All I Want for Christmas are Dead Balloons and a Twinkie


For the last several years I’ve written a Christmas story in some form. Some fiction – some fact and some a mixture of both. This year I am forgoing the Christmas story. No particular reason other than nothing has come to mind. Perhaps inspiration will pop into my head for New Years. If not New Years – maybe Valentine’s Day. Sure, why not…A Valentine’s Day story. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, though.

I’m not sure why I started writing a Christmas Story as opposed to a traditional Christmas Letter. Maybe it felt a little too narcissistic. I don’t feel that way when I receive Christmas Letters from others so I will assume it’s all in my head and will take the traditional route this year. I’ll try my best not to come off too self-absorbed, but really – when your kids have flown the nest and are scattered from here to Oklahoma…about the only things you have to talk about is yourself and your critters. It is what it is.

I’ll get the boring preliminaries over with first. I still work for the Oregon Department of Corrections. I work in Information Technology as an IT Security specialist…specializing in digital forensics and electronic discovery; “NERD” would take up less room on a name tag. I’ve been a State Employee for 20 years. Wow – never thought I would stick with anything for 20 years. That’s longer than my marriages, semi-serious and not –so-serious relationships combined. I’m not sure what that says about me other than I might be hard to get along with. I am who I am.

My “real” life bears no resemblance to my professional life. The closest I want to get to electronics away from work is the electronic eye timer during a mounted shooting event. Speaking of which, I took up mounted shooting about a year ago. I have no talents to speak of. I can’t sing – I can’t dance and I’m fairly certain my daddy don’t rock and roll. Mounted shooting seemed like a talent I might be able to possess with little effort. Guess again cowgirl.

I thought I’d be a natural. Having ridden almost as long as I’ve walked I consider myself a decent rider. I’ve shot some form of firearm near as long as I’ve been in the saddle. All you have to do is shoot at a latex balloon from 15 feet with what amounts to a shotgun blast. Who could miss? Me…that’s who. Not only can you miss – but you can look like a damn fool doing it.  I quickly learned that mounted shooting is the single most humbling sport on earth. It is also challenging, rewarding and as addictive as Twinkies at a Zombie Hoedown. I do love my Twinkies.

My horses and I covered 6 shoots in 4 states including Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana. We wrapped up the season with two first place wins and a buckle. After much frustration and a few tears along the way, things seem to be falling into place for us. I feel as if we improve with each run and look forward to next year’s shooting season.

I traded in my S&S cab-over camper for a Bison 3 horse slant gooseneck living quarters last fall. The difference in pulling a gooseneck as opposed to a bumper pull is night and day, not to mention eliminating the hassle of putting the camper on and off. Theoretically I can now hook up to the LQ, load up my two dogs and two horses and never return home. Yeah…like a gypsy. I like it.

When I’m not working or eradicating the world of rouge helium grade balloons – I can often be found somewhere out in the boonies with my horses and dogs. I use the term “found” rather loosely since 90% of the time I am hopelessly lost. A problem I remedied this year by purchasing a handy-dandy GPS. As much as I’ve come to love the sport of mounted shooting – my heart belongs in the backcountry – on the back of a horse at 3.2 MPH. That’s the average MPH my horses and I travel. I know this because of the handy-dandy GPS that logs my trail miles and average MPH.

I logged a total of 286.52 trail miles so far this year. Not terribly impressive when you consider a horse in good condition can travel 30 to 100 miles per day. I didn’t spend near as much time riding in the backcountry as normal due to my focus on mounted shooting. Something I plan to remedy next year. Most of my trail riding was done closer to home in shorter intervals – averaging 8 to 10 miles per trip. Admittedly, 286.52 miles in a years’ time isn’t much to write home about. However, one could envision the miles in a more adventurous way: I might have ridden all the way to Winnemucca Nevada in 3 days with time to stop off in Rome for a shot of Fireball and a Twinkie.

That’s pretty much my year in a nutshell. I worked – I rode and tried my hardest to leave a trail of dead balloons in my wake. It may not impress the average jet-setter traveling the globe – but, it’s what I do.

Most importantly, I have much to be thankful for. Good health, good horses and good dogs. I am thankful for my family and friends. Even though you are scattered from one end of this country to the other – I carry you close in my heart. I pray your life is as blessed and enriched as mine for knowing each and every one of you.

Merry Christmas.

Laurie, Jack, J’Lo, Shade and Hank the Ninja.


Stupid Women Drivers

You come upon two people, a man and a woman, standing beside a  tractor stuck in a ditch. Who would you assume was driving the tractor? The man, or the stupid woman driver?

Click here for the answer …