Monday, May 22, 2017

Assateague Island's Wild Ponies

Did you read Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry when you were young?  I did.  I read every horse book I could get my hands on.  My friends and I pretended we were horses.  Even though I lived only several hours away from Chincoteague and Assateague, it took me roughly 55 years to get to see the wild ponies who live on Assateague.

Some say the ponies swam ashore from a Spanish shipwreck in the 1500s.  Others say that mainlanders brought ponies to the island in the 1700s to avoid a tax on livestock.  Being a romantic, I prefer the shipwreck story.

On a gorgeous day this past week, Jack and I left Philly at 10 AM and got to Assateague Island National Seashore at about 1 PM.  There's a Maryland state park there, too, but we went to the national park on the Maryland side.  (For any of you who are 62 or older, you can buy a lifetime pass to our national parks for $10 until the end of the year, when it goes up to $80!)

Assateague is split between Maryland and Virginia.  The Virginia ponies are owned by the Chincoteague Fire Department.  The Maryland ponies belong to all of us and are managed by the National Park Service.

Because I'm a vegan, I usually take at least some food with me when I travel.  I like good food and I can't count on restaurants to provide it for me.  No thank you, I do not want a salad or a plate of steamed veggies!  I made a non-egg and olive sandwich, with chips, and pickles.  Jack bought an awful sandwich at a chain sandwich shop.  We ate in the shade on the beach on the Chincoteague Bay side of the island, but I love the Atlantic Ocean side of the island best.  We took off our shoes and socks and waded in the salt water.








There are driving roads and hiking trails on the island.  We saw two ponies, a stallion and a mare, at a campsite.  We walked along the Marsh Trail boardwalk and saw crabs in the water, wading birds, an egret, an eastern kingbird, a cardinal, and other birds.  These were exciting to us because, normally, in Philadelphia, we see pigeons, sparrows, starlings, mourning doves, grackles, and the occasional hawk.

I was afraid that the two ponies at the first camp site were the only ones we would see.  I was hoping to see them frolicking in the waves.  There are about 300 ponies on Assateague, but they roam through the vegetated middle of the island, so they're not always visible.  Jack thought we should stop at one more camp site on our way out of the park and  -  we saw about eight more ponies.

They were all the solid chestnut and chestnut and white pinto types.  I was expecting them to be smaller, more like Shetland ponies, but they were 13 or 14 hands high.  (For non horse people, a 'hand' is 4 inches.  A pony is a horse that measures 14.2 or less at the withers / shoulders.  We had a Shetland pony stallion who was the same size as our Irish Wolfhound.)  The two young ones still had their winter / baby coats, but the others were sleek and shiny.






After walking around and watching the ponies, we sat at a picnic table away from the heard.  You're not allowed to touch or feed the ponies, for good reason.  They can be aggressive if they think you're going to feed them or if they feel they need to protect their herd.  Any horse can bite or kick, believe me!  I have been bitten and kicked and thrown.

As we sat there watching the ponies, I realized that one of them (the one to the left in the last photo) was watching us while grazing and moving toward us.  Horses can be sneaky and I thought it was wise for us to move back to the car.  

The horses on the Maryland side are given chemical contraceptives to control the herd size.  This is the most effective and humane way to control herds.  Those on the Virginia side are made to swim to Chincoteague, the foals to be auctioned off to support the Chincoteague fire department.  I prefer controlling the herd size with contraceptives.  You never know where an auctioned horse will end up, sometimes with the killers.  The wild horses out west should be given contraceptives instead of being rounded up, when some are always killed, and penned.  Your tax dollars at work.

It was a pleasure to watch the ponies on Assateague, roaming free, as wild horses should.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Another Year - R. C. Sherriff



Oh, Robert Cedric, how could you do this to me?!  I love you!  I've been telling everyone how much I love you!  And now this!

After finishing The Fortnight in September, my reserved copy of Another Year arrived.  I jumped right in.  The story started with a vicar, Roger Matthews, and his wife, Ruth, enjoying their many years in a quiet, beautiful, country parish.  They had always meant to go work in the slums of London, to really make a difference in people's lives, but they had just never gotten around to it.  Now, at age 57, Roger decides it's now or never.

They go to the awful riverside parish of Woodbank, where the congregation is small and is ruled by an elderly widow, Mrs. Bannister Paget.  Roger is ambitious and presents ideas to the church council to start some clubs to entice people, especially young people, with the hope that in addition to participation in the clubs, they'd try church, too.  The council (Mrs. Paget) refuses to allow him to use the church hall, which Mrs. Paget uses for personal storage.

Roger discovers an old boat house and finds the owner, another old lady, one who's moved away.  She agrees to rent it to him for recreational use only.  He starts a rowing club, hoping that he can lure some of the local boys away from the fighting ring of Joe Briggs.  They don't box, they fight drunk and get paid for blood.  He succeeds in getting Pete and Tony and Dick and Tom to try rowing.  They like it and start to understand the skill and strength and discipline involved.

Dick writes a play to try to raise money to buy the boathouse.  (It's interesting to note that Sherriff, apparently, wrote his first play to raise money to buy a boat for the Kingston Rowing Club.  He writes what he knows.)  It's a long, historical farce, but it gets a lot of young people enthusiastically involved.  A friend of a friend of Dick's will try to get a theatrical agent to attend the play.  If he likes it, maybe it will go to the legitimate stage and they'll make even more money for the club.  Roger and Ruth have a daughter, a beautiful girl, described by one young man as a 'dumb cluck'.  She has a small part in the play.  The agent sees her and thinks she'd be perfect for the movies.

Before you know it, the Matthews family is whisked off to Hollywood.  They sail on the Queen Mary and then cross America by train.  Mr. Matthews is amazed, frightened, and enchanted by all the details of their travel.  (Once again, Sherriff writes what he knows:  he wrote the screenplays for several well-known movies and was nominated for an Academy Award for Goodbye, Mr. Chips.)

I don't think I can say much more without giving away some plot points.

What I have to say is that after I got over worrying that this was going to be a religious novel, I loved the story.  I loved it the whole way up to page 265 in my edition  -  when it stopped.  Seriously, I kept turning the last page back and forth thinking there was something wrong.  Maybe the final pages had been torn out.  No, I didn't have a defective or damaged copy.  Maybe the last part was written in invisible ink.  The book left me hanging.  There were so many things completely unresolved and I'm disappointed.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Fortnight in September - R. C. Sherriff

This was a Persephone e-book (more about that later), so there's no lovely cover to go with this post.  Somewhere, there must be a photo of the cover of the original, but I can't find it.

R. C. Sherriff has become one of my favorite authors.  First, I read Greengates and loved it.  I read The Hopkins Manuscript next.  I don't usually like Science Fiction, but this was the kind I do like.  Perfect.  Then I read Chedworth, another book I adored, and now The Fortnight in September.  I'm hooked.  I think I have five more to go, but some of them are hard to find.  I've been lucky to find three at my library.

The Fortnight in September is about normal people going to the seaside for their two-week vacation.  They're British, it's the 1930s (I believe), and they go to Bognor, to Seaview, the same holiday rental they've gone to for twenty years, since before the children were born.  Mr. and Mrs. Huggett owned the place, but Mr. Huggett has died.  Mrs. Huggett struggles these days.  She's getting older, as is the house, and some of her seasonal regulars are going to nicer places.

Mr. & Mrs. Stevens, their daughter Mary, their sons Dick and Ernie, plan and pack and divvy up the pre-vacation chores.  Mary takes Joe, the canary, to a neighbor, Mrs. Stevens takes the key to the retired policeman and his wife across the street.  The milkman will bring milk for the neighbor to give to the cat.  It's all so ordinary.  They leave on the train and they see their house from the tracks at the end of their yard.  Mr. Stevens is relieved to see that he did remember to close the bathroom window and there's Puss sitting on the shed roof.

Sherriff captures the holiday feelings many of us have.  The breeze from the open train window is refreshing;  at home, it would be a draft and the window would be closed.  They envy the trunks on the train that are plastered with labels from all over the world.  They anticipate the long break, they're a bit depressed mid-holiday when they realize that their vacation time is slipping by, they feel superior to others who are only day trippers.  They rent a larger beach hut than they usually do, one with a balcony, and they enjoy the luxury.

At the seaside, Mary meets a boy, Dick realizes that his education and job are second class but were all that his hard working father could afford.  Ernie is only ten and is a hoot.  At the train station, he wonders if the ticket seller was shoved through the ticket slot as a baby because he can't see how he could have gotten in otherwise.  He sees a notice warning people not to throw things out the train window that might hurt railway workers.  He thinks, in fairness, they should list the things it's okay to throw out the window.

I think it's a wonderfully detailed, relaxing book.  I've said that R. C. Sherriff's books are all different, but I do notice a few themes.  He's aware that the countryside is disappearing under housing estates.  'Villas had risen where larks used to rise.'  He also has great respect for ordinary people.

Back to the Persephone e-book format.  I bought this from Amazon.  I had to check because the book was so confusing at times that I thought I might have downloaded it from Gutenberg or one of those sites.  I have no idea how you screw up a book this badly!  Voice recognition?  It certainly wouldn't pass Spell Check.  I was reading along and ran up against total nonsense.  In addition to the whimsical and random use of commas, here are just a few of the many, many hilarious errors:

     'these cretary'  (should be 'the secretary')

     'Here ached for the jam.'  ('he reached for the jam.')

     'this knobs witches it off'  ('this knob switches it off')

Really?????


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PLEASE Help Save Threatened Wild Horses and Burros!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In 1971, Congress unanimously passed a bi-partisan piece of legislation known as the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.  UNANIMOUSLY!  How often does that happen?  Now, under the new budget, those horses are threatened again.  Despite promises to return government to The People, OUR government is preempting our wishes.  Hundreds of thousands of people have voiced their opinion that these horses and burros on public lands deserve federal protection.  The feds haven't done a very good job, but turning their care over to states could be disastrous.  Please help!  Please e-mail or call your legislators, the legislators designated in the post below, and the White House.  Remind them that the United States is a representative democracy and that they represent US!

The post below is from the American Wild Horse Campaign (https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org):

I'm sorry to have to give you some devastating news. In the wee hours of Monday morning, Congress released a 1,600+ page spending bill for 2017. Buried on page 804 is Section 116, which allows the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to strip wild horses and burros of federal protection and “immediately” transfer them to state and local governments for use as "work animals."
But with no definition of work animal, and no limit to the number of horses and burros that can be transferred, this language could provide a back door route to killing thousands of these national legacy animals. Although Congress added language prohibiting commercial slaughter and putting some restrictions on "euthanasia," signalling its intent to prevent the killing of healthy horses. However, ambiguities and loopholes in the language leave it open to abuse. Especially at risk are the older mustangs and burros, now protected under federal law. Under the language these majestic, elder animals could be killed simply due to "advanced age," a term that is undefined.
We can’t let this stand...Congress should not be allowed to undermine the will of the American people and a unanimously-passed Act of Congress - the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act - through a last-minute spending bill. 
We have just hours to make our voices heard... Please click below NOW to call and send a message to key appropriators asking them to strip this devastating provision that could result in the killing of thousands – and potentially tens of thousands -- of America’s cherished wild horses and burros.
If you do one thing for wild horses and burros, please do this now!

HOURS LEFT TO STOP CONGRESS FROM AUTHORIZING BACKDOOR KILLING OF WILD HORSES & BURROS

Over the weekend, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees restored language to the 2017 Omnibus spending bill that opens the back door to killing potentially thousands of wild horses and burros. The language amends the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act by stripping them of their federal protections and transferring them to state and local governments ostensibly for use as “work animals.”
With no limit to the numbers transferred and no definition of “work animal,” the language provides a vehicle for delivering thousands, and potentially tens of thousands of wild horses and burros, into the hands of government agencies that actively push for mass roundups and slaughter of these national icons. The Section 116 language can be found on page 804 of this link
Congress did include prohibitions on commercial slaughter and some restrictions on “euthanasia,” signalling their intent to prevent the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros. However, the restrictions are not enforceable, there is no penalty for violating them, and the many ambiguities and loopholes leave the language open to abuse.  Especially troubling is a provision to allow the killing of “advanced age” animals, a term that is undefined and could result in the destruction of thousands of healthy middle- to older-aged horses and burros.
While defeating this language at this late stage is going to be difficult, the spending bill only funds the government for the next five months. So taking a strong stand now will set the stage for fixing this problem when Section 116 expires on September 30, 2017. 

What You Must Do NOW!

1. Please immediately call these numbers and voice your objections to the committees that approved this devastating last-minute addition to the spending bill. If you don't reach them this afternoon, please try again in the morning!
** Please remember: the best way to help the horses is to be polite! **
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Chair, Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
DC office: (202) 224-6665
AK office: (907) 271-3735 
Sen. Tom Udall, Ranking Member, Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
DC office:(202) 224-6621
NM office:(505) 346-6791
Rep. Ken Calvert, Chair, House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
DC office: (202) 225-1986 
CA office: (951) 277-0042
Rep. Betty McCollum, Ranking Member, House Interior Appropriations Committee
DC office: (202) 225-6631
MN office: (651) 224-9191
Here’s what you need to say: I am very upset that Congress has included language in Section 116 of the Omnibus spending bill that will strip up to 50,000 wild horses and burros of federal protections that were passed unanimously by Congress and have been in place for nearly 50 years. Unfortunately, restrictions put in place to prevent the killing of healthy horses and burros are not sufficient to protect these animals, and thousands that currently enjoy federal protection could be killed, or worse, enter the slaughter pipeline.  I urge your office to remove this destructive language from the Omnibus, and if unable, then it must be removed when this spending bill expires later this year.”

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April Books

I didn't post a list of books I read in March.  I think I said I'd post short reviews of books I read rather than a list.  I didn't think I'd posted much in April, but, looking back, I guess I did.  I know I've overwhelmed my readers with four posts today!  Sorry!  Anyway, here's my list of books I read in April, some of which I did not post about.

The Moon-Spinners  -  Mary Stewart

Heir to Murder  -  Miles Burton

Earthly Remains  -  Donna Leon

Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham  -  M. C. Beaton

The Crime Coast  -  Elizabeth Gill

A Cat with a Fiddle  -  Lydia Adamson

Long Live Great Bardfield  -  Garwood

Unholy Dying  -  Campbell

I'm currently reading a few books, but I won't finish any of them by tomorrow night.  So, this is it for April.  I hope you had a good reading month.  Have you read any favorites?

Unholy Dying - R. T. Campbell


This is the last book of the month.  I read another of R. T. Campbell's mysteries a while ago, Bodies in a Bookshop.  I enjoyed that one, but I thought this one dragged.

There are two murders, both rather close to the beginning of the book, both by cyanide.  Both occur off the page, so there's very little action involved in either.  After the murders, Professor John Stubbs, a botanist, proceeds to puzzle out the solution, again, with very little action.  For me, that's a lot of not doing much, a lot of talking and thinking.  Because the murders take place at a scientific conference, almost anyone could be the murderer.

The characters are different in this book, except for Stubbs, the loud, portly amateur detective who likes his pint.  There's still humor, though.  The author references several well-known mystery writers, like Edgar Wallace and Agatha Christie, in passing, joking about fictional detectives.

Of the two R. T. Campbell books I've read, I prefer Bodies in a Bookshop, maybe because it starts in a bookshop.




Cruiser Olympia

You know how when you live in a place you often don't go to the tourist attractions?  I got to see all the sites in Boston when we lived there because my sister and brother-in-law would bring their three girls to visit the Old North Church, the USS Constitution, etc.  If they hadn't, I probably would never have seen them all.

Now we live in Philadelphia.  One of the walks we take goes along the Delaware River and past several ships permanently docked there.  I believe I've already done a post on my favorite ship:  Moshulu.  It's now a restaurant.  I've never eaten there, but on nice summer days, my husband and I sometime have a beer on the top deck.  It's the ship Eric Newby wrote about in The Last Grain Race and it's beautiful.

But for years we've been saying we should tour the Cruiser Olympia.  There's an early submarine there, too, the Becuna.  I have no interest in submarines and touring one would be a nightmare for me.  A few weeks ago, we finally toured the Olympia.  Jack toured the Becuna - by himself.

USS Olympia was commissioned in 1895 and was Commodore Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila during the Spanish-American War.  She was decommissioned in 1922.  If you want all the details, here's the Wiki link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Olympia_(C-6)

Jack was interested in the engines and the guns, I wanted to see how the crew lived aboard.  The ship has beautiful wood work, but, alas, like many of our National Historic Landmarks, it's in need of extensive repairs and maintenance.  We, as a country, should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing our history to rot away.

Here are some photos of the outside and the inside (that's the Becuna to the left in the photo):




Above, officer's quarters.  Below, below decks.



The galley is above.  The ship was lucky in that it, apparently, had one of the first ice machines.  This was especially nice because she was sailing in the Pacific.


If you needed surgery, this was the place where it happened. Gulp!


Then, of course, you'd want to wash all those bloody cloths in the laundry.


These are a few of the signs on the ship that I thought were interesting or funny.  I especially like the Overboard Volunteer one!