Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Remembering Cayenne

with 2 comments

Cayenne was a most elegant Arabian mare and a particularly precious member of our initial herd of four horses that christened our new Wintervale property as a horse ranch back in the fall of 2013. Yesterday, she departed this world to join Legacy’s spirit in the world beyond our knowing. 

Cayenne was foaled from Dezirea in 2005 and lived 16 years, which can roughly be translated to the equivalent of 48 human years of age. For the five years she lived with us, she seemed to split her time equally between palling around with geldings Legacy and Hunter, but Hunter was her lifelong buddy.

In the image on the right, the two of them were giving me a wonderful reception upon my return from a week of biking and camping one summer. 

That’s Cayenne on the right.

Last night, Cyndie and I reminisced about the time Cayenne scolded Hunter after he petulantly farted his displeasure toward Legacy for being driven off a preferred grazing spot. She amped up her energy and pushed Hunter twice as far as he wanted to go, making her point very clear and assuring he got the message.

Cayenne always looked well kept. When others had rolled in the mud or tangled their mane into a knot, Cayenne looked ready for show. The aroma of her hide was always sweet. I loved to bury my face in her neck and inhale her healthy horse scent.

The word that often came to mind when thinking of Cayenne was, royalty. 

One other word that came to mind was, magical. As in, magician. One morning we found her calmly grazing all by herself inside the web-fenced arena space despite the gate being closed. She somehow either jumped or high-stepped her way over that webbing without tipping a post or tangling a hoof.

Cayenne also maintained the neatest stall out of all four horses. Despite her penchant for painting the back wall with her poop, the rest of the shavings on her floor basically remained clean. I guess she reserved her mess for the water bucket in that stall. She had a habit of soaking her mouthfull of hay or feed pellets in the water as she ate. Made her bucket a murky disaster by the time we came around to refill them.

Wednesday morning the horse manager discovered Cayenne on the ground and in bad shape from an overnight episode of colic that the equine veterinarian assessed as beyond treatment.

Hunter was already grieving and they gave him an additional moment to come close to pay his respects. He brought his head down to the flank of her lifeless body and took a breath to confirm she was no longer in there. As he picked up his head, he smacked his lips in acknowledgement and turned to look out over the distance beyond.

Cayenne is gone but she will never be forgotten.



Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2021 at 6:00 am


leave a comment »


turn around
put my hands up in the air
put my hands behind my back
force me to re-register my right to vote
question my right to be here
deny me a loan
just pull my car over to the side of the road
don’t ask me, tell me
don’t wait to hear me explain
do you know why you pulled me over?
turn around
don’t you know that I am white?
why do you treat me different
why not treat me the very same
whatever you do to the oppressed
you are doing to the rest of us, too
might as well kneel hard on my neck
with that damn smug look on your face
gloved hand deftly crammed in your pocket
press it down harder
for a full nine minutes and more
make me beg but don’t even listen
you’re too busy putting on your sick show
we all died that day in Minneapolis
in an unceremoniously incremental way
and we can’t turn back our collective clocks
to a time when it wasn’t this way
so just simply turn around
let’s all walk the other way
to the place they don’t want us ever to reach
the one in the magnificent dream
in that inspiring speech
at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
August, 1963
let’s just turn around and go there
because here 
is not where
we want
to be




Cheering Underdogs

leave a comment »

Warning: Men’s college basketball sports-speak ahead.

As the March Madness NCAA Men’s basketball tournament whittles its way toward the final four, I realize I’ve had no connection to any of the teams involved from the very beginning. With no loyalty influencing my preference for either team in each game, I found myself rooting for the underdog in almost every case.

The thing about having underdogs in a competition is that you need the stronger, favored team to go up against or there wouldn’t be an underdog. Thanks, higher ranked teams, for being in the tourney but I’m cheering for the other guys.

The energy involved in vanquishing a better team is more entertaining to watch. The players get more amped up. The guys on the bench get increasingly more animated. The announcers voices rise in emotion. The underdog fans in the stands go wild.

It’s contagious. I can’t help myself cheering along for a group of people for whom I have no other connection.

There were an 11 and a 12 seed team in the Elite Eight. There were also three number 1 seeds (from three of the four regions) and a number 2. I guess the rankings look justified at this point.

It’s not as exciting, but I do admire the individual and collective abilities of these powerful high-seeded teams. I respect them, even as I am cheering for their downfall.



Written by johnwhays

March 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

Satisfying Progress

leave a comment »

It’s not all that hard, but oh, so satisfying to finally buckle down and give home equipment the annual maintenance inspection it deserves. Yesterday, we did that for our variety of carts and wheelbarrows.

Just like so many manuals often instruct, periodically checking bolts for tightness, adding air to tires, and greasing moving parts proved to be a well-deserved exercise. I found one missing a nut and one had lost both nut and bolt. As is usual in the spring, all tires needed air, but one tire was practically flat.

With our wheelbarrows in renewed shape for heavy duty, we put them to work hauling things and old, moldy hay out of the hay shed.


It almost looks like new and is prepped and ready to receive any hay that may be warranted for feeding the horses before our pastures have sprouted eight new inches of spring growth.

Just like taking care of regular maintenance on equipment is well advised, periodically giving barn and hay shed a thorough going over is worth it whether or not you have the incentive like we are currently enjoying. The effort uncovered several wasps nests we were able remove, which will force them to start over from scratch.

The progress of cleaning up the hay shed was even more satisfying than the wheelbarrows. That’s an excellent motivator for the next target of our attention: the barn.




Written by johnwhays

March 29, 2021 at 6:00 am

Thirteen Eggs

with 2 comments

We now know that all thirteen of our hens are producing eggs. Friday we collected one egg for each hen in our brood. Our little chicks are all grown up.


They are thriving in their first exposure to spring and full access to free ranging our fields and forest. Crawling insects are under an all out assault.

When I was primping the paddock in preparation of our anticipated new equine tenants, the chickens showed up to join the fun; happy to help.


Now I’m going to go outside and clear out the last remnants of moldy hay from the hay shed and de-clutter the barn and I couldn’t be more excited about the reason so to do.

New horse companions are slated to arrive in less than a month.



Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2021 at 9:39 am

Prepping Paddock

with 2 comments

My Friday started with a visit to the Pierce County Fair grounds in Ellsworth where I received my first vaccination shot against COVID-19. The county health department does a wiz-bang job processing people through at maximum speed. I was very impressed.

I experienced no noticeable effects from the shot and headed straight to Hudson for an annual eye exam. No problems found, I’m happy to report. Then, it was back home to work on sprucing up the paddocks in preparation for the pending arrival of horses.

First order of business was to push down fence posts that the frost has heaved up. I used the loader on the diesel tractor and succeeded in avoiding making things worse by breaking boards.

IMG_iP0669eCH  IMG_iP0672eCH.

It isn’t easy to see what is happening on the far side of the bucket from my vantage point behind the wheel, but with Cyndie spotting (and taking pictures), she helped keep me from any catastrophes.

Since I didn’t sink or get stuck in mud, we decided to try scooping up some lime screenings from our reserve pile to put a fresh layer down under the overhang.


After that, I got out the trimmer to knock down some of the old growth and give the new grass beneath a little more sunshine.


I was hoping to get the automatic waterer back in operation but the shutoff valve is in standing water beneath the unit and out of sight. I had to reach into the freezing cold water and blindly feel around to find it among a tangle of zip-ties and wires.

It took several tries to locate it, almost requiring more joints than I have in my wrist and elbow. Too bad it wouldn’t budge after I finally got my fingers around the handle. Since it has been under water for so long, I’m suspicious that it may be corroded.

It’d sure be nice if I could simply look at it to tell. If I had to guess about what my numb fingers were feeling, I’d say it feels corroded.

There will be time enough to contact the original installer and get his help before the horses arrive. He is going to stop by to quote excavating our old blacktop and preparing a new base for fresh asphalt. The decaying old driveway pavement is now causing increasing drainage problems.

By the end of the day, having succeeded in improving the wooden plank fences without destroying them was enough accomplishment to provide a feeling of satisfaction regardless of what else we achieved. The other paddock enhancements became something of a bonus.

Cleaning the barn and hay shed are next on the list of preparations for the return of horses.



Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2021 at 6:00 am

Like That

leave a comment »


Sometimes, between the choice of a soft, comfy bed and a hard floor…

…I’ve been known to choose the floor.

Bathed in warm sunshine, either location may prove to be a good choice for a little daytime snooze.



Written by johnwhays

March 26, 2021 at 6:00 am

Lots Happening

leave a comment »

A lot of things are happening all at once for Cyndie and me this week. Yesterday, Cyndie got her first COVID vaccine shot. I have an appointment for tomorrow. Cyndie said she was so happy to be receiving the shot, her greetings were overly loud and friendly to the staff, despite her conscious attempts to calm down. As she tells it, one of her replies to a query came out sounding like Tony the Tiger.


It may have simply been her unbridled glee, but she said it was the most painless shot she has ever received.

I was a little distracted yesterday with thoughts of my annual week of biking and camping with the Tour of Minnesota bike tour. After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, this year’s ride is going to happen and registration opened yesterday. It will be a compelling reason to get me back on the bike again this spring.

I let the entire riding season pass last year without bringing either of my bikes down off their hooks in the shop. I don’t want to go another year without riding. I might forget how.

Of course, I’m writing all that to try to imply I’m not totally thinking about new horses we are hoping will come to spend the summer on our fields. Yesterday, Cyndie spoke with our renter and settled the issue of our fields no longer being available for cutting hay this year. That removed one last concern we had about potential conflicts to this actually happening.

When I received a text yesterday from Cyndie with an image of what she bought from the feed store during an errand to pick up some chicken food, I knew the horses were even more of a sure thing. Somehow, horse treats and mineral blocks made their way into the back of Cyndie’s car along with the sack of chicken kibble.

Founded in 2012, This Old Horse is a private, volunteer-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and serve horses while they continue to serve as ambassadors to the positive effect of “horse power” in the lives of people.​

We received a wonderful introduction to the planned horses from our new partner, This Old Horse.

Photos provided by This Old Horse

Four retired Thoroughbred mares who did some racing early in life and then went on to be broodmares. My intuition tells me they will be a perfect fit for our place. That has me thoroughly (pun intended) energized to bring this plan to fruition.

Somehow, I’ll get around to thinking about biking, too, but I bet while I’m biking I will be thinking about these horses.




Written by johnwhays

March 25, 2021 at 6:00 am

In Motion

with 3 comments

In a matter of just a few days, a decision to take the next step toward inquiring on the possibility of offering our fields to a horse rescue organization set in motion a series of steps that has us surprisingly close to having horses back on our Wintervale pastures much sooner than we imagined possible. They are very interested in adding us to their existing locations providing summer grazing space for their rescues.

It is happening so fast that Cyndie and I are finding ourselves dizzied over the mixture of glee and cautiousness washing over us all at once. We are thrilled over the vision of horses grazing our land again, but we need to get ahold of our renter and alert him of the loss of access to our fields for his hay. There are gates to reinstall and the automatic waterer needs to be turned back on and checked out. The electric fence hasn’t been turned on in a couple of years and will need some maintenance to restore proper operation.

I know what I will be working on this weekend.

We have already been given a preview of four Thoroughbreds that are being considered for transfer to our place. They are all mares that range in age from 15 to 26. Interestingly, they all have a hint of familiarity with the four Arabians that were our first Wintervale herd that came to us in the fall of 2013.

I’m obviously holding back on announcing this as official and providing a proper full introduction, but it’s such powerful news that I couldn’t stop myself from sharing at least this sneak preview rumor.

Now you will have read it on the internet, so it must be true.

I’ll share more detail as the situation develops. Probably tomorrow. How will I be able to write about anything else while this excitement is unfolding right before our eyes?

Where did I leave my compost-turning pitchfork?



Written by johnwhays

March 24, 2021 at 6:00 am

Another Heart

with 4 comments

I believe my latest heart sculpture from a section of one of our pine trees has reached completion, at least as far as I’m feeling moved to take it.

The wood color has a lot of grey to it. More than I expected. The top view shows the star pattern radiating from the center.

There is another view of that center down toward the point at the opposite end of the heart.

I intentionally aimed to avoid having the exact tip be aligned with the center, partially hoping it might reveal a more interesting wood grain. The result did not “wow” me as much as I hoped it could.

One primary feature of the sculpture that the photo is not able to adequately convey is the tactile pleasure of feeling the hefty weight and glossy smoothness of the contoured shape. In the case of this piece made of pine, that feature is more rewarding than the visual of the colors, grain patterns, and knots.

The end result of having created this heart out of pine is that I now have a strong desire to return to a chunk of ash wood for my next sculpting project.

Also, I was very interested in working on a piece where I finish the whole thing without leaving a portion natural. Having done that, I find I have a strong urge to consider a return to my old ways. That is something I can decide when I settle on the piece of wood and a potential shape that will become the result of my next inspiration.





Written by johnwhays

March 23, 2021 at 6:00 am