Rain Rain Go Away

It’s been a wet summer here in central North Carolina. Really wet. Freakin’ wet. This is how my neighborhood park looked yesterday afternoon.

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I got caught in the  downpour coming back from Flintrock Farm, where I was ministering to Mystic. He’s mysteriously lame on his front left foot/leg. Boarders are saying most of the horses have waterlogged hooves, and he probably stepped on a stone and bruised it. I’m giving it a little more time before I freak out. He’s also had a cough, cuts, and has developed a sour attitude due to complicated herd dynamics.

Driving home yesterday in rain as thick as a waterfall, I leaned forward, squinted, and held the steering wheel tighter. None of these actions made any real difference, except they made me feel a little more in control. I passed downed trees, sparking power lines, and screaming fire engines and police cars. I drove through a two-foot flash flood in my tiny car, tightening my hands even more on the wheel. We made it through.

This morning I set out to see the impromptu lake in my local park. The water had receded and the little park creek was back to its small, innocuous trickle.

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Although this soggy summer (the most rainfall in Greensboro since 1908!) has not been my favorite, I’m working on merging the attitude of my incurably optimistic father with my own understanding that everything is always in flux.

Friends at the barn are helping me with Mystic. Elizabeth gave me some horse Ibuprofen and balm for Mystic’s bug bites. Alicia offered antibiotic ointment for a stubborn cut. Margaret put fly spray on him last week, and Angela has been taking what I call “nanny cam” photos of him. Farrier James Hunter trimmed Mystic’s hooves at a moment’s notice and carefully checked for potential sources of lameness. I’m blessed to have such good, caring people around me.

And all those rainy days mean the sun has to start shining soon.

Mystic the dream horse

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Uncle Sam’s Gift

This post has nothing to do with horses and everything to do with joy. It’s a tribute to my great uncle Sam Hinton, a folk singer and marine biologist who brought joy to multitudes during his 92 years of life. His legacy lives on through the annual Sam Hinton Folk Festival in San Diego.

Folksinger and biologist Sam Hinton

Folk singer and biologist Sam Hinton

I’ve been thinking about Uncle Sam during these hot July days, remembering him playing his guitar and singing on the deck of our summer cabin in Indiana. It was the mid-1970s, and he had come to Crawfordsville to perform a community concert and visit our family. He’d been a kindly quasi-big brother to my mother, who raised us on his classic Folkways album, Whoever Shall Have Some Good Peanuts. She often sang us to sleep with “Old Boastun Was Dead”—not standard lullaby fare for most children, but a memorable way to drift off.

I wish I could put that long-ago summer evening in a glass jar and keep it on my windowsill. But—like fireflies and guitar strums—its beauty lies in its ephemerality. Uncle Sam’s voice, liquid, warm, with a hint of mischief, flowed in time with the nearby creek. He good-naturedly honored requests for our favorites—“Michael Finnigan,” “The Frog Song,” “The Green Grass Growing All Around”—and startled my little sister with an unexpected BOO! in “Little Old Woman All Skin and Bone.”

But what I remember most is sitting next to Uncle Sam on the cabin deck before he began singing. I looked out and saw a brownish creek and woods. He pointed to a log and said, “Look, there’s a box turtle.” Then he showed me a downy woodpecker high in a tree and a northern water snake slithering against the current. It was an early lesson in awareness.

My other enduring memory comes from a childhood trip to California. We stopped to visit Uncle Sam, who treated us to a concert in his kitchen. He played several instruments simultaneously while juggling eggs. That’s how I remember it, anyway. I don’t recall whether he dropped an egg. It doesn’t matter, really. The point he was making is to approach life with a sense of adventure and silliness. And timing.

The album that shaped my childhood

The album that shaped my childhood

A few years ago Smithsonian Folkways issued DVDs and downloads of Uncle Sam’s albums, making his music accessible for rising generations as well as old fans like myself. I may currently be the only person in Greensboro, North Carolina, loudly singing “The Barnyard Song” in my car, but I hope you’ll join me.

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Visit the Sam Hinton website.

Listen to a 2009 NPR “All Things Considered” interview with Sam’s daughter, Leanne Hinton.

Watch Sam Hinton perform “The Barnyard Song” at a 1988 children’s concert.