Sunday, March 19, 2017

Horseman Bachelor/Bachelorette

In reality, it is both wonderful and terrible to choose between a group of beautiful girls.

I get to keep all four of these dolls in my life, they're my daughters. However, over the next few days, I need to make a decision that is about as tough as anyone on the Bachelor show has had to face.

It turns our that I have to choose between four amazing Percheron mares. It may seem like a wonderful opportunity, and it is. But, it's also a terrible dilemma.

Let me give you a quick history in how I fell into such a burning ring-of-fire.

Between my home place and Kalona lay ten miles of rolling Iowa farmlands. Most of the farms are Amish owned. Yes, it is a virtual paradise for a man who loves draft horses as much as I do. So much so, that I wrote three full-length novels about my experiences in this heavenly place. If you have read my first book, you will know what a kind, gentle horseman Grandpa was. My Amish friend that I bought Karm and Coke from is about as close to Grandpa as he could be. Every time I step onto his farm I learn something new about horses.

My Amish friend is at a transition point in his life, he is going to be moving into the "grandpa house" and his son-in-law will be the main farmer. He wanted to borrow my horses back one last time before that happened. While they were at his farm, all four mares got a chance to be reunited. My friend told me that I could take home whichever two horses I want. They are all four amazing. I didn't hesitate to say, "I'll take my own two back home." There was one huge problem, though, one of the horses is a full sister to Karma, the best horse I've ever owned. My Amish friend and I had many conversations about it, and we both agree that Karm and her full sister make a better match in multiple ways than Karm and Coke. You see, Coke is a beautiful horse but she is a handful. Much like a sheepdog that needs a full-time job, Coke needs to be hitched often to keep her out of mischief. She will get that if she stays on the Amish farm.

Since all four horses were happily reunited, and I had the tough job of separating them again, I decided that I might as well give Karla a try. I brought her home on a ten-day trial basis. What I didn't see coming was that I was about to fall into the same ring-of-fire every man on the Bachelor show falls into. I fell in love with multiple girls and I can't have them all.

Over the next few days, I will have to give a rose to one of these two beautiful girls and say goodbye to the other. I am in a most wonderful and terrible predicament. Pray for me and I will let you know what happens in a week, or so.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Horse Reunion

Kallie, Karla, Karma, and Coke

Coke, Karma, Karla, and Kalley
My horses spent the past several months at a "horse reunion."

My Percheron draft horse mares, Karma and Coke, were born and raised on my Amish friend's farm.These four horses are all closely related, and they hadn't been together since I brought two of them to my place about 9 years ago.

When not squeezed together for a picture, these stalls are perfect for big teams.
 The middle two horses in these photos are full sisters. My friend (I won't mention his name for privacy sake) helped me squeeze three big girls into one stall so I could get a photo of them.

My Amish friend is an amazing horseman and one of the nicest men you could ever meet. He likes these horses every bit as much as I do. He kept Karm and Coke over the winter and was really excited to get all four mares together again. He used to drive the full-sisters as a team until I took Karm home with me years ago. He had an idea, he thought maybe we should try putting the two sisters back together and the other two horses actually match well. I decided to give it a try. We haven't traded horses, yet, but we are considering it.
Karm and her full sister Karla
So, after several months of all four horses spending time together on my friend's farm, the reunion is over. I now have Karma and her sister Karla at my place. They are so much alike! I do miss my good friend Coke and I can tell Karm does as well. It's a tough decision to make, and I will keep you updated on what we end up doing.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dreaming of Spring

 Spring is my favorite time of year. The whole world is resurrected with a burst of new life after laying dormant through long winter months.

When spring arrives little Amish girls will run and play barefoot in Mommy's garden, pick raspberries and climb fences.

In Pennsylvania, little Amish girls don't wear coverings but usually have tight braids wound in coils behind their ears or tied together at the base of their neck.

Over the rest of Amish America, girls wear coverings from infancy. When working or playing on the farm they are often seen with headscarves. Don't rule out the possibility of seeing a little Amish girl with braids running around the yard. But rest assured, Mommy will tie on a scarf or pin on a covering before they leave the lane to go somewhere.

 These little girls are searching Grandma's raspberry bush for early fruit and helping themselves to a snack.

Just looking at these pics, taken two springs ago, makes me start dreaming of spring, again.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, garden tea, bees buzzing, baby lambs, and even dandelions seem welcome at this point.
(By the way, these are pictures of my own granddaughters, Lyla and Kinley, and were photographed with permission from their mommy) They were in these Amish made dresses for the purpose of a cover photo. If you want to see the finished product of the photo shoot, click on the link below.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Stolen Cowboy Hat

I recently spoke to a group of children at Washington Township Elementary School.

The children were super well behaved and I really enjoyed reading part of Catbird Singing to them. I read a story about a little Amish girl that rides her pony into a house.

I will share the video of me reading the same story to Karm and Coke. (my horses)

I also wrote a very short story for the event, titled The Stolen Cowboy Hat. 

The Stolen Cowboy Hat

  A few years ago there was a boy named Dallas in 2nd grade at Washington Township. This boy wanted a cowboy hat more than anything in the world. Not the kind of cowboy hat you may be thinking of but a Dallas Cowboys stocking hat. You see, he thought it would be really nice to have a hat that said, “Dallas,” on it and he liked the Cowboys. His mother said, “I saw them at the store and they are very expensive. You don’t take care of your hats, you always lose them. I don’t think should buy you an expensive hat.”
Dallas was really disappointed, that is until Christmas. He opened up a gift from his mother and was surprised that she had bought him a stocking hat with big bold letters that said, Dallas Cowboys. He quickly tried it on and it was a little big. Mom said, “Let me see that. Oh dear, I should take that back and get a medium instead of a large.” But Dallas put it back on and smiled. “I love it, just like it is!”
Dallas wore it around the house during Christmas break. One day Dallas’ brother, who was in the 5th grade, had one of his friends over. His brother's friend, named Eddie, was a big bully and he teased Dallas. “What’s a little kid like you doing with a big hat like that? Do you even know anything about the Cowboys?”
“I love the Cowboys, and besides my name is Dallas.”
“I oughta take that hat.” Eddie the bully said.
When Christmas break was over, Dallas was really excited to go back to school so he could wear his new hat. But, he couldn’t find it. He searched his room and the hall closet. He couldn’t believe he had already lost it. He didn’t dare ask his mom to help him find it because he didn’t want her to know that he had already lost his expensive hat. His mom called, “Dallas, hurry up the bus is here!” Dallas pulled his hood up over his head so his mother wouldn’t see that he wasn’t wearing his new hat, and ran out to the bus.
All he could think about all day was his lost hat. When he went out to recess he could see his brother and the 5th graders playing on the big kid’s playground. He thought he saw that bully Eddie was wearing a brand-new Cowboys hat. When the teacher blew the whistle and everyone lined up to go back inside, he saw Eddie up close and it was true, he was wearing a hat exactly like the one Dallas lost.
All during class Dallas kept thinking about his hat, and he remembered hearing Eddie say, “I ought to take that hat.” He was just sure Eddie stole it. During the afternoon, Dallas asked the teacher if he could walk down the hall to visit the boy’s bathroom. On his way past the 5th-grade room, he noticed a Cowboys hat hanging on the coat rack outside of the class. He took it off the hook and looked at the size. It was a large just like the one his mom bought him. He said to himself, “This is my hat, Eddie stole it!” Dallas decided to take his hat back, and on his way to the 2nd-grade classroom, he hid it in his own coat pocket.
After school, when the bus stopped in front of his house, Dallas took his new hat out of his coat pocket and proudly wore it inside. He walked past his mother slowly, so she would see that he was wearing his new hat. She handed him a bag and said, “Here, I took your new hat and exchanged it for a medium!” Dallas took the bag and looked at his mother with wide eyes, and she gave him the same look. “Where did that hat come from?” She asked.
“I thought it was mine,” Dallas said.
“You didn’t answer me, I asked where did you get it?”
“At school,” Dallas answered.
“So, you took someone else’s hat?” Mom asked.
“I thought Eddie stole mine.”
“I see, so you stole it back? Get your coat, we are going over to Eddie’s to return his hat.” When they got to Eddie’s house Dallas asked Mom, “Would you come with me, so Eddie doesn’t smack me across the head.”
“I’ll be right here watching,” She said. Dallas went to the door and knocked. Eddie opened the door and the two boys had a conversation. Eddie lifted his hand and then reached over and rubbed Dallas on the head. When he got back in the car Mom asked, “What happened?”
“I told him the whole story,” Dallas said.
“What did Eddie say?” Mom asked.
“Eddie said, ’Thanks for bringing it back, I was just trying to figure out how I was going to tell my mom that I lost my new hat!”

Here are a few of the letters I found in my mailbox, sent to me from the first-grade class. I loved them all but thought I'd better only try to share a few.

In the top left picture, you can see me lecturing the students and the round table that held my books. You can also see the poster I made that says, Beginning, Middle, End. That is was I taught about... being sure to give every story all three parts.

I will share a link to my Thomas Nye Facebook page, where you will find a video of my little speech. (It gets cut short because my iPad was running low in storage.) And you will find the video of the Pony Story. Just look through, "My Videos."

Author Thomas Nye on Facebook
Please "Like" (Thomas Nye) while you are there!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Horses on Ice

 Horses are amazing creatures. I always thought of them as my fair weather friends until I moved into an Amish community.

It is so easy and fun to play around with horses on a fair summer day. Horses are built to live outside 365 days a year. Many people imagine how they would feel to live outside and think that horses should be brought into the living room. Not only are horses able to live comfortably outdoors, they are also able to work the whole winter through.

 My Amish neighbors depend on horses and their horses thrive in all conditions. In fact, my own horses began to have hoof troubles and my vet and my Amish neighbors concluded the same thing: "They need more exercise."

It's really tough for me to get my horses hitched up during the winter months. I work in town, delivering mail and don't get home until after dark. My Amish neighbor agreed to take my horses over the winter and keep them in healthy condition. So far no hoof problems... amazing.

 Last Monday we had a big ice storm here in Iowa. I had a tax appointment in Kalona and braved the bad conditions to get to town. I drove slowly down an ice-covered road in my big four-wheel-drive truck. As I drew close to my Amish neighbor's place, I saw their young sons heading out of their lane in an open cart, on their way to school. (I would have taken a picture but I needed both of my white-knuckle-hands on the wheel) Their horse was trotting at full speed. Amish have a special horseshoe they put on their horses in the winter with carbide pieces. Those horses can literally run on ice without slipping.
 As I came into Kalona I notice there were fewer cars than usual, but the normal amount of buggies heading into town.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Amish Women

Amish Women are an impressive lot.

On my Monday morning drive into work, I pass by a number of Amish farms. Quite often, I see a frozen clothesline hanging full by 7:00 am. Do you know what that means? They have been up washing clothes with a wringer washer, that is no easy job, and have already gone outside in freezing temperatures and pinned clothes on the line.

Meanwhile, they no doubt hurried back inside to set breakfast on the table before everyone comes back in from chores. I may mention that they very likely did all of this with a few toddlers around their feet and one on the way. Later in the day, clothes frozen stiff and looking like colored boards, come back in the house and thaw out enough to be folded and put away.

True, they do have help from older daughters, which is also a testament to their impressive nature. If you have raised any children of your own, you know how hard it is to keep adolescents and teenagers on task. The Amish women I know have well-ordered homes with polite children. One Amish family that I am good friends with have 9 children and the oldest is eleven-years-old. About 7 of them gather around my pickup truck whenever I pull into their drive and stand in a circle around me listening to what their dad and I have to say. If Dad isn't around, the oldest child present usually does the talking. If that older child goes to find Dad for me, the next oldest takes over telling me stories about interesting things that happened on the farm since I was last there. If Mom steps outside, she usually speaks something in dutch and one of the children runs to accomplish whatever mission she called on them to do. Probably running inside to bring out the produce she knows I'm there to pick up.

The other day I was driving home from Kalona and passed several buggies with women driving. I turned onto a gravel road and saw an Amish farmyard littered with buggies. Women of all ages were loading children into buggies and leaving a gathering of some kind. It would be safe to guess that it was a quilting. Nevermind the freezing temperatures and snow covered roads. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that these are some pretty tough mamas.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 1967

Christmas 1967

        A small group of children walked slowly through a silent world of falling snow. Everything was hushed by huge snowflakes floating softly around them and accumulating in piles on ranch-style houses that lined the street. A few cars appeared without a sound, half covered in snow, they sloshed on past the children and disappeared into a curtain of white. Children have pulled sleds down roads for centuries but this particular time was Christmas 1967.

        The youngest boy trailed behind the others, stepping on huge clumps of slush left packed by passing automobiles. He could feel the heavy chunks slowly smoosh under his snow-boots. To a small child, the world is a magical place, much like being awakened from a long dream; it's very hard to tell what is real. As a six-year-old boy, I was in that state of mind. I trudged along following the group of sled-pulling children; they were my brothers and sisters. To me, they all seemed like adults except for, Twila Lou, a tiny dark-eyed, raven-haired sister with a cute dimple. We teasingly called her, "Bird legs," due to her tiny, stick-like limbs. Twila Lou was closest to me in age and in friendship. We were the same height even though she was two grades ahead of me. Our older siblings referred to us both as the little kids, which annoyed her. Our family was quite large, but I never did the math to figure out how many of us there were. Later in life, I came to find out that there were seven of us at this point. My two younger brothers would arrive in the next few years.
        Living in Michigan, Midland to be exact, winter meant snow and cold, but we were young, and this was Christmas Eve day, and we were going sledding. I had heard about this grand place we were walking toward, a wonderland with huge hills perfectly matched for our purposes on that day. Secretly, I was afraid. Only my older brothers had been to this legendary sled-park, and their stories struck awe and fear in my imagination. My oldest brother, John, always the leader, told grand stories of how steep and high these sled-hills were. I knew my mother would not be there to scold the big boys if they pushed my sled down one of the mountains. Yet, wild horses couldn't have kept me from joining this expedition. 
        "Come on Tommy, hurry up!" They kept calling back at me. I couldn't pull my sled fast enough to keep up with the big kids, so John, grudgingly put my sled on his giving it a piggy-back ride. Without words, I followed. They were all talking about school, boys and girls, things I couldn't understand and didn't care about. I was huffing and puffing like a puppy following big dogs. I could see my breath in the cold December air. I watched it billow out and mix with delicate snowflakes. As a small child, I was easily distracted by little details older children didn't think about anymore. After all, they had lived through many winters, but this was the first one I had noticed. Possibly other winters I had been too young and Mother wouldn't let me go along on such outings, or maybe I was at the age where memories from previous years were still vanishing. At one point we all pretended our smoke-like breath was from cigarettes and puffed on our little imaginary stogies like we had seen "worldly" people doing in town. If our Mother had been around, we would have had a lecture. I stopped to watch big flakes falling downward, toward my face, but although I stuck my tongue out all the way I couldn't get many to land on it. "Come on Tommy, keep up with us, would you?" They yelled at me again.
        We walked past our Church, where we spent an eternity every Sunday morning and evening. Our churchhouse windows, golden with light, seemed to be watching us like big eyes on the face of a brick building. Up to this point in our sled journey, I had been very comfortable. We had walked to church often, however, as we passed that familiar place we were forging out into uncharted territory. Dark woods stood on either side of the road, full of bears, wolves, or maybe even abominable snowmen. My older brothers marched on, unafraid, so we followed them. My toes and fingers began to freeze and get stiff from the cold, and they were all I could think about for the next leg of our journey. "Hurry up, Tommy, we are almost there," they called. My face was too frozen to answer them. It felt like the stone statue that stood in front of our county courthouse and judging by the others, my cheeks were probably rosy as well. I was forced to continually lick my upper lip because my nose insisted on running, and out in the wild there are no Kleenex boxes anywhere. I was shivering and coming to the conclusion that I could go no further when the big kids began to run and shout. We had arrived at that fearful, dreaded place in the wilderness, a golf course. 
        My brother's sled hills lived up to the tales that had been told. Large and bold, these steep slopes stood not far from the roadway, daring young children to test their courage. My brothers plunged headfirst down into the depths of a gorge while we watched. My step-brother, Steve, tried to lure me into following him off the summit by insulting my pride. "Sissy," he jeered. Steve was between my age and John's. We shared a bedroom but that was all he ever shared with me, and he did that under orders of our parents. One of my big sisters shooed him away from me and offered to let me ride on a sled behind her. I'm not sure which sister but looking back, having known them all for many years, I'm guessing it was Joanna. Joanna was kind and gentle, she was my "other mom," looking out for me when Mother wasn't around. She always seemed to know what was good and right, correcting me and the others often. All of my sisters had deep brown eyes, but Joanna's were the kind ones.
        Joy, the sister just younger than Joanna, was a topic all her own. Her brown eyes were beautiful, yet flashed with sparks that could catch the eye of any boy and yet strike fear in his heart. Her long silky hair was exactly what every girl wanted back in the mid-nineteen-sixties. Many a girl with naturally curly hair sacrificed half of their lives straightening their locks and still couldn't compete with Joy's shiny waist long hair, accented by her cute figure. It turned out that Joy was the middle child, so, it stood to reason that she was always the center of attention. She was funny, cool, and could pick on us little kids as much as our brothers. She would have been the fun one to ride down a hill with, but I was too intimidated by her natural coolness to try to buddy up with her. This is why I would guess that safely behind Joanna, I took my first ride down the monster hill.
        Fluffy and creamy, the snow-covered hills were like marshmallows on hot cocoa. After falling from my sled into a soft blanket of snow, I soon realized I would not actually die, and my courage began to grow. Hours had passed before I started to listen to my fingers and toes that were screaming at me to get them into someplace warm. The older sisters, Joanna and Amy, were the only two sensible enough to make the decision, "We really should be heading home before it gets too dark." Although my big brothers were the leaders, they didn't think that far ahead and were having too much fun to use common sense.
        Amy, my new sister, acquired through my mother's second marriage along with Steve and my step-dad, was in my mind, a full grown woman. She was second in the sibling lineup and as tall as John. She was quiet unless she got started talking about her books that she was always reading. My parents said, "If Amy is reading one of her romance novels, she won't notice if the house is on fire!" I can still remember watching Amy's face as she read. Huge smiles gave away sweet moments in the story she was reading, totally oblivious to the real world around her. I worried that she would die in a house fire, but it never happened. Steve, her younger brother, joined our family feeling that his life's purpose was to make our lives miserable. It seemed fitting for a reddish-haired, freckled faced big brother. All big brother's picked on younger siblings in those days, anyway. I could write a whole book about my adventures of torture by John and Steve but this was Christmas time and even they were more good-natured during this short season.
        By the end of the day, I was no longer afraid of the hills, we had tamed this wild place. As we walked away, I stopped to look back at what I once feared and now had conquered. I could see our sled paths, snow angels, and footprints where we had tromped all over the face of the once terrible hill. We headed back toward our church, which stood firmly on the corner of our town. The town that I loved even though we had only moved there one year ago. We came from a far away place called Ohio and before that an even further away place named Iowa. Those places were so far beyond the sled hills I couldn't have any idea how to get there, partly because I had fallen asleep during the move from both places. This was where I had awakened, and it was a friendly clean place. Now, as a result of this adventure into the wilderness, even the sled hills were added to the realm of safe places that I knew as a child. We walked through our peaceful neighborhood. Some of the houses had big fat, red and green Christmas lights hanging on them, the only kind of Christmas lights that existed back in 1967. A happy-looking snowman stood in one yard and watched the group of children walking past. A cold wind blew against the snowman's red mitten, making it flap in a waving motion. Golden light streamed from our own kitchen window off in the distance, beckoning us to hurry home, with a promise of hot cocoa and a fireplace stoked with wood. Even Tommy kept up with the big boys as we rushed toward our yard and dropped our sleds into a pile. 
        The old moon seemed to be a large ornament, hanging over our home. That moon seemed wild and untamed like the sled hills had. A year later, we watched Neil Armstrong and some other guys on TV, taming the moon like we did the sled hills, running around in snow-like dust leaving tracks everywhere. Life was simple and sweet during Christmas, 1967.