Monthly Archives: September 2016

Live Now.

An  art friend of mine has recently begun posting some secular humanist perspectives over on G+. He turns off comments, perhaps to avoid discussion…or, maybe, to fend off trolls.  Of course, it could be that he considers anyone who might choose to discuss the topic to be a troll.  He’s rather odd that way–easily offended, easily riled, easily disquieted.

Anyway, his posts got me to thinking about the mindset of atheist secular humanists, especially those who perceive life and reality as reducible to clear, concise mechanical processes that include chemical reactions and Newtonian physics. He’s a retired engineer, so this mindset comes quite logically and naturally to him and his. Dwelling in the strictly empirically measurable pragmatic, any idea of something more than life as a chemical reaction and consciousness as a neurological function is quite alien. Having myself dwelled in mechanism, pragmatism, atheism, and stoicism for a solid decade or more of my own existence, I can understand the very solid, stolid stability provided by it. What bothers me is that what he’s doing is no different than the proselytizing of the fervently religious. In truth, it’s no different.

Here’s the thing, though: Does it really matter what he believes versus what someone else believes? No. His beliefs give him solace, just as those who believe that their loved ones have gone to join Jesus or entered Nirvana or…do them. The fact is there is no proof or disproof of continuance of the self/soul/spirit upon the body’s demise, and, truly, it really doesn’t matter. Live now.

Not Yours, Only Mine.

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A couple of days back, there happened amid the staid and stolid pages of a writer’s community a small foofaraw ←(a very suitable word for this, used thanks to one S. Bradley Stoner, author, who reminded me of its existence). It was a kerfuffle over the audacity of authors using social media to promote themselves and their books, specifically by sharing their latest customer satisfaction reviews. Someone was very bent about it. And, yes, personally I’m not in favor of the practice, except for the most occasional share of a nice five-star review that’s got meat and flavor. But the sharing isn’t the problem I’m going to address.  The problem that steps up is the attitude and actions of the complainant, namely, “Not yours; only mine.”  First some background, though.  (If bored with any background, skip to paragraph 4)

There are millions of authors on social media all trying to bring attention to their literary endeavors (books, anthologies, shorts stories, poems….). Most of them have swallowed the old ideas that if you just proliferate enough noise about the existence of your book and how good it is, people will buy and you can retire to scribbling more, rather than working for the man.  Oh, and corral as many people as possible into signing up for your newsletter, then remind them of your existence and your wonderful books at least twice a month, if not once a week. Whatever you do, keep posting updates about anything and everything happening in your writing and publishing and book sales life. That’s the ticket, by cybergads, and don’t you forget it. Do especially post about your loss leaders–freebies and 99 centers–because everybody wants what they can get on the cheap, and, especially for free. (This is all said now quite tongue-in-cheek, of course. None of these things really work, anymore, and haven’t for quite some time. Not really. And I mean pretty much NOT AT ALL.)

What worked for folks who got in early–“early adopters”–might have worked way back when…for about six months to, maybe, two years at longest when self-publishing and the various ‘hot’ social media platforms were all relative infants in the cyber world, but then social mediaville–the people who live there along with the platform owners–caught on. People on social media began to ignore all these self-promotion efforts, even (gasp) to the point of blocking those proliferating the feeds with what resident denizens considered ‘spam’…and it was and is spam. (Nobody likes spam, not even the meated variety still occasionally, nostalgically smiled upon by those still ‘lost in the 1950s’.) Platform owners? They chuckled and began to utilize the desires of people to gain exposure for themselves and their product to their advantage. I won’t bore you with the details, but, yes, it worked out quite well for the platform owners, if not so much for everyone else.

Meanwhile, back to the denizens. Social media denizens want quality ‘stuff’ in their feeds. They vehemently object to what THEY consider ‘noise’. A lot of them (and me) just ignore the noise, scrolling right on past, thanks. But some take extreme affront and, foaming at the mouth, will unfriend, unfollow, even block or mute someone whose content they consider ‘noise’ or ‘spammy’. In fact, they’ll unfriend, unfollow, block, or mute someone just for posting more than they consider “appropriate”, even when the shared stuff is of interest to them. It’s the fact that the person doing the posting is sharing stuff that does nothing whatsoever to promote the affronted’s own agenda–say, his/her books or product, his/her brand, and his/her online enterprise(s). And that’s the root of what’s at issue here–this ‘only mine, not yours’ attitude. Because, you see, these same individuals are the ones who post about their own stuff almost exclusively, and I mean exclusively. Check out their feeds on FB or G+ or anywhere else–it’s all about them. They don’t up-vote anything that isn’t about them. Almost never, IF ever. They won’t follow folks who aren’t in it for them.

Selfish, self-centered, self-interested, and disinterested in anything that doesn’t feed them and theirs, they go out of their way to castigate others for doing exactly what they themselves do–promoting their own projects and products. They grumble, they dis(respect), they dismiss and despoil, and, when, having been discovered and labeled as Machiavellian, they find themselves left out, they start rattling the bars, editorializing their blame of others for doing exactly what they do, never mind that at least most of those others they berate do, unlike the affronted, up-vote other people’s promotional efforts and interests.

So there you have it. In a nutshell, from me to you, if you’re one of those who is affronted by somebody doing something that you yourself do, then I think you’d best either swallow it or get TF off of social media completely. If you’re one of those who promotes and expects to be promoted by others, you have to reciprocate. If you don’t, then you’ll get left out in the cold once discovered that you’re only in it for yourself.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid all this fuss and blather is just don’t promote yourself and your books, enterprises, or products on social media, except in the most conservative manner while promoting others works at a moderated pace. It’s the only way for others…other than the “only mine, not yours” folks not to get affronted.

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The Most Bang for the Buck in Successful Book Marketing

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I’m a statistics girl. I can, by the numbers, tell you what works and what doesn’t. I can’t tell you who your target market is, though, because I haven’t read your book…and probably won’t. What I can do is, in a nutshell, tell you what does NOT work. You promoting your own novels and books via social media DOES NOT WORK. Further, you don’t need a Facebook page, you don’t need a Google page, you don’t need Tumblr, Pinterest, Linked-In, or Instagram. You need to buy advertising targeted to your demographic market. FB advertising works. Amazon advertising works. Goodreads advertising does not. Your newsletter might generate some sales, but, anymore, if you’re late to the party, which most of you are, then, no.

Will your work catch fire? That’s completely dependent upon luck and the ever-fickle tastes of the mobs.

Good luck.

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Nothing There.

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I regularly read articles across a broad range of subjects.  Today, I read an article in Forbes about problems with mutual funds, another about scientists meeting at Oxford about climate change, and others, still, about varying subjects including writing, employment, the global economy, US job projections, space exploration, new scientific discoveries and theories…. Of those articles, only the scientific ones reported anything substantial. The rest were a bunch of words that simply stated and then restated the general issue, quoted a few “names” who said nothing more than, yeah, we may have an issue here, but no proffered solutions; not even a list of the issue’s problems-in-need-of-solutions.  They offered nothing.

Waste of time, waste of bits and bytes, and my main objection to most of what I find being proliferated across all the varied communication media available–audio, visual (including textual) and multi-media.

So why is content so lacking therein? I’ve come across five basic reasons:

  1. there is, as yet, no solution (The Halting Problem);
  2. exposing the solution destroys that solution’s effectiveness (marketing strategies);
  3. the communicator won’t share the solution unless you pay for it (any capitalist enterprise);
  4. the solution and consequences is/will be unpopular (Climate Change);
  5. the communicator doesn’t know of a solution, whether because of ignorance or laziness.

If you’re going to communicate about something, at least list the issue’s problems. If you are going to point out those problems, be up front if there are no solutions as yet or offer up potential solutions–those tried, those which have failed, those which have had some greater or lesser degree of success. It’s relatively easy, and it follows the same formula of all effective communication: opening statement (thesis statement), supporting evidence and arguments, conclusion (restatement of the thesis, summary of major points).

We really need to stop rewarding vacuousness. Really.

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Contingency Employment Planning

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Most American citizens are members of one of two groups–the employer or the employee–usually, the latter.  Simplistically, as an employee, you are answerable to your employer; as an employer, you are answerable to yourself.

Again simplistically:

  • As an employee working for someone else, you may have seeming autonomy in some jobs and in some positions, but, actually, you have no autonomy. You have a job to do and often changeable definitions of what that job entails.  You earn according to what the business owner deems you’re worth, and, when that worth increases or diminishes, so may your compensation and, sometimes, even employability.
  • When you are the employer, which includes the self-employed sole proprietor, you earn according to the success of the business and what you deem prudent to maintain continuing business success. (Failure to properly limit your ‘take’ can lead to business failure.)

Are you one of the few who are perpetually employable? Will automation and technology never threaten your job? Will your job never be outsourced? Will every birthday you have once you hit thirty-six years of age (thirty-five for women) have no effect or decrease your employability? Few in the U.S. can honestly say that, and, unless you have some sort of alternative financial support, you might be in trouble, especially once you hit forty, because, no matter how good you are, that’s when employers start looking to fill positions with younger workers. In fact, it’s encouraged, http://fortune.com/2016/05/30/firing-loyal-employee/ (Article has been edited from its original) , as was noted quite pointedly in Bob Sullivan’s article in MSN Money: http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/other/is-it-okay-%E2%80%94-or-even-legal-%E2%80%94-to-fire-longtime-employees/ar-BBtLziB .

In the U.S. since somewhere in the mid 1970s, but especially during the 1990s, employment models dramatically changed. (Alternative PDF: how-the-relationship-between-employers-and-workers-changed-latimes ). Lifetime employment became, for the most part, a thing of the past as companies sought to maximize profits and minimize labor expenses. Aging workers became especially subject to termination, and, today, an older worker is classified as anyone reaching thirty-five or thirty-six, and, by forty, you’ve definitely reached that category. (http://www.aol.com/article/2013/12/24/fighting-age-discrimination/20794477/, http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/11/03/11-sneaky-ways-companies-get-rid-of-older-workers/) Between automation, technology, a flooded labor market, and maximizing profits for stock holders, jobs are harder and harder to find and keep, no matter your education and skills.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, some of us, including me, decided that self-dependency–self-employment–was preferable to the ever-increasing climate of job instability. I left a corporate position where I was highly valued, the CEO actually visiting my home to demand my continued employment with the company after I gave notice and resigned.  Working for myself was frightening, but it proved out, despite having to work longer hours, despite having no guarantee of a dependable, stable income.  But, honestly, when you’re employed by someone else, there is no actual guarantee of that next paycheck. ( http://www.rd.com/advice/work-career/13-things-hr-wont-tell-you-about-keeping-your-job/ ) Everything from outsourced, downsizing, department reorganization, and automation to a fire in the building, a tornado, or an earthquake can put you out of work either temporarily or permanently. In fact, keeping a job long term is tough unless you’re a key employee or ‘keyman‘.  Unemployment compensation is a painful substitute.  I’ve been a ‘key employee’. It’s still no guarantee of retention when a business gets sold or assimilated by another company.

Because of today’s unstable employment climate, anyone in their thirties who isn’t independently well off needs an employment back-up plan, including the potential of having to self-employ. Ongoing education and increasing your skill set are key to retaining a place in someone’s employment roster, but, even then, your job security is not a sure thing. Your best option is to plan for the eventuality that you will have to employ yourself and/or seek alternative income strategies to maintain a comfortable income level from your forties onward. Build toward that while you are gainfully employed. Don’t wait till you get that pink slip and are escorted out of the building.

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Hounded for the Next One

My   friend, Kathy, is the latest. Only the latest. She wants the next Dr. Warren Jeffreys book that follows Old Hickory Lane. So do a bunch of other folks. But I’m not sure I want to go on producing novels. I’ve been completely petulant about finalizing any manuscript since I discovered how most of those readers who got the OHL eBook were people who chose to download copies from scammer sites, rather than paying for a legitimate copy…rather than paying me. If stories are worth nothing, then why should authors bother to write them, much less pay in time, effort, and money for ISBNs and all the rest of what goes into producing a novel? Why should authors, in essence, work, even pay, for others to read our novels, which is what it amounts to? So, yes, I’m sitting on manuscripts, drafts, and outlines of novels because, honestly, what’s the point?

Anyway, for those who do want to know if there’s more, here are the first two chapters of Come-Back Road, the next book in the Dr. Warren Jeffreys’ tale.

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Come-Back Road

by D. L. Keur writing as E. J. Ruek

 

1

The Cold

The howl of a dog or, maybe, a wolf drifted in the eerie stillness.  It was just after 2:00 A.M. with a late moon still visible through the trees.

Dr. Warren Jeffreys started his assigned clinic truck, Lewis and Clark’s newest RAM 3500, then headed back inside for his parka.  Though the temperature on Marti’s outdoor thermometer read 30° F., he had a bad feeling niggling at the back of his brain.  And a touch of the start of a migraine.

Mares always chose the most inconvenient times to foal, and early morning was one of their favorites.  It took him half-an-hour to reach the Menlows’, but, by the time he got there, the foal, a beautiful little Morgan colt, had suffocated.

The owners were hysterical, then grief-stricken.  Warren did what he had to and took the body with him for cremation.  He was on his way to the clinic when he got the second call, this one at Annie Lane’s.

Dread filled him.  The last foaling there had been a nightmare, the old woman refusing Caesarian on a bad presentation.  Then there was the problem of Elise.

But when he got there, Elise’s truck wasn’t parked in the drive, and the mare didn’t need a c-section, just a little help getting one of the fetus’s legs repositioned.  After that, a shot of oxytocin got things moving again.

A spry filly, the animal would be a light dun, the faint stripes and spots of Annie Lane’s mysterious blood stock already suggesting themselves on the still wet hide.  “Nice,” was Warren’s comment.

“She is,” Annie agreed.  “Could have come a day earlier when we weren’t heading into a storm.  …Or, maybe better, a week from now.”

So it wasn’t just him.  Old Annie felt it, too.  He watched her rub the filly down with a soft piece of flannel, marvelling still at the woman’s agility and strength.  Annie was, at last count, in her late eighties, though she looked sixty and moved like she was two decades less than that.  “Weather Channel isn’t predicting one,” he said.  “I checked.”

“Never do, even with that fancy satellite tracking.  They’ll be a storm come roaring by daylight.  Mark my words.”

Annie turned to look at him.  “Glad you’re back, Jeffreys.  This country needs you.”

Warren felt himself flush.  It was the first time Annie Lane had ever said a welcoming word or made him feel more than some second class citizen, though she still had yet to call him ‘doctor’, at least to his face.  “Thanks.  I’m glad to be back.”  …I think.

“Coffee at the house?”

This was also a first.  Annie had never invited him in, not even into her barn office.

“El’ isn’t here, if that’s what you’re worried about,” the old woman muttered.

El’—the reason he’d left Lewis and Clark’s and what had actually looked, until last September, like the fulfillment of his dreams.  El’—Elliot who’d turned himself into Elise—a…person Warren had courted and planned to marry.  Until the man had come clean in a nightmare confession, a confession forced by Annie’s threat to expose the truth herself.

Uncomfortable, Warren hesitated, then, with a glance toward the old woman who watched him, said, “I’d love some.”

 

ANNIE GAVE HIM HOMEMADE coffee cake and steaming brew, Ed, her pet, one-winged bantam rooster, joining them at the kitchen table to his own bowl of crumbs from the same coffee cake.  “El’ is teaching down in Baker City, Oregon, so you don’t need frettin’ running into her here or in town.”

Always forthright, Annie Lane could tear you down with a single word.  This side of her—civil, almost charitable—was new to Warren.  “Thank you,” was all he could think to say.

A long pause, Annie serving him up another hunk of cake, then getting up to grab the pot and refill their cups.  Then, “It isn’t as if I didn’t try to warn you off.”

He grimaced into his mug.  Annie Lane had worked very hard to do just that.  Caustically so.  He’d assumed it was him she’d objected to.  He said that to her, now, and watched her nod.  “You would think that, I guess, you bein’ so damned sure the world’s out to get you just cuz you’re Injun.”

Warren swallowed hard.  He’d probably never get used to Annie’s bluntness.  “Half,” he said softly.  “Half Cree.”

“Have it your way—half Cree, then.  …You look full blood.  Especially with that long, black hair.  Mine used to be long,” she said wistfully.  Then, “Where you livin’?”  She swung her head toward the door.  “Not out back, I hope.”

So, she’d known he’d been camping out by the creek last summer.

“I’m staying at Marti Ryan’s place in her spare room until I can find a rental.”

She nodded.  “That workin’ out?”

He chuckled.  “Sort of.  I just feel like I’m…well, in her space.  She’s putting me up in what’s supposed to be her work-out room.”

“Marti was always big on fitness, even as a kid.  Well, if you need a place to roost, I’ve got a shack over on Come-Back Road you can let.”

He thanked her, and, after a moment’s pause, asked after the terms and if he could see it.

“After the comin’ storm, sure.  It ain’t much, but it’s warm and sound.”

 

5:45 A.M., AND THE SKY wasn’t even hinting at dawn, though sunrise was technically only three-quarters of an hour away.  There should have been some morning twilight by now.

The truck’s road temperature indicator still hovered at thirty, so maybe the storm both he and Annie felt coming had stalled, or maybe the weather service was right—there was no incoming storm, at all.

Warren got to the highway and turned south, pushing his speed up to just over legal.  He’d be late for his first breakfast as a full working partner of Lewis and Clark’s Veterinary Service, but, if his luck held, he wouldn’t be that late—five minutes, maybe—just enough to give Doctors Jim Clark and Bill Lewis the ammunition they needed to rib him.  He looked forward to it, memories of their animated discussions over hot eggs and bacon, their camaraderie, warm in his mind.

When he got there, though, the partners abruptly stopped talking, stood up, each of them formally shaking his hand.  When they sat back down, they were stiff-faced and silent.

The waitress came, and they ordered.  Jim—the man Warren considered “first boss”—handed him an envelope with a company card and another with his health insurance paperwork.

Warren tried breaking the ice with a report of his first two days on the job over the weekend—of Dr. Haber’s difficulty with a lambing case, the dogs and cats that had come in after hours on Saturday and the loss of the Menlow’s Morgan foal.  He mentioned Annie Lane’s filly, expecting Bill—Warren’s idea of “second boss”—to utter some happy, better-thee-than-me comeback, especially considering last year’s near disaster.

None of that happened.  Nothing happened.  Even the FedEx man noticed the difference.  His usual chattiness stalled.  Silently, he handed over the parcels, got Jim’s signature, then beat a hasty retreat.

“Time to go,” Bill muttered, rising.  Jim nodded and stood, got his coat on, then led out.  Trailing behind them, Warren left the café completely confused.

Back in the truck, he figured it out, though.  They were setting him up.  He’d get to the clinic, and there’d be some surprise staff party waiting.  He grinned, shook his head, happy to finally be back where he really belonged.

But, when he got there, there wasn’t a party, not even doughnuts.  There wasn’t even the cordial “good morning, Dr. Jeffreys” he’d gotten so used to in the months prior to his decision to take a job back east.  It was “Dr. Jeffreys” with a curt nod…from Marcia in reception to the attendants and groomers—two groomers, now, and both new to him.

Even the techs were reserved, especially Head Tech, Denise.  “Your first call is at the Faulkner’s,” she said, handing him a hardcopy printout after they’d finished morning rounds.  “Preg checks on three mares, removal of wolf teeth in a yearling colt, a handful of Coggins, and a sperm check on their premier stallion.  Call when you’re done, so I can meet you over at Bergen’s for the brucellosis vaccinations.”

For Warren, Denise had been the biggest surprise.  In the few months he’d been gone, she’d dropped weight—a lot of it—fifty pounds, at least.  And she’d had her brown, curly hair styled.  She was beginning to look like a girl instead of a frumpy blimp.

 Done with the run-down, she walked off with not so much as a by-your-leave.  Not even a nod.  Warren watched her disappear through the walk-through to the clinic’s small animal side, confusion and hurt turning to anger by the time he’d grabbed his gear and shrugged himself into his coat.

Outside, a sudden wind hit him.  It was bitter cold.  Annie’s prediction and that of his migraine had proven themselves.  The barameter had to be plummeting.

Reaching the truck, he didn’t stop to check the vet box, just jumped in and slammed the door against fresh swirling gusts that were blowing up ice crystals.  His breath was a fog in his face.  Any residual warmth in the cab from his drive over from Panner’s Café was gone.  He turned the key.

Nothing happened.

Cussing, his fingers tingling in the frigid air, he tried again with the same result.  Opening the door, he noticed the dome light didn’t come on; the irritating ding, ding, ding that always accompanied door-open, butt-in-seat-without-belt was silent.  He should have spotted those clues immediately.

Pulling gloves from his pocket, he headed for the utility shed that stored, among other things, a jump starter for just this problem.  He slid his ID card through the slot—nothing.  The security light stayed red.

He groaned and started back to the clinic, then thought better of it.  He had jumper cables in his Outlander.  That would be quick and a lot less painfull than dealing with Jim trying to troubleshoot the security system.

Fifteen frozen minutes later, his nose burning off his face, he was heading down the highway to Faulkner’s, the truck’s road temp indicator reading ten degrees, ambient.  With the wind, it had to be twenty degrees colder than that.  Happy April Fool’s Day.

*     *     *

2

Killweather

FAULKNERS BRED, RAISED, RACED, and showed Thoroughbreds.  Those horses that failed on the track as two-year-olds were destined for a life as sport horses—dressage or jumping, maybe both.  The farm’s premier herd sire was a grandson of Northern Dancer.  Old—twenty-six—his sperm count and viability didn’t show the normal drop that occurred in aging stallions.

“He’s like his grandsire—hot and horny to the end,” Mr. Faulkner chuckled, patting the relatively small, fifteen-three-hand animal.

The horse reached his head around, teeth snapping in a play at savaging.

“Quit, you old gun,” was the man’s grinning response, a pop of hand on the horse’s shoulder accompanying the words.  “Onto the mares, then.  The missus thinks that Sherry didn’t take.”

Sure enough, an ultrasound showed Mrs. Faulkner right about the mare they called Sherry.  “It’s not the stallion’s fault,” Warren said.  “She’s got a cystic ovary.”  Warren pointed to the image on the screen.

He turned and saw stricken looks on the faces of the owners.  “Chances are it’s benign,” he assured.  “If we remove it, the remaining ovary will resume fertility in about six to eight months.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Mrs. Faulkner muttered.  A mannish woman with a hawk nose and pointed chin, she was tall, emaciated, and pale to the point of looking anemic, strong contrast to her portly, robust husband.

“Has she been showing any stallion behavior?” Warren asked.

The woman shook her head.  “No.”

Warren nodded, but frowned.  “I’d like to draw some blood before we schedule her for surgery.”

The mare objected, but Warren got his blood sample once they got a twitch on her.  “She’s never been easy,” Mrs. Faulkner said with a hiss of disgust.  “Just like her mother.”

After pulling blood from a handful of horses headed for the track or the spring shows, it was time for the yearling’s wolf teeth removal.  That wound up being the easiest job, the Faulkners’ confinement stocks, the use of a speculum, and expert help from both Mr. and Mrs. Faulkner making it so.  It was rare for both partners in a family-owned operation to be equally skilled.  The Faulkners were the exception.  Warren sedated the colt and, within minutes, the offending teeth were removed.

“He’s destined for the track next year, and he seemed really bothered when we tried bitting him.”

“I’d let his mouth heal for a couple weeks before trying again,” Warren advised.

“Oh, definitely.”

“Well, that’s it, then,” Mr. Faulkner said, handing off care of the still woozy animal to an employee.  “Coffee or cocoa at the house?”

“Thank you, but no.  I’ve got to meet a tech over at a dairy, and I don’t want to keep her waiting.”

“Well, just so you know, we’re very glad you’re back.”

“I’ll open the doors for you,” Mrs. Faulkner said, pointing a remote she took from her jean pocket.  The big barn doors behind where Warren had been invited to park in the heated barn’s broad central aisle slid open.  Cold came roaring in.  The wind was worse.  And it was snowing.

NORTH IDAHO IN SPRING could be balmy one day, then plunge fifty degrees to turn into arctic hell the next.  Unfortunately, the arctic blasts usually lasted at least three days.  A check on his Smartphone showed the weather service now predicting that this one would last the week.  They had no estimate of expected snow accumulation, yet.  Warren groaned.  “Day late, dollar short, NOAA.”

A week was a scary thought, considering the number of calvings and lambings common this time of year, and Warren would likely be handling most of them, despite the fact that he was a board certified equine specialist, top in his field, with a Ph.D. on top of his D.V.M. to prove it.  He dialed the clinic.

And got the answering service.

“Power is out,” the woman said.  “The phones have switched over to us.”

The wind buffeted the truck, making it tilt side-to-side with each gust.  Visibility was bad—very.

Warren accepted the woman’s offer to call Denise.  “Tell her I’ve left Faulkner’s and am headed to Bergen’s.”

A twenty minute drive later found Bergen’s dairy starting to drift in.  They were running back-up generators to finish a morning milking that should have been done hours ago.  “You’ll have to start on your own,” Parker Bergen snapped.  “The heifers are in the loafing shed next door.”

Warren waited fifteen minutes, then another ten, but Denise’s truck didn’t appear.  Reluctantly, he pulled on insulated coveralls, then disposable whites over that and trudged into a black hole of a barn.

Rustling and the occasional bawls of young bovines greeted him.  At least it was warmer in here, but how the hell was he supposed to vaccinate heifer calves if he couldn’t even see them?

“I’ll get set up,” Denise’s voice said behind him, making him jump.  A light came on—a portable floodlight she’d brought with her.  “As soon as the Bergens are done with milking, they’ll switch the generators over to run the lights in here.”

“That would be nice.”

“Sarcasm won’t make this any easier, Dr. Jeffreys.”

His eye roll got lost on her back as she headed back outside.  At least, she’d left the light.

Two miserable hours later, his fingers, feet, and knees stiff with the cold, he was headed for his next call.  There, the drifts in the drive were already two feet deep at their crest.  They defeated the big four-wheel-drive with its all-season radials, and Warren didn’t want to chain up.  He wound up walking in, carrying his kit.

“Didn’t expect you with the power out, or I’d have cleared the driveway,” a late thirties, sandy-haired man called Rob Littlefield drawled.  Affectations of ‘Texan’ were on proud display in his fake accent, the block of his Stetson, and his too fancy cowboy boots.  “Stallion’s in the barn.  So are the mares.”

Another set of preg checks showed all but one mare bred.  A look at Rob’s over-muscled, palomino Quarter Horse stud showed him tender on both forelegs.  Warren knew the cause—the start of navicular disease, despite the fact the horse was only three years old.  It was common now in Quarter Horses like Littlefield’s who carried an obscene amount of muscle tissue and large bone on delicate, even puny, lower legs and feet.

“Can you fix it?” Littlefield asked, his drawl suddenly gone, when, after another trip back to the truck, X-rays confirmed Warren’s initial diagnosis.

Warren shook his head.  “I can try some interarticular injections, but the long term prognosis isn’t good.  I’m going to x-ray his hind feet and check them, too, if that’s alright?”

The man eyed him.  “He’s not showing lame in the back.”

“I still think we should check.”

“You’re the vet.”

Two more X-rays showed what Warren already knew from his hands-on assessment.  The hind feet were also compromised.  Warren gave the owner instructions on the corrective shoeing the horse would need.  “Sheldon Murphy is who I suggest,” Warren said.

“I’ll call him.”

“And the horse needs to lose weight.  As much as possible.”

The man stared at him.  Finally, he said, “You mean starve him.”

“No.  Just get him down to a nice, healthy lean…take some weight off those small feet.”

“Ah…I’ve got halter classes coming up, and he starts reining trials in May.  He’s in training, plus he needs that weight to look good.”

“Any kind of athletic training and trials are completely out of the question.  Sorry.”  Warren didn’t address the ‘look good’ comment.

“Can’t we bute him up?”

Fighting to school his tone, Warren said, “No.”  Normal treatment included pain inhibitors and steroids, but Warren wasn’t about to administer them.  Short, young, and cocky, Rob Littlefield had a mercenary reputation when it came to his horses.  There were notes all over his client file—both Jim’s and Bill’s.

“How the hell am I supposed to get him to cover that last mare, then?”

Warren felt like saying, “You don’t.  He should be gelded and his get sterilized,” but didn’t.  He also didn’t offer artificial insemination.  He just said, “Sorry,” again, and handed over a hand-written copy of the charges.  “Marsha will invoice you.”

“Yeah.”

The man stalked off, and Warren let himself out of the barn to struggle back down the drive, juggling his kit, his tablet, and the portable X-ray, no help from Rob.  It was after one, and he still had five calls left on his day list.  The lot of a country vet, and to think he’d signed up for a lifetime of this misery when he could have accepted the better offer and been warm, welcomed, and worshipped at WSU.  What was he thinking?!  His third day back in, and he was regretting his choice.

“We’ve got a horse here with a nasty-looking, abscessed wound on the hip.  When can you be here?”

That was the message left on his voicemail by Denise.  He groaned as he hit the speed dial for the clinic.  He’d left his phone in the truck.  Again.  Marcia would be furious.

But she wasn’t.  Surprised, he assured her he’d stop by on his way south.  She acknowledged—barely—and rang off.

He had to chain up to get the truck free from where it was stuck.  He left it chained up till he got to the highway, more and growing drifts beginning to bury the county road.  Ambient temperature now down to minus six, with the wind chill it had to be nigh on thirty below.  “Kill weather” his father called it.  Warren pitied the stock stranded in the fields without any shed or shelter of trees.  He pitied the dogs stuck on chains.  If this wind kept up, the mortality rate was going to be high.

 

THE DRONE OF GENERATORS greeted him back at Lewis and Clark’s.  “Power’s going to be out for awhile, they say,” Tech Sonya Meyers told him.  “Dr. Clark thinks you’d better hunker down here tonight.  He’s going to, too.  Expects a rash of late night emergencies.  Always happens during these storms.  Oh, and Dr. Haber is stuck over on Corduroy Road.  She’s got at least a four hour wait for a tow truck.  The horse Denise called about is in stall four.”

Denise was with the mare.  She’d put a battery-run warming blanket on her and was taking her temperature.

Warren took a breath and stepped in…touched the animal’s shoulder.  Immediately, his body began shaking, savage pain in his hip almost buckling him.  He let go.

“You okay?”—Denise.

Hands on his knees for support, three huge breaths later, he nodded.

“Looks like she’s been shot.  Months ago.”

He knew that.

“Sheriff’s Office brought her down this morning.  Snowshoers found her tied to a tree up on the High Drive yesterday.  She’d eaten all the bark off as high as she could reach on all the trees she could get to.  The S.O. wants to know when you think she was shot, and they want the bullet that’s in her.”

Unable to stop himself, he retched, vomiting bile.

“You’re not okay.”

He wiped his mouth on his sleeve.  Then, with another huge breath, he forced himself upright and stepped up to the mare, again.  “I’ll be fine,” he snapped.

Denise looked skeptical.

Ignoring her, he ran his hands over the mare’s emaciated body, a body so lacking fat of any kind that it was a wonder she was alive.  He approached the horror on her near-side quarter.  A tentative touch told him that, though ugly and painful, this wasn’t the critical need.

He went to her head.  There, dull eyes stared through him—no hope.  Luckily, she was tame.

“Increase the temperature of the warming blanket to maximum.  Get me five liters of Ringer’s, also warm, and an I.V. set-up.  …And a couple of thin slices of apple from my lunch box.  It’s in the break room.”

“You’re going to try to save her?”

Warren turned to look at the girl…woman.  “…And five milliliters of molasses.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, and trotted off.

Alone with the mare, now, he started crooning to her, gently running his hands along her neck till he reached her withers.  Plying stethoscope, he was surprised to find that the lungs were clear, the heartbeat very slow, but steady.  “You’ve been through hell, but you’re body’s not giving up, is it?” he whispered.  Her spirit was dead, though—no hope.  She was maybe six years old.

“You think you can save her?” came the question.

Warren turned to see Jim standing there.  “I’d like to try.”

“The S.O. thinks she belongs to Old Man Reeves.  He disappeared up on the High Drive day after Thanksgiving.  Hunting.  He was never found.”

Denise had returned and stood just beside and a little behind.  Her face was stone.  Her blue eye matched it.  Her brown one betrayed her sympathies, though.  “So, do I try?” Warren asked.

Jim nodded.  “Denise, note on the file that Dr. Jeffreys has assumed her care and has full responsibility.  You’re her assigned tech.”

“Yes, Dr. Clark.”

“Get on with it, then, people.  I’ll help with the surgery if…when the time comes.”

So Jim believed he could save her and was willing to help.

Warren looked to Denise.  “Let’s get her out of the cold.”

*     *     *

 

So You Wanna Succeed….

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I watched a good friend’s business die this year.  It only took a few months.  And it was all very avoidable. She has good luck; she’s smart, experienced, hard-working, good at what she does, has excellent credibility, and is canny about people–well, most people, anyway.  Her Achilles heel is her spouse–a flake and lame loser.  And that’s what crumbled her business along with her personal finances.  She depended on a flake and the flake brought her down.

Biggest critical key to success? Depend on yourself. Only.

Let’s go through the whole short course, though.  Let’s look at the actual process of success.  It isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s downright simple.

The first key to success is realizing that, yes, your success depends on you. You cannot depend on someone else to succeed for you…or even with you.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Oh, sure.  People can and will help when you engage them, but, ultimately, it’s you who has to check their work and make sure that work is going to move you along your road to success.   If it isn’t, then forget them, and DO IT YOURSELF.

Success isn’t easy for most people.  Though the process of success is easy, it is a fact that succeeding can require downright tedious work–which is where most people fail.  But let’s start at the beginning, rather than get muddled with “middle stuff.”

First off, know what you want to succeed at.  That’s important–very.

Next, learn what it’s going to take for you to achieve success in what you want to do…which means learning everything from the bureaucratic necessities to the most menial tasks, and learn them inside and out.

Now, marshal your assets and organize.  Organization–setting things up so they run as smoothly and seamlessly as possible with potential and even unlikely problems factored in–is the biggest and most important part of your entire enterprise, and that organization scheme is in a constant state of dynamics, because, as external conditions change, so do your organizational procedures have to change to accommodate those external forces.

Establish your routine, including within that routine a daily check on all critical functions from the administrative on down to the most insignificant. This is where organization is there to help you.  At any given moment you should be able to know when any filings are due to whatever agencies your enterprise must answer to, when any payments are due and how much they are, what your bank balance is, what your cash flow projections are, what tasks are scheduled for when, etc., etc., etc.  And, by the way, yes, you should always be running at least three full months ahead on your cash reserves.  More is even better.

Most importantly, never depend on someone to do things for you.  Oh, sure.  You can hire an office aide.  You can hire a bookkeeper.  You can task anyone you want with whatever job you want.  But YOU have to check to make sure they did it, and that they did it right, before it’s due–before they send off the quarterly report to the state and federal governments, before they screw up a payment, before they fail to file the appropriate form, before….  Do not blindly depend on others to do it on time or to do it right, because that will come back to bite you, and bite you badly.

And that’s pretty much it.  Honest.  Do the work–all the work–making sure that every ‘t’ is crossed and ‘i’ is dotted, holding yourself and only yourself accountable for that work getting done right and on time, and you will succeed.

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