Let me tell ya ’bout the best friends…

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img_20170128_102947685.jpgBrinn’s carpal tunnel and nerve damage to his elbow has worsened recently, so his surgeon has scheduled surgery for next Thursday. Two weeks out from surgery, Brinn started brining pork loins and preparing to smoke a feast so I called in the cavalry. As soon as I shared with our boating buddies that Brinn wanted to have a party before he goes under the knife, they immediately moved into action. You may think your friends are cool, but Brinn’s friends show up at the house with little notice bringing boats and whiskey.

After a five-hour drive, Terry arrived Friday morning to take Brinn out for a weekend of boating. The two sneaked in a quick afternoon Spring Creek run with Tom, where Brinn managed to forget his pfd and his helmet. It’s an awfully good thing we live so close to the put-in. Unfortunately not a one of the three managed to take a camera with them, so there’s no visual record of their scrapey run. Brinn left Ian at home in the care of Lee from the Mustard Seed Ranch. When I arrived home, I assumed I would relieve Lee of his burden and take Ian out with me to run errands, but Ian insisted that he would prefer to stay home with his brother. Man, and here I thought I had at least another couple of years to be the coolest person in Ian’s world. Rejection hurts. But in all seriousness, it makes my heart happy to see Ian have such love for his big brothers, and even more happy to see that love returned.

Once the weary paddlers returned from the water, Brinn went to prepping his bacon 16265841_1169919109723818_7494451037016177263_nwrapped duck jalapeno poppers (talk about the ultimate man food) while Terry went stir crazy. Brinn owes Terry big for his restless energy –it got all of his gear packed correctly for a Saturday trip. From there they decided they needed to make fire, because apparently the one already going in the wood stove was not enough. Out came the diesel can and a pile of unsplit logs in the back yard. Truth be told, it really was about time that we burned the Christmas tree.

img_20170127_201256033.jpgAs darkness descended, our guests of varying sizes arrived. We ended up with a houseful of five kids ranging in ages from two to I think eight or nine-years-old. This absolutely made Ian’s night. Jc brought Ian a hand-me-down battery-powered four-wheeler, which is exactly what Ian has been planning to save up for. I’m still not sure Ian has recovered from the shock of seeing the beautiful red four-wheeler arrive. Jc, you have no idea how happy you’ve made a little boy. Between the four wheeler, Ian’s tractor, and his gator, we had seats for almost every kid to cruse around the yard while parents migrated from the food in the kitchen to the chairs around the fire. While nothing can replace the sereneness of sitting around a campfire in the woods on the second night of a weekend camping trip, we came close to replicating this feel. We had good company, good food, good drinks, and conversation inevitably flowed about paddling, parenting, and even softball injuries to the knee.

While I have no desire to have more children, I can see why many parents try to persuade 16426103_1169919036390492_3060917692251805844_nme to have more so that my little one could have someone else to play with. Tom brought his son T-Rex, who is not nearly so little anymore, Jc and Crystal bought their sweet children, and Ben and JoAnna’s E has no idea that she’s only two and considerably smaller than Jc and Crystal’s bigger kids. E kept right up with the older kids all evening with no regard for the cold. I’m fairly certain that Ian fell sound asleep within minutes of the last child’s departure. Even better: he slept past 6:30 AM the next morning! Most of my close friends know from first person experience that I’m not a kid person. Mainly because I don’t know how to interact with kids or what to do with them (except with Ian –he has me extremely well-trained). But these kids are all awesome and did a great job entertaining themselves.

16387255_1169919153057147_6948614958651690557_nTerry, Ben, JoAnna, Jc, Crystal, and Tom probably have no idea how much gratitude I have for their willingness to leave home after dark and make the long drive to our little corner in Putnam county, but they all make Brinn smile, and that means the absolute world to me. This upcoming surgery has some risks that go along with it, and Brinn has understandably been worried and stressing over it.A night to chill by the fire with good friends is exactly what he needed, and these sweet people delivered in a way I will always appreciate.

Saturday morning brought with it a beautiful day, but very little water. The original plan img_20170128_103322202.jpgfor the guys to run lower Crooked Fork had to be scrapped, so instead they turned their focus to the Obed. In contrast with Friday’s debacle of forgotten gear and chasing water levels, Saturday actually managed to run rather smoothly. Ian and I dropped Brinn and Terry off at the Devil’s Breakfast Table by 10:30 AM and made our way to Nemo by driving up on the area in Catoosa. As shameful as it may be for a home-grown to admit, driving the area makes me so nervous. I don’t remember all the twisty gravel roads, and could end up in Oakdale just as easily as Wartburg. Fortunately we ran into some very kind TWRA agents who were more than happy to point us in the right direction. Having family in the area is a huge benefit when it comes to setting shuttle, and when Ian and I arrived at Nemo my dad was waiting for us. We left my truck at the bridge and my dad drove Ian and I to Grandma’s so we could spend the day with family without having to worry about trying to get back to Nemo to pick the guys up when they came off the water.

img_20170128_120213282.jpgAs soon as Ian and I rolled into Grandma’s house, he immediately asked her to make him some popcorn. Now my grandmimg_20170128_121530857.jpga is not exactly the cookie baking kind of grandma who gives out hugs and tells her grandchildren that they can do no wrong, but she is a great cheerleader for us to achieve great things and does make the absolute best popcorn in the world. I don’t believe that she has ever in her life bought microwave popcorn.Some of my fondest childhood memories involve that popcorn, and eating it still takes me back to those early years. After indulging Ian’s popcorn request, Grandma introduced Ian to a new part of her house this weekend: the attic. This new series of small rooms full of outgrown toys from my cousins over the years had Ian enthralled, so my dad and I slipped out for a quiet hike down to the creek.

img_20170128_141054820.jpgWhile Brinn didn’t get to paddle Crooked Fork, I at least goimg_20170128_135635527.jpgt to enjoy
its scenery and marvel at the beauty of the day. Despite the cold weather we’ve been having, the woods are absolutely bursting with life this time of year. The forest floor is a riot of color with bright red partridge berries contrasting with their glossy green leaves amidst the brown leaves left from autumn. Looking around the canopy provides a treat as well right now with mountain laurel bordering the trail and creek banks with dark green leaves for miles. With Ian’s arrival almost five years ago, it’s not too often that I get much time alone with either of my parents. And that is completely fine as they fully deserve to enjoy their time as grandparents, but I definitely enjoyed the opportunity to walk and chat with my dad for an hour.

img_20170128_103724966.jpgBrinn and Terry didn’t have nearly the excitement out on the water that they did back on the 2nd, but the quite tranquility and splendor of the river gorge seemed to leave quite an impression. It ended up not being quite a dry haired day as Brinn managed to go for a roll on one of the more awkward rapids with multiple diagonal current lines. Apparently Terry didn’t even laugh at him when it happened. Or take a picture of it. What kind of friend is that? While the majority of their run was made up of class IIs and small class IIIs, the two did manage to do quite a bit of scouting for future family outings. As they identified several promising campsites, we hope to be able to turn this run into an over-nighter with the raft and kids later this spring once all medical issues are behind us. Here’s a glimpse into their trip:

(But be warned. Apparently people with English degrees still forget to proofread before hitting upload.)

Brinn hopes to be able to sneak out Saturday morning for one final paddling trip before hisimg_20170128_100039152.jpg
life consists of bandages and rehab, but if the rain refuses to fall and he ends up pursuing dryer reaction this weekend, he’ll still be okay and my living room won’t be covered in wet river gear drying by the fire. Over the next six weeks of recovery, he’ll have warm memories of generous friends gathered around the fire sharing embarrassing stories. The next time we gather, I’ll be able to add some new humiliating stories of my recent adventures in physical therapy. Until then, we’ll keep on planning our future river trips together and reminiscing. Dear friends, we love you and I can’t thank you enough for bringing your amiable company to our small home. And of course there’s always that one jackass that shows up at every party…

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What’s in Your Tack Room

horse-showWe horse people easily perplex the rest of the world. We take the horses, a former source of transportation, and transport them around the country and pay other people to look at them and tell us which ones are the prettiest. We spend gobs of money to pretty our horses up, and kill ourselves with the amount of time we put into prepping our horses for the show pen. And at the end of it all, we may get to take home a $0.50 ribbon for our troubles. Despite the obvious neurosis we must suffer to partake in this crazy scheme, I can’t imagine a better way to have spent 3/4 of my life. I blew off senior prom and high school graduation for horse shows, and missed plenty of parties and trips in order to wake up at 3:0 A.M. to throw my pretty pony in the trailer and drive across the state. After showing for 20 years, I’ve discovered that there are quite a few products that show riders just can’t live without.

show-bowThe first, and most important of these products is the show bow. Take yourself back to the 1990’s. Vests and tuxedo shirts with rosette ties adorned the majority of women at every AQHA, APHA, ApHC, and 4-H show across the country.With this carefully constructed wardrobe, one couldn’t have a sloppy ponytail detracting from the shiny threads adorning these vests. What could a girl possibly do with her giant wod of hair? Enter the show bow! At one time the show bow was so readily available in any tack store and catalogue that riders could easily match their hair helmet to the color of her chaps. R.I.P. show bow.

Next our agenda brings us to a very particular piece of tack: the show saddle. Now, hunter saddlejumper has its roots in the hunt field. Riders still today dress in the same attire that fox hunters have worn for the chase for more than a century. Horses in the hunter ring should emulate those on a hunt –they should be quiet and easy to ride with nice ground covering gates and a careful, scopey jump. Not only do riders still dress traditionally for hunters, but they also use very similar tack. Western pleasure horses have their roots on cattle drives in the old west. Cows never run fast, so WP horses have no need to run fast either. And the saddle is so handy. Cowboys need a horn to tie a rope off on in case they have a need to tie something. Now I’ve not had an occasion to tie something to my horse in the show pen, but the need may arise, so I’m glad I still have the option available. And don’t forget the shiny silver trim. Like a fish, I’m attracted to all things shiny. Every shiny saddle satisfies the 12 year old girl still in me who loves all things that glitter.Who cares if the saddle has to live in a cushioned case and stay in a temperature controlled environment? A fancy schmancy saddle that can only be used a few dozen times a year is well worth the investment.

chicago-screwsWhile we’re discussing shiny tack, let’s discuss the beloved Chicago screw. It’s so much more efficient than an awkward buckle. Who wants a clunky buckle that’s stitched firmly into the leather of a headstall? Better to have a screw that can collect corrosion, requires a screwdriver for every time you want to change out your bit, and can work its way loose as your horse chews the bit. That’s really only a problem when the screw pops out while you’re riding, and even then it’s only a problem if your horse decides to spit out the bit.But hey, you’ll look really good right up until you’re riding a horse with no bit or reins.

Now let’s talk about grey hopaintrses. Have you ever showed one? It’s rough trying to keep up with a world of bays and chestnuts. Brown horses hide dust and scuffs so efficiently. It’s like they came camoflaged for the show ring. Grey horses, on the other hand, show every speck of dust that accumulates on their meticulously groomed hides. Oh, and they also have suicidal tendencies, so if you allow these crazy beasts any turn out at all, they will manage to scar their expensive selves up. And don’t forget the explosive diarreah that occurs on the trailer ride and again seconds before your sleazy-sleepwheregate call. It’s hard being grey horse girl living in a bay horse world. But two important products exist to help combat these pesky problems. Shapley’s touch-up paint formulated specifically for horses has hid many a boo-boo on Ghost and Bear over the years. It’s important that you buy both the grey and white paints so that you can combine for an exact match of your horse’s hair tone. Hopefully you can minimize the amount of touch-up paint needed ghostby keeping your delicate dust magnet covered from head to tail right up until the time they you begin competing. A Sleazy Sleepwear Hood is an essential item for keeping your grey clean as long as possible. And as a bonus, you can look really obnoxious in the schooling ring of bays and chestnuts while you hop around on your purple and blue steed.

The last go-to item you’ll find me carting to horse shows comes in the famous white show-sheenbottle: Absorbine Show-Sheen. This stuff can polish and shine a coarse haired donkey. On a regularly groomed show horse, it’ll turn their coat into greased lightning. Don’t believe me? Obviously you’re not one of the geniuses who shined your horse up diligently for halter and showmanship, then realized what a mistake you’d made once you tried to keep your saddle in place later in the day. There’s nothing quite like having your girth and pommel riding around on a slip and slide. There’s always the option of not using Show-Sheen, but I’m just not sure that it would feel like a show without the aroma of Aborbine products wafting from my stalls.

Five years have gone by since I last rode into a show ring. I’m sure a lot has changed in that time. I’ve heard rumors that dark oil tack and long manes are back. Can someone do a check for me to see if show bows have been resurrected yet?

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Your New Favorite Gear

As I sit here warm and dry, I’ve had time to contemplate some of the best gear available on the market, and I’ve formed some opinions about which brands and products boaters should be buying. It’s not like I’m actually able to use any of these items right now, but I’m happy to tell you why you should be buying and using these items. Let’s start with a review of the three best kayak brands on the market right now.tie-dye

  1. Jackson Kayak: were you ever an eight-year-old girl? If so, you need a Jackson Kayak.Lisa Frank.gif Why? The unicorn puke color pattern! I mean, come on. It’s practically Lisa Frank meets whitewater boats. This is seriously the best color to ever hit the kayak scene. Technically I think the color is actually called Tie-Dye, but that’s okay. We both know that it’s really the color of mythological regurgitation. Throw in a few butterfly stickers or a dolphin and every girl who grew up in the 90s will place an order today! It doesn’t matter if she actually plans to paddle or not. This boat is so  pretty that you can flip it upside down and use it as a coffee table to fill out your Lisa Frank Valentine day cards.
  2. Dagger Kayak: mamba-guyDagger makes the Mamba; ’nuff said. If you want to be a sexy beast, you need to paddle a mamba. It should suffice to say, Dagger builds the boat mopyrrahna-spongest guaranteed to make you boof a heavy load. Knock knock.
  3. Pyranha Kayaks: With each purchase of a Pyranha boat, buyers receive the coolest sponge known to man. This should be a very appealing add-on to any designated swimmer. Now they have something to sponge all the remaining water out of their boat after draining!

Now let’s move on to review of safety products.

  1. Astral Layla: This attractive personal flotation device includes the trademark lotus lotus flower.jpegblossom on the back. This was enough reason for me to buy one. Don’t you pick out your safety gear based on floral patterns? Really, just me? Okay, well here’s a second reason you should buy a Layla –boobs! The vest is cut out to make space for your boobs to fit comfortably, so no more paddling the wrong line because you couldn’t see straight with your boobs smashed up in your face. Score one for female anatomy.
  2. The Green Jacket: Another win for Astral. Pat Keller.jpegKeller paddles in the Green Jacket, so you should too. Pat Keller can run the Green blindfolded. I’ll bet it’s cuz he wears a Green Jacket. Next time I get bored, I may try on Brinn’s Green Jacket and a blind fold and see what happens.
  3. rescue-beltAstral Quick Release Rescue Belt: If you want to turn your Astral Layla or Sea Wolf into a rescue vest, you can add on the quick release belt, but there’s a much better reason to buy this belt. It’s a great accessory! What girl doesn’t love accesories? This gives us one more excuse to shop, and remember: you should always match your accessories to your shoes. How fantastic is it that my rescue belt matches my NRS neoprene booties so perfectly?
  4. NRS Pilot Knife: Now this one is a huge safety feature on the river. No boater shouldknife ever leave the put-in without a rescue knife. In the case that an emergency ever arises, paddlers should always be prepared. You never know when you might be out on the water and your toddler suddenly decides that he can no longer eat an apple with the skin still on the fruit. Don’t get caught unprepared and suffer a meltdown that only an enraged tiny human can enact.

And finally, let’s take a closer look at the apparel you should be wearing while out on the water.

  1. hydroskinNRS 1.5 hydroskins: Hydroskins essentially are neoprene wetsuits available in three different thicknesses: o.5 mm, 1 mm, and 1.5 mm.The 1.5 mm hydroskin is typically lined with fleece. Before the name was changed to hydroskin, the fleece lined neoprene was called fuzzy rubber. Isn’t that enough reason to make you want to buy it? Come on, say it with me: FUZZY RUBBER. Didn’t it make you giggle a little? If you wear it, every time someone asks what you’re wearing, you get to say “fuzzy rubber.” See, you giggled again. If any cool weather remains when I finally get to paddle again, I’ll be wearing fuzzy rubber on top and on bottom.
  2. Teva Guide Sandal: Every paddler should own at least ontevae pair of these sandals in their life. Why? Because spider rubber is awesome! It will seriously stick to every rock. The problem is that most of the time you can’t fit in your boat with sandals on, so you have to clip them in to the back of your boat. Then if you swim, you don’t usually have time to unclip your tevas and slide them on as your bouncing along over rocks and past undercuts. If you do manage to fit in your boat with your tevas on, there’s that small problem of how to keep them on your feet when you swim. The front straps like to slide off your foot and turn your sandals into worthless flippers around your ankles. But spider rubber is still really cool.
  3. grateful-headGrateful Heads: Sadly this dazzling fashion statement is no longer available for retail purchase. The Grateful Heads helmet company folded quite some time ago, but you’ll still find some of their helmets floating around paddling gearswaps. It’s really too bad that boaters can’t purchase these helmets new. What a way to make a statement on the water! Other boaters won’t be able to take their eyes of you if you rock out one of these bad boys. Mainly because their retinas will be burned into place once the sun reflects off your dazzling glitter finish. You may ask if helmets should belong with the safety gear review, but anything that turns you into such a sexy devil must be considered apparel.

Now, try not to blow up NRS or your local outfitter all at once. Be sure to give them some time to restock as I expect most of these items to start flying off the shelf. Probably best if you don’t mention my name as you submit an order for “unicorn puke” and “worthless foot flippers.”

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Different River, Different Man

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“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” –Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

While Brinn and I have been working on maintaining a positive outlook regarding the end of 15870806_10206208374448209_373196783_n2016, I’m not going to lie. Things have been rough. While we absolutely have so many wonderful blessings to focus on, sometimes it still gets a bit frustrating as we deal with all of the negatives thrown at us in a short time period. Brinn has taken the hardest brunt of these burdens as he’s been caring for me, coordinating my medical appointments and sorting out payment issues with insurance agents, driving me around, taking Ian to the doctor for a sinus infection, running his shop during deer season, and trying to finish the home improvement projects we started back in early November. Meanwhile, he’s developed nerve damage in his elbow, and has continued to put surgery off while dealing with my descent into disrepair.brinn

Through all of these minor catastrophes, Brinn has absolutely been my rock. He has stayed positive and encouraged Ian and I to take advantage of every good moment we’ve experienced. Despite his outward enthusiasm, he’s started to struggle to carry the concerns and responsibilities for all three of us on his shoulders. The last few weeks his smile hasn’t been quite as quick, and he’s been emptying the tube of liniment with more regularity. Brinn has needed an escape from his grown-up obligations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Terry got in touch with us to ask about paddling through the New Year Holiday, our crazy group of friends immediately sprang to action and started checking local river levels and monitored the weather forecasts. The group finally settled on a New Year’s Eve run down Clear Creek on my favorite section of Tennessee white-water. Unfortunately my injuries and doctor orders prevented me from being able to join in, but it did provide an opportunity for Brinn to get out and have some fun. I think I actually forgot to mention anything about Terry coming into town to Brinn until Wednesday night or Thursday. When he found out that a friend/accomplished paddler would be in route to Tennessee on Friday, he quickly began shifting his paddling goals to enjoying bigger runs.

Brinn, Terry, and Wayne agreed on using Daddy’s Creek as their warm-up run for a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAweekend of paddling activity. We struggled a bit to get the guys out on the water, Saturday. I’m not sure “hot mess” even comes close to describing the state of Kiser family right now.  Despite a whole host of set backs on Saturday morning  including poor navigation (yep, that one’s on me), forgotten GoPro (gotta pin that one all on Brinn), late start (darn cell phone reception), we did indeed finally find the take-out and were able to drop off cars at bottom and then made our way back to the put-in so the guys could get in some H2O therapy. Last on and last off of the river for the day, I think they were able enjoy themselves as they had moderate flows of 1’6″.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaddy’s is not a run I have ever aspired to work up to. The consequences seem too severe for my limited paddling abilities and my slow reaction time. Thus I cannot narrate the run to you first hand, but will try to piece together some description based on reports from the guys. The last time Brinn ran Daddy’s Creek he managed to flip going into Rocking Chair, roll up then snap an AT paddle, flip again, and find himself being washed into a boulder pile, and finally swim. Then he proceeded to lose a hand paddle on down. Saturday proved to be redemptive run for Brinn as the entire group managed to have a dry OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhair day. The run allows for a good warmup with straightforward class II and III rapids that eventually build into solid class IVs. Paddlers ease their way down through boulders the size of houses! Another point of interest along this run are the cabins scattered along the river banks with no obvious road access. The creek eventually takes boaters into the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area where they can choose to take out at the Devil’s Breakfast Table, or continue on down to the junction with the Obed River. My tired guys opted to take out at the DBT and drive home with no shoes since I managed to drive off with them after I dropped them off at the put-in.

With tired paddlers and an overly excited four year old, we didn’t exactly party hard to welcome in 2017. Our party favors consisted primarily of guide books, AWW reports, and YouTube videos of local creek runs. And it was fantastic. Boaters have a language all their own. I wouldn’t necessarily call it jargon (well, some of it is), so much as shared experience and appreciation for the water that finds a way into the words and body language of paddlers as they plan and reminisce. The online community we have with our boating friends across Middle Tennessee provides a wonderful outlet to share and enjoy discourse, but there’s just something different about hanging out in actual real life. The jokes are funnier, the jabs at each other a little more accurate, and the laughs are deeper. And through this exchange, I got to see Brinn’s smile shine more brightly again.

15822056_10155402309525656_1729388244_nUnfortunately the New Year dawned a bit dryer than the old year ended. Water levels dropped across the region and the rain hadn’t yet found us. After nursing some beat up joints, the guys seemed content to spend a day resting and recovering while closely monitoring the radar. Except Brinn and Terry seem to be cut from the samimg_20170101_145021846.jpge cloth, and neither does particularly well with resting. So after a morning of driving out to visually check water levels for runs that do not have an online gauge (and enlisting the help of cousins to send us images of a bony Crooked Fork), they changed their plans from “sitting at the house” (I should have known they would never actually commit to a day of no activity) to hiking on a reconnaissance trip to lineup a potential run of massive waterfalls for the next day. After complete dismissal from the park ranger, the guys changed their tactics to legal research and spent the remainder of the day educating themselves on federal and state waterway laws. They seem to have different ideas than the ranger for what constitutes a navigable waterway.

emilyOur next morning started a bit slowly, but our wonderful cousin (and currently favorite of Brinn), Emily deferred her pancake breakfast to run back to the waterfall down the road from her home to send more pictures of the water level for Brinn and Terry to evaluate. Now Emily must truly love us, because not much comes between this girl and a pancake. Except maybe a donut, but that’s a different story. After examining Emily’s photos, the decision to go for it was hastily agreed upon, and we threw boats and gear in the back of the truck in record time and hit the interstate for home.

I grew up in Wartburg, and still consider it home as most of my family still live there.15622664_1800669076849555_5264683582659295174_n Crooked Fork Creek flows right through my grandma’s backyard, and on down to Potter’s Falls, which is just a few miles away from some of our favorite people: Karen, Brent, and Emily. Karen and my mom are cousins, and Karen managed to marry someone who is just as cool and nice as she. So of course their apple didn’t fall far from some pretty awesome trees. The Ziegler family joined us at Potter’s to watch the guys come under the bridge and over the falls not once but twice. Then they invited us back to their house for one of my favorites, a hot chili dinner with grilled cheeses. How many boaters can boast a family who has dinner waiting less than 10 minutes away from the take-out?

trailFor years I used trail riding as a form of conditioning to keep my show horses fit. As my horses all lived at Grandma’s house, I frequently used the trail in her backyard as a warmup for most of my workouts for Reggie. This trail follows right along Crooked Fork Creek, and I’ve also hiked down the creek bed many hot summer days with my brother looking for holes to cool off in, so I’m fairly familiar with this section of Crooked Fork. But like Daddy’s Creek, this is another run that’s considerably over my head when there’s water on it, so I’ll have to default again to Brinn and Terry to provide descriptions of the rapids themselves.

After the creek leaves the horse trail, it makes a fairly sharp left turn and heads for OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALaymance falls. Unfortunately the falls were not runnable as a tree has lodged itself right in the best line to take over the drop, so the many boaters who were on the water Monday were forced to hike around. Below Laymance, the pace really picks up on this run and the rapids become tighter with bigger consequences. A few times Brinn felt his boat get pulled back towards grabby holes and had to actively paddle through most each feature to punch through and over.

img951595.jpgAfter a long trip for a just few short miles of whitewater involving repeated scouting sessions, the guys finally made it down to Potter’s Falls where we’d all been waiting. Once again, the tired boaters exited their boats to walk down and evaluate the lines they had to choose from. They developed a plan, and Terry led the way over the drop. And what a perfect line it was! Watching talented boaters run big water reminds me a lot of watching the top riders at big shows. My mom always likes to say that good riding is invisible riding, so you have to watch closely for subtle cues to see img951605.jpghow the good riders quietly guide their horses over demanding jump courses or through technical dressage moves. Good boaters do so much of their movement inside their cockpits with their legs and core, so it’s hard to spot it if you’re a spectator. Nonetheless, spectating has helped me see just how far I have to go as a boater if I ever hope to go beyond class III’s. So many different movements to coordinate! Boof stroke, ear dip, lean forward, lean back, high brace, low brace, scull stroke, draw stroke, rudder stroke, c to c roll, sweep roll, and then of course through it all, dodge the rocks or use the rocks? Lean in to the rock, but never upstream unless you’re pulling into an eddy. It’s highly doubtful that I’ll ever become a steep creeker like these two, but I certainly do admire the skill and athleticism they possess to carry them over flood stage falls.

img_1598.jpgWhile Terry achieved textbook perfection with his first descent over the drop, Brinn’s was a bit gnarlier. He managed to insult his already aggravated elbow up above the falls, and it decided to hold a grudge. Halfway over the falls, he completely lost feeling in his hand and dropped the paddle on that side. Rather than hold it with one hand and risk getting smacked in the face with it (or worse, break another paddle!), he decided to throw it. But not without a surprised little yelp sneaking out first.

So now the guys have managed to run the entire upper section of the creek and make a img_1580.jpgdescent over Potter’s. They’re exhausted and in pain, but apparently that’s not quite where they wanted to end their day, so they carried their boats back up the trail to the bridge and hopped in for another ride over the edge. This time, using some advice from Terry, Brinn was able to drastically improve his technique, and his elbow and hand even cooperated. Terry, however, didn’t have quite the same experience. He managed to smack the side of his head against the only rock at the bottom of the drop. But he didn’t even whine about it. I’d still be carrying on about that hit. But maybe that’s why I shouldn’t be running steep creeks?

img951594.jpgNo man can step on the same river twice, because it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. Perhaps boaters should be researching the sayings of Heraclitus, because he is exactly right. Each river and creek you run is a completely different run at different levels. The drops are taller with low water, and the holes are bigger with higher water. Floods rearrange the rocks and river bed and leave wood jammed along the way. The men change as well. Brinn is not the same person he was 15 years ago when he dropped over Potter’s last, nor the person he was 10 years ago when he ran Daddy’s Creek. He’s older and more beat up, but he’s also wiser with more discernment now. Despite the changing river and men, one variable remains unchanged –the river still draws a fantastic community of fellow paddlers to provide fellowship and friendship. I may be the person standing on the bank for most of this season, but I am still looking forward to enjoying a role in this great community. Thanks for the memories and the future adventures, fellow boaters!

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Fare thee Well 2016

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If you scroll through any Facebook feed, you’re likely to see a barrage of posts likening 2016 to a force cutting a path of destruction through the lives of many. I’m not sure I like to jump on the bandwagon of “screw 2016” and “this was the worst year ever” ideologies, as 2016 had some real high points.

img_20161126_110958756.jpgAlmost all of the best moments we had last year involved spending time with our dear friends, new and old. There were some great accomplishments at work, some great progress with Brinn’s business, and of course Ian has many huge achievements over the last year. Ian learned to mount and trot on Badger; he stepped it up onto new rivers and has begun paddling his own kayak around on very small features close to home. He’s also started learning about electrical currents and how to work an electrical snap kit. He can spell his name like a champ, and is obsessed with remote control operated toys. Over this last year were privileged to meet great paddling friends like Wes, Rachel, Jc, Rick, Spicer, Wayne, Racheal, and Terry. We had plenty of adventures with these new friends and with old ones as well.

With all the positive experiences we’ve had over the last year, we definitely had some low moments as well, but that’s going to happen every year. This year’s bad moments were particularly rough, as our favorite family –the Anderson’s, lost David, a very dear friend and a second father to Brinn. David deserves his own tribute, and at some point I’ll be able to write about his many bragging points and how missed he is, but I’m not at that point yet. It suffices to say to that David’s family can most definitely be an exception and received_1096089800440083.jpegclaim 2016 as the worst year ever if they wish.

Later in the year we had another setback, but not nearly as devastating as David’s death. While driving on Interstate 40 to meet my mom and pick up Ian, another car rear ended my jeep and caused me to lose control of my vehicle and roll across the median. God’s hands were all around my car that day. While my jeep didn’t survive the event, I’ve been very fortunate to have no devastating injuries and should be able to make a full recovery.

While losing a vehicle definitely threw a wrench in several of our holiday plans what with injuries, doctor appointments, and sharing one car for a while, we were able to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Thanksgiving had its own share of excitement when the water in our plumbing decided to back up…minutes before we were supposed to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner! The extra lubrication on our day didn’t affect our spirits, and Alanna jumped into action to help me throw towels down all across the house. We managed to finish up with a pretty good afternoon of visiting with Rodney, Alanna, Sam from MSR and his grandmother, as well as my dad.

received_1135673053148424.jpegChristmas was mostly a quiet affair this year. We never did get a chance to make it to Rock City to see the lights, nor have we yet made our round visiting friends and family in the Cleveland/Ocoee area. We did manage to squeeze in a cinnamon roll baking session with the boys for our traditional Christmas breakfast with the boys at Mustard Seed Ranch. We also made it out for some Christmas shopping trips and a few Christmas parties this year. On Christmas day, aside from visiting the boys, we spent the rest of img_20161225_100550250.jpgChristmas as home with Brinn’s parents in the morning, and my dad in the afternoon. Ian probably had his best Christmas yet. He is still overwhelmed with the amount of toys he received, and often has trouble deciding which to focus on first. His favorite gift probably was his new John Deere Gator, as he’s been asking for a Gator for months, and had begun saving his chore money to buy one himself at some point. He didn’t even wait for Grandpoppa to get out of the truck before he’d already scaled up the back and jumped into the truck bed to admire the coveted green Gator with a bed that dumps.

fb_img_1483557671108.jpgFrom Christmas, we moved onto birthday festivities for me, including a tasty trip to Joe’s Crabshack. FYI, the lobster pot pie is no longer on the menu 😦 After Joe’s it was on to the Music City Bowl in Nashville to see the Vols as they begin to even up the score against Nebraska. Nebraska last beat TN in 1999 in the Fiesta Bowl with a final score of 31-21.Before that was the Orange Bowl in 1997 with a dreadful score of 42-17. It’s nice to see the tide turning as TN finally has one up against the Cornhuskers. Give us one more matchup so we can finally be even. One after that and we can take the lead on this series.

As I write, I’m finishing off the last of our Christmas tamales from Marilyn, and realizing that I’ve already written 2016 on a date today. I still can’t believe that the holidays and 2016 are over. So in an effort to catch up to January, rather than bidding good riddance to 2016, I will instead eagerly anticipate what new adventures 2017 holds in store for the Kisers.

 

Posted in birthdays, Family, Friends, Holidays, Ian, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Horse and His Boy

img_20161024_171929158.jpgwpid-1026141627.jpgIf you happen to remember my posts from two years ago, Ian went through a short phase when he loved to get Reggie out and take short rides around the field on her. Despite Reggie’s stellar performances as a lead-liner, her size just made me too nervous. Letting Ian ride her required one adult at Reggie’s head, and another walking alongside Ian and holding on to him just in case the worst should happen. This required two adults to be present for every ride, and I still worried that somehow Ian may hit the ground from such a height. So we bought two Shetland ponies who had spent portions of their lives abroad.

After acquiring suitably sized mounts, Ian pretty much lost all interest in all things equine.shetlands Every now and then he would ask to play with the ponies, but more often he didn’t. When I would get the ponies out, Ian would always come pet them and maybe even lead one around for a little bit, but that was the extent of his interest. I had resigned myself to the fact that my kid doesn’t really care for horses, and that’s okay. Riding doesn’t have to be his thing. It’s my thing. Ian doesn’t have to share all of my hobbies. But then things changed. To start with, we lost the grey pony late this summer. In August he took a negative turn, and didn’t come out of it. Given his sudden change in coat texture and thickness, I’m guessing Cushing’s was the culprit.

Despite his recent lack of interest, we still expected Ian to feel sad about losing his pony, and worried a little about how to explain death to him. Fortunately Ian’s goldfish had died just a week earlier, giving us a great basis of comparison. Ian did seem disappointed that Sam had died, but was able to process the entire event really well for a kid. Maybe it has something to do with raising his own beef?

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Once a day I put a halter on Badger and pull him out of the fence for Ian. Ian runs the poor pony for laps around our yard and makes Badger run up and down the small hill by the basement door. Have you seen the old cartoons where the animated horse goes down a hill so steep he has to sit down and slide? This hill is not quite that steep, and it’s only about 6 feet long, but Badger comes close to sitting down. With this increased work load, and new strain to Badger’s hocks, we started Badger on joint supplements a few weeks ago. Now Ian’s daily chores include helping to feed his pony every morning. After I put Reggie in her pen, it’s Ian’s job to take Badger his feed pan with its tiny handful of grain with glucosamine and MSM sprinkled on top. He feels so important to provide his pony with breakfast, and has not tried to beg off when I’ve announced that it’s time to feed.

Badger has also found himself as the satisfied recipient of many carrots, lately. It’s a good img_20161024_171926729.jpgthing that Aldi frequently run sales for the big bag of carrots (sometimes as low as $0.50 per bag!) because we’re running through them! Often during his walks with Badger, Ian will decide that Badger is hungry and needs to take a break to eat some carrots. This may be why Badger now comes so willingly to the gate every time he sees a human walk out the back door.

Carrots are a universal favorite with our small herd, but unfortunately Reggie cannot have img_20161101_172706972.jpga treat unless she works for it. She gets a little too full of herself, otherwise. When I want an excuse to give her a carrot, I typically just get her to bend from side to side and to her chest to do her “carrot stretches.” Ian’s been watching Reggie’s carrot yoga, and has decided Badger should do this everyday as well. Earlier this week I caught him cranking his pony’s head around with a carrot. We had to have a little chat about not using the halter to deepen Badger’s stretching.

This week Ian has decided that he’s ready to start riding Badger more. The only problem is received_1088062377909492.jpegthat he made this decision on his own and didn’t wait for any help. Usually during his Badger time, I put Reggie in her small pen so that her big hooves are not a concern for a little boy. Yesterday Ian slipped out to the field on his own without telling Brinn what he was up to. I got a call at work later to explain the whole story. After a while, Brinn heard Ian yelling outside. Because Ian has become Mr. Bossy Britches, we’ve been trying to work with him on not yelling and expecting his parents to come to his beck and call. So Brinn ignored the yells…until he heard Ian say “Hey Daddy, look at me!” At this time Brinn flew out the back door fearing the worst. He found Ian sitting astride Badger…with no helmet, or shoes, bridle, or even a halter. I’m pretty sure this pony is trying single-handedly to reverse the naughty reputation that most ponies have worked hard to establish.

After equipping Ian with his helmet and some footwear, Brinn asked Ian how he managed to climb on his pony by himself. Ian was only too happy to demonstrate. There is a special place in heaven for this pony. I have even forgiven him for laying down and rolling in the dirt at Terri’s arena.

We may end up causing Badger to founder, but as far as I’m concerned, this pony can have as many carrots as he wants for the rest of his life. A few people have asked me what we’ll do with Badger when Ian outgrows him. We may consider letting some of our closest friends borrow Badger for a year or two when their little ones are ready for a pony, but otherwise Baimg_20161024_172327657.jpgdger will be in my field. He’s putting in a lot of overtime to count towards his retirement. I fully intend for the pony to be buried beside Reggie.
If you happen to come out anytime soon, Ian will be happy to introduce you to Badger. But be warned, Ian will ask if you want to hug Badger. And when you do, he’ll also insist that you have to give Badger a kiss when you hug him.

Posted in Farm Life, Ian, My Critters | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking on the Square

img_20161028_090830282.jpgSmall town charm is an idealized concept most often associated with places like Mayberry or Stars Hollow. Places we all wish we could visit, but they just simply don’t exist. While the most charming small towns may be fictional, Cookeville still has quite a bit of small charm to it, and last Friday even felt quite a bit like Stars Hollow might during one of Taylor Doose’s crazy town events. Of all the town events Cookeville hosts, none are quite as magical as Cooking on the Square.

img_20161028_084624273.jpgCooking on the Square does just what its title implies: folks come out to the court house square and they cook! This event serves as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity and manages to pull our entire community together as we all prepare, serve, and enjoy! The premise is simple: cook teams prepare giant pots of gumbo and/or soups and set up around the court house square to serve patrons.

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Image taken from CotS’s Facebook page

 

Patrons purchase a ceramic bowl for $20 as they enter the square, and for the next two and half hours, they roam from cook team to cook team enjoying as many tasty recipes as they can hold. For $20 they essentially get to enjoy an all you can eat buffet and take home a beautiful handmade bowl. The art students from the university begin shaping and glazing bowls months in advance, and even invite the public to come and help them during the “bowl-a-thon.”

 

Four years ago, the Special Event Coordinator for Athletics asked if I would be interested in running the CotS booth for Athletics while she was away on maternity leave. This was the first time I had even heard of Cooking of the Square. Marilyn and I put our heads together, developed img_20161028_090925738.jpga menu, and got to work. What a learning experience it was! We had a wonderful time cooking together and serving our black bean and sausage soup as well as green chili stew. When the next year rolled around, Mandy was back in the office full time and I was available to man a booth for A&B Taxidermy instead. Brinn and I decided that venison stew would make complete sense for a taxidermy shop to serve, and my grandmother decided to help us and volunteered to make her broccoli cheese soup. Kind of ironic for the taxidermy shop to serve one of the few vegetarian dishes at a food event, but it really worked for us!

This year made my fourth year of cooking at the courthouse square for Habitat, and our fb_img_1478100527689.jpgthird year for representing A&B Taxidermy. Unfortunately Grandma was traveling out of state and unable to attend for her 3rd year, but she left me with her giant soup pot and a handwritten recipe to follow. She also gave me plenty of phone advice on my way to the grocery store to pick up all of the ingredients. I’m not going to say my soup is as good as Grandma’s, but I will say that many people came back for seconds and thirds!

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Rnning low!

 

Brinn really enjoys convincing non-adventurous eaters to try deer meat for the first time. We get an interesting assortment of patrons to visit our tent during the event. Many of them initially come over for the broccoli soup, then begin asking questions about the deer meat and if it tastes anything like beef stew. Then of course we always have the deer hunters in the crowd who come barrelling over to get at the venison stew before we run out. We made about 3 gallons of the broccoli soup this year, and around 6 gallons of the

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Right before we ran out of Broccoli soup!

venison stew. We still ran out of both! This year, we ran out of the broccoli soup only 45 minutes into the event. I even marked it off of our chalkboard menu in front of our tent, and people still kept comiimg_20161028_102827922.jpgng by to see if we might have just a smidge left. Then we ran out of the venison stew just 30 minutes after that! This year we cooked 12 pounds of deer meat to go in that stew! I added 10
pounds of potatoes, two giant sacks of carrots, about 3 pounds worth of onions, two bags worth of celery, at least 5 quarts of beef broth, and countless bay leaves and garlic cloves to that giant pot. How did so much food disappear so quickly?!? The advantage of running out of soup so early was that we were free to pack up early and join the event as consumers. Brinn, Ian, and I were able to roam the street and eat our way from tent to tent until we were so full we thought we would burst.

 

img_20161028_103533882.jpgEven though I should’ve quit eating about 4 bowls earlier than I did, it was so much fun to try a little bit of everything. The Cajun potato soup with andouille sausage put a nice spicy twist on a longtime favorite of mine; the many gumbos were all hearty with a variety of spice levels; and the chicken tortilla soup gave me a nice break from the many Cajun dishes. One stand served nothing but buttery, garlicky sauteed shrimp. Typically there is a line wrapped all the way around an intersection for these shrimp, but for once we managed to walk by with no line, and man, we surely took advantage. Of all the great choices though, my favorite is still the shrimp and grits. I may have gone back to the shrimp and grits tent three times over the course of the afternoon…

img_20161028_095005421.jpgThis year Cooking on the Square celebrated its 20th birthday by shattering its previous records. The event raised an outstanding $69,284 and had an estimated 2,900 to 3,000 attendance. We learned at the cook team dinner and meeting that it takes roughly $90,000 to build a Habitat house. This one event was just shy of buildiimg_20161028_103620519.jpgng a home with its proceeds! CotS’s most recent Facebook post shared that the proceeds from CotS would be going towards building a home for a father and his daughter and would be ready by spring 2017 for them to move in. This is ministry folks. It just doesn’t get much better. A community of volunteers came together with their different skill sets, be it pottery, organizing, cooking,  selling tickets, or even eating; and together we are all helping local families achieve the dream of home ownership.

Come join us next year for CotS to see for yourself what it’s all about. Buy a bowl and enjoy
a bite with some good company, but be on the lookout. If you look closely, you may see Taylor Doose and Sheriff Taylor sharing a quick grin as they nod their approval over Cookeville’s success for maintaining our small town charm.

Jewel’s Broccoli Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 16 oz frozen (not fresh!!) broccoli
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 ounces American cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli and onions and boil for 12 minutes.
  2. Add all seasonings, put in shredded cheese until it melts.
  3. Add milk, cream, and butter.
  4. Heat until boiling (not rolling boil but hot).
  5. Add flour to cold water in a jar and shake to combine.
  6. Add flour slurry to the pot slowly and stir until the soup is the consistency of heavy cream.
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