September 24, 2020

A few evenings ago, as we head toward fall and the sun sets earlier, I took the iPad for a walk to the back of the farm. The weather was mild, the horses were contented and lazy, and I asked them all the same question. “Whatcha doin’?”

Game On Dude

Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George

The video below, Old Friends Blog Visit 25, shows the various answers they gave. I took the route up the hill to the back of the farm, hanging out a little with everybody along the way.

Amazombie (back) and Rapid Redux


Everybody who came over to say hello, that is. Some of the horses obviously had stuff of their own to do. That’s fine. Evenings at Old Friends are for horses to peacefully enjoy whatever it is they feel like doing.

Arson Squad (front) and Fighting City Hall

Oh-oh, them again. Johannesburg Smile and Bourbonize

As you’re probably guessing, the horses in the photos were some of the stars of this week’s video. It features Game On Dude, Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George, Touch Gold, Einstein, Amazombie, Rapid Redux, Arson Squad, Fighting City Hall, Diversify, Persie, Racketeer, Johannesburg Smile, Bourbonize, Easy Grades, Miss Du Bois, Elusive Honey, Kalamos, Lubash, MissZoey Belle, Saudi Poetry, and Forte Dei Marmi – in more or less that order – with glimpses of Little Mike, Classy Charm, Northern Stone, Ferocious Won, Stormy Passage, and Joey P, among others.

Miss Du Bois (chestnut) and Elusive Honey

Easy Grades (L) and Northern Stone

Forte Dei Marmi

I tried to get in as many horses as wanted to participate, but two of them sort of stole the show.

I hope you’ll enjoy this little look in on them to see what they’re up to these days.

photos by Laura


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September 16, 2020

Meet the two new girls, Mystery Trip and Gold Round. They’re as sweet as they are beautiful. See how Patch and Stormy Liberal are taking to sharing a paddock together, how The Pizza Man and Work All Week are settling in. Alphabet Soup is silver in the sunset and loving to his best buddy, Gorgeous George. This Old Friends Blog Visit also features Pollard’s Vision and Sun King, with glimpses of Special Ring & Popcorn Deelites, You and I, and Wake Forest & Brilliant Decision.

Patch (L) and Stormy Liberal

Stormy Liberal (L) and Patch


The Pizza Man and Work All Week with Special Ring and Popcorn Deelites (not an 8-legged horse) in the foreground

The Pizza Man


Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George

Pollard’s Vision

A little background about the new mares. Mystery Trip is by Belong to Me out of Secretariat’s great daughter, Weekend Surprise. In other words, Mystery Trip is half sister to A P Indy, Summer Squall and Honor Grades. Though unraced, she foaled winners to some very prestigious stallions. She’s now 19 years old.

Mystery Trip

Gold Round

Irish bred Gold Round is also close kin to legends. By the formidable Caerleon out of Born Gold by Blushing Groom, she is half sister to the great Goldikova. She was a Grade 3 winner in France, herself and also dam to winners. Though not flashy she’s gracefully put together and confident. Both mares are very friendly.

Sept. 17, 2020 – adding new photos of the mares by Laura.

Mystery Trip
Gold Round

I hope you’ll enjoy this little video about sharing paddocks and sharing love.

the good photos are by Laura
don’t blame Laura for the snapshots of the mares, though

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September 9, 2020

Derby week is over, and so is the limited run of Derby week tours at the Georgetown farm. The horses on the front of the farm have let us know how much they’ve enjoyed their week of meeting, greeting, getting lots of extra carrots, and being united with their admirers, whether old friends or new.

Rapid Redux (L) and Amazombie

All is, again, a little less entertaining than most of the horses would like. Birdstone is still doing his quarantine, getting used to new ways and new neighbors. His neighbors are also getting used to a new guy on the block, as you can see in this week’s Old Friends Blog Visit video, at the bottom of this post.

Since the horses on the front of the farm had so much tour and carrot fun last week, I took my ipad and treats off that route to see horses who haven’t been able to share in the tour action. This means The Pizza Man and Work All Week aren’t in the video, and Birdstone makes only a cameo appearance. I promise to focus the lens on them soon. Meanwhile, I hope it’ll be interesting catching up with the doings of some of the horses you may not have seen for awhile. To get to them, though, I had to pay dues in carrots to Soi Phet. Hogy was dozing in the run-in shed they share, so didn’t get into the video.

Soi Phet

…And Einstein, who clued me into the theme for this video:  “Getting to Know You.” He’s getting to know Birdstone, as are the other near neighbors.


And yes, I did look for a version of the song from “The King and I” to use in the video, but I didn’t find a licensed one. Oh, well. The horses made the theme quite clear.

Eye of the Tiger

Because Eye of the Tiger has changed paddocks and this means moving into a new “neighborhood” on the farm, with new horses on three sides to get to know. (He’s also getting a nice new paddock sign, by the way.)

Diversify and Joey P.

Joey P. and Diversify are peaceful across-the-way neighbors for Tiger. They hang near him enough to provide company, heads quietly over their fences, and when he’s not interested in company they have their own stuff to do. The same is true of Arson Squad and Fighting City Hall, who make appearances in the video.

But have you ever moved into a neighborhood and found out too late you have nosy neighbors?

Bourbonize (L) and Johannesburg Smile

Yes. Who else but the “Turrible Twosome,” Johannesburg Smile and Bourbonize. I always thought Afternoon Deelites was the biggest busy-body on the farm, the horse most eager to be in the thick of whatever is going on. He’s right up there, but I think Johannesburg Smile and Bourbonize currently have the prize.

I realize these two make it into more than their share of Old Friends Blog Visits … But they’re just so much ongoing fun.

Other horses featured are Amazombie, Touch Gold, Rail Trip, Cherono, Lion Hunter, Persie, and Northern Stone. So join them on a quiet early September evening when the grass has greened up nicely again and the sunset it at its most beautiful.

photos by Laura

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September 3, 2020

It’s an Old Friends Blog Derby tradition to present the Old Friends Angle for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. That is, which of the contenders in America’s top races for three year old colts and fillies are descendants of present or past residents of Old Friends?

Just as Saturday’s run for the roses will be unlike those of other years in so many ways, it also happens not to have the usual several starters whose pedigrees include OF retirees. Of course, Old Friends is extremely proud of our relationship with several human connections of these impressive young horses, whom we wish the very best of luck. So far as equine family goes, though, this year’s Derby features only two, Storm the Court and Thousand Words. Storm the Court is a son of Court Vision, one of the many illustrious sons of the great Gulch. Storm the Court will be starting from post position 4. Thousand Words is a great-grandson of 2001 Preakness and Belmont winner Point Given, himself a grandson of Gulch. Thousand Words starts as number 10.

Gulch (1984-2016) by Laura Battles

Three 2020 Kentucky Oaks contenders descend from past Old Friends residents. Here again, it’s no surprise to find the influential stallion, as well as champion in his own right, Gulch, in the ancestry of two. They’re Tempers Rising who’ll start as number 2, and Bayerness who’ll be number 6. Both of these fillies are by Bayern, whose dam Alittlebitearly is by Gulch’s most famous son, 1995 Derby winner Thunder Gulch.

But the very impressive favorite is Swiss Skydiver. She’ll start from post position 1. She’s by Daredevil out of Expo Gold whose sire is Johannesburg. And Johannesburg’s damsire is Ogygian (1983-2015).

Ogygian (1983-2015), taken Sept. 2013 by Laura Battles

As it happens, Swiss Skydiver’s representation of Ogygian in the Oaks coincides with something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Soon after joining Old Friends as farm manager, Tim Wilson made a 10 minute video of Ogygian, which he posted to Youtube, but afterward discontinued his Youtube channel. For all Ogygian’s fans who’ve been missing it, I’m delighted that Tim has given me permission to republish the video.

For those of you who didn’t know Ogygian, a few words. In this video Ogygian was 31 years old, an emormous age for a Thoroughbred. He was the grand old man of the neighborhood, having outlived his fellow 1983-foaled contemporaries Groovy, Tasso and even Storm Cat. Not just outlived, but continued to relish life. Ogygian had been through a lot, but in his case that was reason to enjoy every pleasure that came his way. He was incomparably wise, didn’t suffer fools gladly, was still fierce when he thought the occasion required, and the most generous being of any species I’ve ever known. He was also a master of manipulation. To get the most out of this video, keep in mind that among horses, the dominant one is the one who moves the others.

Tim was aware of this. We all indulged Ogygian. Not just because when this video was made in August 2014 he was convalescing from a throat ulcer (it healed), but because he was Ogygian.



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August 29, 2020

Birdstone is here!

Old Friends is extremely fortunate to welcome 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone to our Georgetown farm! It seems like just yesterday when the little brown colt made his late run to overpower Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, denying Smarty the Triple Crown. Edgar Prado was riding.

At two Birdstone had won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes for owner Marylou Whitney Stables LLC and Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, with Jerry Bailey up. After the Belmont he went on to take the prestigious Travers Stakes (G1), again with Edgar Prado.


Birdstone’s pedigree is as impressive as his accomplishments. He is by Grindstone out of Marylou Whitney’s foundation mare Dear Birdie by Storm Bird. He’s now 19 years old.

For his entire stud career Birdstone stood at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky. His progeny include 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, 2009 Belmont Stakes victor Summer Bird, Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) winner Noble Bird, Peruvian Grade 1 winner Birdie Gold (whose damsire is Touch Gold), other graded stakes winners, and multiple stakes winner Underpressure whose dam is by Charismatic.

Our warmest thanks to John Hendrickson for entrusting us with the care of Birdstone in his retirement.





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August 27, 2020

The Pizza Man has arrived! Work All Week is here!

The Pizza Man

Work All Week. Photo by Rick Capone

The Pizza Man is the only Illinois-bred to win the Arlington Million, run in Arlington Heights, Illinois. A homebred for Richard Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds, he’s by turf champion English Channel out of I Can Fan Fan, a daughter of Lear Fan. He began racing on the Midwest circuit, trained by Roger Brueggemann, and won most of his starts at two and three, including the Tex’s Zing Handicap at Arlington and Buck’s Boy Handicap at Hawthorne. At four his wins included the Black Tie Affair Handicap at Arlington, a stakes race named in honor of the great former Old Friends resident. In 2014 he won the Stars and Stripes Stakes, a Grade 3, with Florent Geroux riding and they teamed up to repeat that victory in 2015. The greatest feat of his career was his 2014 Arlington Million (G1) win, again with “Flo” up.

With Mike Smith he won the 2015 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar, and with Flavien Prat, the 2016 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (G1) at Woodbine. During that steadily successful career he won hearts as well as races. After retiring from racing he had a second career as a stable pony for his former trainer. Now he’ll get a chance to get the love and admiration of his many fans as he kicks back and enjoys the easy life at Old Friends.

The Pizza Man. Photo by Rick Capone

2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and Eclipse Champion Male Sprinter Work All Week is by City Zip out of the Repriced mare Danzig Matilda. He, too, is an Illinois-bred, and a homebred for Midwest Thoroughbreds. Work All Week was also trained by Roger Brueggemann and earned his biggest stakes wins teamed up with Florent Geroux.

His seven stakes wins include the 2014 Phoenix Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. He only finished off the board once in his 19 race career, and 16 of those were wins! The path he to the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint included a 7 race win streak at six different tracks. No wonder he earned the 2014 award as Eclipse Champion Sprinter and is two-time Illinois Horse of the Year. Besides that, he’s a friendly horse who will probably really enjoy being admired and treated by his fans.

Work All Week

Both of these 11 year old geldings arrived at Old Friends on the morning of Friday, August 21, 2020. This video visits with them that morning and again a few evenings later to see how they’re making themselves at home.


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August 20, 2020

Finally! The first “Secretariat Descendants” part one, is here. This Old Friends Blog Visit video features some of the horses on the south side of the farm who have Secretariat among their ancestors. Those I missed will appear in coming editions of “Secretariat’s Descendants.” Of course, Riva’s Way gets pride of place in the first video. He’s Secretariat’s grandson.

Riva Way, son of Tinner’s Way

For practical reasons (getting around to make the video clips), concentrating on one part of the farm at a time made sense, but within each video the horses are grouped by how they trace to Secretariat. For instance, many horses on the track these days trace back to the 1973 Triple Crown winner through one of his grandsons, who were among the most influential sires of the 1980s and 1990s, Storm Cat, A. P. Indy, Gone West, and so on. This is also true for our retired residents. Most of our descendants are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of one of these legendary stallions. So I sort of grouped them into tribes, i.e., the “Storm Cats.”


Except, I bloopered. I got so much into talking about Eldaafer as a son of the great A.P. Indy that I forgot to mention that on his dam’s side he’s also a Storm Cat! Eldaafer’s sire, A.P. Indy, had one of the star pedigrees of all time. His sire was Seattle Slew and his dam was Secretariat’s daughter, Weekend Surprise. But I didn’t add that Eldaafer’s own dam, Habibti, is by Tabasco Cat, a son of another grandson of Secretariat, Storm Cat. Guess this means I’ll have to feature Eldaafer again as one of the horses on the front of the farm, and talk about this other Secretariat connection he has. He’s sort of on the tour route, after all. There’s no such thing as too much Eldaafer.


Big Blue Nation

Johannesbourbon and Big Blue Nation are both “Storm Cats.” But Big Blue Nation is a very special Secretariat decendant. Watch the video to find out why!


Cherono is a grandson of Secretariat’s grandson, Gone West. On a personal note, just typing these great stallions’ names brings back memories. I was fortunate to see Storm Cat and Gone West in person, as well as Secretariat himself. I hugely regret never having seen Summer Squall in person. Some of you were fortunate enough to see them race. A few of you were even more fortunate to have worked with them. I envy you!

Ireland’s Eye (center) and Massone (R) play with Porfido

Of the three playing in this photo, Ireland’s Eye, has Secretariat for an ancestor. So does Massone, who didn’t make it into this video…well, actually he’s in it, standing next to his best friend Ireland’s Eye, but I didn’t talk about him yet in this vid. Porfido isn’t a Secretariat descendant, but he has  distinguished ancestry, including Exceller.

Cappuchino Kid

Most people think of Cappucino Kid either as Discreet Hero’s best buddy, or as top sire Medaglia d’Oro’s half-brother, but through his dad, Pioneering, Cappy has some of Secretariat’s DNA.

Brilliant Decision

So does Brilliant Decision. Those are the horses in this video. Later editions will feature others, of whom there are plenty.

As I did Aunt Pittypat thing, talking about who’s kin to who and how, I did try to emphasize one thing that too often gets lost in the shuffle. Writers about racing, and even some breeders, pay huge attention to the great stallions to the point that some of them seem to forget that behind most any great sire is a great dam. The mares who give birth to the great sires are usually superlative horses in their own right. So I do try to put in a mention of these breed-shaping mares. For the horses in this video, they are Secretariat’s famous daughters, Weekend Surprise, Terlingua and Secrettame, as well as two other daughters, Sister Dot and Rosa Mundi. All but Rosa Mundi were stakes runners, themselves. Terlingua and Weekend Surprise were multiple graded stakes winners.

I love walking the farm and seeing in the spirited beauty and playful speed of the horses all around me the clear evidence that something of Secretariat’s greatness lives on.

photos by Laura


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August 14, 2020

I know I keep saying I’m making a video about Secretariat’s descendants who live on the farm. I’m working on it. Really. In fact, there are so many descendants of Secretariat on the farm that there’ll probably be two videos. Then I’ll do the same for descendants of Seattle Slew. But with tours temporarily suspended again due to the pandemic, it seems more timely to do the best I can to give you a first-hand look at how the horses most of you know best are doing.

Sun King

Besides, the horses who live on the front of the farm are the ones whose routines are changed the most without tours, and who show the strongest signs of missing their visitors. These days they’re definitely appreciative of everyone who makes a tour-like round with carrots. So I took my ipad and a big bag of carrots for a walk around the tour route, asking all the horses, “What’s up?”


As you’ll see in the video, it was another hot night, but not as hot as when I made my last video walk, and several of the horses were more lively. Not Sun King. But that’s because he’s always more lively. So is Afternoon Deelites. Though I didn’t end up using any clips of AD, he got carrots too. He’s in fine form. Sarava was definitely in an enthusiastic mood, as you’ll see.

All of the horses in these photos are in the vid, and more.

Smooth Air

Pollard’s Vision

Touch Gold


Nobiz Like Shobiz

If I’d made the rounds according to schedule, I’d have been gathering clips on the south side of the farm, of Alphbet Soup & Gorgeous George, Einstein, Touch Gold and Game On Dude & Little Mike, just as the rose-gold sunset streamed down the hill at my back, lighting all their coats with bronze fire. But never mind “if.” There were two horses who had other ideas.

the bottom corner

This is the bottom corner. That is, the corner you turn when you go down the slope alongside Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring’s paddock. That’s Pops and Ring close to the center of the photo. It’s become a center of equine socializing since some younger guys moved into that neighborhood, Patch at the upper left, Stormy Liberal at the lower right. The horse at the lower left is You and I. In this photo they’re doing what they often do at quiet times, hanging out together. Now, another young guy has moved into the neighborhood. Poshsky now shares Stormy Liberal’s paddock, and are those two having a grand old time! Their interactions were so much fun that I sort of camped out right there and shot some of the longest video clips I’ve ever shot on the farm. If you ever wondered how lively youngish Thoroughbreds made friends, watch the middle of the video!

Einstein after sunset

Well. You can imagine what was happening by the time I got to the south side of the farm. The sun had set, the dark was gathering, and I had to hurry the trip down the hill before it got too dark to film. So I didn’t do justice to Alphabet Soup, George, Einstein, and especially Game On Dude, Little Mike, and Nicanor. At least they’re in the video. That’s more than I can say for Soi Phet, unless you count his hind end sticking out the end of the run-in shed. He just wasn’t interested. But Hogy came over for a hello.

So, enjoy this look at what Stormy Liberal, Poshsky, and gang were doing the other night.

By the way, in this one I didn’t do anything like tour spiel. I just imitated the wisest of the jockeys and tried not to get in a good horse’s way. If you’d like a video with these same horses’ stories, watch this Old Friends Blog Visit from this spring.

photos by Laura


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August 7, 2020

The guys in 51

Lazy August days. The horses have had it good this week. We’ve had a cool spell, temps down in the 70s most of the day and even milder at night. Recent rain has greened up the grass and given it back some of its tenderness, and not that much is going on. Summer peace and the singing of the cicadas fill the farm.

What, Tripper? (Johannesbourbon, Rail Trip, Cherono)

The horses on the main tour route probably do wonder what’s going on. All the fun visits (and carrots!) they enjoyed during the middle of the summer have been temporarily suspended again due to increased Covid-19 cases in our locale. None of us – horse or human – likes this, of course, but it’s necessary to protect our essential horse care staff. We look forward to when it’s safer to unite our horses and their fans.


Meanwhile, all the horses, whether on the tour route or not, are enjoying quiet naps in the shade and the security of their “family” of humans who, from their perspective, exist to serve their every need.

Alphabet Soup

A few evenings ago Laura walked the farm with her camera and lots of carrots. From the horses whose photos she caught, it was quite a hike, past Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George, past Area 51, up to where Slim Shadey and Starspangled Heat live.

Slim Shadey

And then around the bend to the paddock Wake Forest shares with Brilliant Decision…

Brilliant Decision’s “summer blond” look.

… she got lots of good photos of Wake Forest and Brilliant Decision.

Here’s Wake Forest peeking over Brilliant Decision’s back. He’s almost too little to do that!

Got a carrot for Brilliant Decision?

Then she hiked all the way to the far end of the south part of the farm, what we call Farm #2. (It’s all continuous, but that makes it easier to identify where a horse or staff member is.) I wasn’t there, but following the trail of her photos is fun.

Awesome Gem being handsome.

Awesome Gem shares a paddock with Ivan Fallanovalot and Big Blue Nation at that end of the farm. Also in that neighborhood is longtime resident Discreet Hero. Though the population in that paddock has changed some during the last few years, whoever else is there, Hero sticks with his best friend, Cappucino Kid.

Discreet Hero

Then it looks like she retraced that long trek and headed up the main farm hill, taking the back way and saying hello to claiming king and son of Street Sense, Persie.

Persie (Racketeer in background. Not sure whose withers are between them).

And all the way back to the big pasture shared by Affirmed Success, Kudos, Interwin, El Oh El …

Kudos’ tail catches the sunset.

I think I know where she was going … what particular horse may have been her goal …

Miss Du Bois

Sure enough, Miss Du Bois had an eye out for her favorite human. Miss Du Bois has been flourishing in the love she gets from Laura, Carole, Antonio…she’s an easy horse to love!

Ivan Fallanovalot

An invigorating hike. I’ve enjoyed pretending to be along. I hope you have, too. This weekend my ipad and I will be covering as much of the farm as possible, as I continue my project, making video clips of all the descendants of Secretariat living on the farm. There are so many that they’ll probably make for more than one video I hope to post over the next few weeks. Then, I’ll do the same with all Old Friends’ decendants of Seattle Slew. Fun projects, I must admit! Until then, take care and stay well.

photos by Long-walkin’ Laura


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July 30, 2020

The past few weeks have been hotter than the horses would like. Horses’ favorite temperatures range in the forties and fifties. But they’ve been taking this sultry weather sensibly. They’re hanging out in the shade, enjoying the good, clear water in the waterers the barn staff keep clean for them, and they’re not running around too much or engaging too strenuously in herd politics. It’s a lazy, laid-back time for them.

Touch Gold

When I took my iPad to the farm last Tuesday evening I didn’t capture any makings for a thrilling, action-packed film, that’s for sure. And I didn’t want to. The muggy weather didn’t make me feel too strenuous, either.

Alphabet Soup and Gorgeous George

But with the help of 28 horses and one donkey I hope I’ve captured the mood of a typical lazy summer evening at Old Friends. The horses featured are Touch Gold, Alphabet Soup, Game On Dude, Little Mike, Affirmed Success, Amazombie, Rapid Redux, Fabulous Strike, Comma to the Top, Kudos, Little Silver Charm, Kharafa, Easy Grades, Johannesburg Smile, Wake Forest, Brilliant Decision, Hussonfirst, Sokitumi Samurai, Marshall Rooster, Fantastic Day, Elusive Honey, Northern Stone, Interwin, El Oh El, Windy Land, and He Loves Me Not. And of course, where Alphabet Soup goes, there goes Gorgeous George.

Affirmed Success (R) and Kudos

The vibrant blue sky, cumulous clouds and occasional shafts of sunlight breaking through showed off the burnished colors in the horses’ coats. Those who lighten up in summer (some horses do this more than others) are all at their summer-blondest. If you think of Brilliant Decision as a black horse, wait till you see him in these clips.

Easy Grades

Easy Grades has moved from the paddock he shared with Saratoga Episode and Tuneintobow, to the paddock near the top of the hill, joining Northern Stone. Both are nice middle-aged guys, polite and socially ept. Already they’re a companionable pair.

Fabulous Strike

So, if you’re feeling you’ve had enough challenge and excitement for one day, join me for a stroll among a bunch of relaxed ex-racehorses for a few back scratches and lots of close-ups of horses still chewing they carrots they’ve just gotten. Pour some iced tea and enjoy the peaceful feeling of summer among horses who’ve worked hard, seen something of the wide world, and are now secure and well cared for.

It’s thanks to your continuing support that they’re so happy.


And guess what! As I post this, it’s getting cooler and starting to rain!

photos by Laura


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