April 17, 2019

I have a new iPad, so I thought it might be fun to make a few short videos of the horses from time to time. For now, my theme is Old Friends in Georgetown in the evening. What do the horses do after hours?

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As it turned out, yesterday evening, not that much. 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem walked around being War Emblem.

War Emblem on an April evening

 

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Smooth Air (Smooth Jazz – Air France by French Deputy), winner of three Grade 2 stakes, the 2008 Hutcheson S, 2008 Ohio Derby, and 2009 Gulfstream H, was being particularly handsome. I think he came all the way over hoping for a carrot. Unfortunately, my iPad didn’t qualify as a treat.

Smooth Air at Sunset

Now that I know how much the iPad can store I hope to post somewhat longer clips as spring becomes summer. I can’t promise the horses will do much more than eat grass or mosey over to say hello, but for glimpses of after hours around the Old Friends, Georgetown paddocks, watch this space or subscribe to the new Old Friends Blog channel on Youtube.

Beth
still photos by Laura

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April 11, 2019

The following are only my point-and-shoot snapshots in yesterday’s dusk, so they’re not so great, but I just had to share the tale of Touch Gold and the Two Geese.

Yesterday two of our newer residents, Wake Forest and Talk Logistics, moved in together. Around sunset I went back to the farm to see how they were getting along.

190412 Wake Forest and Talk Logistics making friends 190410 06

Wake Forest (L) and Talk Logistics make friends.

Beautifully, it turned out. They grazed close together, tussled a little like foals, and seemed to be generally having a happy time getting to know each other. But a bit of a commotion in the paddock diagonal to theirs distracted me. Two geese had landed in Touch Gold’s paddock. Touch Gold was not pleased. He was pawing and snorting, telling them in no uncertain terms that Talk Logistics could share his paddock with Wake Forest if he wanted, but that did not mean that he, Touch Gold, had any intenion of sharing his home with geese.

Maybe that was too subtle for the geese. They paid him no attention. That, I think, added insult to injury. Clearly, they didn’t know who they were dealing with. The winner of the 1997 Belmont Stakes, the horse who denied the Triple Crown to Hall-of-Famer Silver Charm, no less. Plainly, those geese needed to be told what’s what. So he wheeled, and off he went!

 

190412 Touch Gold and the two geese 190410 01

The first charge scattered the enemy, but they didn’t retreat.

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The second charge involved some fancier maneuvers.

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190412 Touch Gold and the two geese 190410 07

Having put some fear into them, he returned to check in with his audience (I was the only audience on hand). Did I see that? Did I observe his formidable magnificence?

190412 Touch Gold and the two geese 190410 08

“Yes, I saw you,” I told him. “I am in awe of your stallionly majesty.” Needless to say, I totally meant it.

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There was only one problem. The geese were still in his paddock.

Sorry for the blurry photo. He was moving too fast for me to follow with the camera.

190412 Touch Gold and the two geese 190410 10

Once more into the breach!

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190412 Touch Gold and the two geese 190410 13

(That’s Popcorn Deelites who’s being oblivious in the background)

Again, the geese scattered. Satisfied, Touch Gold returned to me at the fence and celebrated a little. (Again, he was just too much for my photographic aim.)

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190412 Touch Gold and the two geese 190410 16

Finally, the ever-vigilant warrior contemplated a job well done.

Beth

 

 

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March 28, 2019

Readys Rocket 04 LB

Ready’s Rocket 2003-2019

Ready’s Rocket was barely fifteen hands tall, scarcely bigger than a pony, but he was one of the most courageous horses ever to live at Old Friends. He won the most races at Churchill Downs of any horse in that track’s long history—eleven of them. He also won at Keeneland, Turfway, Ellis Park and Delta Downs.

Ready’s Rocket and his jockey, Calvin Borel, were well-paired, two dauntless warriors that when they were on their game, nothing and nobody could stop. Ready didn’t give Calvin much chance for the signature “Bo-rail” dash up the inside rail for a last moment win. Ready’s Rocket wanted to be in front all the time. He raced as fast and furiously as the Wildcats play basketball. Calvin understood and let him do what he did most happily and best—sprint to the front and out-brave all comers.

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When the gritty little gelding’s race career was done, owner-trainer Tim Glyshaw, along with co-owners Deann Baer and Margaret Woodside, enabled his retirement with us. We found he was aptly named. Sometimes we called him Ready, sometimes the Rocket. He was scrappy, gutsy, determined to show the world that little though he was, he wasn’t stepping down for anyone. He earned respect from his paddock mates. You could tell that’s how he’d decided it would be from foal-hood on.

Readys Rocket 01 LB

Perhaps surprisingly, Ready’s Rocket settled into retired life with evident contentment. He liked to spend some of his time apart from his paddock mates, but he always fit into the herd, definitely one of the gang. He spent his last years with one particular friend, Geronimo. The little dark brown Kentuckian and big chestnut Chilean were comfortable companions in a paddock up near the tree line.

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Ready’s Rocket and Geronimo

But words are just words. Let the Rocket himself show you why the steward’s official description of one of his Churchill races was that he won “on own courage.”

Here is Ready’s Rocket’s record 11th win at Churchill Downs, May 1, 2012.

Here’s another, on July 2, 2009.

See what it was like to ride Ready’s Rocket. Calvin Borel wore a jockey cam for a work, Nov 1, 2011

At Churchill Downs and at Old Friends we’ll always miss you, our Rocket Man, our valiant soul.

Beth
photos by Laura

Readys Rocket 02 LB

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March 20, 2019

190230 Dan1

Danthebluegrassman (1999-2019)

Danthebluegrassman. Our big, lovable lug. It’s hard to imagine Old Friends without him. For more than a decade Dan graced (if that’s the word) the Georgetown farm with his robustness, his distinctive golden good looks, and his forward personality. He would have been 20 years old this March 31.

On the Kentucky Derby trail in his youth, Dan won the Gold Rush Stakes at two and Golden Gate Derby (G3) at three, both these career bests under jockey and future Old Friends colleague, Joe Steiner. He competed against Old Friends retirees-to-be Lusty Latin (1999-2018) and Easy Grades. He also won the Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill Downs.

190320 Dan and Michael

Dan and Michael get to know each other, early spring 2008

Dan’s race career continued through the age of 9, finally for a claiming tag of $7,500, before retirement to Old Friends in the spring of 2008. During his career he’d earned $423,794.

190320 Dan May 3 2008

Dan settles in at the farm, May 2008

Dan’s accomplishments didn’t end with retirement. He was celebrated in “The Ballad of Danthebluegrassman,” by the Gallatin County Youth Bluegrass Band, who performed the song at our May 2008 Homecoming, an event honoring Dan. The following year he took over mentoring a newer retiree, Flick (1992-2016), a grand old gelding who’d excelled on the turf for nearly ten years and wasn’t so sure what to make of the quiet of retirement. Paddock mate Dan showed him the art of goofing off. Under Dan’s guidance, Flick took to relaxation beautifully and they remained fast friends.

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Dan and Flick

Dan spent his last years with Fighting City Hall, eventually along with Arson Squad. When Dan began experiencing discomfort, he had not only the best of care from Dr. Waldridge and the staff, Arson Squad also did all a horse could do for his buddy’s wellbeing.

190320 Dan FCH and Arson

Dan, Fighting City Hall (center), and Arson Squad, January 2019.

190320 Dan and Arson

Danthebluegrassman and Arson Squad.

Danthebluegrassman had a reputation on the farm as an extrovert, a bit of a goof, and a confident, playful guy. He nipped a few people over the years, but in good humor. Danny had the gift of connecting with people. He’d look you in the eye and let you know what he wanted. Through all his years with us he was a constant and companionable friend.

Dan was big, and his presence was bigger. He was a character, one of a kind, and without him we are less than we were.

190320 Dan

Beth
photos 1, 5, 6, 7 – Laura
photos 2, 3, 4 – Beth

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March 11, 2019

Einstein!

Einstein arrives 100311 05

What a huge day it’s been at Old Friends! Today a much beloved star of racing came to live with us. Einstein, 5-time Grade 1 winner, G 1 & 2 victor on all three surfaces, won the 2009 Santa Anita Handicap (G1), 2008 & 2009 Woodford Reserve (G1), 2006 & 2008 Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1), 2008 Clark Handicap (G2), and 2007 Mervin H. Muniz, Jr. Memorial (G2). Besides that, he ran close seconds in the 2009 Pacific Classic (G1), 2008 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) and 2008 Firecracker Stakes (G2), and also beat all but one (Curlin) in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G1). What a phenomenal resume!

Trained by Helen Pitts, Einstein impressed his fans with his formidable combination of athletic power and tactical intelligence in race after race from ages 4 through 7. He earned nearly $3 million and he beat several of our other most talented residents in the process. He finished his career in the ownership of  Stronach Stables, did stud duty at Adena Springs in Kentucky and Ontario, then Daehling Ranch in California. Now that his breeding career is done, we’re hugely thrilled and honored to be his new home. Many thanks from all at Old Friends to Frank Stronach for enabling Einstein’s retirement to Old Friends and his continued generosity on Einstein’s, Alphabet Soup’s, and Touch Gold’s behalf.

Einstein’s arrival went smoothly, facilitated by Donald Wells, Farm Manager at Adena Springs, who stayed to watch him settle safely in, share information with Michael and our barn staff, and to visit with Alphabet Soup and look in on Touch Gold (who made it clear that napping was, at the moment, more important that mere humans). As for Einstein, by then he’d already showed his approval of his stall by rolling in it and was snacking contentedly on hay.

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Einstein takes ownership of his stall and hay

Having approved of his stall, he turned his attention to us, greeting each of us with lively interest and friendliness.

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Einstein arrives 100311 08

As you can see from the sign on his stall, he’s in the three week quarantine that is the required routine for all new arrivals. When the quarantine is over, he will participate in the tours like his fellow residents. So all you Einstein fans, mark your calendars. For the ultimate Einstein experience, make plans to visit with him from April on.

Einstein was so cool, calm and collected that it was clear he was ready to enjoy the early spring sunshine in the round pen adjoining his stall. He walked out with confidence and made himself at home, quietly sniffing things, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, and impressing us with his beauty and self-possession.

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Einstein arrives 100311 12

Well, I mean really, should we have been surprised that Einstein is really smart?

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How incredibly lucky and honored we are to have this great athlete and star in our care!

Beth
(words and snapshots)

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January 30, 2018

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Bint Marscay (1990-2019)

Our beautiful, sweet, kind Bint Marscay has left us. After holding the line so well and long against chronic arthritis and its complications, she let us know on Monday night that it was time. Her best friend, Laura Battles who has given her special care and companionship for years, was with her, and Binty showed the same grace and kindness she has shared with us all during all her time with us.

As soon as I wrote “our” Bint Marscay I realized that of course she was far from just “ours.” She is loved on two continents. In her native Australia she was 1993 Champion 2 Year Old Filly, won the Golden Slipper S (G1), Magic Night S (G2) and other stakes, and gave birth to graded stakes winners Bollinger (dam of Friesan Fire), and Mannington. “I am saddened to hear of the passing of Bint Marscay,” said longtime trainer Richard Freedman via email. “She was one of the greatest 2-year-olds to race in Australia, and she remains a yardstick by which Australian 2-year-olds are still measured today. She gave me, my family, and her racing connections so much joy.

“I thank Old Friends for taking such loving care of her in her retirement, she deserved no less,” Freedman added. “Her final years were happy, and her passing was peaceful. RIP old girl, you will be remembered.”

These photos of Laura’s go back in time from this month to the beginning of the bond they formed more than three years ago. Here is who Bint Marscay was, and what her retirement at Old Friends was like, through the loving eyes that knew her so well.

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Bint Marscay, late January 2019

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A summer evening’s graze with the rest of the girls.

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Laura thinks Binty didn’t see where she stashed the carrots, eh?

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About to get some TLC from Carole.

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20190131 binty 8a tummy scratch laura

Tummy scratch!

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And more tummy scratch!

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With Elusive Honey (L) and Miss Du Bois

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Michael – bringing visitors and treats!

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Summer dusk

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Binty with Hidden Dark (1990-2018)

 

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Sharing carrots with Hidden Lake (1993-2016)

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Binty and Laura

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January 3, 2019

190103 silver ray may 17

Silver Ray, May 23, 1989 – January 1, 2019

We will miss Silver Ray. No question about that. We’ll miss the peaceful sight of him grazing in his paddock. We’ll miss how excited he used to get about meal times, trotting over snorting, sometimes even bucking. We’ll especially miss his sweetness, how he’d amble over for companionship as much as a treat, how he’d let children pet him, his calm, wise face, and how he’d sometimes lay his head on visitors’ shoulders, especially young women visitors. Ray was a bit of a ladies’ man.

For us, it’s hard that our good times with him have ended. But that’s our perspective. For Silver Ray, Old Friends was a long, happy ending. True to his name, he came through some dark times to a comfortable, dignified life. He let us know how much he enjoyed the security he’d found.

Foaled May 23, 1989 in Kentucky, Silver Ray was fortunate to race for Jerry and Ann Moss. His trainers were Brian Mayberry, then John Sadler, he was ridden by some of the best jockeys of his era, and he was a very good race horse. He won a graded stakes race, the 1991 Hoist the Flag Stakes (G3) at Hollywood Park and placed in other stakes.

At six he entered stud, but while a Grade 3 winner is an exceptional racehorse, success at stud is a challenge even for Grade 1 winners. Not a lot of clients bred mares to him. He sired 47 registered foals, of whom less than half raced and only half of those won. Inevitably, he’d need another niche if he was to earn. That niche was found when he proved a good sire of sport horses.

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At what point did Ray’s journey darken? I don’t know, and I don’t know the circumstances of his arrival at a slaughter auction, but clearly he’d had hard times before that, since he arrived at the auction very thin and with his upper front teeth gone. But his luck brightened. Before he got off the truck he was purchased by April Smith, and the Polo Pony Rescue in Glendale, California gave him care that put him back on the road to health. Media coverage alerted the Mosses to his situation and they—generous supporters of Old Friends—contacted Michael about giving him a home.

Silver Ray came to us still thin, still recovering, in early fall 2013. At first he lived on a farm owned by our then-resident vet, the late Dr. Doug Byars, with a few other of our retirees. In Ray’s case, we were happy he was under the eye of a world-renowned vet and diagnostician. Gradually, Ray regained weight. When he moved to OF’s main farm he was getting rather round in the tummy, and who can blame him? He regained strength and spirit but never lost the exceptional kindness that characterized him from the first.

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In fact, giving Ray a neck scratch or watching him lower his head so a child could pat his face, I never ceased to be amazed at how much trust and love this horse showed people even though he had experienced the worst side of human nature. Silver Ray treated people not according to some of the treatment he’d received but according to the honor and beauty within himself.

So yes, we’ll always love and miss Silver Ray. But his story ended happily. He achieved on the track, survived hardship, attained the official age of 30, and lived for secure and peaceful years as a favorite on the farm, receiving and giving much love.

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Tour guide Ken Hawes said of Silver Ray’s last tour on the day before he let us know his time had come, “he did eat shredded carrots on our tour yesterday and also received much petting from the children on the tour. He was a sweety and a gentleman to the end.”

Beth
photos by Laura

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December 31, 2018

As an eventful year ends at Old Friends and a new year begins, winter deepens but so far we haven’t had much cold weather. Rainy days alternate with mostly overcast days, pleasant except for the mud. On rainy days the horses tend to snooze in their run-in sheds. On drier days…well, isn’t snoozing one of the privileges of retirement?

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Sun King readies himself for a snooze.

With things so much quieter in the winter, even our younger retirees take long, peaceful naps in the relatively mild weather. Sun King, for instance, officially turns 17 as of January 1. For a Thoroughbred, that’s middle age, say, early 50s for a human.

Game On Dude and Little Mike, are the same age and were at the top of racing at the same time. They never contended with each other since the Dude ran on the dirt and Mike on the turf. Now they race each other every day. They’re turning 12 years old apiece. That’s a perfect age, not young enough for foal naps or old enough for old-folk naps, so they take cause-I-wanna naps.

 

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Little Mike, foreground, and Game On Dude. Who’s gonna conk out first?

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It’s Mike!

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Little Mike shakes off his dreams. Game On Dude gets sleepier.

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Come on, pal. Up and at ’em. I feel like playing!

Meanwhile, up at the barn, the residents are …

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River Squall (turning 24)

…well, looks like they’re snoozing.

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Eye of the Tiger (19 years old)

Except, of course, for those who are dedicatedly zonked out for the afternoon.

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Alphabet Soup (28) and Gorgeous George (still 9? he’s not a Thoroughbred.)

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War Emblem (turning 20 – hard to believe, isn’t it?)

And except for War Emblem, who wants us to believe he never sleeps. I promised him not to tell you any differently.

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Beau Cashin In (21, L) and Dinard (31)

And except for those who’d rather stay up, munch hay and share the latest gossip. Or is Beau Cashin In giving Dinard a piece of his mind? At 31, Dinard is currently our oldest Thoroughbred resident at the Georgetown farm. The oldest horse of all is, almost certainly, Little Silver Charm, but he’s never been into telling his age.

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Fergus MacRoich (12, L) and Disturbingthepeace (21)

Whatever your age in either equine or human reckoning, wherever you are, we at Old Friends warmly wish you the happiest, healthiest, best of new years. May we all use 2019 to strengthen our connections with those we love and to appreciate and honor the diverse and wonderful world around us.

Beth
photography by Laura

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December 4, 2018

Pretty Faces

20181204 Star Plus

Star Plus. Always a Star

Over the past few weeks Laura has shot portraits of some dazzlingly pretty faces. They’re not summer-sleek, or well-groomed. They’re winter woolly bears and they’re been playing in the mud. But these are some of the prettiest faces I know.

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Alphabet Soup

They say horses can’t smile, but since miniture donkey Gorgeous George has come into his life, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup often wears this expression. Perhaps “they” would care to rethink?

20181204 Popcorn Deelites

“I am a hero of the silver screen.” Popcorn Deelites.

20181204 Special Ring

Special Ring. “Yeah, well?”

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Arson Squad. Glam amid the mud. Always.

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“Let me show you big guys the meaning of glam.” Little Silver Charm, of course.

But I’d especially like to share with you some pretty faces that aren’t as often seen by the public, since they don’t live on the regular tour route.

20181204 Windy Land

Windy Land. Mixed Pleasure’s only son.

20181204 Victor Cooley

Canadian champion Victor Cooley.

20181204 Timony James

Timothy James, grandson of Sunday Silence.

20181204 Skips World El Brujo

Skip’s World (grandson of the great Skip Away) and El Brujo.

20181204 Shadow Caster Areyoutalkintome

Shadow Caster and Areyoutalkintome. “Posing? Us? What makes you say that?”

20181204 Riversrun Cajun Paduas

“We’re not posing. We come by it naturally.” Riversrunrylee, Padua’s Pride and Cajun Beat.

20181204 Miss ZoeyBelle

The beautiful Miss ZoeyBelle.

20181204 Jimbo Fallon

Jimbo Fallon does his best camel imitation (being really tall helps a lot).

20181204 Geronimo and Readys Rocket

Geronimo and Ready’s Rocket. “Who, us?”

20181204 Daytona

Daytona. Did I remember to say, especially pretty faces?

20181204 Bobby Sands

Bobby Sands, a son of Gulch.

20181204 Comma

Commatothetop. Some pictures speak for themselves. But does this one?

Meanwhile, back on the front of the farm…

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Speaking of pictures speaking for themselves, Himself (War Emblem, that is) and Michael.

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New boy on the block, Talk Logistics.

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And an old boy, lookin’ so good. The one and only You and I.

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Lookin’ so good!

Enjoy!

Beth
photos by Laura

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November 22, 2018

This evening the theme is – surprise! – food.

Food, and the anticipation of food!

Which is more fun? Sometimes that depends on who you share that waiting time with. Laura actually took these dinner time photos a few days before Thanksgiving, but food is a popular theme every day at Old Friends.

When mid-afternoon comes, the anticipation begins. The younger retirees tend to show their eagerness more obviously.

20181123 Cherono Rail Trip

Cherono (L): Do you see dinner coming yet? Rail Trip: Not yet, but mmm, I can almost taste it, can’t you?

But that doesn’t mean the older codgers aren’t plenty alert for the sight and sound of that orange feed Kubota. They’re just a little more cool and self-possessed about it. Besides, anticipation is much more fun when you can wise-crack to your equally worldly-wise buddies about what’s on the menu and the quality of the room service.  Or maybe, discuss the marvelous mystery of the feed shack. It’s very small, tiny really, yet meal after meal continues to come out of it. Nothing short of miraculous.

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Dinard (L), Archie’s Echo and Beau Cashin’ In look down the hill toward the feed shack. She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes…

And then, as so many of you readers have probably done today, there are all those things you do, all the ways you entertain yourself, while you wait for meal time. Only, sometimes you just can’t distract yourself. You’ve got to, really got to, get your teeth into something.

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Rathor. Don’t you love his spotted nose?

 

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How do you like my spots? Eldaafer.

“Do you see it? Is it coming yet? I think maybe I might hear it!

 

20181123 Bunkers Edge Cost Affective

Bunker’s Edge (L), Cost Affective (Rathor again in the background)

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Miss Du Bois (L, background), Bint Marscay, Elusive Honey

Yes! That’s definitely the dinner-mobile. I can tell by that big box in the back, and John with my favorite dinner utensil, the great, big, blue scoop! I like how he calls, “Hey boys! Hey girls! Come and get it!”

20181123 Fabulous Strike

Fabulous Strike licks his chops as he heads for his feed tub.

Last one to the tubs is a rotten egg! Or maybe what Sokitumi Samurai is really thinking is, first one to the tubs gets the best chance to finish first and then maybe steal some bites of somebody else’s dinner, too. Whee!

20181123 Sokitumi Samurai

Sokitumi Samurai

20181123 Bint Marscay Miss Du Bois

Nobody’d better even think about stealing Bint Marscay’s (L) and Miss Du Bois’s dinners!

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which brings more delight, running for the feed tub, or running for the joy of running.

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Smooth Air

 

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You go, Smooth!

And finally, the contentment of chowing down with a favorite companion or two. After all, there’s plenty for everybody.

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Summer Attraction (L) and Palmer’s Approach at a feed tub together.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all, from all of us at Old Friends.

Beth
photos by Laura

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