Monday, April 7, 2008

The Clinton Anderson Volunteer experience

This is my longest post ever!


I drove down Friday morning. City of Industry is about 2-21/2 hours depending on traffic. We were supposed to be there at noon. I got there about 11:30. The crew and one other volunteer, Kevin, were already working, so I jumped right in. We worked for about half an hour or so and pizzas arrived. We ate lunch and then everyone introduced themselves. Public speaking - my favorite.

We had an orientation. Cindy told us what to expect as far as the workload went. Said we weren't going to get to meet Clinton until the very end on Sunday night and that if he walked by one of us without saying anything, don't be offended he's just "very intense".

After lunch we went to work in earnest unloading the truck. I noticed there were three volunteer badges that were never claimed. It was pretty steady work. I unpacked some DVD's, then helped putting strings on sticks and lead ropes on halters. The crew is great. Jason and Phylis are a lot of fun and just plain nice people. I stayed away from the clothing area, the two gals who were working there had a pretty good system. I took some pictures with my cell phone, but I'm such a dufus I didn't save them - only the beginnings of my camera problems)

Once everything was almost up in the selling area, Jason grabbed the guys and we put up the round pen. That is one stout round pen and the panels are HEAVY. Shayna was working Diaz. She had him laid down and asked us to make a bunch of noise to help desensitize him. We were all happy to oblige.

We cleaned up the selling area and got to leave around 6 PM.


I arrived about 6:10 and Clinton was already working Diaz under saddle. There were still some posters that needed to go up so I began working on that. The music was playing in the arena and it was pretty good music. A lot of southern rock. So, I'm focused on my task and trying to catch a glimpse of Clinton and what he's doing and a song by Buck Cherry called Crazy Bitch comes on. The song starts with a great diving beat. There is a clean version of this song and a dirty version....a very dirty version. By the way Clinton galloped over to the mixing board to turn down the song, I'm guessing this was the dirty version. He got it muted just before the nasty chorus.

At 7:00 all the volunteers went to the gate for a little orientation and to help let the people in. They gave us these little scanners and orange markers. All the spectators were in a pretty good mood and it was an easy job. Cindy, was a bit edgy, but we had volunteer Kevin, who was with the Sheriff's Dept and he was pretty used to stuff like this. There weren't as many people there as I thought there would be. About 30 NWC members and maybe a little more regular admission folks.

I had mentioned to Cindy that, if it was okay, I wanted to watch the advance riding demo at 3pm and she said sure. They had a spot taped off for the volunteers to sit. I got to watch part of the colt starting demo and we helped restock merchandise when they broke for lunch. I worked the gate most of the first afternoon session. During the afternoon break we just kept an eye on the shelves and restocked what was needed. It wasn't very hard work. When it got close to the Advance Riding Demo, I think it was Sherrie who came over to me and said go, watch, which I think was pretty thoughtful that they remembered.

My wife Ranae had driven down, and we had a list of things to get. We both needed halters (Ours were at least three years old and her horse chewed on mine while they were tied up next to each other). I wanted one of the lead ropes with the new clasp. I don't think people like it as much as the old one. The new one just looks more complicated. I'll let you know once I get a chance to use it for awhile. We both got new handy sticks and I got an extra tip for the one that broke. Ranae got a sweatshirt. I still had my NWC 15% discount coupon so we saved a little money - which was nice. We also got another gallon of EZ-all. We bought the last one year before last at the tour.

After the Adv. Riding Demo people shopped and we restocked until the register lines were empty. Cindy called us over, said we did a good job and told us to be here at 7 am on Sunday. Clinton was still signing autographs when we left.


Even though we were told we didn't have to arrive until 7, I got there shortly before 6 am. The arena lights weren't even on. I mixed up a protein shake for breakfast and just as I was finishing I saw the lights start to flicker. I gathered all the stuff I would need for the day and it was about a 60 second walk to the grandstand. Just as I got there I could see Clinton side-passing Diaz on the ground against the fence. Shayna was working the "gaining respect" horse on the ground. I settled in with my shake and a cup of coffee and got to enjoy just about half an hour alone watching them work their horses. It was fun getting to see him interact with Diaz without a crowd around. I'm sure he wondered why the hell I had got there so early - I'm also sure he didn't wonder for very long - like, snap your fingers - yeah, about half that.

About six thirty Shayna went and got the colt they were starting and worked with that the remaining time. At seven-ten we all went to the front gate to help let everyone in. The show started with the colt being ridden first. Shayna rode and Clinton worked the stick and flag. Then they brought the Appy out for gaining respect. This horse had made a big change. It was a pretty huge arena and Clinton loped this horse around and around and around. That horse couldn't wait to be respectful.

Diaz did some tricks. They laid him down and Clinton flipped him over. He bowed with one leg, then with two. Then he sat up. Clinton did some freedom work with him. He kept him on the long line for part of it too. It was some of the stuff I had witnessed in the morning.

The last demonstration was the trailer loading. The were running about an hour behind already. It looked like we were going to get a late start at packing up. At the beginning of the demo Clinton showed all the ways people try to get their horses in the trailer. You know all the usual ways. Well, one of the ways, and I don't remember him doing this last time, was to start running with the horse to the back of the trailer and have the crowd encourage the horse to go in. Of course it didn't work. The horse almost ran over him veering away from the back of the trailer. He did it a couple of times and it got a big laugh out of everyone. So he does all the stuff to get the horse in and in about half an hour he's got the horse in and the crowd applauds. The applause scares the horse and he comes out, so Clinton devises this plan of working the horse outside with crowd making as much noise as possible and as soon as the horse goes in the crowd gets silent. Naturally after three or four times the crowd makes a noise and the horse goes in the trailer. He does it a couple of times and tells the crowd what good trainers there are. Shayna had been watching the whole demo. I walked up to her and said one of the spectators had come up to me and said, "I saw the first part of this demo where he was getting the crowd to make noise to get the horse in. I had to leave for awhile. I never thought it would work, but looky there, that horse is going in."

She looked at me and started laughing. I told her I was teasing and she said it wouldn't have surprised her in the least if someone had actually said that. Later, someone from the crowd asked how she could get her horse to go in backwards?!?

We were all pretty ready to pack up. We had lost one volunteer already. As soon as Clinton was outta there we began franticly packing everything up. It's amazing how everyone just finds a job and it all gets pack up. Just as we were finishing Clinton pulls up in his rental car and finally, I get to introduce myself. I tell him what great people he has working for him and he agrees. He hands us our certificates, thanks us and takes some pictures. My camera didn't work. I think I was haunted. I was all sweaty and dusty from packing up, I had been up since 5am, it was closing in on 8:30pm. I'm sure it would have looked like a mug shot anyway.

Tuesday - Epilogue

All-in-all it was a lot of fun. We worked pretty hard in concentrated time frames. Yeah, it would have been better to have interacted with Clinton, but what can you expect. He wasn't going to be out there helping us set stuff up. He sure wasn't going to invite us all over to the hotel bar for a Fosters and get our opinions on world politics or listen to us tell stories about our horses.

Here's the way I see it: When I was a kid I loved Sherlock Holmes. I read every novel and every short story. I honed my observation skills, I practiced deduction. I wanted to be just like Sherlock Holmes - except he was a made-up character. I wanted to be just like Sherlock Holmes - except he also did cocaine - and, oh yeah, he was a made-up character. Clinton could be a cartoon character for all I care. I'm not looking for his love and devotion, I'm looking for his knowledge and skills around horses. That's a lot. If I can get that and go, I'm fine.

As a human, to be really good with horses you have to be able to shut off a part of your brain and yet still keep thinking. During the Spooky Objects demo I was manning the arena gate. We had put a banner on the gate and I knew this horse wasn't going to like it when I closed the gate. He went through and I stalled before closing it. Shayna looked at me and said we could close it. I was thinking about the horse and hesitated another couple of seconds to let him get farther away. About the time I started swinging it shut Clinton said "Go ahead and close the gate". Sure enough I closed it slow and steady and when it got half way closed the horse gave a lurch forward and pulled the owner along. I stopped. Simultaneously Clinton and Shayna said, "Keep closing it." To help the horse the pressure needed to stay on, not come off. That takes intense concentration for me. It's second nature to them.

Another reason Clinton may not want to rub elbows with the volunteers is a similar problem I have when a customer becomes a vendor. I had my house refinanced many years ago and I asked a customer who was in the business to help. He always seemed reliable, but when I called him for different reasons he was never around. Needless to say once the deal was over I wasn't too pleased with him and let him know and I lost him as a customer. It was hard to flip that "Customer is always right" dynamic from one side of the relationship to another. And, as a volunteer, I was pretty much on the other side now.

So, I don't know how much of that made sense but anyway, I ordered my Part 3 series today. I got both the Riding and the Gaining Respect titles. They gave me the available discount for getting two dvds and I still had a credit so I added Robert Miller's dvd. That was pretty cool.

So all-in-all it was a very nice experience. The other volunteers were great. Clinton's people were terrific. Would I recommend it? Sure, if you've already been to a tour stop (You can miss some good parts of the show) and you have a lot of energy, stamina and enthusiasm. Will I apply again? I don't know. It would be far easier because you kinda get a feel for how it all goes together, but it's a long weekend. Sunday morning in the arena was pretty special.

Not sure if I'll post this on my NWC blog. I don't think there is anything offensive in it (not like anyone reads that blog anyway)
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