Sunday, July 26, 2009

Paths of Destruction

Last weekend was quite an exciting one at our house! Shortly before 3:00am Sunday morning the phone rang. It was an Antrim County Sheriff’s deputy in our driveway asking us to come outside because there was a car in our yard and “a lot of destruction to the property”. Hastily throwing on clothes and turning on lights, we headed outside to see what was going on. To our shock, we found a strange car wedged between our dog pen and the side fence; a space just wide enough for a car! Just as puzzling was the fact that the driver was nowhere to be found! Further examination with flash lights revealed that the driver had gone through our fence in not one but three places!

In due time a wrecker arrived and hauled off the car, but we were naturally too wired up to go back to bed. When daylight arrived, we headed outside with our cameras to record the path of destruction and figure out just what happened. Here’s the scenario as near as we can figure out. A neighbor’s daughter (or some other driver of her car) came around the corner too fast, hit our neighbor’s mailbox on the right and then oversteered, crossed the road and went through our chain link fence.

From there she proceeded across our lawn, plowed into the large lilac bush and the fence along the side of the yard and ended up against two pine trees in the other neighbor’s yard.

She then, apparently, threw the car into reverse and turned it to the left, intending to head back onto the road. Instead, she went through our fence on the other side of the lilac and somehow managed to end up between the dog pen and the fence, hitting the corner post of the pen and getting hung up on my compost pile. (evil grin) She was stuck. Since there wasn’t room to open the doors, she climbed out the driver’s window and disappeared. We figure she called a friend to come get her and didn’t want to face her father or the police. It’s highly probable that she’d been drinking.

Apparently, she wasn’t hurt too badly, fortunately, and the deputy told me a few days ago that she has so far not returned calls from the Sheriff’s department. Without knowing for sure who was driving, the police can’t do much more. I will refrain from any comments on people taking responsibility for their actions although I have plenty in this case.

As soon as our homeowners insurance adjuster had documented the destruction first hand, I was able to clean up the lawn mess and assess the flower beds better. The casualty list includes a honeysuckle bush, a small lilac bush that I’d been nursing along, the large old-fashioned lilac bush, the sweet peas which were torn out of the ground, and my cone flowers whose tops were shredded. I trimmed back the cone flowers as I mourned the fact that they were about to bloom. It remains to be seen if they will recover. With brute force, I was able to wrangle the top rail of the fence back up onto the remaining posts along the road which looks much better and allows the lawn to be mowed while we wait for the fence to be fixed.

All in all, it could have been much worse, for the plants and the girl/driver. Did you notice that large maple tree next to the dog pen? If the car had hit that, the driver would have been in a world of hurt. I’m thankful that the accident wasn’t worse. As a parent, I wouldn’t want to be the one to get that 3:00 am phone call from the police letting me know that my child had been in an accident. I’m thankful that this girl and her parents were lucky - THIS time! I hope she learned a lesson that will stay with her for a very long time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to call my children and let them know how much we love them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

HSBB Part 2; Thrills and Chills in the Grand Prix Ring!

Meanwhile, down in the Grand Prix ring at Horse Shows By The Bay, I sat down on one of the new bleachers that have been added this year for spectators. Just in time to catch the leadline class of little tykes on their ponies, I soon realized that I was on the wrong side of the ring. Not only was the sun behind the ponies, but the little ones were all looking away toward the “judge” and show mascot. I still managed to get a few good shots which will be useful for backlit subjects in paintings. Below is one of the contestants. By the way, it was a tie for first place between all the entrants who got ribbons and a goody bag; just like at the Oscars!

After the leadline class, there was a demonstration by a local company which trains personal protection dogs and scent dogs for law enforcement and search and rescue. They brought a handsome black German Shepherd who showed the crowd how he could find drugs and defend his owner against an agressive stranger. It was pretty impressive!

The grand finale of the afternoon was the Spy Coast Farm Grand Prix of show jumping. After a few jumpers had gone, I switched to the sunny side of the ring and got some better photos. This is the event in which all the top riders at the show compete for big prize money.

I didn’t stay to watch all the riders since it was getting late and I was tired. On the way back to the car, I encountered these Jack Russell terriers and couldn’t resist getting some final shots for my horse show dog series.

If you want to see more of my photos, I put quite a few in an album on my Facebook page and made it so that anyone can view them. Just follow the link to my Facebook album.

Going to the show was an extra pleasure this year because of the cool weather we’ve been having. Not only was the day sunny, but it was pleasantly cool with a nice breeze blowing. I just hope this weather hangs around for another couple of weeks until I get back to take in the dressage and maybe the polo.

In the meantime, I’m going to pick out one of my photos and get started on a new painting or drawing. Hmmm, which one will it be? Such a tough decision since there are so many good ones!

I Just LOVE This Show!

The highlight of my summers has become visiting Horse Shows By The Bay near Traverse City, Michigan every July and August. This year the show has expanded to four weeks of hunters, jumpers, ponies, dressage and a polo match on the final weekend. Top riders from around the country now come here to compete including Peter Pletcher, Tammy Provost, Patricia Griffith and Scott Lenkart, along with junior riders Caitlin Ziegler and Victoria Birdsall. HSBB is now considered one of the best shows in the midwest under the exceptional management of Dean and Alexandra Rheinheimer.

Last weekend I spent the afternoon at the show and enjoyed every minute of it! Every year more improvements are made to the grounds, and this year was no exception. A new pathway for visitors from the parking lot all the way to the Grand Prix ring at the far end has shortened walks and given better access to all four of the rings for those of us who like to wander around and catch whatever action is going on in the various rings.

For a change, I was not disappointed in my photos. I don’t know if my expectations have been lowered or if I’m shooting better; whichever it is, I see many good paintings amongst them.

This year I remembered to put the long lens on the camera which greatly increased my chances of getting good jump shots. That was a good thing when I got to the Grand Prix ring which is the largest of all and has limited access for spectators.

Last year I posted the photos on my website, but I found that very few people bothered to follow the link to them, so this year I’m posting them right in the blog. Here are just a few of the photos for your enjoyment.

The first photo shows a lovely iron gray hunter horse in a warmup ring. I couldn’t resist him.

This photo shows a groom holding a pony and is very typical of this level of showing. Unlike most of us who do our own grooming, saddling, bathing, etc., the show barns have grooms to do this work. When the horse is ready, the rider hops on and is off to the rings. When the class is done, the rider hops off and hands the reins to the groom. I even saw one groom picking out the feet of a hunter while the mounted rider was waiting for her class! These unsung heroes of the horse show circuit make it possible for riders to compete in several classes in a day without wearing themselves out caring for their horses. Some riders ride more than one horse which makes the grooms doubly indispensible.

I took this shot while the show photographer was shooting this winner and his rider. The proud mom and groom are standing by, but no amount of coaxing could get this pony to look at the camera and perk his ears. He was totally bored by the whole thing.

This next shot I caught in a warmup ring. The two older riders seemed to be mentoring this little girl on her cute white pony, and giving her encouragement. It’s a great idea for a painting and just goes to show that the best action is not always in the rings during a class. You can catch many good candid photos in the warmup rings if you’re alert for them.

Since not much was going on in the pony ring, I wandered off from there to the Grand Prix ring. More in the next post.