Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sally (She's a Mustang, and That's Her Name)

It's nice to know that at least one other reader of my occaisional writing is a "horse person." Horses are a passion of mine. I love them deeply. I feel better and act better when I am in regular contact with horses. I keep three right now, two of them are Arabians, which I adore. They are tough, fleet, and have legendary endurance. They are also about as smart as horses come (which, by the way, isn't all that smart).

This isn't about anything with a pedigree though. This is about a mustang. An American mutt of a critter. Just like me.

The history of the mustang is fairly well known. When the Europeans came (except for the Vikings), they brought horses. As anyone who has lived with horses will tell you, horses escape. Fences and other protective barriers get brought down and breached by weather, vandals, thieves, and many other causes. If you breach a fence, the horses take off. There was a long time in the history of the continent where horses did quite well on their own. We have never truly bred out the herd instincts they have so, when on their own, they simply herd up, sort things out and go looking for food and water.

The magnificent Andalusian war horses of the Spanish were on the first ships. Along with them were Barbs, various draft horses, mules, and asses. There were escapes and run offs on every trip, landing, battle, march and encampment. These were the horses that formed the base genetic code for the Western Mustang. As the British and French invaded (sorry, but the place was already settled) the continent their horses escaped and joined in the mix. This mixing of the genetic codes produced what we call Mustangs. The horse cultures of the Native Americans (which is not something that includes my people the White Mountain Apaches) soon experienced an immediate benefit. By using the mustangs they were able to efficiently hunt and exploit the vast herds of bison, something that was very hard to do on foot.

Since the 50's, with the population explosion out here in the West, the mustangs have been put under tremendous pressure. They need lots of open space and free migration routes to keep themselves fed. Those, sadly, are a thing of the past. Before anyone starts to wax all poetic about the wonderful free life of the mustang I must take a moment to disabuse that. Most mustangs live a short life now. Usually they die of starvation, injury, or from bad water. They are also pretty hard on any landscape they inhabit. Not being able to move around like they once did, any resources they find are quickly used up. Often they are used to the point where they do not return.

This is why the bureau of land management has the adoption program. When they see a population of wild horses growing to the point of environmental destruction, or when they see a herd that is being monitored in danger of starving or dying of thirst, they move in, capture them and put them up for adoption.

That's how I found my Sally. She's the fourth mustang that I've taken in. Usually with a mustang I take them home, turn them out and feed them. Get them acclimated to people slowly and then, if they allow it, I train them. I have found mustangs to be about the best children's mount going. They run small. My vet figures that if she had been given access to a decent food supply that Sally would have stood about 15 hands. That's a good, average size for a horse. Instead Sally stands at 12 1/2. Except for her hooves. Compared to the rest of her, her feet are enormous. Imagine a person that's 5'4" but wears a size 12 shoe. Big old feets. Another big plus with the mustangs is temperment. They grow up having to run, fight, run some more, fight some more for every single mouthfull of food and water they get. After a few months around me they are thinking "Wow! This is like horsey heaven! All this food that they just throw at me and tasty water to drink that I don't have to fight for. This is a nice herd too, nobody's fighting all the time. That big stud guy is kept in solitary where him and his big old horse dick belong, and the other males are, well, somehow, nicer to me. I better stick with these guys as long as I can." Since most of my training style involves me working with and through herd dynamics this desire to be and remain part of the herd here is a very powerfull incentive for the mustang to cooperate with the training process. With very little effort at all I can teach a mustang how to respond to commands eagerly. Anther big plus with the mustangs is that they're sturdy. Here's an animal that never saw a vet, never had a shoe, never had any human care at all, and damned little care from the other horses to boot. The mere fact that they survive up to the capture point and then survive that process speaks of a horse that has few if any structural flaws. The mustangs are also brave. One of the biggest things we have to overcome when working with our horses is that their very first and most powerfull response to any stimulus is to Run Like Hell Right Now! A mustang that has been through the process of being captured, vet checked, penned up, branded or tattooed, transported, and all the other indignities they are subjected to before they are transported again to a new, very strange place really can't be surprised any further. Once they get the hang of a rider or a pack saddle, on the trail they are what we wilderness riders call bomb proof. You could ride Sally through Bagdhad and she wouldn't blink an eye. Mostly though, Sally's best job is to carry the pack saddle. Her herd instinct is so strong that she doesn't require much tether control at all. She just keeps up. When my son and I go out on our elk hunts we have Sally with us to help pack our stuff in and out. We pretty much load her up and go about our business. She goes along with us, making sure she keeps us in sight every step of the way. As soon as I dismount though she comes over for her stick of licorice. She would charge into the teeth of hell for licorice or carrots. Once, while hunting, we cut some cougar sign. Even a long time smoker like me could tell from sense of smell alone that there was a cougar in the neighborhood. Instead of running away, Sally got in closer to the herd and to us.

Like I said she's small, but her heart is Clydesdale size. When I come out in the morning to turn them out from their stalls and toss the first food of the day, Sally is right there. She follows me around, often nudging with her head if she thinks I'm not paying enough attention to her. I sing to her like I sing to all my other animals. And no, her theme song is not "Mustang Sally." It's Mabel's short little aria at the end of "Pirates of Penzance."

"Poor Wandering One,
Though you have truly strayed
Chasten thy pace
Thy steps retrace
Wandering one, come home.

Poor Wandering One,
If such poor love as mine
Can help you find
True peace of mind
Take heart, for it,
Is thine."

I encourage every horse lover I know to adopt and bring a mustang into the family. Us American Mutts got to stick together.

crossranged at 3B's

I Followed A Link At Bilmon's Blog

And this is where it led me. . .interesting stuff.

Smedley Butler on Interventionism
-- Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC.

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

plus ca la meme chose and stuff huh?

crossposted at 3B's

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Random Ten One Day Late

Blogger was crap dipped in white chocolate all fucking day...this is the first time i was able to even get a composition screen up. Before it goes down again here's the random ten...

Jump in the Line - - Harry Belafonte
Snake Mountain Blues - - - Townes Van Zandt
We're All Mad Here - - - Tom Waits (off topic, but I heard last week that Scarlett Johansson is recording an album of Tom Waits songs, I find this disturbing)
Safety Dance - - - Men Without Hats
Stand - - - REM
Manic Monday - - - Bangles (fuck you, I like them)
Big In Japan - - - Tom Waits
Heroin - - - Velvet Underground
Loser - - - Beck (check out his new album folks, it's his best yet)
Streets of Baltimore - - - Gram Parsons

Bonus Track

To Love Somebody - - - Flying Burrito Brothers

(in honor of a double Waits and double Parsons we'll do a Bonus Bonus)

Baidin Fheilimi - - - Sinead O'Connor

let's hope this publishes....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

This one goes out to Spudsy who wrote a great Question of the Day over to Shake's about his pumpkin obsession.

Usually I save this one for Thanksgiving, where it has replaced pumpkin pie as the traditional family favorite, but since I'm going to be in a totally obsessive work mode all next week (the question of the day was about obsessions and I copped to being obsessed with my work in music), blogging will be light and I thought I would offer up something to amuse you all.

So, without further ado. . .Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

The first thing you must do is to make a gingerbread. This is an extra spicy version that has flavor enough to stand up to the other flavors that will be flying around the room.

Ingredients for the Gingerbread:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup apple juice
2 eggs
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Butter and flour a 10" Springform pan. Heat oven to 350°.

Stir together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt in a container. (I use a plastic measuring pitcher because it comes in handy later)

In a large bowl, mix sugar with oil, juice, molasses, eggs, and fresh ginger in a large bowl. Mix in crystallized ginger. Stir in flour mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Then bake for an hour. Cool this for ten minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. (You could actually even stop right here and serve this warm with some whipped cream or a nice little Creme Anglais but resist my friends resist this is only going to get better)

Pumpkin Custard Ingredients

3 cups half-and-half
6 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups puréed pumpkin, or about 1 1/2 cans

Scald the half & half in a heavy saucepan (by scalding we mean to take it right up to the edge of boiling then remove it from the heat). In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Mix in pumpkin and warm half-and-half. When it is smooth and thoroughly mixed put it into a buttered baking dish which you then set into a larger baking dish. Fill the larger dish with hot water to about 1" below the rim of the custard dish. This is called a Bain Marie and will ensure that your custard bakes evenly all the way through. Bake this at 325° for 50 minutes and start to check it. You want a set, firm custard and a knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

To assemble your trifle get your trifle bowl out (visuals are important with this, so don't be a barbarian, get a trifle bowl) and make sure it is sparkling clean.

Whip one quart heavy cream with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and set aside.
You will also want about 1/2 cup of gingersnap crumbs.

Spoon 1/2 of the Pumpkin Custard into the bowl and layer 1/2 of the gingerbread over that and 1/2 of the whipped cream over that. Do it again. Top the final layer of whipped cream with the gingersnap crumbs (optional for you folks that aren't into the whole sobriety thing is to also drizzle the gingerbread layer with a little Grand Marnier or a nice Calvados, not drench you libertine, drizzle).

When you make your entrance with this, remember, be gracious in accepting your accolades. You never have to tell them how easy it was. I never will.

Cross posted at big brass pumpkins

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Comfort Food --- Macaroni and Three Cheeses

This is one of my favorite all time dishes. When I was a kid the first week we got the Indian Commodities always meant Macaroni and Government Cheese. All you can eat babies. This was inspired by a Question of the Day over at Shake's Place written by the litbrit about favorite comment threads that have been provoked there. One of the better threads was about Comfort Foods. I've been downcast and mopey a bit lately. Some of it's my normal gloomy take on human nature, some of it's probably depression. The President gleefully signed the Torture Bill into law and I wonder where the hell that will lead us. I can't imagine anywhere good.

But enough of that. This is about comfort food. I should find comfort in knowing that I'm not a half-breed kid on the rez anymore. We don't live from gig to gig, handout to handout anymore. Still something like Macaroni and Cheese brings me back to good things. You can do this with any cheese that takes your fancy. Since I am in a whole other tax bracket from Government Cheese I will tell you what I use.

All ingredient amounts are relative. You can play with this one all you want. But like everything else, the better the ingredients the better stuff you'll end up with.

So pick your cheeses and away we go.

1 pound sharp (or even extra sharp) cheddar cheese
1 pound Swiss or Jarlsburg (Dublin cheese if you can get it is good here too)
1 good wedge Parmesiano Reggiano
1/4 cup butter (1 stick)
Bread Crumbs
Seasoning meat (optional)

Elbow macaroni (or any pasta that will hold sauce well like rigatoni or zitti)

Boil the pasta in a shitload of heavily salted water until al dente, drain and set aside.

Grate the cheddar and swiss cheese, separate each cheese into halves. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. When it's completely melted add the flour (a cupped handfull of flour for me works out to a little more than a 1/4 cup) and whisk well. Cook the roux (that's what you just made flour+fat=roux) about two minutes. You want to cook out the pasty flour taste, but you don't want to toast it brown or anything radical. Add salt and pepper to taste (if you're using a ham or sausage for a seasoning meat you can hold off on the salt). Now splash in the milk. You want to get a fairly thin base sauce here, as you cook it more, it will thicken. When the sauce is just below bubbling start adding in the grated cheeses. Whisking away and making sure not to scorch anything. You should in a very short time end up with a wonderfully glossy, cheese sauce.

One of my favorite seasoning meats to use is andouille sausage. When I was a kid it was the canned ham that always came with the boxes of food from the government. Ham Hocks, Polish Sausage, anything your heart desires will do here. This is about comfort food. Please yourself. To use andouille, I slice and slightly brown it, draining well on paper towel.

Now the pasta, sauce, and meat all go into a big oven safe bowl or casserole dish. Add about 2/3's of the remaining grated cheeses and stir through so that there are threads of pure cheese mixed well through the dish. With the remaining grated cheese, bread crumbs (seasoned or not doesn't matter) and some fresh grated parmesiano spead over the top of the dish. This will make that heavenly, cheese crust.

Bake at 350° for an hour or so, until the cheese crust is nice and brown. Your house will smell great. Your kids will pick up their rooms before dinner. Serve with garlic bread and a green salad.

That's a little bit of comfort from El Rancho Harpo (i feel better already)

crossposted at bigbrassblog

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Random Flickr Blogging (5854)

Originally uploaded by Paul Watson.
saturday would have been
the 112 birthday of e.e.cummings
therefore i present with this
this poem of his

if i have made,my lady,intricate
imperfect various things chiefly which wrong
your eyes(frailer than most deep dreams are frail)
songs less firm than your body's whitest song
upon my mind-if i have failed to snare
the glance too shy-if through my singing slips
the very skillful strangeness of your smile
the keen primeval silence of your hair

-let the world say "his most wise music stole
nothing from death"-
you only will create
(who are so perfectly alive)my shame:
lady through whose profound and fragile lips
the sweet small clumsy feet of April came

into the ragged meadow of my soul.