… Another Morning…..... by Ron Hevener

Early in the morning is when I like to think. Not that I don't like to think all the time, but, early in the morning is when I set the tone for the rest of my day - and it's often when I get the best answers.

Take right now, for instance. It's about 5 AM here and the house is finally quiet. The bullfrogs partying all night outside my window have called it a wrap and the dogs on guard duty in the kennels are convinced it wasn't Steven King and his monsters flying through the trees last night. It was just an owl. Who told them? Maybe, those frogs!

I went outside this morning to check on the animals - a nice peaceful walk around the place - and Mamie, the wild cat who gave herself the job of winning us over, was at her usual spot beside the building where we mix the dog food. "Good morning, Mamie. That was a real slick thing you did yesterday when Holly the Greyhound chased you under the porch. I never knew there was a missing stone … and a hole you could jump through. Holly didn't either.

Mamie purrs and tries her best to trip me as I walk into the building and open the refrigerator to find the fresh ground beef we keep on hand just for her. As I'm doing so, I think about my neighbor, Dave, milking his cows and remind myself to get some fresh, whole milk today… The news headlines scrolling across my mind are saying: China, Russia negotiate deals with Iran and other oil-supplying nations … Japanese company grants oil-drilling contract in disputed Chinese waters …

Mamie calls to the half-grown kitten she found and brought home for us a while back, and they have their breakfast. All seems well here and I move on to the old English racing bike that I refuse to give up. Pushing off, I pedal out the dirt lane past the small lake on one side and tall evergreen trees overgrown with Virginia Creeper and honeysuckle vines on the other. I make my way past the black mailbox and across the road to my neighbor's dairy… Scotland Yard follows up on information about London subway bombings …

"Good morning, Tina!" I say to the faithful German Shepherd barking outside the cow barn and letting me know by her presence where Dave is. For as long as I've known her, she always stays near him. I enter the barn and call out to my friend. "Mornin'!" he hollers back at me, from somewhere on the other side of his Black and White Holsteins. "I got your milk ready!" he says, and I see three plastic gallon bottles waiting beside the door. I put his money on the windowsill, pick up the bottles and head for the stable. I always feel good here.

Inside the stable, I see clean stalls filled with horses. Some of them are mine. Taking a minute, I look around and remember when Dave and I stood in this same building. I can still hear him saying "Ron, I've always wanted a horse stable." We were standing in an old storage barn, filled with junk. "I can see it, Dave," I said, sensing his dream. "Go for it, man!" That was then, this is now - and Dave has his boarding stable…. Unknown energy surges wreaking global havoc, weather chaos …

I pick up a brush and make my way half way down the center aisle as horses nicker to me. "Good morning," I say to Honey Babes as she reaches her face toward me. "I'll be with you soon," I say, moving on to the next stall where a large Bay mare stands patiently. "How are you, Larissah?" I ask, sliding aside the stall door and petting her neck as I walk inside. "And how are you, young lady?" I ask the two month old filly on the other side of her. It will be our usual game of Catch Me If You Can. And I do catch her, but first she has to dance around the stall a few times, so she can tell her friends she didn't give in too easily. I like this filly, sired by Ala Croixnoire. There's something different about her. Of course, there's something different about all of the animals in our lives isn't there? … New strain of Bird Flu threatens to kill millions…world leaders brace for onslaught …

I hold the filly and pet her from head to tail, rubbing my hands in small circles like Linda Tellington Jones teaches us to do. The way Larissah does as she nuzzles this filly that I hope will someday race far and wide across the country and in other countries as well … Will those countries still be there, I wonder? … Oil prices climb to all-time high … stock markets react … warships moving toward Asia …

I go back to Honey Babes and brush her, remembering when she first came here. "You were pretty skinny," I say, brushing her bright Chestnut hair and untangling her flaxen mane. (Just between you and me, she's made up for it since then and I'm ready to call Weight Watchers). She munches on a carrot and I put the saddle on her as a car pulls up next to the barn. Sandy's right on time for our morning ride. We'll go out on the trails. We'll see a few wild rabbits, maybe a deer or two, and gallop as fast as we can up the mountain. We'll laugh and talk about business and life and what we must do today. We'll be young and free and overflowing with ideas. Sandy's going to a polo seminar this weekend and, as we ride, she practices swinging her arm like a polo player. Her horse, Rhazzle, doesn't seem to mind. But, I notice his lower lip flapping the way it does when he's worried. Sandy and I have ridden like this since we were kids and she is the one who inspired the character "Sassy" in my novel "Fate of the Stallion." … Drought takes France, U.S. Midwest, Portugal, Spain …

The ride is over, good-byes are said and I pedal out the lane. Maxine and Bonnie and Ken and Jared will be arriving soon to clean up the kennels, feed the dogs and work in the studio. This farm we've brought to life, this very unusual place with its books and music and the animals that model for the collectible figurines we've made for so many years is like other places where animal lovers make "their own world."

Are animal lovers aware of political and scientific events swirling around us? Most of us are, and a lot of us discover that raising animals - showing them, caring for them (and sometimes following their example) - is a way for us to keep such things in perspective. For Mamie the cat, nothing in the world is more important than the sound of mice, bugs and fluttering birds among the tall grass growing along the fence that (as far as she is concerned) belongs only to her. She doesn't clutter her mind with things like taxes and laws and international affairs as she plays in the long grass. Mamie is a healthy cat.

The mare and her foal, the German Shepherd by her master's side, the cows in the barn … their world is what they see around them, and what they know to be real. The value of the dollar or the pound or the yen doesn't bother them. The ranting of presidents, premiers and kings has no emotional effect on them, either. The grave warnings of scientists do not scare them or blow them off course. Animals walk with kings or commoners with the same confidence, the same steady sense of well being. There's a healthy lesson in that: a truth to carry us all day over the mountain on a mare named Honey Babes, flying through the trees with Harry Potter's white owl at night and into the hope of the next morning. There will be another morning, they promise. There may be all kinds of political monsters out there. But, as long as there are horses, wild cats and dogs, there will always be another morning and something to love. Sitting here with a cup of green tea, my bare feet propped on the sleeping dog under my desk, and reading your letters, I'm sure of it.

Let's look at some of those letters and get on with the show….

Dear Mr. H:
A few months ago, you wrote about people getting roped into outrageous veterinary bills in emergency situations. How did things turn out for the dog that got Staph? I had the same thing happen to me; my dog died and I still can't pay it off.
Lititz, Pennsylvania

Dear J.D.:
We lost the pregnancy, but Dodge lived and she's fully recovered. In fact, she's the one who usually chases Mamie the Cat around here. The veterinary clinic split the bill with me and we moved forward. Although one of my editors refused to print that article because she thought it was too bitter, it ended up hitting a nerve with the public. Many readers wrote to me, sharing their stories. Great idea for another novel!

Dear Mr. H:
What do you think about all the animal control laws happening all of a sudden and what can we do about it?
Baltimore, MD

Dear W.Z.:
Laws are part of life. And while some people say laws are made to be broken, I've found that to be wasteful. After all, breaking a law means sidelining yourself and getting caught up in the legal meat-grinder. Now, if you want to make that your occupation, go ahead. But, the odds are (And don't forget, I'm in the racing business and I believe in taking chances) you'd be more effective working from the outside instead of behind bars. My vote on all this? Organize yourself and everybody else you can. And fight these laws off. Bring these laws to light and expose them for the foolishness that so many of them are. Laughter is tremendous medicine, W.Z. And a great way to cut lawmakers down to size.

Dear Mr. H:
The heroes in your stories are often senior citizens. How come I don't know any old people like that? It doesn't seem realistic to me.
New York, New York

Dear S.R.
Are you ever in for a surprise! I think it's very realistic. I know lots of people in their 70s, 80s and beyond who are at the peak of their powers - and I want to be one of them! Adventure and an exciting life don't have anything to do with age. Whoever told you that? And romance certainly doesn't slow down. I know all kinds of people in love, flirting and getting married right up to the very end. I didn't now him, but what about Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor who created The Thinker, The Kiss and so many other great masterpieces? He was unconscious and on his deathbed when he married Madame Rose! And how about the balding, passionate Afghan Hound owner Picasso? Now, there was an animal lover for you. Don't give up hope, my friend.
If you don't know any exciting senior citizens right now, you've got plenty of time to become one!

Ron Hevener
Lochranza Kennels
1338 Mountain Road
Manheim, Pennsylvania 17545

Phone: 717.664.5089
Fax: 717.665.4651
Ron Hevener


Mr. Hevener is the author of "The Blue Ribbon"(Pennywood Press)which can be ordered through Barnes & Noble bookstores everywhere.

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