Friday, February 18, 2011

She did it again.

I never write more than once every two days.  Now I find myself, intoxicated on a bottle of Pinot Noir, doing an up-dated blog in less than an hour.  I will now attempt to drink and write.
Very good Pinot

When I last blogged about an hour ago, I explained how my wife always surprises me.  Well, at dinner tonight, celebrating my ---birthday, she has cards and a gift for me to open.  The gift was the cowboy shirt which she had bought me earlier in the day.  I helped pick it out, but thank you dear.  Two cards, one from her parents, (who are very generous), and one from her.  I open her card, which is VERY generic, and inside is a piece of paper.  On the paper is a reservation for the Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, California.  Three nights.

Let me explain.  Go on "Google" and look up the "Alisal".  You'll see why I'm excited.  Annette and I went there about 7 years ago for her birthday.  It was fantastic.  At first glance it may seem expensive, but add in what you get for two people, and it's not bad.  Beautiful rooms or cottages with a fireplace, no TV, fantastic dinners and breakfast, (2) two hour horseback rides a day, (on really good horses), golf on your choice of 2 private courses, or tennis.  Alisal is a 10,000 acre working cattle ranch, one of the top-rated guest ranches in the world.  It's near the coast of Central California.  When we ride, we usually go in the advanced group, (because Annette is advanced and I just follow along).  Many times we have our own private wrangler, and we'll spend 2 hours loping across green hills, through herds of cattle, and totally off trail.  The scenery is unbelievable.  We will see new born deer, eagles, and mountain lion tracks.  We went 7 years in a row, but not last year because I had a knee replacement and was not riding.  We never like going back to the same place twice, but Alisal is different.  When I pull into the entrance, I totally relax.  Nestled among 200 year old sycamore trees, a creek and lush green grass, are cottages where people stay.  Across the driveway is a lush pasture where the owner's horse has two acres to himself.

The "head" wrangler is Tony, a true western "western" cowboy.  Tony has gotten to know us over the years, and because of Annette's riding ability, always assigns us horses that are special.  One year Annette was allowed to ride the owner's horse, Rusty, who even the other wranglers are not allowed to ride.  I got to ride Malcolm.  Malcolm could not be caught that day, and when Tony found out, he was ticked to say the least.  He "ordered" Malcolm to be brought in immediately.  Great, I get to ride the pissed off Malcolm.  It worked out alright.  One time Tony put me on "Wedge".   Wedge was a cross between a draft and a quarter horse, but was rarely ridden because even the wranglers didn't like him.  I spent the entire two hours keeping Wedge from loping and taking off with me.  By the end of the ride though, Wedge and I became friends and he even trusted me.  When we got back Tony smiled and asked how Wedge was.  I said he was a little bit of a handful.  Tony laughed and said, "Wedge has lope on the brain".  Tony and the wranglers are great though, and they do a fantastic job of matching rider with horse.

This year Annette didn't book our usual cottage.  She got us an upgrade on the creek.  Lord am I spoiled.  Also, she is trying to make one of my dreams come true.  I've never had a "bucket list", but if I did, it would be to ride Flash at the Alisal.  I asked Tony about this two years ago, and he said the policy was no, but that since he knew how well Annette rode, anytime we wanted to bring our horses we could, just let him know in advance.  We would have to pay for our own private ride though.  I would be in heaven with the three things I love; Annette, riding Flash, and the Alisal.  She's emailed Tony, just waiting for a response back.  I'll keep praying.

The bottle of wine is gone; the wind is howling, the rain is pelting, the dogs are yelping and the horse are, hopefully sleeping, dreaming of Alisal like me.  Thank you for the very special day Annette.  Enough compost for the night.

She's too good to me.

Today has been a really good day.  You see, it's my birthday, and Annette can't do enough for me.  She took me to breakfast after buying me dinner last night, bought me a nice cowboy shirt at the tack store, and then braved the cold weather and rain to go on a trail ride with me.  Now she's making a nice turkey soup which we'll have a nice wine with, then fresh apple-mountain berry crumb pie.  A perfect day for an old man.  Breakfast was good.  There's a chain called the "Original Pancake House", and they have old fashion classic waffles which I love.  It's hard to find them anywhere, most places just serve Belgian waffles.  The only two places where I have found them are the Pancake House and Harry's Cafe in La Jolla.

Annette's always been too good to me.  I admit I'm spoiled with her love and her cooking, (after all, that's all a guy wants), but she's always surprising me with her laughter, her wisdom and her compassion.  I would be totally lost without her.  She's the one that got me involved with horses and bought Flash for me.  I'll never forget that day.  It was in the evening and we drove by the barn where she had a horse boarded and where we both took lessons, (dressage lessons for her, horse mounting lessons for me).  As we drove by, we saw a new horse in one of the round pens.  Annette said we should stop and see the new horse and find out who the owner is.  Well, we walked in and there was this beautiful paint with blue eyes looking lost and confused.  Annette said maybe you should put a halter on him and put him in a stall, he might be more at ease.  I said that's a job for the owner, not me.  She said, "you are the owner", now go put your horse away.

Annette's always pulling surprises like that.  A few years ago I was complaining about having to unload my utility trailer full of dirt by hand.  I think I've unloaded that damn trailer by hand over a thousand times, back breaking work with a shovel.  I used to do masonry and concrete work on the side, but when I turned 59 and had to unload that trailer in 30 degree weather at 10 PM so a pool contractor could have the dirt by 6 the next morning, that did it.  I said a few choice words and vowed to buy myself a dump trailer.  Problem was I couldn't really justify it on my retirement salary.

Annette had heard and seen my frustration.  Christmas was just a week away and I put off all thoughts of any type of trailer.  Christmas morning came and we were opening gifts when Annette handed me a small box.  I opened it up and inside was a very small "match box" trailer.  Cruel joke I thought.  Then Annette said, "do you know what that is?"  I said "yes, but is it what I think it is?"  She said "you want a trailer, here's a check, go get a trailer.  Merry Christmas honey".  I bought myself a dump trailer December 26th.  It's the best Christmas gift I've ever had.  Annette's parents were here at the time.  I think they thought their daughter had lost her mind.
The best Christmas gift.

My wife is wonderful.  I can't say enough about how much I love her.  How she tolerates me I don't know.  Maybe it's my easy going demeanor; or maybe my patience and tolerance.  Or maybe it's the compost of all three.  Whatever the reason, I'm one LUCKY man.  I love you darling.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The weekend is near,

at least my weekend.  It's great to be semi-retired.  Right now I'm just working Monday and Tuesday day shift with basically no supervision.  That is until I get home.  Then I have too many supervisors; a wife, three horses, two donkeys, two dogs, three rabbits, a cat, and 11 chickens.  And they all have chores for me.  I love it though and wouldn't change it for anything.  Monday was a rough day.  I left for work at 0530 and didn't get home until 1900.  I had two search warrants to write and a victim that wanted them done two weeks ago.  Plus I had three supplemental reports to write for the Chief, so I was busy.  When I got to court in the late afternoon, the district attorney wanted me to add some additional information on one of the warrants.  He asked if I had a thumb drive.  I did, but was afraid to use it in front of him.  After all, I just found out what a thumb drive was 2 weeks ago, let alone trying to use it properly.  Remember, I'm old school and don't learn too fast.  Where was my wife when I needed her?  Probably washing Jackson's tail.  Well, at this point I was so nervous that my tail needed washing too.

Anyway, I fumbled my way through it, got the judge to sign it, filed it with the court, went back to the station, and faxed it to Yahoo.  I left for home, but the traffic was terrible.  When I got to the ranch it was dark.  As I drove up to the gate, I could hear the donkeys braying.  I parked the car and ran into the house to change into my barn clothes.  Just as I was starting to walk down to the barn Annette drove in.  As she got out of the car she asked, "do you want any help?"  I said "ok", and she said "sure?".  Now, I know what that "sure?" means, so I said it was alright, I'll take care of the feeding.  Besides, I felt guilty because she had to do everything this morning, and now that is was dark I wouldn't be able to muck so she would have double duty the next morning.

When I got to the barn I could hear the horses running in the pasture.  They were ticked.  Especially Jackson who feels he needs his blanket on when it gets below 50 degrees.  Flash could care less.  I guess grays have more sensitive skin.  He's like his mom, (Annette), who has a temperature variance of 10 degrees, (68 to 78 degrees).  I love them both though.  Since it was so dark in the pasture, I brought them both into their stalls to put the blankets on in the light.  Flash was a pill, he kept trying to turn away so I couldn't get it over his head.  I solved the problem by throwing it on top of his head and over his face so he couldn't see.  Then he thought it was a sensory game and stood still until I got it all hooked up.

At this point Annette made a cameo appearance to put on Jackson's blanket.  I don't do well with Jackson's blanket, too many straps that have to go a certain way.  For me, putting on his blanket is like trying to use the thumb drive, I get nervous it will be wrong and I always screw it up.  And when I do it wrong, Jackson tells Annette and I feel so stupid when she tells me it's not difficult at all.  Annette did his blanket in 30 seconds and headed back to the house.  I put the hay out in the pasture, let the horses out and re-stocked the hay cart for tomorrow morning for Annette. 

Evening chores being done, I went back to the house.  When I walked in, Annette had cut fresh bread from the bakery, seasoned it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toasted it in the oven.  Next to the warm bread was a glass of pinot noir.  I really love that woman.

Today was much easier.  Hardly any paperwork, so I had time to blog.  No need to go to court.  I should be home by 1630, way before it gets dark.  All the supervisors should be happy except for the one here at work who hopefully doesn't read my blogs.  It's MY Friday!  I don't have to be back to work until Monday.  That means I can move compost over the next 5 days, or do more blogs.  One and the same.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

California Peace Officer's Memorial

It's almost that time of year again.  Every year in early May, police officers from all over California meet in Sacramento to pay tribute to those who have died in the line of duty.  The families of those that have died during the past year are honored by the Governor and other dignitaries, as well as their fellow officers.  It's a very sober and awe inspiring event, attended by thousands of police officers from departments around the state.  Caravans of hundreds of police cars travel from Southern California and from Northern California to meet at the steps of the State Capital.  We honor not only those officers that have recently died, but also those that have given their lives to protect others for over the past 160 years.  On the Memorial website, it lists all the fallen officers, and in most cases, how they lost their lives.

Maybe I'm a little morbid, but I find it fascinating to read how these officers died.  One of the first entries is about Sheriff James Barton from Los Angeles County, whose "end of watch" was January 23, 1857.  Sheriff Barton had formed a posse of 7 deputies to bring to justice a notorious outlaw gang that was killing and pillaging near San Juan Capistrano, (close to where I live now).  After two days of riding, the posse ran into an ambush of over 100 outlaws in a valley near San Juan Capistrano where Barton and three others were killed and mutilated.  Three of the deputies escaped, made their way back to Los Angeles, and formed another posse of over 100 men.  Over 100 criminals were eventually apprehended, several of them hanged "on the spot", the rest brought back for trial.  When Flash and I ride on the trails and valleys near San Juan Capistrano, I can't help thinking what it would be like to be a mounted officer in those times.  I think Flash feels the same.  Maybe I was born 200 years too late.

One of the fallen officers on the Memorial is Louie Pompei who died over 17 years ago, trying to help a victim during an armed robbery of a grocery store.  Louie didn't want to get involved, (he was in plain clothes at the time, working a drug task force), but when the suspect began to "pistol whip" a handicapped box boy, Louie intervened.  He identified himself and shots were exchanged between Louie and the suspect.  Louie never saw a second suspect behind him who shot him in the heart.  Louie Pompei was one of my trainees, one of the best officers that Glendora PD ever had.

I've always wanted to attend the Peace Officer's Memorial, mostly out of respect for Louie.  It never worked out until 2 years ago when one of my close friends, who still works at Glendora PD, talked about the mounted units from around the state that attend the Memorial.  I vowed to myself that Flash and I would go, I just wasn't sure a retiree could ride mounted in the Memorial Service, and what department would I represent, (Glendora or Chino where I am a volunteer posse member)?  I talked with the posse Lieutenant at Chino, and after he talked with the Chief, they said I could go and represent their department.  Glendora doesn't have a mounted unit and I felt they may have concerns with me representing them and not being a current police officer with them.

Color guard.
Well, Flash and I trailered to Sacramento, (a 10 hour drive).  When we got there, Sacramento's mounted unit sergeant, was fantastic.  We had come a day early, and he gave me the key to their facility so I could come and go when I wanted.  Flash was worried when we arrived.  It was early evening, and all of Sacramento's horses were put away in the barn.  I parked my trailer next to the arena where I was going to sleep, and put Flash in the arena.  The door to my trailer was only 3' from the pipe rail of the arena.  That whole night Flash had his head right by the door of the trailer, trying to look in and see me.  Neither of us slept that night.  The next day over 100 mounted units arrived from around the state.  We all tacked up, mounted our horses, and rode four abreast through downtown Sacramento, over freeways, under freeways, across bridges to a large lawn in front of the State Capital.
The lawn in front of the State Capital

The only problem was that all the other units had at least 2 to 3 riders and I was the odd man out.  Flash was the last of 104 horses, so we brought up the tail.  He did well until we got to the grass area in front of the Capital.  The grass strip is about 30' wide and 100 yards long with two lanes of traffic on each side.  Well, 103 horses made it onto the grass, but there was no room for Flash and me.  Flash had two feet on the curb, waiting for the rest of the horses to make room, when a young child came up to me and said, "officer, you better move because the metro train is coming down the track".  Sure enough, here comes the train, something Flash has never seen.  I got him on the grass, turned him towards the oncoming train,(10' away), and said, "Flash meet the metro train".  He was good, barely moved.  Then we had to stand in line for 40 minutes while hundreds of motorcycle units and police cars with lights flashing drove by in front of us.  At that point Flash had enough and would back out of line, turn around, go back in line, stand for 5 minutes, poop, then repeat.
All the units passing by in front of the horses.

On the way back to the stables, Sacramento PD let us in between two of their officers and horses, and Flash was much better.  We even rode through "Old Town" on the way back; 4 abreast, taking up the whole street.  Pretty impressive except for the lone friesian pulling a buggy with passengers who at the sight of 100+ horses coming straight at him thought it was safer by backing up onto the sidewalk to the dismay of his driver.

It was quite experience for Flash and me.  We both learned alot.  I think maybe I would like to try it again, but only if I am with other riders that I know.  I would do things differently, like be near the front, dress in "formal" class A's, and pay a tribute to all of those that have given their lives.  To them, I say "THANK YOU".

No plans for today-----sounds good to me.

I only work part-time now, just 2 or 3 days a week, and usually it's real easy, (just drive a golf cart around and unlock a few doors at the college), not much "police work" at all.  However, things have changed over the past two months.  Our Chief wants to make us a real police department, doing our own investigations etc..  We have three full time officers and about 7 part-time officers, (one of which is me).  All of us have about 30+ years each of real police experience.  The problem is, we don't have the money or resources to be a real "city type" police department.  Instead of working in "real time", we are working basically circa 1960.  We get by with what we have to do, and rely on Irvine PD for anything major -- until a few months ago, when I was asked to write a search warrant for death threats via. email.  They chose, (picked on me), because I was the only one with search warrant experience.  It was 15 years ago when I wrote my last search warrant, and that was for sex crimes, not some computer type compost which I know nothing about, (my wife will confirm that).  That was also LA County, not Orange County with a different set of procedures.

Anyway, I set forth and wrote the search warrant, (took me about 5 hours with my typing skills).  Then I had to go to court and file it with the DA, then a judge.  I was nervous as hell, but now I am good friends with several judges and feel a lot more at ease.  I think they feel sorry for me because I am easily 30 years older than other police officers they deal with.  Since that day, I have probably written 5 more search warrants and the Chief has now made me his part-time, unofficial department investigator.  Same pay, but that is ok because I really love doing investigations.  I did forget though about the stress involved dealing with victims, suspects, and administrators, some of which are the same.

I worked the past two days and the lieutenant has me assigned to a satellite campus about 8 miles away.  It's nice because nobody bothers me and I can get reports, memos, and search warrants done in peace.  That's what I did Monday and Tuesday along with dealing with victims, suspects and both AT&T and Yahoo legal departments.  Finish at three and rush home to feed by five, thinking the whole time that tomorrow will be a day to do whatever I want, especially ride Flash who has had three days off.  Sounds good to me.

On the way home the "change oil" light on my car came on.  When I get home a package from UPS had arrived containing new wheels for the muck cart which has two flat tires.  I've tried telling Annette to push it anyway, but she says it is too hard with flat tires.  I said the ground is frozen with ice, it should roll easy.  She says, well never mind what she says.  I do the evening chores, thinking tomorrow still won't be too bad.  Annette gets home, I give her a hug and a kiss by the fire which I have started for her, and hand her a glass of wine.  "Honey" she says, my "maintenance" light on my car came on three weeks ago, so can you take it in and take care of it?  Tomorrow?  Sure dear, but I wanted to ride Flash some time tomorrow.  Well, she says, I need to use your saddle and I want to ride Jackson, so why don't you ride in the morning when it's 38 degrees and the wind is gusting at 50 mph, and I'll ride Jackson in the afternoon when it gets warm and the wind has died down.  Sounds good to me.  But then I say, "I have to change the wheels on the muck cart".  Maybe you can do that before we feed when it's 25 degrees out is her response.  Sounds good to me I say.  I'll make us waffles while you do that.  Sounds good to me.

After breakfast, which was really good, I head down to the barn to tack up Flash.  I go to put his halter on and he looks at me and says "you got to be kidding, feel that wind and cold, I'll get crazy if you put that on me".  Sounds good to me.  We get in the arena and I do as my trainer tells me, which is walk on a loose rein.  Flash is a little wound up, (I think he wanted waffles too), but as soon as I pick up the reins, he bends his head and begins to work.  Blew me away.  He could have been a little more bent, but is was really good for him.  We worked for about 40 minutes and he was a good boy.  Even got the correct lead on the right, or maybe I just asked the correct way.  Probably the latter.

I drove down the hill and took care of Annette's car while she rode Jackson.  When I got home, I put new tires on "her" muck cart.  I came back to the house and Annette gave me a hug and a kiss by the fire she had built, it was too early for wine.  "How about I make a nice dinner then we go to yoga together?".  SOUNDS GOOD TO ME.