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I do hate when I have to get my mean out

Kentucky Horse Park – Part 2 

 

I can make more kids cry before nine o’clock than most people do all day

Would you like to pet her? I ask the young boy. It’s ok. Her name is Euka.

I gotta admit, the one thing that consistently brings a sadness in my heart is to see little kids afraid of
dogs. Sure, I understand that there are families, and plenty of them, that are missing the glory of a good dog included in their clan. A personal choice made for a myriad of reasons. So we do encounter the occasional wee one that has no idea of even how to greet or pet a dog. But holy cow, these kidlets that have a fear of dogs already wired into their psyche, well it twists my heart a little.

So I see this boy, around eight years old, stop short in front of Euka and just look at her.  Euka and I are in the great room at a Lexington hotel awaiting the nieces as they finish their breakfast. The girls and I seemed to decide on breakfast as the precise time as every other guest here, so nearly every table is occupied. But no matter, I’m fine with parking myself in one of the comfy wingback chairs near the entrance of the room where the pup and I can people watch. The princess is granting audience to a handful of admirers and just doing a stellar job of it.

Ain’t nobody crying here.

Then this boy. T-shirt and shorts and barefoot. I have no warning bells going off yet, but afterwards when I debrief myself on what went wrong here and how fast it happened, I realize this is the point where I missed some important clues.

Even though he came running into the hotel lobby with a burst of adolescent energy, he is gentle with Euka, patting her on the head, stroking her on her back. I look up expecting to see a parent or two behind him, trying to catch up with their energetic child. But nope, this barefoot boy is left to make his own life decisions this morning. He darts back into the hotel proper as quickly as he came in.

I’m talking with another family and fielding questions about CCI as the boy returns. But he brought younger companions with him- another boy around five and a toddler wearing nothing but a wet diaper. And yep, you guessed it … no adults.

Using the prior permission granted to pet Euka, he extends this admission to the other boys before I have a chance to react.  They descend on her, hands everywhere in an instant. Ugh, this is not good and I tense up. Boys, I say. Only one person at a time, ok? And gentle, see? Pet her the same direction her fur lies. Like this . . .

All for naught, that. In an instant, they’ve lost interest in the pup and are now running, the three of them, back and forth across the entrance of the great room. One kiddo actually leaps over Euka as she lies by my feet. Euka, my brave girl, has been totally fine with the goings-on until 3 … 2 … 1 … Let’s Play! She’s inspired to join the excitement and breaks her Down in an attempt to join the sprint race happening before her.

I’ve got her settled back into her Down, but now safely stowed to the side of my chair, when a Styrofoam bowl holding about six flakes of cereal is set before her. Ah, the toddler has managed to help himself to the breakfast buffet. Well, that’s great, having such life skills before the age of three. Miss Euka, who indeed is accustomed to eating from a bowl placed before her, reaches her nose to sniff at the goodness of this gift.  Bonus points to me for reacting quickly enough to grab the bowl to hand it back to the oldest boy  and telling him to throw it away.

I don’t like to do it, it’s not my nature you know. But I had to get my mean out. It is way too early in the day to deal with this crap.

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the oldest boy is now shouting at the diapered toddler. Telling him, and this is a quote, you can’t feed cereal to a dog because it has sugar it in and that’s poison and you kill dogs that way. To ensure the tiny fella gets this message clearly, he continues to shout the same message over.  And over.  Diaper boy runs behind a chair to work this through his head. Which apparently can’t be done without a goodly amount of shrieking.

Oh hey, guess what happens now.  A responsible adult shows up.  Naw, just kidding.  But she may have been an older sister or something. I see she does have shoes on, so I’m starting to have some hope that we’ll reach the end of this tsunamic drama soon.

Why’s he crying? she asks. The tale of attempted assassination of dog by sugar poisoning is shared and without a word or glance our way, she stomps over to grab the tiny fella by the arm, yanks him from behind the chair and drags his damp diapered self through the hotel lobby.  The shrieks continue to echo down the corridor.

Way to go, Aunt Donna. says a niece. Yeah, nice one, says the other.

Thanks, girls. Hey, I made a little kid cry before nine o’clock, I say. It’s all downhill from here.

Ok, here’s the thing. We can’t change people, right? We’re always at risk of encountering situations that can quickly escalate out of control. The worst part of the scene I’ve described went from 0 to OMG in less than two minutes.  What I can change is bumping up my awareness of these potential sketchy encounters and how, or even if, I allow the pup to be greeted.

We want to be good ambassadors for CCI, we really do. It’s a noble goal, I think, to have every encounter with my pup in training to end on a positive note. So, this out-of-control kid encounter has me rather bugged.

So here ya go, world. I gotta put a harness on this soft and spongy heart of mine. It’s for the greater good, you know. A couple of changes that seem simple enough and yet will make a difference.

Things like making sure there’s an adult supervising the young ones; shoes are optional. And instead of allowing Euka to be petted, she could be asked to shake hands. A polite no, not right now; the puppy is working will pass my lips more often.

Easy ’nuff, all that. But now for the hardest one … I have to get my mean out a lot quicker before we hit Situation Meltdown. Yep, this sure feels better than being smacked in the back of the head for my prior lenient behavior.

There’s no crying at the horse park

Photo op with Kentucky’s finest.

The nieces, the puppy and I pack our bags to leave the drama of the morning behind us. Day Two of our Kentucky Horse Park adventures await. There’s fun to be had and we’re determined to find us some.

We have the pleasure of meeting up with the Kentucky Mounted Patrol for a photo op. One officer shares a story of his sister who has a disability.  With both lupus and a seizure disorder, she is partnered with a seizure alert dog. Her dog alerts her prior to her seizures, allowing her time to place herself into a safe situation. He used the word independence when describing the partnership of his sister and her assistance dog. And you know, it seems every time I hear this word, it has an even deeper meaning.

More equine exposure for Euka’s socialization as we walk about the horse park.  Horses of the World is an educational experience for all of us as we pet the velvety noses of Norwegian Fjords, Morgans, Friesians [swoon],  Shetland ponies, Clydesdales and their global kin.

  


Observing Horses of the World at a safe
distance from their non-business ends.



Euka asked me to take a photo of the
 lovely Belle and her hot pink Gentle Leader.
Because, Euka says, Belle is copying
her style.  She’s a trend setter, you know.

Ok, so I don’t know if this obstacle course below was set up for dogs or for miniature horses, but there’s no difference for the likes of us.  We put Euka through the paces pretty much just to show off.  A crowd of folk were sitting on a set of bleachers by the course. It’s my guess the lot of them were just happy to find a place in the shade for a few minute’s rest with their lunches. But hey, we took the opportunity to show them the stuff of a CCI pup for a couple of minutes. Dinner and a floor show, folk. No charge.

You’re welcome, ya’ll.



Euka demonstrates an Up.
And a lovely Jump over the hurdle.

I take note that I’m not the only one snapping photos of the canine derring-do. Huh. Spectators are shooting the scene as well.  My Uh-Oh radar goes off when I see a young fella step aside from the bleachers to get some closer shots and I suspect that perhaps the puppy is not the object of his attention.

Alrighty, girls. I say, giving the fella what I intend to be a maternalish stink-eye look. That’ll do for now. You wanna go check out the Mounted Patrol horse barn again?

No boys in sight.  You know, this trip was so much easier on the mind when these girls were younger.

Wordless Wednesay: The Very Hungry Jockey

Euka II as my muse

So, I’m thinking about writing a children’s book titled The Very Hungry Jockey.

You know, right? Like how jockeys are on such a strict diet regimen so they can be as lightweight as possible to stay competitive for horse racing.  Just enough nutrients go down the gullet so as not to pass out during a race. Hey, I read Seabiscuit. So I know how this kind of thing goes down, people.

Maybe the sub-title could be Let’s Count Our Fingers.  Because it could be both an educational story as well as a cautionary tale.

Oh hey, I just Googled the title and didn’t get any hits*. Dang, this could be my gateway book into the big time of being a published author.  I’m feeling inspired, y’all.

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*However, my search results did come up with the phrase I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the jockey.  Heh, never heard that one before, not the chase the jockey part anyway. 

Princess of Confidence Town: Population 1

Kentucky Horse Park – Part 1

I’ll be in my office if you’re looking for me.

Why do you call her Princess? asks my niece, Morgan. 

I look down at Miss Euka.  Did I just call her that? I ask.

Ah, I realize that, yes this is indeed true. And giving myself a moment to ponder, it comes to me that our petite puppy even responds to her girly-girl nickname. Heh, guess I should be checking that little habit.

I call her Princess, I say. because she walks around with an air of inflated self-entitlement.  

Another Euka truism.  We have us here a remarkably confident pup and a girl comfortable in her own skin and coat. She steps into every situation with an attitude of one who grants audience to her people. 

Whatever y’all were doing before, says Euka.  You can stop.  I’m here now.

But before you fully form the thought that I’ve created a monster, I want to say that this is not my fault. Wait, no, what I mean is that as a volunteer puppy raiser I would much rather deal with an confident and dominant pup than one with fear issues to overcome.  Our Miss Euka has shown us from the very beginning that she is ready to embrace all that life has to offer, hasn’t she? 

Bring it on, says Euka.  And keep it coming.

Well, so far we’ve taken on shops, restaurants, grocery stores and countless budget meetings in the office. What’s next on the socialization list for this pup in training?

How ’bout horses and lots of ’em?  The nieces and I had packed our gear into the Toyota for our annual road trip to the Kentucky Horse Park. And because things are always more interesting when you include a dog, we toss Euka into the back seat to transport her to her first equinotic encounter.

Now I’ve been making this horse park trip for twelve or  thirteen years or so and the nieces have been my cohorts for the past few. Aunt Donna’s only rule for the horse park adventure is you must be at least eight years old. Oh, and it helps if you like horses. That one’s not a hard and fast rule, but it seems like you’d have a much better time since Horse is all you’re gonna see, hear and smell for two entire days.

CCI pups are exempt from these rules, of course.* Despite what Euka thinks, she really doesn’t have a say in the decision.  Her participation is mandatory, however I will leave it up to her on whether she enjoys the company of horses. Actually, I was pretty darn curious to see how she takes in these noble beasts. Could it be possible that our princess may get an equine assisted attitude adjustment?

I’m thinking we should start small and build up with this horse exposure experience. Let’s just walk around and soak up some sights and smells and Ack, Euka don’t!, I cry.  Road apples, those sweet manure treasures, are sending out their siren’s call in wafting waves of sensory temptations.  As I redirect Euka’s attention from a steaming hay brownie, a quarter horse with rider passes by on clomping hooves. 

Well, so much for starting small. The horse is close enough to touch in his casual pass by. I see Euka give the fella a once over, from hooves to both heads, and pretty much give the scene a dog shrug as she looks back to the delicacy baking on the pavement. I could take him, she says. With one paw tied behind my back.  No fur off her back, our brave girl.

I see you, dog. says the Titan.
I’m your huckleberry.**

In the covered arena, we take a few minutes to watch a drill team of some very skilled young ladies and their gorgeous horses performing in the ring.  Euka gets a second row seat to watch the action with perked ears. By second row seat, I mean she’s in a Down at the end of an aisle to enjoy a dog’s eye view of the drill team. I watch her reaction and wonder just what the heck she’s thinking.  Four legs on these things, but two heads? They’re running and playing and yet don’t smell like a dog at all. Too big to chew on, but I bet if I grabbed a leg  . . .

Even as the riders approach the front row spectators to allow their horses to be patted on their velvet noses, Euka doesn’t move to break her Down. She loses interest after a bit and closes her eyes for a quick not-a-cat nap.

This is good, I think. Let’s bump it up and check out the stables for the event’s guest horses.

As we cruise about we encounter Tennessee Titan, the miniature donkey in all his tyger-spotted glory.  Tennessee Titan is a super star of mini donkeys, so I was hoping to get a photo op, but was told he’s not a big fan of dogs. We respect that, of course. Especially since at this point I couldn’t tell you if Euka was a big fan of mini donkeys.  I get a quick click of the OK Corral standoff and we move on.

We come across a second photo op with another delightful, and more dog loving, miniature critter.  Johnny Rocket and his handler are gracious to allow us a moment of their time. Euka is still brooding over the stuck up donkey and refuses to look at the mini horse, no matter how kind he is.  Nobody out-attitudes the princess, it seems.

Oh, and I have to tell you about our run in with the law. See, I shot the sheriff and . . . sorry, that’s going to be a pun so bad even I can’t finish that sentence.

Ok, I took a photo of Lena, the equine half of a mounted patrol team for the Sheriff’s Department. Lena is sixteen and a half hands of Friesian with an attitude of one who does not gladly tolerate fools. My impression of this lady is she is one of the most rock solid horses you’re ever likely to encounter. A chick it would be unwise to piss off, I would think.

Hmm.  Oh Euka, I sing. Let’s go meet the Sheriff’s horse. Maybe I’m taking things too fast here, going from mini whinnies to a hardened Friesian.  But never being the kind of girl to shy away from a bad decision, we give this a try.

Horse people may notice Lena’s ear posture in this shot. Right? Now look at Euka. Well, as best you can.  Our little girl with the Irish tan has gone super-nova into the background. But I think you can get the general goings on here.  Another Friesian has just passed by. Lena is reacting to that horse.

And Euka is not. Her posture is relaxed and she is going about her day like this is nothing much more than being in the office, only without air conditioning.

Alrighty, now check out the next shot. Here’s what happens when cocky meets confidence. Lena leans in to  meet her new pale canine admirer. Meanwhile Euka is sure the horse is a new entry into her fan base. Give her one of my CCI bookmarks, says Euka to her people. She can read about me on the internet later.

Again, we have a confident posture exhibited by the pup. Ear flaps relaxed, tail down and paws in a casual stance. In fact, you may notice that she has not even moved from her spot from the first photo. Neither in retreat nor in the interest of an excited greeting. Nice.

Hail there, my tiny pasty friend, says Lena.  Well met.

Of course, it helps quite a bit that the girls are so at ease with both horses and dogs. Morgan has the leash, which is transmitting her positive vibes to Euka. All is well in the world, say the leash vibes. Carry on, y’all.

Hang loose for Part II of our Kentucky Horse Park adventures coming soon. I’ll even throw in a drama-filled story from the hotel.  It’s a cautionary tale about why you don’t always want to allow folk to pet your service pup in training.  Euka’s not the only one needing life lessons here.  Sometimes I need a smack in the back of the head.
  

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* Yaxley, our CCI pup #3, joined us on the great horse park trip a couple of times.  His adventures are at Freshly baked road apples and Poptarts: Not just for breakfast anymore.  Due to timing, this will be Euka’s only trip with us to the Kentucky Horse Park.

**Quote from Tombstone (1993) as said by Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer). Best read with a drawling southern accent of sorts in your head.


 

Poptarts: not just for breakfast anymore

Next, please.

What did my sister mean when she told you guys “no poptarts in the car”?, I ask my two nieces. They’ve handed me a huge bag filled with various and sundry snack items. Goldfish crackers, fig newtons, cheez-its and other major food groups. So what’s the deal with poptarts, I gotta wonder.

My query is answered by a robust giggle explosion. Oh, I see. The phrase pops into my head “dry as a popcorn fart.”  I’ve driven enough cub scouts around town over the years to know to keep the windows cracked (we’re cold, Mrs. Sword) and today I get the nagging feeling this two hour drive to the Kentucky Horse Park is gonna seem a bit longer than perhaps it should.

But I have to know. So, how did this get biological phenomena get the name of poptarts, I ask the girls. Amid more giggles and snorts, they tell me. In unison and I think another language. I get none of the back story. But the essence is there. Ah, but hopefully not literally.

And so begins our annual Kentucky Horse Park trip with the nieces. The trunk is full to bursting with the essentials of an overnight trip with two young ladies and an older chick, plus one yellow dog. Yaxley joins us for the adventure, his last big road trip before turn in to CCI next month.

Yax went with us last year as well and we shared some of our stories at Freshly Baked Road Apples. As I read this post from last summer, I see I made mention of Yaxley’s problem of dog issued poptarts in the car. So we have a running theme here, I guess. Yep, envy me y’all.

I kept an eye on the weather reports for this weekend. I wanted to bring Yax along for more exposure to crowds and novel items, but not if it were to be paw searingly hot. But reasonable temps in the Lexington forecast, just a threat of a thunderstorm or two. I have no worries about thunderstorms and this dog; he’s absolutely solid there. I got caught in a particularly nasty storm while driving a couple of months ago with Yaxley and Micron in the car. I pulled into a parking lot to wait it out.  Just in time, too. A thunderclap hit so intense it shook our car and set off the car alarm in the vehicle next to us. The two dogs were laying in the backseat calmly wondering when dinner was going to be. Nice. I’ve had storm anxious dogs before and this is a welcome break from that drooling drama.

I’ve stopped telling people ahead of time that I’m taking the nieces to Breyerfest in Kentucky because it sounds too much like a hillbilly family reunion. (A briarfest, huh? Y’all got a big family to have a whole festival.) But it’s really a pretty prestigious event. Over the years, I’ve patted the velvet noses of such celebrities as the Hidalgo the movie horse, and William Shatner’s All Glory. Some great shows in the covered arena and full access to the horse park.

It’s a bonus to have Yaxley with us again this summer. With his CCI logo cape on, he is a rock star as we walk around, eclipsing some of the guest horses with his canine mini-celebritydom.

While the nieces take a few minutes to paint some horse models, Yaxley builds up his fan base.

Instead of watching paint dry, we set aside our tiny masterpieces and head off to find some novel objects for Yaxley to experience. We make our way to the petting zoo and are greeted by a welcoming committee. So what kind of welcome do you get when you bring a pooch into a petting zoo?

Not necessarily a warm one.

B-a-a-a-d dog.

This doesn’t seem to bother Yaxley awful much. He’s a little busy trying to get his head around the huge tortoise lumbering his way.

Ok, the thing is not a threat, per se and all.  But it does fit into the “that ain’t right” category of the dog noggin. If you can’t play with it, sleep on it, chew on it or eat it, then what use is it anyway?

The Museum of the Horse is a favorite on our list for the annual tour, as well. Because it’s blessedly air conditioned and pleasant way to wait out a thunderstorm. Oh, by the way, you know how when you get flip flops wet they make that weird, wet squeaking noise when you walk? And if you call them poptart flops it can cause young girls to nearly need a change in shorts?

The museum volunteer welcomes our pup-in-training and we stroll on through. Folk we met earlier in the park greet Yaxley by name as we meet again. We begin to feel like entourage to the dog. We’re not asked our names. Ever. Roadies don’t need names, you know.

We stop for a photo op with a horse skeleton. A pretty novel object to check off the socialization list. You’re welcome, CCI.

Before and After of the racehorse, Lexington.

 [We pause our story here for an Awww moment.]

And we’re back.  Ok, so last year we took basically the same shot below. Except I lifted Yaxley into the chair with the girls. Ain’t happening this year. He’s safe on the ground and my back is still intact.

The theme this year at Breyerfest was British Invasion. Which brings to mind such things as the Revolutionary War or perhaps even The Beatles. But when you think of the British Isles and horses, don’t you make the natural connection of jousting competitions?

No? Well someone did.  Here we have a couple of brave knights decompressing after rugged swordplay and thrusting about lances at each other.  My attempt to get a nice shot of a Sir Knight and his noble steed went terribly awry.

You know, I think there’s a poptart joke in here somewhere.

Just four more weeks on the Yaxley countdown, folks. We have a few more adventures to fit in between now and then. Check back with us to see what’s next.

Freshly baked road apples

As a Boy Scout leader, I have opportunities to mentor these young fellows so they’re clear on certain important facts.

For example, one cold, rainy morning we’re ironically covering the risks of heat exhaustion during outside activities. I tell the boys to drink lots and lots of water and how to identify the signs of a heat emergency – heart rate, sweating, mental disorientation, and the such.

And as a scout leader of the female gender, I want to make sure they are clear on other important facts topical to this subject. Just in case their moms haven’t hit on this learning yet.

Listen up, boys, cuz you need to know this one for later.

Boys sweat. But girls glisten.

It’s true, of course. There’s another lesson involving how women blossom, but that’s off topic.

(And so while we’re off topic. Have you even been riding in the car with your lab puppy sound asleep in the back seat and he releases a blossom so aromatic that he actually wakes himself up?  Yep, Yaxley did that.  He lifted his head, twitched his nose and looked at each of us in the car with a look on his face of  “dang people, which one of you guys dealt that one?”)

Breyerfest or bust

But back to the subject at hand of how to have fun in the Midwestern sun. It’s not just for Boy Scouts, you know.  We girls know how to have a good time in the great outdoors, too.  It’s just we need to have horses around to make the dehydration worth our while.

The two nieces and I make an annual trip to the Kentucky Horse Park each July. An overnighter with two days of adventure in the Kentucky humidity. This year we brought CCI pup, Yaxley, with us. And because life is so boring when things are too easy, one niece breaks a bone in her foot the week before and is using crutches.

Not a problem, I say. We’re hardly delicate flowers here. Pack up your water bottles, girls, and let’s hit the road.

So we do. Actually I’m glad we’re bringing Yaxley on this trip. He was a walking advertisement for CCI and helped to raise awareness of the work the organization does. And more, we were able to introduce him to some new sights, sounds and smells.

New experiences are pretty important in the socialization of a young service dog in training. So, let me share with you some of the new and different that the young Yaxley got to experience in his recent southern adventure.

Number one on his New Experience List happens just as we enter the horse park.  The wondrous scent of road apples.  Just what is that magical mound on the road?, Yaxley is wondering.  Heavenly.  I don’t pretend to understand the relationship between dogs and horse manure, but I do know to firmly steer him away from the temptation that is recycled hay.

And this next photo, you say?  What is going on here?  We see the fair Princess of Gimp as she stands next to her would be knight in soldered armor. First, I’ll tell you to not be too worried about the horse. It’s not real.  The fellow, however, is spam in a can in that suit under the blazing Kentucky sun. I never saw the guy move. He reminded me of the campfire dinners you make in aluminum foil. And I was left hoping there wasn’t some poor hapless fellow that got second shift in that well-seasoned armor.

Sir Knight of Lexington with his well-armored steed, a fair princess
and a yellow dog. 

Okie-doke. So we can check off 1) fake horse in armor and 2) a talking can of person.  Now let’s find some real horses.

But before we do, a quick stop at the craft tent for face painting.  An adorable painted cat face for one niece and a lovely butterfly tattooed on the other.  Yaxley waits patiently for the girls as they get their Kentucky ink. He enjoys the attention from some kids watching a magic show.

A nice chin rub (and free advertisement for the Gentle Leader)

Ok, let’s start small, so to speak. Maybe I should have had the girls stand next to the miniature horse. Then we could have seen it in the photo.

 
Well, that went well with Yaxley.  He’s just taking this all in and moving right along with things. Going just swell until the Sheriff’s horse gave him a hearty snort. Yax put that interaction into the category of that just ain’t right, so we go off to find a gentler horse that doesn’t look like it wants to eat dogs for breakfast.

Yax keeping a comfortable distance from the Snort Monster.
Seeing spots
A new and, um, different sight. For all of us.

 

Pecos, a dazzling Andalusian Stallion

 Yaxley checks out the Parade of Breeds

Ah, here’s a truly benign equine.  Doesn’t move, doesn’t smell funny.

And doesn’t snort at you.

And then there’s this sight to behold.  I’m wondering, in his doggy mind, does Yaxley see a critter with two heads and four legs? What must be rolling through his noggin on this one?

The afternoon was wrapped up with a handful of the obligatory Kentucky Horse Park photo opps.

Man O’War monument way off in the background.

Yaxley is rewarded for his good behavior with some ear ruffling and belly rubs from his new fans.

 

 And we prepare to leave Kentucky Horse Park and begin to look forward to next year’s trip.

I’ll hold his leash. 
No, I’ll hold it! 
Not quite ready to leave our Kentucky adventures behind, we decide to stop at the Georgetown Cracker Barrel for a late lunch. So here we are as we walk through the door . . . an obviously fatigued chick who appears to be one step away from heat stroke. Gimpy girl on crutches sporting a butterfly tattoo and hollywood shades. And Cat Girl walking her caped crusader dog on lead.
The restaurant manager stands at the hostess station and moves his eyes – in this order – from the yellow dog, to the cat, to Miss Hollywood and then resting on the obvious leader of this rock band – the chubby and heavily glistening broad. He apparently has not seen the likes of us in recent times and needs a moment to wrap his head around this charming image standing before him.
Excellent!” He says, smiling and showing more teeth than you would expect to see, “Let’s find you fine folk a table.”  
Thanks, cowboy.  The girls and I are so hungry, we could eat a . . . um, well I guess we could eat a spinach salad or something.
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