It’s Time 1/7/18

When we arrived home from Mackinac Island this October I decided to take a break from writing until the first of the year. I confess to having an ulterior motive.

For at least two years now, I’ve been thinking the lifespan of Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog has really more than run its course.  When I began the blog in 2009 it was just at the beginning of the social media era.  Bree’s Blog was one of only a very few places on the web where folks could go for information about Mackinac, and I slid myself right into that special little niche – reserved for the dear folks who believe Mackinac Island is magical and the most beautiful place on earth.  The blog blossomed, and at its peak nearly 2,000 readers a day stopped by to see what was happening with the Hortons and their pooches on the island.

You followed us home to our precious lake house in Georgia for winters and packed up with us for the move back to the island for the season.  You gave us support and love through so many hard times – selling the condo on the island and our home in Georgia, moving into a rental while we built a new home in Florida, my hysterectomy, Bear’s knee surgery and two years later his death, hurricanes – the list goes on.  But for every hard time, there were hundreds of good times – endless summer days exploring the island, listening to the trees sing their song in the up north woods, riding hundreds of ferries back and forth across the Straits, horse and buggy adventures, nights at the Pink Pony, the discovery of Ted’s birth mother’s family . . . the list again goes on and on.  Even when we weren’t on Mackinac you traveled with us – a trip to Colorado to a ski resort, a trip to Alaska, a trip to Key West, a trip to an amazing little island in Canada, and numerous trips to Flagler Beach as we built our home.

The decision to post the “Throw Back Thursday” posts has given me so much joy – looking back at those first few years and remembering things I haven’t thought about since they happened.  But they also gave me the strength to say . . . .

It’s time.

I’ve told almost a thousand stories about Mackinac Island, and there are many other excellent blogs being written about the island.  All you have to do is Google “Mackinac” and hundreds of resources appear.  Through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and all those other media channels out there that I don’t even know the names of, Mackinac is now an open book.

This past summer on Mackinac was a little bit of a wake-up call for Ted and I.  We seemed to spend a lot of time recovering from spills – and we blamed most of them on Bodie.  But, being totally honest about it – and although Bodie did play his part – a lot of those falls and spills were because our reaction times have gotten slower, our ability to heal quickly has slowed down.  Since returning home we’ve begun to think about the time we would no longer be able to return to Mackinac on an extended time line.  We’ve begun quietly searching for other places where my need for cooler summers would be closer than 1300 miles away.

Until that time comes, and we pray we’ve still got years ahead of us before we have to get serious about it, I selfishly want to enjoy every minute on Mackinac without those self-imposed blog deadlines.  I just want to go and enjoy every second of its beauty and peace and magic.

So, it’s time.

What’s next?  The ending of Bree’s Blog certainly doesn’t mean I won’t be taking photos and posting to Facebook – about Mackinac, and about anything else either serious, mundane or silly that happens in our lives.  So, if you haven’t already, please follow me on Facebook.  Just search for “Brenda Horton” and you’ll find me.

And – there is certainly a possibility I will one day (maybe soon, maybe later) find my way back to blogging about something completely different.  But, that’s just a thought now – not a decision.  I do know writing is in my blood, and if I do go in another direction, I will let you know by posting the info here on this blog – so please don’t “unfollow” me here.  I’ll also let you know on Facebook.

Bree’s Blog will live on forever on the web.  I hope in the years to come newcomers who are just discovering Mackinac will click a key and discover a little blog about the Hortons spending part of their time on magical Mackinac. And I pray they know each and every word and each and every photograph is filled with love and thankfulness and the awe of the discovery of my heart’s home.

I can’t even begin to thank you all for the happiness writing this blog and sharing Mackinac with all of you has brought me.  It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing about the island for almost as long as I’ve been retired.  I began it on a whim, and that whim has buoyed me up over all these years and brought the most amazing people into our lives.  As half-year residents of Mackinac, we were given a behind the scenes glimpse over the years to what makes Mackinac tick, and I tried my best to share it all with you – so you could love it as much as I do.

Thank you to everyone to provided photographs over the winters when we weren’t on the island.  Your generosity and willingness to share your talents kept Bree’s Blog up and running over the cold season.  Thank you to readers, friends, and business owners who allowed me access to stories that wouldn’t otherwise have been told.  Your love of Mackinac makes my heart smile.

And a very special thank you to my dear friend Jill.  Without you there wouldn’t have been a Bree’s Blog.  Thank you for all the insider information over the years, the story ideas, and the thousands of photographs.  Thank you for being my sidekick, my always-willing-to-get-up-early partner in crime, my confidant, my shoulder to cry on, my “no-you-can’t-write-that” editor.  But most of all – thank you for being my forever friend.  You are beautiful and amazing, and I love you to the moon and back.  Ok – make that to the sun and back.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written and rewritten this post.  If I’d let myself I would have turned into a blubbering baby and sobbed my way through it.  But I want you all to know I don’t have one regret about the years spent here with all of you.  You all became friends – many of you close friends – and I love you all immensely.  You let me into your homes and lives by reading this blog, and that is the greatest gift writing this blog has given me.

So, for now, it’s time.

 

 

Thanks, Mary, for helping me make what I thought was an impossible dream come true . . .

God bless.

Fling Back Friday – “Lighting the Way to Winter 12/8/17

Personal Note – Part 2 of yesterday’s post from October of 2011.

Lighting the Way to Winter – First Published 10/14/11

October’s poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter.  Nova Bair

If you liked yesterday’s fall color pics, today’s should make you just as happy!  I’m finishing up with the photos I took on the last official sunny day of our Indian summer on Mackinac Island – and a couple of that weather change I talked about yesterday.

I love the quote I found for today . . . . flaming torches lighting the way to winter.  I’ve seen that for the past few days here on Mackinac.  The leaves have been so bright, as the sun filtered through, I’ve had to shade my eyes just to look at them.  With the coming of the rain, wind, and colder temps over the next few days, I know we’ll lose those torches.  But for a few more days . . . they burn on.

Again, we don’t have to venture too far from home to find color now. This tree is right next door and is always beautiful in the fall.

Maddie in the leaves

Still at Surrey Hill – this is the old blacksmith shop that has not been in operation since before we bought our condo.

Looking through the horse corral rails.

The road leading to the back side of the Carriage Museum.

Kinda camouflaged, isn’t she!

There’s really nothing I can say about these next few photos. They’re all taken next door on the Carriage Museum property, and with every different angle, I found more beauty through my lens.

“Man, it feels good to scratch an itch!”

My beautiful boy.

As I was about to leave the house Wednesday afternoon (the day the weather changed), Ted called from outside that there were horses in the backyard. He’s been trying to get me to use up all the horse treats we brought with us from Georgia, so they wouldn’t be sitting on the shelf all winter. I threw a handful in my pants pockets and went outside.  The dray was picking up all the items left in the condo two doors down that the new owner didn’t want.  I think the driver was happy to see a bike go on board.

The horses got their treats . . . . .

. . . and then, trying to avoid rolling over our boardwalk, the driver took the dray too close to a tree and got stuck. All it took was someone climbing a ladder with a board, shoving the board under the branch causing the problem, and heaving it up out of the way.  Out drove the dray.

Coming home late Wednesday afternoon as the weather changed, I paused just past the Grand stables and looked back. The fog was coming in fast, and I could barely make out anything down the hill beyond the bikers walking up . . .

. . . and as I walked my bike up the next-to-last hill from home, I could just make out the outline of our condos through the opening in the trees.

Personal Note:  In 2011 I added a “Mystery Spot” game to the blog.  I’d publish a pic of something most folks who were familiar with Mackinac Island recognize, and the first person who emailed me the location of the pic would get a “prize” mailed to them.  I decided to leave this one in today just so you could see how it worked.  The answer is also included.

THE MYSTERY SPOT

This will be the last Mystery Spot of the season, and I’ve made it a really, really easy one.  If you have visited Mackinac Island, you have seen this object because it is right out there in the open!
The object of the Mystery Spot  is to be the first to identify where the object is located. When you think you have the answer, email me at brendasumnerhorton@hotmail.com. I’ll check my email several times a day, and as soon as we have a winner, I’ll post the winner’s name at the top of this blog so you can stop guessing, AND I’ll post the full photo of the mystery spot at the bottom of the blog with the answer. Is there a prize for the winner – yes there is; but the prize is secret, and the only ones who will know what it is are the winners. To be fair, I’m asking residents of Mackinac Island to please NOT guess. This is just for readers who don’t live here . . . but would like to! And the Mystery Spot is . .

Where is it?

 

MYSTERY SPOT ANSWER

The antique buggy sits on the porch of “The Lenox” building on Market Street. The Lenox is home for many of the Carriage Tour workers and also houses a few of the City of Mackinac offices on the ground floor.  Personal Note:  The “prize” was usually a bar of Lilac soap!

Sunday Story – “To Fresh Woods and Pastures New” – 11/5/17

Personal Note:  I had to laugh when I read the first paragraph of this post from 2010.  I could have written those same words this afternoon, after leaving you hanging on Thursday.  But here’s the rest of the story – one of my favorites from “back in the day”!

TO FRESH WOODS AND PASTURES NEW

First Published October 11, 2010

“Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.” . . . John Milton

It was almost cruel to leave you as I did Friday, wasn’t it.  I thought about that as I was ending that post.  Should I go ahead and finish – add 30 more photographs and give you what you really wanted – the farm with the horses grazing free.  I did think about it – I promise.

And then I smiled.  And I thought about the anticipation that built in me on the ride over on the boat last week with the horses.  When we docked, and I watched that first gelding step off the boat, my heart did a little flutter-step.  I watched them load up and the trailer doors swing shut.  And as we rode those 50 miles to Pickford, my heart continued to beat a little faster than normal.  The anticipation of the moment when the horses would be led into that big pasture, when the halters would be lifted over their heads (their halters are never off on the island), and when they would realize they were no longer bound by any means to man – that moment of anticipation was one I wanted you to feel with me.   It wasn’t meant to be cruel – on the contrary, aren’t the good things in our lives we have to wait for all the more treasured because of the wait?

But, now as I sit down to write the rest of this journey, I worry that I won’t be able to give you all the joy and emotion of what that day felt like when we did reach the farm.  But I will try, and what I miss in words, perhaps I can make up to you in the photographs.

tp://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/1randy.jpg”>First, let me introduce Randy Hall. Randy was my “go to” person for this part of the trip. He was the driver of one of the two horse trailers waiting to transport us to Pickford. I learned later that Randy does a lot of the Carriage Tour driver training on the island in the spring. He grew up with horses in the Upper Peninsula, and his passion for them is evident in how he talks about them and how they respond to him.  He owns a horse farm himself and also grows hay.

[/caption]

://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/2randy.jpg”>Most of these horses are geldings – in fact there are very few mares on the island, although there are some. A majority of the island horses are purchased from the Amish, when they are 3-6 years old. The Amish have already trained and worked them around machinery in the fields, so they come to the island with basic training completed.  The Amish keep most of the mares for breeding and sell the geldings.  There are no stallions on the island.

[

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/bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/3loading.jpg”>Loading and unloading into the trailers is old business for most of the horses. They have done this for years, and the nervousness of the few new horses is tempered by the calm of the older ones.

[ca

[/caption]

ree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/7horserandy.jpg”>Randy secures this big Belgian in the trailer.[/caption][capt

e1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/8horse1.jpg”>It was so amazing to watch the horses as they came off the boat. Their eyes were wide and bright, their ears pricked forward, their nostrils flared. If I could have read their minds, I think the words would have been, “I know this place. Next is the trailer, a little ride, then freedom!”

[captio

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972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/4loading.jpg”>Last one into this trailer. We were transporting 12 this first load – 6 in each trailer.

[/caption]And, we’re off!

I’m sure Randy thought he had been given the worst duty of the year – having to put up with Bree the Blogger for two 100-mile round trips to Pickford.  The photos above are a combination of the two trips – the first one over on the 9 a.m. ferry, then another one when we came back to pick up the second group at 11:30.  I’ve also combined the photos from the two trips to the farm, meaning we released the first 12 horses, then went back to St. Ignace to pick up 11 more and took them to the farm.

Randy was very gracious and friendly and answered all gazillion of my questions, although at times I’m sure he was thinking, “Good grief!  Is there anything about horses that this woman DOES know?”  Here’s a few of the new things I picked up on the trips back and forth:

1)  The Pickford farms – there are three of them – are the winter home of the Carriage Tour horses, as well as the Grand Hotel “omnibus” and State Park horses.

2)  Randy does a lot of training with the horses before they are ever brought to the island.  He does this winter and summer because horses are brought back and forth all season.  A horse may just not be working out and will be returned to Pickford for more training.  There has to be a horse ready to take its place.

3)  There are about 20 horses on the island all winter.  Two are used for the taxi (only one taxi in the winter), and the rest are used to pull the drays because even in winter, the work of the island continues.  Mail has to be brought from the ferries (or plane if the Straits are frozen), as do supplies for the grocery store, restaurants, hotels, and school that remain open.

4)  Additional horses are brought to the island over the winter during peak times – Christmas and New Year’s – when more visitors arrive.

5)  Let’s say a horse learns to be the right-hand side horse in a two-horse hitch team.  Can he also work on the left?  “Sometimes,” Randy said, “but there are some that can never change over.”

6)  Not only do the horses know where they’re going when they are turned out into the pasture on the island without their shoes for the first time, but they also know by the changes that occur toward the end of the season.  Randy said they know that when the weather begins to cool, and they are working an easier schedule, their days on the island are coming to an end for another year.

7)  I asked what determines which horses remain on the island for the winter.  “Some of it is temperament,” Randy said.  “They have to be able to adjust from the relative ‘quiet’ of bikes to the ‘racket’ of snowmobiles.  Some can make the adjustment, some can’t.  When we find a horse that isn’t bothered by all that extra noise, we tag him as a possible winter horse.”

8)  Only the draft horses (Belgians and Percherons) stay outside all winter.  The others are brought in at night and during really bad weather.

/10/9truck.jpg”>We’re at the farm! This was a 60-acre pasture that was a part of what is called “9-mile farm”, one of the three owned by Carriage Tours.

0/10gate.jpg”>Irvin, another Carriage Tour worker who stays in Pickford, was there to open the gate.
<figure id="attachment_10046" align="a

11firsthorse.jpg”>I walked through the gate and was standing in the corner (out of the way) when the first horse was led off the trailer . . .

[caption href="https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/13b id="attachment_10049" alt="" width="500" height="375"]idleoff1.jpg”>And here’s where I choked up the first time. Watching Randy remove the halter, I envisioned the horses immediately taking off into the freedom of the pasture.  But these are horses so used to human companionship, so in tune with their lives around people, that their main interest was not first to “make a break for it”, but to taste the wonderfully abundant grass . . .

[caption ref="https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/15rol id="attachment_10053" alt="" width="500" height="375"]11.jpg”>. . . and then to roll.

[caption f="https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/15roll2 id="attachment_10054" alt="" width="500" height="375"]jpg”>Can you image the horse joy of rolling around – not on the dirt of the horse corral below our condo . . .

[caption id="attachment_10055" height="375" title="15roll3" alt="" width="500"]g”>. . . but to be scratching your back on green, sweet-smelling grass!  Talk about kicking up your heels!

[caption ttp: id="attachment_10056" height="280" title="18horses" alt="" width="500"]g”>On the second trip, I went further down the pasture road to photograph the horses as they came in.

[caption p: id="attachment_10057" height="394" title="28bridle" alt="" width="500"]Another halter coming off.

After a time, they began to realize that they could move freely about this huge pasture, AND the pasture was full of food!

These two seemed to be watching for another horse. Randy said they were part of a three-horse hitch team and were watching for their friend. He arrived a few minutes later.
Another happy horse!
size-full wp-image-10064″ title=”27jane” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/27jane.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”723″ /> At first I was concerned about Jane. She walked into the pasture and stood completely alone for a few minutes, seeming bewildered by the big, open space . . .

“size-full wp-image-10065″ title=”23horses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/23horses2.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”300″ /> . . . but shortly after that, her team-mate “June” found her.  Then they both wandered off and found the third member of this 3-horse hitch bunch, “Jake”.

-full wp-image-10066″ alt=”” width=”500″ title=”26tire” style=”color: #000000″>That big tire is filled with minerals, and there are also salt blocks in the pasture.

-full wp-image-10067″ title=”33horses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/33horses.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ /> “Now, about that party . . .”
[caption id="attachment_10068" align="aligncenter" width="500"]
ull wp-image-10068″ title=”31horses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/31horses.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ /> Two plus two. These duos may be team-mates, or they may just be part of a two-horse hitch group and feel more comfortable in groups of two.
e-full wp-image-10069″ title=”24threehorses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/24threehorses.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ /> So beautiful . . . ull wp-image-10073″ title=”17morehorses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/17morehorses.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”294″ /> I walked back to the truck and took these next few shots from the road as the last few horses were released. p-image-10074″ title=”35horses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/35horses1.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”266″ /> A river runs through that stand of trees to the rear of the pasture and will provide the water the horses need until they are moved later in the year.  The horses have begun to move away from the fence and have started exploring their big, new space. mage-10076″ title=”39horses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/39horses.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ /> The Belgians and Percherons stay outside all winter in all kinds of weather. Randy said in 2-3 weeks, their winter coats will begin to come in, and they will look like shaggy versions of themselves. All the farms have ravines where the horses instinctively gather during snow storms. The sides of the ravines block the wind, and all those bodies snuggled together stay warm. -10070″ title=”41barn” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/41barn.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”330″ /> Randy drove a little out of the way to show me one of the farms where the horses will winter. The 60-acre pasture we delivered the horses to today is only a temporary enclosure. By December they will all be moved closer to this farm place, where someone lives year-round. 10071″ title=”40water” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/40water.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ /> These water dispensers can be seen all over the farm land. The pipes are buried deep underground to prevent freezing.  At the top of the pipe, warming trays keep the water from freezing when exposed to cold air.
title=”hay” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/hay.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ /> Each of these bales of hay weighs approximately 1200 lbs. It takes four of them per day for 80 horses. At the end of the season, the three farms will be supporting around 500 horses, so you can imagine how much hay has to be stored.
77″ title=”42horses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/42horses.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”269″ /> As we left the farm, we could see in the distance other groups of horses whose vacations began a little earlier than those we brought today.
” title=”43horses” src=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/43horses.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”500″ height=”268″ /> The horses we dropped off will join these in December.

What a beautiful vacation spot.

What a delight it was to watch the horses wander, in groups of two and three, around that pasture – nibbling on the grass, playfully trotting over to say “hi” to a friend, lifting their heads and feeling the wind ripple across their backs and over their ears.   I wonder what they thought that first morning when they awake free – no noisy barn workers or drivers, no harnesses thrown over their heads or bridles put in their mouths.  Instead they awoke, as their ancestors did before them – on the open plain – to a morning quiet except for the singing of birds and the whisper of the long grass shifting in the breeze.  Perhaps they strolled down to the river for a sip of clear, cold water and then came back soon to find, in addition to the grass, bales of hay for their dining pleasure.  To them, it had to be like Heaven on earth.

Enjoy your rest, sweet giants.  And in the Spring, come back to us fat and healthy and refreshed.  We’ll be waiting.

My sincere thanks to Doc Al for setting up this trip and to Dale Peterson and Randy Hall for your gracious hospitality.  And a special thanks to Dr. Bill Chambers, who has allowed me to ride along – not only on this trip – but also last year when I wrote the stories about taxi and Carriage Tour drivers.

I have seen things so beautiful that they brought tears to my eyes.  Yet, none of them can match the gracefulness and beauty of horses running free.” . . . Anonymous