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Fire All Around Us

August, 2009. The smoke was thick, choking the life from our lungs. It was hot and dry, typical for a Southern California summer. The Santa Anas — the devil winds — threatened to tear sheds apart and toppled trees. As we drove home, I was horrified to see the fire had jumped the freeway and was burning on the slopes that surrounded it. Sparks filled Foothill Blvd in front of us. The field on our right was beginning to smoke.
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The Genuine Mexican Plug by Mark Twain

I resolved to have a horse to ride. I had never seen such wild, free, magnificent horsemanship outside of a circus as these picturesquely-clad Mexicans, Californians and Mexicanized Americans displayed in Carson streets every day. How they rode!

Leaning just gently forward out of the perpendicular, easy and nonchalant, with broad slouch-hat brim blown square up in front, and long riata swinging above the head, they swept through the town like the wind! The next minute they were only a sailing puff of dust on the far desert. If they trotted, they sat up gallantly and gracefully, and seemed part of the horse; did not go jiggering up and down after the silly Miss-Nancy fashion of the riding-schools. I had quickly learned to tell a horse from a cow, and was full of anxiety to learn more. Continue reading

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Riding Through Life with Maggie

maggiehorsehankI almost killed her. She’ll tell you that right up front. She was ten. I was twelve. She was on my horse, Blue. I was in the center, holding onto the lunge line, when Blue took off, running under a tree before I could stop her. Maggie reminds me of this often, laughing aloud as she reminisces.

But then I look at this photo and wonder….and laugh too. Continue reading

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Gene Autry, Buffalo Bill, and Me

Pixie and I, January, 1955

Pixie and I, January, 1955

The doctor’s buzzsaw had barely stripped the cast from my eight-year-old arm when the call came. Ace Hudkin, of Hudkin Brothers Stables, was on the line when my dad answered. “The studio wants to interview your daughter about an upcoming series. They need a gal who can ride.” Continue reading

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Mr. Ed: My Childhood Neighbor

Ed with his co-star, Alan Young

Ed with his co-star, Alan Young

In the 50s and 60s, the San Fernando Valley was mostly farms, ranches and bare acreage. Low desert, the untamed land was covered with sagebrush, tumbleweeds and a bit of cactus. Winter rains encouraged the growth of large fields full of wild barley and golden poppies. Summer brought the hot, dry Santa Ana devil winds. The tall grass, its seed heads chattering in the strong gusts, turned golden brown. The valley was the home of many western movies, movie stars and Mr. Ed–who lived right across the dirt street from me.
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