Eat Your Spinach


“Stop! Don’t eat that spinach!” These words are music to kid’s ears everywhere — words they thought they would never hear.

Ever since adults were brainwashed by a cartoon character named Popeye, kids have been victims of vegetable abuse. Adults were convinced that to grow up big and strong and have muscle power like Popeye, a kid should be vegging out on spinach.

Nutritionists have long proclaimed the virtues of green leafy vegetables, spinach in particular, because it contains a large concentration of vitamins and nutrients said to be “good for you,” a virtual “powerhouse of nutrition.” Somehow, kids were just never quite convinced that something that tasted so bad could possibly be good.

Kids got a temporary reprieve from vegetables back when it became public that the President back then didn’t like nutritional green stuff either and refused to eat his broccoli. If the President of the U.S. didn’t eat green vegetables, surely kids shouldn’t have to eat them either. But, alas, Presidents move on and vegetables stay around and continue to plague kids by being good for them.

In the mind of a kid, the only good vegetables are French fries and ketchup. The rest of that stuff may be good for you, but it sure doesn’t taste like it. Adults secretly know that kids are right since they were once kids too. Generations have shunned the slimy pots of greens that were once a dinner mainstay, especially in the South. The trend now is raw or nearly raw “steamed” vegetables, which are said to retain the vitamin content that could be lost in cooking.

The hip new generation of adults likes salads, and baby spinach has become the vitamin-laden darling of the salad bar generation. If you couldn’t quite disguise the awful taste of spinach, you could always slip a few leaves into a cellophane package with other more palatable greens and market it with a perky name like “spring salad mix.”

And so, spinach has remained king and retained its lucrative market power even as the sodium-laden canned vegetables of past generations lost their allure. Fresh vegetables have become more popular and more readily available at the supermarket. “Eat your spinach” is more likely to refer to a bowl of salad these days than to a bowl of droopy greens cooked all day until a vitamin could not possibly survive.

Trouble is, kids don’t especially like salad either. Finger foods, such as baby carrots that can be dipped into ranch dressing, might slip through for a while, but the only really good vegetable is a vegetable that you don’t have to eat. So, kids continued to hide steamed broccoli in their milk and pass up the salad for Jell-o.

Once upon a time spinach turned up in the news with the deadly E. coli virus, kids everywhere were delighted to know that they were right. After all, television said so and media everywhere broadcasted the potential deadly result of eating raw spinach. Mom trashed the green salad in the fridge and salad bars scrambled to find replacements for the sick vegetable.

It seems that the deadly virus was inside the spinach and could not be washed or rinsed away. Only cooking could kill it. Therefore, Popeye’s canned spinach was safe from the contamination that plagued the popular fresh variety. Popeye, no doubt, is still squeezing cans and popping spinach to give him super strength, if he is still young enough to do so.

If kids can only convince adults not to return to the green slime of yesteryear, they will be safe from the virtues of spinach for at least a while longer. Now, if kids can only figure out a way to get rid of broccoli, the second most detested green vegetable, they will be home free.

Pass the ketchup, kids.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Previously published as
“It’s NOT Good for You
Posted in Food, Health, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hamster Dance


Ever since he was been old enough to walk, my grandson has wanted a hamster. He was drawn to the hamster cages in pet stores like a moth to the light. We had to pry him loose with promises.

“When you are old enough to take care of it, you can have one.”

The other day the topic of small animal pets came up again. I don’t remember why now — probably my brain is trying to block out the memory. “When he is old enough…” I began. Then I remembered that he was nearly eight years old.

He was old enough.

Some preliminary checking on the Internet revealed that cages had changed a lot since I was last in the hamster market. They are no longer simple wire cages with exercise wheels. They are colorful multi-level habitats with towers and tunnels for the hamster to play in — in other words, rodent condos.

We decided to let my grandson pick out the hamster he wanted. Of course, he was thrilled when he got the news. We had to wait until after dinner to tell him as we knew he wouldn’t eat otherwise.

“I can have a hamster? For real?” he squealed. “I’ve always wanted a hamster!”

We knew that.

I remember the first hamster that my kids had for a pet, Squeaky. Shortly after bringing it home, it had three babies. I will be sure to get a male this time.

At the pet store there were dozens of hamsters. His mother somewhat favored a small gray longhaired one. However, my grandson wanted the very active, brown and white shorthair. I had forgotten how much they look like rats. It was too late to back out now, though.

The Internet promised that hamsters are inexpensive pets after the initial investment. My grandson chose a habitat. By the time we added litter, food, an exercise wheel, an igloo to sleep in, vitamins and chew sticks, the bill was more than I care to think about, especially when buying a rodent.

Was it only last year that I was trying to trap mouse rodents in the garage? Of course, I didn’t mention that out loud. “Besides, this is not a mouse,” I keep telling myself. I’m thankful that he didn’t want a gerbil. Talk about looking like a rat! At least hamsters don’t have long creepy tails.

And so, we have a new member of the household now. The new addition is named “Buddy.” He seems to be adjusting well to the new environment, climbing up and down the tunnels of his habitat and running for hours in his exercise ball, which is about all a hamster knows how to do. He loves lettuce and stuffs it in his pouches like a squirrel.

I remember that hamsters are escape artists and can learn to open a cage. One pet we had even learned to roll its plastic exercise ball against the furniture until it would pop open.

Buddy has already cracked out of his habitat twice. I don’t know how he managed to unlock the door, but he apparently spent the night in the heat vent and came out the next morning tired and thirsty and rubbing his eyes. Just what I need, a rodent loose in the house.

The second time he escaped, he was apprehended behind the living room curtains. His doors are now securely taped shut. We may have to add a barbed wire fence, alarms and spotlights.

“You have to remember to wash your hands after you play with it,” I told my grandson. “And keep its cage clean so it doesn’t get sick, and give it fresh water every day. And be gentle with it so it doesn’t bite. And…”

Oh, well, I might as well save my breath. He isn’t listening anyhow. It is good for a child to have a pet to care for and love. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I just wish it didn’t look quite so much like a rat.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Posted in Creatures, Family, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Greased Lightning


I was asked to watch my year-and-a-half-old granddaughter for only a few hours while my son and his wife were out. Of course, I was thrilled at a chance to have my sweet little granddaughter all to myself and spoil her. But once again I have flunked Grandmother 101.

She was already in her ‘jamas, as content and innocent as a Pooh bear with a honey tree. She waved a crooked “bye, bye” as mommy and daddy went out the door. Nothing to do now but watch TV and let the child play with toys until mom and dad return, I thought.

That’s before I found out that toddlers are greased lightning. I went to turn the TV on and the child went for the stairs. She was halfway up before I realized she was not right behind me. I led her back down and told her not to go up again because she might fall.

I gave her a toy to play with and decided to fix a snack. Little Miss Greased Lightning followed me to the kitchen, climbed on a chair and tried to get up on the table where her father had left some tools. I rescued a light bulb before she could grab it. “No, honey, glass can break and hurt you.” I scooted the chair under the table, while she proceeded to open a kitchen drawer and take out all the utensils.

I put away the utensils and decided to pop some popcorn to share. Maybe food would keep her attention. “Eat one piece of popcorn at a time, honey.” She took a handful and crammed it into her mouth. I’ve never seen a child move so fast. Thank goodness she didn’t choke.

While I got rid of the popcorn, she climbed on a lamp table and stood up. “How did you get up there? Get down right now!” She jumped to the sofa, a game she seemed familiar with and had obviously played before. While I tried to figure out what to do next, she found my purse and proceeded to unzip it. I put it on the mantel, while she found her mother’s purse, which I also put on the mantel.

“Let’s play with toys,” I suggested. We found two music boxes and turned them on. She danced in circles in the middle of the floor. “How cute, that should keep her busy for a while,” I thought. She found a tiny tea party chair and sat on it, holding her baby doll. While I picked up the scattered toys, she decided to stand up on the tiny chair, which was not nearly secure enough.

Maybe we can find a cartoon on TV, I thought, as she turned the rocking horse upside down. While picking up the rocking horse, I didn’t notice that she had a package of baby wipes until I saw them flying in the air one by one. I put them back in the container the best I could while she began to unfold diapers. I swooped everything up before she could open the baby cream and put it all on the mantel, which was getting pretty full by now.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had one this age. I had forgotten how fast they can move. I wonder how her mom does it, I thought, as she was playing with the light switch. “No, no,” I said. “Baby, must not play with the light switch!” So, she just climbed up the stairs again instead.

She finally became frustrated and broke into tears because she could not climb on a chair while holding a beach ball at the same time. I tried to comfort her. I could tell it was getting to be time for beddy-bye. No, not for her — for grandma! I had forgotten how toddlers overflow with natural curiosity and boundless energy.

A grandma just has a hard time keeping up with greased lighting.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Posted in Family, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Worry Wart


What is it that makes people worry way out of proportion to the reason for their concern? Some call it being obsessive. Some call it maternal instinct. I don’t really know how to define it; however, I think all mothers worry about their kids. My mother used to call this sort of anxiety being a “worrywart.”

Suppose you don’t hear from your kids for a few days or a few weeks. We are talking grown, adult children who have left the nest, not little children that live at home. Still, when they are late or missing, I imagine the worse. Something has happened. I panic and begin to imagine all sorts of silly things until I call on the phone only to have them say, “What’s wrong Mom? Everything is fine here. We’ve just been really busy.”

Worrywart syndrome.

It’s especially bad for me because my youngest daughter, due to some bad luck and bad health, came back home to live with me for a while. It’s really hard to emotionally separate when they are right there under your nose and you see their every move. And it’s even harder when they should be under your nose and you don’t know where they are at that particular moment.

If my daughter is late getting home, I panic. She must have had a wreck! She is probably unconscious in a ditch somewhere — she might be dead. I fret and fret, can’t sleep. I call on her cell phone and leave a message. “Call mom. I’m worried sick because you are not home.”

She calls, “Mom, I just had to work late. Everything is fine. Go back to bed.” I feel so foolish. An old woman that can’t let go of her children or cut the apron strings! What’s the matter with me?

Worrywart syndrome.

I can no more stop worrying about my children than I can stop loving them. I guess it comes with motherhood, this built-in need to worry. Some fight it successfully and say that they don’t worry any more. Others give in to it and become nagging old cronies, controlling the lives of the kids and not letting them be their own person. I don’t want to do THAT! So, I just worry instead.

Worrywart syndrome.

I guess it’s inherited. I remember when I was a teenager, how my mother was always concerned about my whereabouts. I couldn’t understand it. I don’t want my kids to resent me or to think I’m interfering in their lives. I always thought my mom was nuts, getting upset if I was thirty minutes late getting home. Now I know that I have the same disease.

Worrywart syndrome.

If there is a cure, I’d sure like to get the medicine. “Just let go”, you say! “You’ve done your job. Get a life!” Obviously, you are not a mother. I have a life. But, there is a second sense that lets you “feel it in your bones” when things are not right. Of course, you can easily misread this feeling. Motherly instinct is just a feeling, not always a reality, and
this is where the problems come in. Is it actually motherly instinct or something else?

Worrywart syndrome.

Actually, this whole issue is a bit ridiculous. Kids grow up. I need to say goodbye to them, do my own thing, be happy with their accomplishments. I don’t really want to live anyone else’s life. My own is enough, thanks. I just wish they would call home more often, that’s all.

The harder I try not to worry, the more I worry. Then I worry about being worried. How do you break out of this circle? Maybe I’ll figure it out later. Right now my daughter is late and I have to call and be sure everything is okay. Something could have happened.

Worrywart syndrome.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
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The Pizza Place


My partner likes to eat out. He is supposed to be on a diet, so I suspect that he just likes to eat out as an excuse to eat food he is not supposed to have.

One night, as usual, he asked me if I wanted to eat out. I was so tired after working all day that I said, “Why don’t we just eat at home tonight?” So, we went home. About the time we got inside the door, I realized that I really didn’t want to cook, and I really didn’t want to eat a frozen dinner either.

“Can I change my mind about eating out?” I asked.

His eyes lit up! “Sure,” he said.

Then came the usual question, “Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t care,” I replied. So, he headed down the Interstate. I had a feeling he was going someplace I didn’t want to go, like a sushi bar or a place where we would have to wait forever. I just wanted something simple.

“Pizza would be good,” I mused. “But, I don’t know any place to get pizza except carry-out.” What I meant was something simple like a pizza would be good. Men do not understand subtle hints. Men take everything literally.

“Okay, we will go back and get carryout,” he said, pulling into the turn lane.

“No, wait! I don’t want carryout, I want to eat out!”

He was getting aggravated. “Why, didn’t you say so before I got in the turn lane?”

“I didn’t say to turn, I just said pizza would be good.”

He managed to get out of the turn lane and back on the road without wrecking the car.

“I think I know a place.”

By then I figured I’d best keep quiet and eat sushi pizza, or whatever he wanted.

He pulled into a parking lot where there was a pizza store. We got out and went to the door. Wouldn’t you know, it was carryout only? We turned around and left.

“We can eat something besides pizza,” I ventured.

He went to another strip mall. I was afraid to ask why. Then I saw a restaurant with “Pizza” written on the window. “There’s a pizza place!” I exclaimed.

“I know.”

We had never been to this place before, but it looked okay. We were shown to a table and given a menu. “Have you been here before?” asked the waitress.

“No,” we admitted.

“I suggest the specialty pizzas,” she said. “You get eight toppings and the price is cheaper.” That sounded good to us, so he ordered an 8-inch veggie special and a lite beer. (He’s on a diet.) I got another one of the specialties, minus the olives.

“Our pizzas are not like the ones they have at other pizza stores,” she said. “They are like the ones up north.” Sure, we thought. That’s what they all say. My partner thinks that the only place you can get good pizza is in the north because he is from Pennsylvania.

I was just happy because there was no sushi at all on the menu.

Anyhow, the pizza came and it was absolutely delicious — best pizza I’ve had in ages. My partner gulped his down. The waitress, evil woman, then came and waved a dish of specialty cheesecakes under his nose.

“They are made with artificial sweetener,” she said. That, was all he needed to hear. He ordered dessert. “But, it’s sugar-free,” he explained to me when I frowned.

In spite of a few mistakes, dinner turned out okay – not counting the crashed diet, of course. “Next time I’m getting a 10-inch pie!” said my partner.

Next time I’m not going to suggest pizza.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Posted in Food, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Self-Service World


An acquaintance of mine mentioned how much he hated standing in line at the convenience market to pay for gas. Invariably there is someone buying lottery tickets and three packs of cigarettes — and then scratching off the tickets before leaving the counter while he continues to wait, he complained.

What about “pay at the pump”? I think credit card scanners on gas pumps are one of the greatest timesaving inventions ever invented, as I no longer have to go inside to pay for gas. When real “service stations” went the way of the dinosaur, I became accustomed to inconvenience. At first, I thought “pay at the pump” only worked if you wanted to buy gas on credit. Then I found that debit cards also work and they can zap the money right out of your checking account. I haven’t been inside a gas station or convenience store since.

In the interest of saving time, I’ve learned to use those digital scanners at grocery stores with exactly the right flick of the wrist to scan the card right. The trouble is that every business seems to have a slightly different machine, and it is so easy to accidentally push the wrong button and end up canceling the entire transaction. Now cards have chip readers and all you have to do is find the slot on the machine, not always as easy at it seems.

I’m sure the day is coming when no one will carry cash at all, just plastic cards.

Automation reached a new low, however, when self-service checkout aisles were installed at my local Wal-Mart. With this new “convenience” you get to scan your own groceries instead of standing in a checkout line. Just as I was getting used to shopping carts that were unloaded by the cashier, these idiotic self-service scanners came along to destroy my composure again.

I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one who avoids them. For some unfathomable reason these machines seem to hate me. I scan my item. The computer sits there stupidly doing nothing. Eventually it says, “Scan your first item.” But I already did! What to do now, scan it again and get charged twice? “Put the item in the bag,” says the machine. But I already have! “Put the item in the bag,” it says again. So, I take it out and do it again, just to make a machine happy. “Scan the item before putting it in the bag!” shouts the machine while everyone turns to look at me as if I’m a shoplifter. No wonder these self-service machines are avoided like debris on the Interstate.

No doubt a Yankee invented these stupid machines. Southern machines would have better manners and speak our language: “Y’all scan yer item now. Take your time, honey, don’t get your britches in a wad.” This would be so much more customer friendly.

Speaking of talking machines, the ATM machine at the local Bank of America used to have a British accent. I called it the “Princess Di ATM.” I guess they eventually figured out why everyone was snickering — It is “Bank of AMERICA,” isn’t it? They finally got rid of it in favor of one of those touch-the-screen things. It doesn’t talk; it only pings. Reminds me of a clown with a horn. I’m afraid if I do something wrong it will squirt me with seltzer.

This is obviously another Yankee innovation. What an ATM machine in the South should say is something like: “Howdy, y’all! Welcome to Bank of America, southern style. Just put your deposit down yonder in the slot, hon. Here’s some of your hard-earned money back to spend. Y’all be sure and come see us again. Ya hear?”

Corporations are so out of touch with the real world and real people. They really need to get out from behind those desks and see what real people talk like, don’t they?

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Posted in Humor, Southern Humor, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Storytelling Festival


Jonesborough, TN, (c) 2008, Sheila Moss

On one weekend each fall, the National Story Telling Festival is held in the mountains of East Tennessee. It is in a tiny town called Jonesborough, also known as the oldest city in Tennessee. It is a quaint little village ready for company, dressed in its fall finery of mums and pumpkins on bales of hay.

“What’s storytelling?” asked my partner when I first mentioned going. He would have to ask, wouldn’t he? But, actually, the term “storytelling” is pretty self-descriptive. You have heard comedians tell of recollections from their childhood, usually with humorous twists. Probably you have a family member that can relate antidotes about your relatives that have been passed from generation to generation. This is what storytelling is: People telling stories, often funny, sometimes poignant, usually about their own experiences, sometimes folktales from literature.

In Jonesborough storytelling has been taken to another level and has become an art form. The storytellers are professionals who tell their stories from place to place.

The history of how the little mountain town of Jonesborough became the storytelling capital of the nation is a story itself. It seems that like many small towns, it was slowly decaying. A teacher heard Jerry Clower telling a humorous story on the radio and thought, “Why don’t we have a gathering and invite people who can spin a good yarn to come?” And so they did. Year after year more people came to listen and the festival grew until it became a three-day celebration that takes over the town for a weekend.

Since there is no building large enough to hold the crowds, the festival is held outdoors under the shelter of large circus-sized tents. The night we went it rained and a cold front moved in. In the morning, the weather was damp and cold. We found chairs in the main tent and camped out on them all day, the two of us daring not to both leave at the same time lest other eager listeners grab our spot.

I’m sure the souvenir folks must have done a booming business in sweatshirts that year. While the audience shivered and complained good-naturedly, the show went on. My nose and toes felt like I was attending football game, but I sat tight. The tents were packed as teller after teller took the stage and captured the audience with the magic of their stories. No money was wasted on elaborate staging, just a stool or a chair, large speakers and a microphone. The show was simply the story and your imagination.

We lived on pizza and hot coffee the first day before we found out that we could have brought snack food with us. Leaving to eat dinner or stand in food lines meant loss of our spot and being relegated to listening from the back of the tent, a fate worse than cold pizza.

We watched, applauded, and listened hour after hour and into the night. We knew if we left we could miss the best part, whatever that was. I don’t remember ever laughing so hard or so much. Each storyteller was different, as different as the stories they shared. Most of the audience had been there before, some over and over during the 40+ years that the festival has existed. Some of the audience looked almost as old as the folktales.

It was an adventure, a moment of shared experience, a link between the past and the present, a tradition that has became an institution, but one that maintained its rural mountain roots and the flavor of southern hospitality. We were sorry when it was time to go home. And that must be why they come over and over again, to listen, to share the experience, and to enjoy the magical spell created just by the telling of stories.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Southern Humor, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bringing In Fall


Are you in the mood for fall yet? I begin to start thinking autumn when the leaves need to be raked, and the days get a little nippy. It is “sweater weather.” Soon it will be time for cleaning out the closets, and checking to see if my sweaters survived, or whether they have “angel wings” on the shoulders from being on clothes hangers all summer.

My world has taken on an earth-tone hue, reflecting the colors of changing leaves, brown grasses, and dried up vegetation. Something about the bright oranges, yellows, and reds causes my blood to run a little faster and my heart a little slower – at least until I remember the leaves to be raked.

For some unknown reason, I have the urge to go for a walk, observe and enjoy the changes of nature. There is nothing quite as satisfying as the rustle of dry leaves as I walk through piles gathered by the wind and watch as the wind scatters the rest of the leaves that need to be raked.

If my spirit is not revived by now, there is always the harvest, besides the leaves that need to be raked. How anyone can look at a pumpkin patch with its bright orange fruits and remain sad is beyond me. I always think of autumns past, when pumpkins were carved into jack-o-lanterns to make smiling lanterns in late October.

Change is all around. There is certain sadness in seeing the death of a million leaves, the withering of flowers, not to mention all the leaves that need to be raked. The long cold winter looms ahead with trees naked to the bark, and bending in the icy wind.

But that is even more of an inspiration to cling to the last remains of summer, revel in the splendor of falling leaves, and order fireplace wood. I think of children returning to school, of football games, of Halloween. The lazy days of summer are behind me, and I have plans to make, as well as leaves to be raked.

What is “in the mood for fall” anyhow? Could it be that feeling that comes with the passage of time, with loss, and with change? But with loss, there also comes the opportunity for renewal. Fall is the motivation for renewing energy and zest. I am forced to see reality, in spite of the leaves that need to be raked.

I never believe that it could possibly be October already. But, just look at the rolled up bales of hay in the fields, not to mention the mountains of leaves to be raked. I’m never quite ready. Each passing season forces change, for better or for worse.

The brightly colored leaves are here for only a brief period of time before they wither and die. I try to learn from them and be willing to accept changes gracefully, to know that change is something beautiful that can create awe and wonder, as well as leaves to be raked.

Fall is the splendor of nature in all its glory. But autumn, like life, is bitter sweet. It smells of the smoke of burning leaves and tastes of the sweetness of apple cider. Fall is glorious to behold and should be enjoyed for what it is. Like life, it is but a season, changing too quickly and gone too fast – unlike the leaves to be raked that hang around forever.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Posted in Environment, Holidays, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Walking Horses

walking horse

Several years ago we decided to go to Shelbyville to see the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Just like country music stars, these horses have their own award shows, and a following of enthusiasts, most of who drive campers and pull horse trailers. The event is the biggest thing going in a town so small that the stadium complex holds more people than the entire population, including the horses.

I began to suspect that we might have trouble finding parking when I noticed that the Celebration Complex was located right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Never missing the chance to make a fast buck, redneck neighbors were renting out front yards to campers.

We refused to pay the inflated price to park on a lawn and so we ended up doing some creative parking on the side of the road and walking a country mile to get back to the horseshow grounds. I was beginning to wish that I had a horse myself.

Inside the fenced complex was a maze of stables, horses, people, horse trailers, pickup trucks, and golf carts all stampeding to the show. We decided to take a short cut through what looked like a barn, but turned out to be the horses’ warm-up area. “There has got to be a better way to get there,” I grumbled, as we waded through mud trying to avoid stepping in anything awful.

Seeing the price of tickets, we decided that novices like us could see just fine from the general admission seats. Actually, I didn’t care how high we had to climb in the bleachers as long as we could get away from the smell of horses.

In case you care, Tennessee Walking Horses are a breed valued for their beauty, gentle temperament, and the smoothness of their ride. They are called walking horses because of their very peculiar gait, which is totally unrelated to the boot-scooting boogie. The horses lift their front hooves high into the air when they walk in a prancing motion, and their heads bob in unison. When running, the horses maintain the same unusual gait and simply shift into high-speed overdrive.

Walking Horses have been victims of severe abuse in the past due to a variety of training practices, the worst of which is called “soring.” The horses’ legs are injured with caustic chemicals making it painful to walk. This causes the animals to lift their legs even higher when walking to take pressure off, and thus perform better in the ring. This abusive tradition has been outlawed, but is still allegedly practiced by some. Federal inspectors stay busy looking for violators.

There were different events for different types of horses: professional, novice, juvenile, over 5 years old, under 3 years old, hobby horses, rocking-horses, brooms and any
other category they could think of. We saw black horses, white horse, gray horses and horses of every shade of brown. Riders wore traditional riding attire of long coats and derby hats. These odd outfits also came in black, white, gray and every shade of brown.

The horses went round and round like a carousel as the organ played on and on. Their legs went up and down, heads bobbed, and riders floated smoothly along. I became more and more mesmerized as the horses whirled around. After a while, I could almost swear I was seeing same horses in every event.

“Isn’t that the same gray horse?”

I may not know much about horses, but I do have a little bit of horse sense. I figured out that when they all begin to look alike, it was probably time to go home.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
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The Hardware Hike


In case you’ve missed me, I’ve been lost at a big box hardware store for three days. Why do they make those stores so big? I know they need a lot of room for their lumber, lawnmowers, and ceiling fans, but a body could go in one of those stores and never find their way out.

I needed a package of screws. Screws, a two-dollar item. To find screws I had to go through aisles and aisles of more stuff than you will ever need in your lifetime. I didn’t know what some of it even was, much less what it might be used for.

This was not my usual hardware store. I go to another store because it is closer to my home. But I was right next door to it anyhow doing another errand. It seemed silly not to go in and get the screws while I was there.

I decided to go in through the garden center entrance since it was close and the front door was three miles in the hazy distance. After wading through acres of petunias, begonias and assorted bedding plants, I finally came to the real door, the one that goes inside the store.

How on God’s green earth are we expected to find anything in that giant-size toolbox of nuts and bolts? I’m spoiled by the Internet where you just type it into the search engine and go straight to where you want to be. I needed a GPS to zoom in on the screws.

After a quick surveillance of the area, I knew it was totally hopeless. I would have to ask someone. The problem is that asking someone meant finding someone to ask. The friendly orange vests suddenly all disappear when you need them. I think they don’t know where anything is either and would rather not be asked.

After dodging a 20 foot stack of boxes on wheels being pushed down the aisle by an invisible person, I finally cornered an orange vest long enough to get directions. I didn’t understand the directions, but I got them. “Turn by the lawn mowers and cut though the paint, and hardware will be right there.”

I’m sure there must be people who turn by the lawnmowers, cut though the paint and are never seen again. When you file my missing person report, just say, “Last seen in a hardware store looking for screws.”

I finally, at last, found the right area, and then it was a matter of finding the right item. There are hundreds of screws… millions of screws… long screws, short screws, fat screws, skinny screws, wood screws, metal screws, Phillips screws, slotted screws, concrete screws, stud screws, and screws for which no name has yet been invented and probably never will be.

I needed four screws. I finally found a package with a dozen, plus some mysterious plastic holders. At this point, I didn’t care. I’d just wanted to buy screws and go home before I collapsed from fatigue.

Finding the front door took another two days and even then I had to tackle an orange-vested employee and put him in a strangle hold until he agreed to show me where it was. I crawled up to the row of cash registers and put my screws on the counter gasping.

“Is that all,” inquired the clerk as she waved them across the scanner. “Is that all?” Is she kidding? It took me three days to find those screws. I could only think of one other thing that I could possibly need – a search and rescue helicopter.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
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