Some of my friends and family wonder why I take the time and expense to work my ass off for two and a half days, essentially for free. Let me see if I can explain. It may sound corny, but it's my blog, it's supposed to be corny...
I don't have many natural talents. When I have a situation in life I'm not sure how to handle, I rely on the people in my head. I've got a pretty good team up here. These voices are of the people I believe are the best at what they do. If it's a moral dilemma, I hear my Dad's voice. In a crisis, I hear my older
brother's. If it's having fun and getting along with people, I hear my wife's voice. And, when I'm around my horse, it's Clinton's who is talking to me.
Jessie isn't the best trained horse by any measure, but she is safe and I attribute that safety to Clinton. To me safety is THE most valuable aspect of sharing time with Jessie. So, part of volunteering has to do with saying thanks for showing us the safe way. Every product I've bought from Downunder Horsemanship, while at first glance seemed expensive, has been a great value. My tack is five years old and still in excellent shape. The dvd's remain a constant reference for exercises and training. One challenge in "saying thanks" is to see if I can give him more value than he expects from a volunteer. (His expectations are pretty high and that makes this an even bigger challenge).
Now, Clinton, the person, couldn't pick me out of a lineup of kangaroos. But that's not the Clinton I know. The guy I know is the voice I've spent hours and hours listening to, the one that has never given me a bad piece of advice, the one that, if I look a hard enough, has always had the right answer, and the one who has taught me ninety percent of what I know about horses. THAT guy is a very good friend of mine. That's the guy I was helping out.
Well, before all this talk of imaginary friends and voices in my head gets me sent off to the looney bin, let me tell you about the weekend.
Thursday morning I woke up feeling lousy. My body ached, my stomach was queasy. I'm 55, I had applied to be a volunteer in January and had used the event as motivation to work out and maintain what little muscle mass I have left. Now, I'm on the verge of leaving for Las Vegas and I was going to need all the energy I could muster. Having spent 26 years in the health food business did help. I have an arsenal of supplements I believe help keep my immune system strong. I used every one of them. I had to work the first half of the day. My wife would relieve me at 2pm and work Friday and Monday for me. By the time I left I was feeling a little better, at least my stomach had calmed down. It's a four-and-a-half hour drive to Vegas from Bakersfield and I was in my room and checked in by 8pm. There was small restaurant across the street from the Southpoint resort that was about a ten minute walk. It was overcast and there were a couple of raindrops, but the fresh air felt good. I felt much better after a good dinner and the walk back to the Southpoint.
The next morning I showed up about 9:30 and there wasn't much to do. The retail area was almost completely set up and my first task was to help number 3,000 programs that would be used for a raffle. Gae, a No Worries Member from Australia was there, too. Clinton was in the arena practicing his first session. I learned this tour stop was going to be filmed for a series on RFD. Downunder had brought the largest number staff here of of any tour stop - ever. And, here's another reason I volunteered. Clinton surrounds himself with only the best people. Everyone was so pleasant, professional, and energetic. Having an opportunity to be even a small part of a winning team is a privilege I'll reach for every time.
Clinton worked on the lighting and choreography for quite some time. He established his timing marks within the song, had to have the spotlights hitting him just so, and, of course, have the sound exactly perfect. We hauled two thousand programs up to the registration booth. I came down and tried to get familiar with all the back stock of merchandise, trying to figure out where it would go and whether it had to be assembled or not. We broke for lunch (taquitos and chips) a little before noon. We had a business meeting which really didn't pertain to us very much. We got our assignment sheets and a couple of t-shirts, which were our uniforms for the next two days. My assignment was the saddle area. The empty boxes for the saddles were about 60 yards away. When someone bought a saddle my job was to get the corresponding empty box, bring it to the sale area, load the saddle and take it to the check-out area. If necessary I was to carry the saddle out to peoples' cars.
Sounds easy and it was for the most part. During the selling times the people were elbow-to-elbow in the selling area and negotiating the route with a huge box was actually quite fun.
We were dismissed at 1 PM and I headed for the pool area to catch some rays. As coincidence, there was our national health food convention happening on the north side of town. Later that evening I drove uptown and had a most excellent dinner with one of our sales reps and his company's big wigs. Ah, this was living...
Saturday morning I was up at 5:30 and went down for breakfast. A couple of nice gals from Minnesota, who were there for the show, invited me to sit with them for breakfast. We shared horse stories for about a half an hour and I headed for the arena floor. Clinton was rehearsing for his opening one more time. When they set off the smoke machines, the fire alarms went off in the arena. This had not happened the day before. There was some discussion and the arena manager was contacted to make sure it didn't happen during the show. They started letting the No Worries Club members in as soon as Clinton left the arena. About a half hour later Clinton showed up in a clean shirt, his brown felt hat, and went through the retail area shaking the hands with his staff and volunteers encouraging everyone to have a good show. He seemed happier and more relaxed than I remember him in 2008.
The intro and Mindy's performance was excellent. It went exactly as choreographed and it was very impressive to see Clinton and Mindy walk through the smoke with the sound and lights blazing. Clinton gave his philosophy talk and then took a break. I worked the saddle area and the place was packed! The next demo was advanced riding after which Clinton announced that this was Mindy's last tour stop. She would be retired. There was a break for lunch where once again much shopping took place and our station was buzzing along pretty good. I'm not sure exactly how many saddles were sold, but there were quite a few (some people had theirs shipped home).
We helped set up the round pen for the afternoon demo and then I went to take a break. As I walked up to the bathrooms to clean up, I noticed Ian Francis sitting alone near the top of the arena. I went down, got my snacks and water and headed up and sat next to him during the round pen demo. We didn't talk much, but he seemed like a nice guy. After the demo we tore down the round pen and set up the water supply for the EZ All and Ritchie Waterer Demo, then it was back to my station.
The late afternoon session was a riding demo with Clinton (on Mindy) and Ian (on Diez). Ian demonstrated a number of techniques for getting the horse to go where you wanted and then Clinton demonstrated a few things too. Near the end of the demo Clinton was saying how horses are very specialized today, almost too specialized he said. When he trained horses in Australia they knew how to do a number of different things; rope, rein, herd cows. Even Mindy, he said, was good with a cow.
"Who wants to be a cow for us?" A woman, 60ish, raised her hand and came into the arena. Clinton instructed her on "how to be a cow" and had her running back and forth across the arena. Then Mindy "worked" the woman/cow. After a couple of turns and rollbacks Clinton said, "You are the best cow we've worked all day". As the crowd roared he continued, "For such good work you get to have Mindy's very LAST ride at a tour stop." He put her on Mindy then he played the cow. The first rollback was so quick she almost came off, but Mindy took care of her. It was a very touching moment and there were many tears flowing as Mindy left the arena for
the last time.
The shopping area kept us busy after the last demo. Shopping went on so late that I was asked to man one of the exits because the security guards were going into overtime. It was an easy assignment that lasted until 7:20 or so when Amy came by and released me for the day.
On to Sunday in Part 2...