Tuesday, August 3, 2021

One person I miss

I have the best of friends around me here at this new home! I have my human Granny and Gruncle (is he a grandpa? Is he an uncle? I'm not sure), I have a horse companion beside me and two other horse companions a little further down the row, and I have a wonderful assortment of ponies, miniature horses, and miniature mules darting about and making adorable little sounds with their adorable little faces at all hours of the day and night. It's really quite lovely. I have chickens and rabbits and cats to befriend, and I have visits from the Woman and her blue dog. 

My friend Scotty, who lives on my right, is a wise old chestnut with a soothing presence. My friend Cadbury, who lives on my left, is a fiery miniature stallion (a rescue, for whom gelding was medically contraindicated) who ensures our life is never boring. 

I miss one person from the boarding barn—a sweet little girl who was the very first person I came to trust in that new place. She was kind to me from the outset, and could always be counted on for a treat and a currying if my own human wasn't available to attend me. 

Perhaps she can come visit me at my new home one day. I will ask my human Granny to prepare a picnic! I should let her taste my new salt block—it's really, really delicious. In fact, I like it so much that I am going to be getting some loose salt so that I can have even more sodium in my diet without wearing out my poor tongue! 

Tunefully yours,

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Scoop on Bird

 Human here, to give you the scoop on Songbird.

He is shiny, sweet, and wonderful . . . and a little bit broken hearted. (Fenway was once, too.) As I've gotten to know him more over the last month, I've come to understand that he associates humans with unpleasantness, at least, and suffering, at worst. He has some gnarly scars. He flinches away from touch, though he warms up quickly when treats are involved. He's quite a foodie. He's easily startled. He's alert, and vigilant. He doesn't always feel safe.

He also really likes it at my mom's house, which has a slower pace than the wonderful boarding and lesson barn where he lived in June. He appreciates the predictable routine, the long quiet afternoons, and the retired horses who give him company. He has flattened the grass under the big cedar out back and created nests to rest in. The soft footing at my mom's is better for his newly bare feet. He is starting to believe he'll be ok. 

I have ridden him twice—once when I bought him, where I rode just long enough to tell that he was trained and obedient. Once about three weeks later, for just a few minutes, while I experimented with saddle fit. My saddle fits him nicely, but I don't think his head is in the right space for being ridden. I am going to wait until he looks forward to seeing me—and trusts me to touch him, catch him, lead him out the gate and down the trail for adventures—and then he and I will discuss whether he would like to be a saddle mule. 

I am so very happy I bought him—he is a goodhearted, beautiful boy and he deserves years of happiness after his years of toil. I think we are going to be very good friends indeed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

My new home

I moved in with my grandmother! I think she's my grandmother. She's the mother of the woman who looks after me. I am told that this will be my permanent home until the woman buys me some acreage of my own. 

It is not hard to be patient here . . . this place features equine companionship, delectable grasses, rural privacy, and access to trails that I have yet to explore. I have met the DOG, who I'm told is the woman's other best friend, and he is open to going adventuring with me. I am content, and grateful for this grandmother's hospitality.

Ears to you,


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Meeting the Family

The woman introduced me to my Auntie today—I am not sure how we're related, and we don't have much of a family resemblance except in our temperaments, but if the woman says this hoof trimmer is part of my family then I am willing to take her word for it! She says, "she's your Auntie in spirit, Bird," which I thought meant that she would be my Auntie even if I were dead, but which the woman says means that we are not actually related. 

My Auntie trimmed my hooves and told me they are going to be A-OK. She complimented me on my fine face and my kind eyes and my generally pleasant demeanor. She gave me a low-sugar mule cookie and she told me I would be fine. 

This Auntie is famous from Fenway Bartholomule's blogging days, and I am happy to say that I, too, received a wonderful mani-pedi! https://www.braysofourlives.org/2015/02/mani-pedi.html

Friday, July 9, 2021

A short little song


This is a very short little song, but it's long enough for you to get a sense of my technique and range. Listen for the little chirps at the end, which the woman finds so endearing. There's good reason my new name is Songbird!


Monday, July 5, 2021

Pearly Whites

Dr. H, Equine Dentist to the Stars, came out today and polished my pearly whites. I know you know I've been excited, so let me just break the bad news to you first—she didn't give me a choice of toothpaste flavors, and I didn't get a toothbrush or a sticker to keep afterwards. I did get some compliments, though, so it wasn't all bad!

I was a little nervous at first. Watching my friend Bongo stagger out of there, drooling, like he'd just been KO'd by a prize fighter . . . that made me a little nervous. Watching Dr. H adjusting her rolling cart of torture implements . . . that made me a little nervous. Watching Dr. H and her trusty assistant greet me kindly, and listen to my heart and lungs, and tell me I was lovely . . . that put me at ease. So at ease, in fact, that I voluntarily walked into the WEIRDEST situation I think I have ever encountered. 

First, they must have injected me with something—I barely felt the needle, but I sure felt the effects! The woman—my new friend—was there. She said, "I'll keep an eye on you, Bird," which helped. I was in no position to keep an eye on myself. 

When I was so loopy I could barely stand, they had me rinse and spit. Then, they put my head on a padded stand and commenced to literally FILE MY TEETH WITH POWER TOOLS! I kid you not! Yes, I'm yelling. 

I never cease to be amazed at the weird things humans can think up! Maybe they want me to have a smile that aligns more with American beauty standards now that I'm a famous blogger? I am not sure that's the reason, as I don't get a superficial vibe from this new woman. Maybe it has something to do with wanting me to have fresher breath, preparing me to do more author appearances?  

Dr. H evened up my smile in the front, then tuned up my molars—lefts and rights, tops and bottoms. I never knew I had so much extra tooth material in there. After she had ground all my sharp bits to dust, she had me rinse and spit again. I love this shiny clean tooth feeling, and my cheeks are feeling better than ever. I didn't realize how rough my teeth had gotten, but now I think I can chew more comfortably than before. Come to think of it, maybe that was the goal all along? Comfort, and chewing efficiency?

Dr. H and the woman took a good look at my worst scar—a 2 centimeter-long gash in my lip and gum. It sits a little forward of where a bit would go, and although I'm still a little touchy about the memory of pain it has healed as well as can be expected. Although it goes all the way down to the bar, near the root of an adjacent tooth, it doesn't seem to have caused any bone or tooth damage. They talked about my past, and my future, and the idea of trying me in something called a "hackamore". 

Dr. H called me a "good boy" and said I was easier to sedate than some mules—attributable in part to my Missouri Fox Trotter mother, perhaps, as that's a breed that apparently responds nicely to sedation. 

I am starting to feel more alert now, and ready for lunch. I will let you know how these new improved biting surfaces work! 

Ears to you,


Saturday, July 3, 2021

This is my "I wanted a massage" face


This woman, my new friend, is of the admirable opinion that part of being a friend to a mule is providing him with all the things he needs to help his body feel good—balanced hoof care, tooth floating, good nutrition, veterinary care, and—for a mule who moves a little out of balance, with some funny feelings in his hindquarters—body work from equine massage therapists. I had an appointment to have my muscles worked over by just such a therapist the other day, but it didn't work out. 

In all fairness, it wasn't quite an appointment. It was more of a, "if you have time, I know you're busy, could you stop by?" plan. So maybe it was a wish, rather than a plan. But in any case, it was a thing that was possibly going to happen and then it didn't happen and I got stuck with an average, run-of-the mill currying instead of the hot stone massage I expected. 

I did get my shoes pulled, which is progress, and I am still going to see the dentist on Monday. If they give me a choice of flavors for my toothpaste or fluoride treatment, I will ask for Carrot Cake.


P.S. My new Fetching Tag came! The reverse side says "GusBird" and our phone number, but I am not allowed to share that side since I am only 13 and the woman says it isn't safe for teenagers to post their phone numbers on the internet. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Interview questions

The woman had a lot of interview questions for me when we met—simple questions, like "do you like ear rubs?" and "do you permit yourself to be moved hither and thither in a horse trailer?", but also complex questions like, "do you move with eager curiosity into deep dark forests and around mysterious bends?" and, "will you mind if I sometimes forget myself and call you Gussykins?" 

I assured her that yes, I do indeed move with eager curiosity! I do indeed permit myself to be moved in horse trailers, and I do indeed like ear rubs rather a lot. I do even permit myself to be called Gussykins, or Snuffy, or even Boopsnoot. 

Today, we went out on our first ever hike on the trails behind this boarding stable. The trails were very enticing, promising all manner of adventures. We are not yet going riding together, as the woman is of the opinion that I need my feet trimmed and my general wellbeing assessed before attempting athletic feats. I have a funny habit of stretching my left hind leg from time to time, and also a funny feeling in my mouth that she says is caused by "hooks," and will be better on Monday. I feel for the fish!

I'm glad she didn't ask me to explain the difference between dialectical and historical materialism during the interview, or to tell her my typing speed. Let me tell you—it is S.L.O.W. Much better now that I have her transcription assistance. 

In memory of the late Fenway, I wish this for you: my your hay be sweet and abundant. May your trails be smooth and scenic. May your friends be as nice as me, and as Fenway Bartholomule. 

"Ears to you," as the old man would say! 


P.S. I offered to pose next to several beautiful varieties of poisonous flowers, but she told me we did not yet have that level of trust in our relationship. Instead, she let me pose next to these delicious grasses. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Will I get a toothbrush?

There is an equine dentist coming to see me on Monday! I’m told that seeing the dentist is a normal thing for a mule to do, but this will be my first time. I hope I don’t need braces! I’ll let you know how it goes. 

I hear some dentists give out toothbrushes, or even stickers. Do you think I can ask for a sticker, or is that silly for a teenager like me? 

Shinefully yours, 


Monday, June 28, 2021

Oven Island

They told me I was moving to an island. I pictured mai tais and sea breezes and delicious grass skirts. I pictured heat. Then, they told me, "no, Gus. It is not that kind of island. On this island there are rocky shores and bunny rabbits and cool mossy pathways under giant cedar trees." 

I'm cool, I go with the flow. Cool mossy pathways sound delicious too! I was all for this new kind of island.

Well, I am here now and I can tell you there are no mai tais. There are no sea breezes. There are no delicious grass skirts, although there are some delicious grass meadows. The rocks on the shore are 300 degrees in the sun. The bunny rabbits have all fainted from the heat and the cool mossy pathways under giant cedar trees are being desperately watered by concerned stewards. 

The only member of the family who really likes this 100+ degree heat is the avocado tree (pictured), who has finally moved out of the window and onto the porch for the first time in her short life. She seems to be loving it. 

As for me, I recently got paired up with this big roan, L., for turnout (after the day this photo was taken, we were moved from adjacent fields into the same field). He's a youngster, so perhaps I can use my wisdom and maturity to guide him into the shade while he uses his colossal shadow to afford me extra protection. Everyone at the barn is being quite accommodating, moving all of us hither and thither throughout the day in pursuit of the best shady spots. 

Stay cool, 


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Short, Dark, and Handsome


When I first moved into this boarding barn, people were asking three primary questions: 

1) do you understand electric fencing? 

2) how long might you stay? 

3) will your name stay "Gus"? 

Now that folks have had a few days to get to know me, I'm steeling myself for new questions: 

1) how can we avoid burning our eyes on your blinding SHINE? 

2) will our mares ever settle down with someone so short, dark, and handsome in their midst? 

3) can I have a recording of your tuneful bray to use as my ringtone? 

I think I like these people and I'm almost certain they like me.

Yours cutely,


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Mule: 1. Danger String: 0.

The fences here are made of danger string, but I've got it figured out. There's a roan horse beside me, and when he touched the danger string it bit him. Here's where the story gets strange: he backed away, and it did not pursue. Though it is clearly predatory, I think it is rooted in place—it may be some kind of carnivorous plant. 

Thank goodness that's established. Now that I understand that the fences are a look-but-don't-touch affair, I get daily turnout in a lovely grassy field. My neighbors are getting used to my unsettling handsomeness and my soprano voice (not unlike this guy's).   

I was supposed to get a pedicure today but thanks to some inconveniences related to this being an island (which I think means we're floating at sea?) I got a nice massage and some clicker loading training instead. I have begun to understand that when the new woman accidentally makes an unfortunate clicking sound with her mouth, she follows it immediately with a gift of snacks as some form of apology. 

Finally, I met an admirer—a friend of the woman's—who came aaaaalll the way across the valley to meet me. The fact that she did it in a car, in under five minutes, makes it a no less generous use of her time. Thank you, A, for the delightful visit! 



Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Introducing myself

Pictured, the boopable snoot for which I am known.

I am Songbird Sparrowgrass. If that’s not to your taste, you may call me GusBird Boopsnoot. Some call me Gus, or Bird. I am in between families right now, and in between names. I like this new family, and I think I shall stay. 

I grew up in Kentucky, where I pulled wagons and carried riders. You can see me doing those things here, on a YouTube page maintained by someone I once knew. I don’t like the word owner, so let’s not call him that. 

I lived in Rochester, Washington for the past year, where I learned that donkeys are friends and that horse shoes can be put on in a number of ways, including sideways (see below). That family was kind to me, but they didn’t provide me with a Blogger account or the services of a transcriptionist. This new gig seems to be a bit of a promotion, since it includes established social media accounts, the shiny new url "braysofourlives.org", plus meals and accommodations. 

This move, for me, is more personal than professional: I am now a member of the Jackson-Bartholomule family. I’m told that there was another mule here, also shiny and brown (purely by coincidence) and also good with words (somewhat by design). I’ve seen his pictures, and seen that he, like I, had a kind eye that told of hardship and of trust. There’s a third mule somewhere in the mix: not deceased, but living away at a boarding camp of some sort. Her name is Miss Teaspoon and though I’ve not met her I’ve been asked to assure readers that she is quite well. 

The Brays Of Our Lives empire, such that it is, is mine if I want it. I think I will try this blogging thing on for size and see if it suits me—and please, dear reader, let me know if it suits you too. 



Monday, June 21, 2021

A new face in town

This blog has been through a lot of changes: first it was Fenway's Brays of Our Lives, then it was my Puddle Run, then it was the two of them smashed together, then it was Notes from the Ark, and now it's Brays of Our Lives again, but with a twist: there's a new blogger in town. 

I'll let him introduce himself as soon as he's good and ready. In the meantime, I will tantalize you with this: he's 14.3 hands tall, 13 years old, and in possession of the most splendiferous ears and the most boopable snoot. He joined our family yesterday, on Summer Solstice, 3 years and 19 days after we lost my dear Fenway. 

It feels good to have a mule in my life again. 

Ears to you,

(Pictured: the new kid in a pipe corral paddock, since it seems that in his 13 years he has not yet learned about electric fencing. He is currently boarded at a place where he'll need to know about danger string. We will work on it.) 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Cast of Characters: II of V (house tigers)


You may recall that when we lived on Bent Barrow Farm, Fenway Bartholomule was astounded by the fact that we kept little tigers in our house. Those ferocious felines—majestic Desmond and comical Townes—have both sadly passed away, but about four years ago two new wonderful cats entered our lives. 

While we did not know them when they were small, we did recently receive this kitten photo from their first family:

I'll wait a moment while you recover from the cuteness.




Carrying on . . . Milo is a dog in a cat suit, a burly fluff ball, a Saint Bernard with a feline figure. If he were a human he'd probably look like James Corden and walk around in cute slouchy sweaters. He has 9 of 9 lives remaining, and plans to spend 8 of them lounging in bed and 1 of them chasing twist ties under the refrigerator. 

Tiger is a cattish cat, regal and poised in almost every way. He has used up at least 3 of his 9 lives and holds the record in our family for most hospitalizations, both by admission count and consecutive days of inpatient treatment. Thanks to the deft surgical skill and loving attention of his vet, Dr. Reiter, he is back with us to live out his remaining 6 lives in relative peace and quiet (paws crossed)! 

Cats are not the sort of creature I go out of my way to find, but I sure am glad these two found me. There's a certain dignified muleness about them that I can really respect. One might even call them purrfect. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Cast of Characters: I of V (Doggos)

Humans, meet Bleu. Bleu, meet humans. 

Bleu is diplomacy in action—a real mule among dogs. He came here from Texas in October 2020, seamlessly integrating into the family. He has not yet put a paw wrong, but he HAS put a tooth wrong—he has chewed a TV remote, several leashes and harnesses, two tasty shoes, several couch cushions, and the interior of one Honda SUV. He is now closely supervised most of the time, which suits him just fine and seems to be the solution to his destructive chewing. 

Bleu is half Australian Cattle Dog, half Australian Shepherd—otherwise known as a Texas Heeler. 

Russell, pictured here with the late, great Brodie, is energy incarnate. 

Russell has become considerably more grown up during our lull in blogging. He is now a seven year-old perma-puppy. He has moved from 100% Chance of Stranger Danger Mode to 25% Chance of Stranger Danger Mode, which means he can make friends with—or at least entertain the concept of making friends with—three quarters of the men, women, children, dogs, and hoofpeople he encounters. He remains healthy, hearty, and adorable, and he still counts Prancing, Smiling, and Eating Sand Fleas among his Grade A skills. 

Russell is a miniature pinscher/flying squirrel cross.

Clover has been part of the Brays of Our Lives family since the early days, and she has become a decade older and about 45% chubbier since she joined us at the tender young age of 11 months. She is now about 11 years old.

Do you remember that Fenway Bartholomule mistook Clover for a weasel the first time he met her? And do you remember she used to leap from the ground to my stirrup, and then up into the saddle, when she was a young trail explorer? Now, she is on a strict diet to restore her ability to leap effortlessly from the floor to the couch. 

Clover is mostly chihuahua, possibly mixed with fruit bat and/or meatloaf.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

My Muse

When you establish your writing career by channelling a mule, you set yourself up for a dilemma: how to go on when the blogger outlives the mule?

If you're reading this blog, there's a solid chance you found me through Fenway Bartholomule. From 2008 to 2015 or so, he was my muse as we successfully co-authored the blog Brays of Our Lives (the archives live on at www.fenwaybartholomule.blogspot.com). You may also know that he died unexpectedly at the age of 23, one day before my 39th birthday. 

I miss Fenway every day—the smell of his breath, the sound of his hoofsteps, the flick of his ears, the warmth of his hide. I also miss the easy flow of banter, the effortless way I guessed at what he might write if his hoofies could use a keyboard. I miss the unique perspective I was able to take when I had his voice in my ear. When I wrote Brays of Our Lives, I wasn't just pretending to be Fenway—I was picking something up and letting it flow through me. I could let it flow now if I tried, but what good is a blog from a dead mule? I'm not sure that's called for now. 

 So how does one continue when one has lost one's muse? I tried telling about life from the rabbit's point of view, but she lacked Fenway's innocence. I tried telling about life from the dog's point of view, but he lacked Fenway's dignity. I tried telling about life from my own point of view, but the human concerns were too present. This was never intended to be a blog about a writer's life, about paying the mortgage, about balancing work and family. It was intended to be a blog about scenic trails, succulent grasses, and the shiny wonderment of being present. That was part of Fenway's magic—he was absolutely unconcerned with anything past or future, and didn't forecast beyond the next flake of hay.  

I will have mules again, and until then I rest in the knowledge that Fenway's friend Arrietty is safe and adored in her long-term care lease home. I enjoy my house herbivores—two guinea pigs named Trent and Kirby—and I save for acreage of my own. My daughters, whom Fenway called the "larval humans", are grown or nearly so, and our life at Bent Barrow Farm is a memory, but the time I spent there as Fenway's "Farmwife" helped make me the person I am today. 

I still have—and love—the day job that brought me from Wickersham to Whidbey, but I sense something else welling up in me—the very strong urge to write about Fenway. I am so grateful for my years with Fenway Bartholomule, and that is a story worth telling. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

I dream of writing

Pictured: Bleu, our recently-adopted Texas Heeler (ACD/Aussie mix)

 I've always been a good dreamer, and lately I've been dreaming with an almost exhausting level of detail and complexity. For a couple of weeks now, I've been dreaming about writing books—sometimes my memoir-in-progress, sometimes whole novels, sometimes opening paragraphs, and once an entire sci-fi trilogy (dreamed over the course of three nights). I literally wake up in the morning feeling as though I've written a book, or feeling ready to write a book, sometimes with specific lines or paragraphs running through my head. I think my subconscious is nudging me to get on my writing projects. As a not-morning-person, I'm wondering something: does this mean I should get up earlier and write? 

Also, I woke up Friday morning with some weird affirmation running clearly through my mind: "I am committed to excellence." Not a phrase I ever remember reading, thinking, or saying in my waking life. I went on to have a below-average, not-so-productive Friday. However, I followed it up with an EXCELLENT weekend and now I have an EXCELLENT feeling about adding writing to my daily routine. (And exercise! Excellence calls for exercise.)

These books that want to be written are going to be good.

P.S. I really, REALLY, reeeeaaaaalllly miss my mule boy. I think I have a mule in my future (no particular mule yet) and so I've decided to take back the name "Brays of Our Lives". Notes from the Ark never took off, and I don't know that I'll live in this Ark much longer.