, so he called his brother Paul.

“Sure I can come down and help you with the horse,” said Paul. “Do you mind where he’s buried?”

“No,” replied Johnn.

“Then let’s bring the horse up to my place. I have a spot where the ground hasn’t froze yet.”

In a short time Paul arrived at the stable. He parked his flatbed truck in the field across from the barn. Johnn opened the pasture gate, drove his tractor through the pasture and into barn. Then the two men struggled with the dead, 2000 pound horse; finally securing one end of a heavy chain around the animal and the other end to the tractor. Once that was done, Johnn dragged the carcass out of the stall, through the barn, and crossed the road to where the flatbed truck waited. The two men positioned the dead horse at the end of the truck and Johnn drove his tractor alongside the vehicle. Champ came to a stop on the truck bed and the men secured him with a heavy chain.

The two men hopped into the truck and headed up the road. They passed a Mom and Pop luncheonette/gas station on their trip to Paul’s property. The business owner stood in front of his store as the truck with the dead horse slowly drove past.

Paul parked the truck on a secluded section of his property, next to a backhoe. The two men decided where the grave would be, and then, Paul climbed into the backhoe, started it up and dug a huge pit. When the grave was dug, the men secured a chain to the dead horse and the backhoe. Paul started up the backhoe and pulled the carcass off the truck. Slowly, he lowered Champ into his grave, and once there, covered the horse with dirt until he was buried.

Paul drove back to Johnn’s place, dropped him off and then turned around and headed home. On his way, he stopped by the Mom and Pop luncheonette for gas. The owner, curious about the horse he had seen on the back of Paul’s truck earlier, walked up to him and asked, “Didn’t you have a horse on the back of this truck?”

“Why yes I did. You see that horse is so big we can’t put him into a regular trailer. The only way we could transport the horse was to train him to lay down, quiet and not move while on the back of the truck. As long as that chain lies over the horse, he won’t move a muscle. Then when we want to get the horse off the truck and unload him, all we have to do is pick up the chain and he gets right up. We put a lead rope on him and back him off the truck.”

“That’s amazing,” said the store keeper.

Paul climbed back into his truck and smiling drove away home. The winter sky cleared a bit as the wind parted the clouds. Somewhere deep in the woods deer found shelter while the black bears hibernated waiting for the season to change. In the meantime, Dolly mourned the loss of her pasture buddy.

“That’s quite a story Johnn,” I said.

“Champ was a good horse. The best trained horse I ever had.”

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Rabid Fox at Horse Heaven in Athens, PA

The rabies virus and resulting illness formed a fearful specter within the human collective conscious as early as 3,000 BC when first recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The disease raged through Europe and the Middle East transmitted to humans largely by dogs; century after century without a known cure. In 1885 two scientist, Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux, developed a vaccine for the dreaded disease and administered it to a 9 year old boy named Joseph Meister. The vaccine proved a success; resulting in saving the boy’s life. Since the discovery of the rabies vaccine the disease has been kept under control; although, still persists in wild animal populations.John Ballentine

The rabies virus can infect any mammal including horses, goats, cattle and of course humans. Exposure to the virus occurs from the saliva of an infected animal; either through a direct bite, contact with broken skin or open wound, or contact with eyes, nose or mouth. Once the virus has obtained entry to the nervous system it multiples in muscle tissue; the virus slowly migrates towards the brain. During this incubation period the animal cannot transmit the disease; however, as soon as the virus reaches the brain and salivary glands the animal begins to display symptoms and become infectious to others. Symptoms of rabies include aggressive behavior, loss of fear, daytime activity by nocturnal species, difficulty swallowing, restlessness, decreased activity, incoordination, coma and sudden death.

Grey Fox Dcrjsr_Wikimedia CommonsOn April 29th at 6:00 in morning Connie snapped her dog’s leashes to the dog run cable near the back porch. She hurried back inside to shower and get ready for work. After her shower, halfway ready for work, her hair wrapped in a towel and wearing a tee shirt; she came back to get the dogs.

Trixie frantically dug near the woodshed as Connie tugged at the dog’s leash. Suddenly, out of the hole popped an angry grey fox. The female fox chased the two dogs as Connie pulled on the leashes and tried to get her animals to safety inside the house. The fox darted onto the porch using a feedbox and cat house as part of its obstacle course. Within seconds, the fox leapt off the porch and attacked Connie’s’ black lab, Molly; pinning the dog to the ground by its neck.Trixie and Dexter

At lightning speed, Connie ran to the dog’s aid, grabbed Molly’s leash, unclipped it from the cable and pulled the dog to its feet and towards the back door. Meanwhile the fox followed the pair and tried to get into the house. Connie grabbed the towel off of her head and flung the wet cloth at the aggressive animal attempting to shoo it off the porch. The two, fox and woman, continued their strange dance for a few minutes until finally the fox jumped off the porch and headed for the woods not far from the chicken coop.

Finally, now that the fox had left, Connie returned to the house and finished getting ready for work. Without warning, the sound of screeching cats filled the air. Fearing a cat fight in the backyard, Connie hurried to find out what was going on. When she opened the screen porch door and peered out; she saw the fox in the midst of an attack on her two cats, Oscar and Dexter. The fox pinned Oscar to the ground and stood on top of the cat.GrayFox photo by Tim Ross

Connie rushed into the house screaming, “Wake up Johnn! Wake up, get out of bed and grab your shotgun!”

After mobilizing Johnn, Connie finished dressing for work and left the house. Meanwhile, the fox crawled into the cat house on the back porch. Johnn readied his shotgun and walked out the backdoor headed for the woodshed in search of the fox. Not finding the animal there, he returned to the porch as the fox climbed out of the cat house and stood momentarily by the back door. Johnn took aim and shot the fox.

A few hours later, I pulled my SUV into the driveway in front of the stables. Johnn, busy doing chores, told me about the fox.

“I called the Game Commission but they said they didn’t test animals for rabies. I’d have to cut off the fox’s head and take it to a vet,” said Johnn.

“That doesn’t sound like fun. Where is the fox now?” I asked.

“I put it in the chicken coop.”

I saddled Pepper and headed for Round Top Park. The early morning sun cast a soft light upon the landscape and the fresh, new leaves filled the air with the fragrance of spring. After my ride, I climbed into my vehicle and started to back out of the driveway only to see Connie driving up the road. She stopped briefly and explained she left work to see if she could locate the cats which had been attacked by the fox.

Connie called the Game Commission. Although they had no record of Johnn’s earlier call; when they realized a human had been exposed to the rabies virus two officers were immediately sent out to Horse Heaven.

One Game Warden retrieved the dead fox from the chicken coop while the other questioned Johnn.

“Could you have shooed the fox away?” asked the officer.

“No, it was on my back porch trying to get at my wife and dogs. It’s not normal for a fox to be out in broad daylight acting so aggressive,” replied Johnn.

“A few days ago we received a report of a strange acting fox from up the road, but we couldn’t find it. Where did you shoot the fox?”

Johnn pointed to a blood stained board on the deck flooring next to the back door, “Right there.”

The officers from the Game Commission left with the dead fox and the next day Johnn and Connie received news about the animal. The Dept. of Agriculture and the Game Commission called the Ballentines informing them that the fox tested positive for rabies; the Dept. of Health called and explained that Connie needed to get a rabies shot. Notice of Rabies Quarintine

Connie immediately called Robin her vet and explained about the rabid fox. The next day, Robin came out to administer rabies vaccine booster shots to all of the horses. The dogs and cats received booster shots too.

A few days later, the vet from the Dept. of Agriculture quarantined the dogs, Trixie and Molly, for 60 days inside the house; although, the animals could go outside if accompanied by Connie or Johnn. Due to the fact that Connie didn’t have a record of the cat’s rabies vacinations; the cats, Oscar and Dexter, were quarantine for 180 days inside the garage, away from all contact with humans and other animals.

Two yellow papers, taped to the window near the front porch, informed the pubic that the animals were quarantined. Besides the anxiety and fear of dealing with a rabid animal; Connie and Johnn financially were out $350 for rabies booster shots. That brings a close to the episode of the rabid fox. Country living goes hand in hand with wildlife neighbors; sometimes a black bear after bird seed in your feeder, deer and rabbits nibbling your vegetables and shrubs and ever so rarely a rabid animal on a rampage on your back porch. If you thought country living was boring, think again; there is never a dull moment. Until next time – Happy Trails

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Colonel Jim Eskew and his Wild West Show in Waverly, NY

JE Rodeo Official ProgramNot far from Ballentine’s Horse Heaven, housed in a small building along a back road, stands a tack and saddle repair shop. The shop is run by a kind, elderly gentleman who knows the past and can make it come alive with local stories of horses, cowboys, western singers and rodeos. That is where I first heard of Colonel Jim Eskew and his Wild West Show in Waverly, NY.

Jim Eskew was an accomplished horseman and cowboy. Originally from Tennessee, he worked on ranches, Mulhall’s Wild West Show, Sparks Circus, and eventually, managed small rodeos. By 1933 Jim had formed his own Wild, West Show, which toured New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Several years passed and his rodeo grew prompting him to seek a permanent winter home for the traveling show.

JE Rodeo ProgramIn Waverly NY, two brothers, restaurateur and inn owners Ed and Bill O’Brian, felt Eskew’s Wild West Show would be good for local business. They brought their idea to the Waverly Board of Trade and Jim Eskew. After a year of negotiations, in July of 1939, Eskew accepted the boards offer; a 300 acre farm four miles outside of Waverly. In exchange for the property, Colonel Jim Eskew would remain there for at least 3 years and annually stage a Wild, West Show for the town.

Before long, Colonel Eskew, his troupe of performers and crew took up residency at the old Ralph Shock farm also known as the Loomis farm located between Talmadge Hill road and Lockwood. They renovated and enlarged the existing barn on the property and purchased an additional 300 acres from the adjoining Jenkins farm.

The Colonel brought to the ranch 150 head of livestock including brahma bulls, buffalo, cattle, bucking broncos and riding horses. He had a weekly payroll of $1,200; in today’s dollars that would be approximately $20,264. Colonel Eskew built cabins, bunkhouses, an Indian village, tack shop, livestock barns, areas to train animals, showgrounds and grandstands. During summers the JE Ranch hosted a camp for girls and boys. His Wild, West Show was the biggest performing rodeo East of the Mississippi. Cars clogged the narrow road leading to the showgrounds as hundreds of people flocked to view the show. Waverly became the ‘Rodeo Capital of the East’; business in the small town was booming.

Eskew Family, Colonel Jim Eskew, his wife Dolly, Tom and Jim Jr. little girl unknownEveryone in the Eskew family performed in the rodeo; the Colonel and his wife Dolly, as well as his sons Jim Jr. and Tom. The stars lined up to perform read like a who’s who in Hollywood. Top cowboy singing star Roy Rogers was a regular; other famous performers included Dale Evans, Sons of the Pioneers, The Cisco Kid and Pancho, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue, Andy Devine, Gene Autry, Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson.

Jim Jr. Eskew World Champion Trick and Fancy RoperColonel Eskew’s son, Jim Jr., was a star roper. He performed rope tricks on horseback including skipping rope while standing on top of his saddled horse. He became the Worlds Champion Trick and Fancy Roper when he competed and won the title at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in NYC.

The advent of World War II triggered the end of the rodeo; the Colonel’s sons left for war and his wife, Dolly, died. After the war a new type of entertainment took hold; television. The JE Ranch and Rodeo fell on hard times as crowds dwindled. Colonel Jim Eskew sold the ranch in 1957 and retired. He moved to Ardmore Oklahoma and passing away on February 23, 1965.

In Waverly the memory of the JE Ranch faded. There isn’t much to tell that it ever existed. The only remaining buildings are the main house and a single cabin. If you ask Waverly old-timers about the Rodeo chances are you’ll get a smile and a story; otherwise, Colonel Jim Eskew’s Wild West Show is pretty much forgotten.

Sources:

http://www.astortheater.org/articles16.html; Elmira Star-Gazette, Thursday, July 13, 1939; http://www.ithaca.com/news/local_news/looking-back-on-the-rodeo-capital-of-the-east/article_20623189-3473-5724-ad0e-a9b9c7f6c531.html;
http://www.tiogahistory.org/Site/Waverly.html; http://tioga.nygenweb.net/rodeo.htm; http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~howardlake/amusement8/fraleysny.html; http://www.valleymorningstar.com/news/article_0030e1b7-d5b1-5714-9222-7cc6a5137b8b.html; http://www.tiogahistory.org/Site/Waverly.html; http://tioga.nygenweb.net/rodeo.htm

Note: Colonel Eskew brought the first quarter horses to the Eastern states; breeding the horses on his ranch. The sales from the horses totaled over $150,000 which would be in today’s dollars approximately $1,354,165.

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Hannah Hooton’s Latest Novel – ‘Making the Running’

MTR Front Cover Large w Bk 4 text 1I recently read Hannah Hooton’s newly released novel, ‘Making the Running’, the fourth book in the Aspen Valley Series. Although the novel may be described as adult, romance fiction involving horses and racing, this book is a bit more. Hooton’s characters, and their intertwining family relationships, wrestle with the psychological motivations which draw people together or push them apart.

The novel revolves around Kate; a groom and exercise girl working at Aspen Valley Racing Stables for trainer Jack Carmichael. Her deep attachment to the horse she cares for, d’Artagnan, at times overshadows her romance with two brothers, Ben and Nicholas. Kate finds herself involved with circumstances beyond her control and forced to make decisions which have long term consequences.

The racing and horse scenes are well written and illustrate Hooton’s firsthand knowledge of the events. The author’s familiarity with racing allows the reader an inside look at how races can be manipulated. In addition, ‘Making the Running’ delves deeply into broken family relationships, addiction, poverty, status and ultimately the universal battle between responsibility to one’s self verses family. The characters are very well developed and believable; exactly what one would expect in a Hooton novel.

After finishing the last chapter, I put down the book but the characters remained with me. As it is with novels that open up a fictional world which seem so real; I was left with the gnawing question “I wonder what these people are up to now?”

I highly recommend Hannah Hooton’s novel, ‘Making the Running’, to those who love horses, romance and psychological intrigue. The novel is a digital book and can be found at the following links:

amazon.com
hannahhootonbooks.blogspot.com

*Note: The first novel, “Keeping the Peace”, in the Aspen Valley series is free on Hannah’s website, Hannah Hooton’s Website listed under Books.

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Equine Wellness Clinic at Rising Home Farm

Dawn and Buddy BellisMy SUV twisted around tight turns on the gravel road. I slowed the vehicle since frozen earth, coated with a thin layer of ice and dusted with snow, created hazardous conditions. The temperature hovered around 27 degrees; the windchill factor made the air feel more like 14. Early morning light filtered through grey clouds which occasionally released fresh snowflakes; tiny dry crystals that hung in the air, softly blown skyward towards the clouds which spawned them. Before long, I pulled my vehicle to a stop at my destination, Rising Hope Farm.

Horse trailers and trucks lined the driveway. I couldn’t see anyone but in the barn it was a different story. The Equine Wellness Clinic was underway with horse providers stationed along the central aisle; each manning their post next to a box stall. There is something about Rising Hope Farm which exudes safety, order, horse sense, and good planning. The Clinic was no acceptance to this rule; even though the barn was full of people, horses and providers, a claim, cool and collectiveness ordered of the day.Rising Hope Horse Clinic

Dawn and Kenny were drinking coffee when I turned to Dawn and asked,” Why did you organize the clinic?”

“Another stable sponsored a clinic and I thought it was a great idea. So, I contacted the equine providers and set the date. People spread the word. We have approximately 25 people in attendance and plan to have the clinic next year too.”

The one day clinic provided horse owners a wide variety of services; spring vaccinations, lameness exams, x-rays, ultra sounds, chiropractor, dental work, hooves trimmed or shod and massage therapy. Instead of scheduling each equine provider individually, horse owners had access to all services at one location saving time and money.Starfire Gets Breathing TreatmentDarian Coykendall at Sports Massage

Wildfire, Lou Anne Miller’s horse, stood quietly in the center aisle as Darian Coykendall of High Class Equine Therapy administer a breathing treatment. The horse had suffered from breathing problems for several years and Lou Anne hoped the treatment would help. The nebulizer was filled with Equisilver Vet Antimicrobial Silver, a natural solution which aids respiration.

Darian performs massage for horses and dogs. One aid she uses in her work is called a Theraplate. The machine, a raised massage platform which fibrates at various speeds, provides therapeutic treatment to a horse’s hooves and legs. The machine functions as a sort of foot massage for horses. We stood on the Theraplate and Darian turned it on. A pleasant tingling sensation moved through my feet to my legs.

Sasha Kone, Equine DentistIn the next stall I watched Sasha Kone, an equine dentist from Endless Mountain Equine Dentistry, fit a speculum onto a small horse. She opened the horse’s mouth, and then began filing rough edges off the animal’s teeth. Sasha began working as an equine dentist when she graduated from the Texas Institute of Equine Dentistry in 2005.

Anne Shaffer and ShadowI walked further into the barn and met Anne Shaffer standing in a stall with Shadow. During the past summer, Shadow had cut his knee open. The cut healed leaving a protruding bump. Before Anne began riding season, she wanted the knee x-rayed by a vet at the clinic to make sure that it was okay.

The two vets at the clinic, Maral Avetian and Megan Tiffany, attended veterinarian school together at Penn State. They have been practicing since 2012. Vet Megan Tiffany

Vet Maral Avetian

Maral x-rayed Shadow’s leg and found nothing wrong. She moved on to Sam Lantz’s horse Clyde. Several months ago, Clyde suffered an injury while barrel racing and had been lame ever since. Sam took his horse outside to the round-pen so Maral could watch how the horse moved.

Rob Wright Chiropractic CareI walked back into the barn and down the central aisle to a stall where chiropractor, Rob Wright, stood on a stepstool. He carefully aligned the bones in the horse’s back. Ron has worked as a chiropractor for the last ten years and learned his trade from his father. He works on approximately 600 horses a year. His advice to horse owners, ‘when something gets out of alignment have the chiropractor fix it right away. The longer you wait the greater the strain on the entire body besides being harder to fix’.

Kenny Bellis worked on a horse in the next stall. He was busy filing down and trimming the horse’s hooves. I looked down the central aisle and watched the people and horses for a moment, then said my farewells and walked outside.

I climbed back into my SUV and turned towards home. The wind had picked up. Snowflakes danced in the sky as if they were afraid of the frozen earth below. As I drove the lonely road, I thought to myself that the clinic was a fantastic idea which materialized into a well-organized event. Dawn Bellis, skilled horsewoman, deserves accolades for organizing and providing a place to host the clinic. Truly, a service to the community.

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