Tag Archives: Julia Dake

  • Yellow Flies (or And I Thought The Humidity Was Bad!)

    Written By Julia Dake

    I start this tale by saying that I am new to riding in the South. I have ridden many miles in the Sierra, the redwoods and along the coast of California. But I have returned to the land of my girlhood recently and found the riding to be very different. The sandy wide trails, the ancient oaks covered in Spanish moss and the very flatness of the land are all new to me. One of my first trail rides in the south began with the guide telling me “If you come across an alligator on the trail, don’t ride over it”. I thought to myself; You have to tell people this?! Add in the humidity and the afternoon thunderstorms and it couldn’t be any different from the trails I’ve ridden in the West.

    The weekend is going to be warm. For some reason, I think that North Carolina is going to be cooler after all it is NORTH Carolina. It might be a nice treat to get out of the city and have some quiet time. Mom and I head to the barn. Yes my 70 year old, very arthritic mom is going with me. I hook up the rig. Mom offers to help but retracts when I give her 'the look'. I bathe my gelding, Dakota. I get him and his food loaded and off we go. The truck is running great, Dakota is quiet, Dru (my dog) is asleep and mom is happily reading the road signs. I have directions from the internet. It’s a pretty straightforward trip, mostly freeway until we get to the campground turn off.

    Everything is going smoothly but not for long. An accident closes I-95 to one lane. We lose twenty to thirty minutes but that’s okay because I have directions from the internet. And it’s a pretty straightforward trip.

    Past the accident, slowly, and we are on our way once again. We haul down the freeway, me, mom, my dog and the horse. The campground is near the tiny teeny tiny town of Everwild (the name has been changed to protect everyone) and I have mistakenly asked the amazing internet for directions to the town and not the campground. Unfortunately, I don’t know this…yet.

    Mom, who has been reading every sign for the last 100 miles on the road STOPS....and I sail at 60 miles per hour past the turn. In truth she did say I needed to slow down. We turn around three miles later because the rig is 35 ft long and, even with a gooseneck trailer, I prefer a football field when I have to turn around. We get back to the original turn and turn the wrong way.

    Quickly, we are in the little town with no place to turn around. We roll through the ‘main’ street and I notice that pretty much everyone owns a pit bull. Dru is slunk down in the seat. He’s met pit bulls before and these look like they mean business. At least I don’t hear the theme from ‘Deliverance’ strumming in the background. Mom keeps telling me that we are going the wrong way. How does she know?

    Finally in the spirit of women, I call the camp ground. The lady is very helpful but in giving directions feels it is necessary to give the entire history of the inhabitants of Everwild. I mutter ‘huh huh’ while trying to keep the directions straight.

    We get turned around, again. And carefully following the directions from the owner of the campground, we find the place at last. It’s lovely. Quiet. The stalls are small but okay. I get everything settled but we are missing a lot of needed items in the rig and mom doesn’t have a clue where anything is. The rig is too small for anyone other than me and one other person who is agile and can move quickly. That lets mom out. Let’s add the dog to the mix. Getting a good picture?

    It’s HOT and HUMID. I have to run the A/C the entire night. It sounds like the Starship Enterprise is landing on the roof of the living quarters. Mom, under a blanket and a minus 40 degree sleeping bag, is a frozen Popsicle in the morning. I suppose it was a blessing that the dog felt the need to sleep with her. Bless him.

    In the morning (six a.m. because there is no point trying to sleep with the Enterprise hovering just over head) I feed and water the horse. Mom makes coffee. I pull out the awning and set up the TV so she can watch while I am riding.

    I get my gelding ready. I am going to ride early because of the heat and humidity. Unbeknownst to me there is another thing I haven't considered. Bugs.

    A couple of nice men (one deaf and the other in his 80s; "I got a lot of health problems you know") ask me to ride with them. Why not? I've never been here and it might be safer. After a long lecture about something called a 'yellow fly' we start down the trail toward the forest. Being from California the lecture means nothing to me but being raised politely I listen and nod. I’ve hauled a long way and not just to sit in camp!

    We ride about a mile on an asphalt road. I don’t like it because it’s hard on the horses’ feet but hey...the forest is up just ahead. I can almost feel the coolness against my skin. We ride into the beautiful, verdant forest (I am sighing softly right about now) and get swarmed, SWARMED, by yellow flies. Biting and buzzing down my shirt, in my hair, my mouth, my ears and they bite leaving quarter sized welts when they do! They bite my horse. They buzz his ears. He is getting crazy, stomping and bucking. Dakota rarely misbehaves but this is something else. NOW the lecture about ‘yallah flies’ means something.

    One of the gentlemen I am riding with comes up next to me and hands me a slender tree branch. “Use this to brush them yallah flies off yah horse". I have now discovered an essential piece of gear while riding the Carolinas; a small branch with the leaves on the end. Dakota found some relief as I rode along brushing his ears and face and all other reachable parts of his body. Pleasure trail riding. Yeah right.

    Finally, I give up. Forty minutes into the ride I turn around. Anyone who knows me knows that is NOT something I do. The Granite Stair Case at Echo Summit didn't cause me to turn around....but bugs...biting stinging bugs...that’s it. I tell the gentlemen I am riding with that I am returning to camp. They also turned around. I’m not the only one who finds these flies too much.

    I ride back into camp and start stripping the gear of my gelding. No yellow flies so he stands quietly. My mom comes out of the rig. I can hear the question before she speaks.

    “We’re outta here.” I don’t hike. I don’t swim. I don’t catch sun in a lounge chair. I ride and if I can’t ride I’m leaving. It sounds petulant but it’s one of the little truths about me that I won’t hide.

    I pack the camp up in forty minutes. That has to be a record. Mom is in the truck with the dog, the horse is loaded and I haul on down the road nearly turning right when I should have turned left but mom-mom (I don’t own a Tom-Tom) caught that one before we had to hunt for a church parking lot to turn around in and we are on the road. Interstate 95 south toward Charleston. The weather is cool. In the south, in the summer that is usually a bad sign.

    We roll down the freeway. Mom is quiet and I am happily following a motorhome that is going my perfect speed. I get lulled into a kind of hypnosis, following the sway of the coach in front of me. I’m humming and thinking about yellow flies, the cost of diesel and going to work on Monday when my mom quietly mentions, “This is our exit right here.”

    Now when my mom says “right here” she means right here. It’s a good thing that gelding of mine stands up in the trailer with his feet spread because the exit to I-26 came up quickly. I nearly missed it and would be in Florida by now still following the motorhome. But I make the turn. I don’t know what possessed me not to go on to the next exit but when my mom said ‘right here’; I turn.

    I hear my mother gasping as I make the turn and head south toward Charleston. Tires squeal. I make a mental note to have the brakes checked on the rig. At least they aren’t smoking. This time.

    I relax my grip on the steering wheel. What more can happen? Through my windshield, ahead in the distance is the blackest, meanest thunderstorm on the planet straddling the freeway. Will this fun filled weekend never end?!

    It sits over the interstate; a monster waiting and like a moth to the flame I haul myself, my mother, my dog and a 35 foot aluminum lightening rod toward it. The storm is right over head. The lightening strikes and crashes at the same instant. I am IN a lightening storm. Mom is trying to comfort the dog. He is shivering and his teeth are chattering. Mom is, with the same words, comforting me. I've slowed to twenty mph with my flashers on. I’m thinking about pulling over even though I know better when twenty feet off the right front of my truck, lightening strikes a pine tree and it explodes. Dru now wants in my lap! I want in my mom’s lap!!!! Dakota is hopping around in the trailer. The air is hot and every hair in the rig is on end. Mom later tells me I was talking a mile a minute and white as a sheet. She also mentions that I might want to unclench my jaw.

    We make it to the barn. I unload. Unhook. Take care of Dakota. We drive home. The sun is shining. The next day is Sunday. I watch NASCAR and paint cabinets in the kitchen for my mother. I don't complain. I'm just happy there are no yellow flies at my mother’s house.

    Yippee Ti Yo!

  • The Embroidery Horse-A True Fairy Tale

    Written By Julia Dake

    Janice waited nearly sixty years for her horse. A horse was impractical to her practical parents. Riding lessons were something for a wealthy girl. Food for a horse? Out of the question. It didn’t matter that Janice begged at every Christmas or birthday for a ‘pinto paint pony’ with a ribbon in her tail, the pony never appeared. Her parents prayed Janice would ‘grow out of it’. She didn’t grow out of it but she learned to keep her dream to herself.Janice went to school, played, grew up, married and had children. She lived the life most live, soccer and play dates, wedding and funerals, movies and vacations, sadness and fear, happiness and love. She lived the normal life, the expected life and kept her dream to herself.

    However, on a wall in her bedroom, in a small frame is an embroidery image of a black and white and brown horse on a little farm. Janice created the embroidery, lovingly stitching the image of the pony of her dreams with her tiny nine year old hands. She waited, no longer speaking her dream but keeping the image in the frame on the wall.

    During the course of Janice’s normal life, she and her husband bought a house in ‘the country’. It was as close as she thought she would get to the life she lived amidst the threads in the frame. As Janice drove to her new home, her heart thumped, hard. One side of the road is crowded with new houses. Sidewalks and two car garages abound. On the other side of the road to her new home is the world of dreams. Horses scattered across velvet pastures, framed by beautiful white fences. All colors and sizes grazed and played.

    Later in the dark quiet, Janice looked at her embroidery, trying to match the black and brown pony to one standing in the pasture. The

    arge brown one, the grey or chestnut in the far pasture but none matched. None made the little thread pony come to lifeNot knowing what she would do when she found the horse but nearing sixty, she knew time to bring the embroidery horse to life was slipping away. Her health was changing and not for the better. Her husband, Tommy, who knew the tiny horse in the frame, was also suffering the changes in life. He wanted his wife to find the ‘pinto paint pony’. He wanted her to find that joy from her childhood, extraordinary and perfect.

    The pressure, the desire to touch the little horse, to feel it breathe under her hand and move down the trail was becoming intense. Janice could feel the warm softness of its breath in her dreams. She heard the quiet nicker and knew the embroidery horse wanted to come to life soon.

    Janice drove by the pastures every day, going to and from work, shopping, living her day. She always slowed by the fence looking, carefully, hopefully. One day as she drove home, she spotted a new horse, a black and brown and white horse grazing in the pasture. Her heart pounded in her chest. The colors of the horse sang to Janice. Without hesitation, she pointed her car toward the farm house.

    The farm owner greeted her and listened while Janice talked, asking the question. ‘Is the black and brown and white horse for sale?’ No. His wife’s new mare is not for sale.

    That night Janice stared at the framed pony. It danced and trotted inside the tiny fence, tossing the delicate head and calling softly. A door had been opened, the gate swung wide. It was time, if there ever would be a time. If it wasn’t the wife’s mare then there was another out in the pasture that would free the thread bound pony.

    She looked in earnest at all the horses in the pastures. Each horse was considered but Janice always came back to the black and brown and white mare. She stopped occasionally to visit the farm owner and his wife, hoping the spotted mare was for sale. The answer was always the same.

    A year slipped away. Another Christmas, another birthday came and went. The pinto paint pony didn’t appear. No ribbon in the tail. No soft nicker. Janice began to lose hope. The old dream darkened, quieted. She still slowed along the fence, watching the horses graze but theembroidery horse stopped prancing inside her little fence.

    Life takes strange turns. Just when you think the dream is dead; you find it is only asleep. Out of reach becomes a finger-tip stretch away. And so Janice stopped at the farm one more time. The black and brown and white mare trotted in the round pen, turning and spinning, tossing her mane and calling loudly. The farm owner stood watching her. Janice quieted her heart, but hope kept whispering in her ears.

    She asked the question. Her ears buzzed. Yes. The mare was for sale.

    Today Janice grooms and bathes, feeling the mare breathe under her hand hoping she is taking good care of the embroidery horse. She takes riding and horsemanship lessons. She reads and questions, absorbing all she can. When she feels the sweet breath of the pinto paint on her cheek or relaxes into the rhythm as she rides down the trail, Janice makes up for the nearly sixty years of waiting.

    No more keeping the dream to herself; Janice shares it with all. Friends and family visit the little mare. The barn is the first place she brings them when they arrive. The mostly non-horse people marvel at Janice’s independence, at her new found confidence. They comment that she is a different person.

    Everyone admits they thought she’d grown out of it. She hadn’t. She just kept it to herself until the embroidery horse came to life and found life outside the little thread fence.

    The End

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