Saturday, October 28, 2006

Halloween Horse and High-Intensity Headlights

Halloween is only a few days away, but apparently my horse, Figment, decided to get into costume early.

This morning, my husband and I were slated for an early-morning ride. We were planning to meet the barn owner and a fellow boarder at 8:15 a.m. But we got home later than planned last night, so I was sleeping like the dead at 7, when I would have had to haul my carcass out of the nice, warm bed. My husband woke up briefly, but rolled back over when he saw that it was raining. Thus, we were both still romping through the vast valleys of Dreamland when the phone rang at 9.

Turns out the other boarder hadn't shown up at the appointed hour, and meanwhile the weather over Clermont had cleared. The barn owner was still itching for a trail ride, so we hopped in Canyonero (my Aztek) and headed down the road.

Every morning, the horses are turned out to pasture after they've eaten their breakfast. Since we were on our way, the barn owner put Figment and her horse, Boudreaux (my husband's mount-to-be), into the round pen instead of the large, grassy field so they would be easier to catch. A round pen is a circular fenced area that is handy for training horses. It has no grass; typically the footing is sand, dirt, or, in this case, red clay. Boudreaux resisted the temptation, but Figgie couldn't help himself...down he went! He loves to roll in that clay, but the problem is that it sticks to his coat like yucky, dirty dye.

As we pulled up to the barn, I barely recognized my boy. Normally he is a reddish color, but it's mixed with roaning and a big, white Appaloosa blanket on his rump, studded with sorrel spots. Today all I could see was a buckskin (Boudreaux) and a solid sorrel standing beside him. Of course it was Figgie in stealth mode, with a covering of clay camouflaging his markings.

I brushed him as best as I could, but I didn't want to bathe him because he could get sores with the saddle rubbing against a wet hide. Out on the trails, we met several people that I know, and all of them did a double-take. They'd look, then suddenly their eyes would swing around again and they would ask, "Where's Figment?" I'd point out that I wasn't really on a solid-colored horse, but rather an Appaloosa who apparently thought he was in the Witness Protection Program.

We had a lovely ride; even though it was a bit humid for my taste, the breeze made up for it. Deer flies and horse flies are usually a constant annoyance on the trails, but today it was mercifully bug-free (other than occasional swarms of no-see-ums, but at least they don't suck equine...or human...blood).

On the way back to the barn, my husband came up with a logical explanation for Figment's disguise. "It's almost Halloween," he said, "so obviously Figgie decided to don his costume early." It made sense when I thought about it; Figment is quite obsessed with treats, so I could easily imagine him trotting down the road with a trick-or-treat sack dangling from his muzzle, accumulating a stash of apples, carrots, and sugar cubes. Perhaps this morning was his practice run, to see if I could recognize him.

If so, I'm sure that he was sorely disappointed, as I gave him a thorough bath with Suave coconut body wash. If he wants to don his costume again, he's going to have to figure out how to get back into the round pen, as there is no red clay in the pasture. I couldn't get all of the coloring off him, but at least he looks somewhat like a blanketed Appaloosa now (and he smells good too).

After our interlude of fun, hubby and I set off to take care of some chores. Top on the list was replacement headlights for Canyonero. A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that one of the headlights was out. My trusty Aztek was due for its 30,000 mile service anyway, plus there was some sort of recall notice, so we had made an appointment with the dealer. Canyonero had its service and was returned to us with a comprehensive checklist. Unfortunately, although the list indicated that the headlights had been checked and were in working order, the service personnel must have been traipsing around in some alternate universe. The headlight was still out. Grrrrr! That didn't give me much confidence that they had checked anything else on the list either.

As luck would have it, the second headlight promptly went out too. It's too much of a pain in the butt to go back to the dealer (plus they quoted me over $400 to replace each headlight!! when I called them back, reaffirming my belief that they are smoking crack in Alternate Universe Land), so hubby said he would do the job himself.

We stopped at Wal-Mart on the way home from the barn; normally I hate making a Wal-Mart run because it always seems to be crowded with wall-to-wall confused, gaping tourists and aggressive locals determined to run the tourists down with the Shopping Cart of Death. Somehow I always seem to get caught in the cross-fire of this age-old battle. But this time my husband pointed out that we'd have a secret weapon: the fact that we both reeked of Eau De Equine. If we were lucky, nobody would want to get within 20 feet of us.

I don't know whether it was just a quiet day or whether the horse stench worked, but there seemed to be less fellow shoppers than usual. In the auto aisle, we pawed through the dazzling array of selections. Normally, choosing a headlight would be a mundane task, but on this day I was flush with the heady joy of finally being able to dish out some sweet retribution.

Up until this point, Canyonero had sported plain old headlights, which is quite passé in this age of the Xeon Eye know, those blue-white headlights that sear your cornea like a steak on an iron skillet when you have the misfortune to get a set of them behind you. Their advantage is supposed to be throwing more light than the old, traditional bulbs, but I think an unspoken side effect is to get other cars out of your way. After a few miles of those white-blue laser beams bouncing off the mirror and into your eyeballs, you'll feel an overwhelming compulsion to change lanes.

I know that such heady power can be addictive. After all, I've owned an Aztek since other words, since the time that it was actually the ugliest vehicle on the road. Back in those days, people had respect for Canyonero. They realized that anyone bold/crazy enough to drive such a hideous vehicle is only half a notch away from road rage at any given moment. They would never dare think to cut off an Aztek driver, or even come near it for that matter.

Sadly, over the years a rash of utterly horrendous vehicles has rolled out of the showrooms and onto the roads. Azteks have lost their power and prestige and have slipped down into the ranks of the mundane. Tourists cut me off with impunity, even if there is no one else for two miles behind me. People run stop signs in front of me, stop in the middle of the road, and do all sorts of other stupid things because they're no longer cowed by Canyonero.

Now, thanks to Xeon headlights, all that is about to change. Want to break your butt to get in front of me? Suffer the wrath of my finely honed laser beams! Want to do something else stupid? I will use the concentrated power of their ultra-luminescence to burn a hole in your car body!

There are actually quite a few options in the realm of Xeon lights. Sadly, Wal-Mart only carries the sort that are marked "guaranteed street legal." I was sort of hoping that some shady type might notice my disappointment and beckon me over once I reached the parking lot. I could just imagine the scene: glancing nervously from side to side, he would slip open his trench coat to reveal a dazzling selection of sight-destroyers at levels 10 times greater than the law allows. I would guiltily slip him some cash and he'd thrust a plain paper bag into my hands. Unfortunately that didn't happen, so I have to be happy with headlights at the upper range of the legal level.

I didn't have an opportunity to try out Canyonero's new-found power tonight, but next time I have to do some night driving, will see if its former fear factor has been regained. As the Simpson's song proclaims:

She blinds everybody with her super high beams
She's a squirrel-squashin', deer-smackin' drivin' machine

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