Sunday, March 6, 2022


How far will your ripple go?

We have all, at some time, tossed a pebble into water and watched ripples spread. It can be mesmerizing—staring at the concentric ridges of water; circles within circles, widening, growing away from their birthing center. Until something interrupts a wavelet. A floating leaf, a leaping fish, a shoreline.

On February 5, I received a small envelope in the mail. The kind that contains a thank you card or invitation. Two 32-cent stamps depicting a ballet dancer squeezed across the top right. I glanced at the return address—New Mexico—and felt a surge of anticipation. A couple of weeks earlier I had sent my book, “Journeys: Finding Joy on Horseback,” to long (horseback) rider and author Bernice Ende. In addition to her horseback riding adventures, Bernice had a background of instructing ballet.

Bernice Ende signs one of her
books while visiting the offices
of RAMM Horse Fencing & Stalls
in 2019.

I returned to the house before opening the envelope, slightly delaying the gratification of reading a note from Bernice. Just before I slid my finger under the envelope flap I noticed the return address was a pre-printed label that bore her sister’s name. At first I thought nothing of that, since when I last had email correspondence with Bernice she told me to mail my book to her sister’s since she wasn’t sure where she would be.

But as the glue on the paper gave way I hesitated as a strong feeling of foreboding descended. My hands shook as I plucked the flower-bedecked card out. I opened it and my eye caught on the words, “I am so sorry to tell you…”

I blinked. Several times I reread, “I am so sorry to tell you that Bernice died on October third.”

Any death of a loved, admired person can be a shock. To believe them alive, only to find out they died months earlier is shattering.

I met Bernice in April, 2019, when she was scheduled to speak at a venue near Toledo, Ohio. I had read her book, “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback,” and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet this amazing woman who had ridden a total of nearly 30,000 miles in the past 15 years. I was so excited I somehow arrived a day early.

As I drove the final miles, I received a message from the event coordinator, Debbie Disbrow, president and CEO of RAMM Horse Fencing & Stalls. She was confirming attendance for the following evening. I called Debbie and she said, yes, the event was to be the next evening. Debbie apologized (unnecessarily, for it was my misunderstanding) and asked if I wanted to join her on the event day to spend time with her and Bernice.

Bernice Ende, left, and Debbie Disbrow view horses
at the offices of RAMM Horse Fencing & Stalls in 2019.

Wow! You can guess my answer to that. I had planned to “camp out” in my van, but instead found a motel room for two nights and the next day drove to Debbie’s office. She graciously introduced me to her entire (huge) staff, that includes many family members. Then we all sat around anxiously awaiting Bernice.

The only disappointment for me the next few hours was that Bernice had left her two horses in Michigan instead of hauling them to Ohio for the short visit. Bernice sat next to me at lunch at the RAMM offices. I remember little of conversation. I just wanted to soak in her presence. When she did speak, it was often to encourage women around us to enjoy their “long ride,” whatever that might be. Motherhood, career, relationships.

Bernice wanted women to recognize their potential and LIVE their lives.

Just as she did.

Bernice’s ripple multiplied and spread. In my thinking her tsunami-like waves were interrupted much too soon.

Rest in peace Bernice.

(Note: you can read more about Bernice and her journeys on her website and blog, but only for a limited time. In accordance with her wishes, the sites will be taken down.

Bernice, right, prepares for a presentation about
her book. In the screen image, she is posing with
one of her Fjord horses, with her dog, Claire,
perched on her seat atop the pack.

Saturday, January 29, 2022


Who “owns” anything?

During a recent text conversation with my niece, Michele Brenner, she mentioned she is enjoying reading about her favorite horse, Tony, in my book “Journeys: Finding Joy on Horseback.” Tony accompanied me and my Appaloosa mare, Jubilee, on our 30-day, 1973 ride, as well as our nine-day 1983 ride.

I had to laugh when I read this:

“Oh yes, Tony was my favorite! I used to pretend he was my horse and you were just taking care of him.”

I answered, “In truth, Tony did belong to all those who loved him so much!”

Michele Brenner on Tony--1970s

Of all the many, many horses who have lived with me over the past 68 years, Tony is a standout. We purchased Tony when he was about 10 years old for my son Chris as a 4-H mount. The sellers hinted that he may have had some respiratory issues and that he would do best kept outside. Fortunately, whatever they had experienced never once cropped up during the next 16 years Tony lived with me.

Chris lost interest in four-hooved transportation when he discovered motorbikes and Tony segued to his next career as a lesson horse and ultimate guest horse. These roles were tail0r-made for the kind and forgiving bay quarter horse. It would take many fingers and toes to count all the people who rode Tony during his lifetime. Big people, little people, clumsy people, adept people—he graciously handled them all.

In my book I write about an incident in which I was teaching a young girl who had long blonde hair how to ride bareback on Tony. At a walk, she slipped off him, landing on her back. Tony stopped so abruptly when he felt the child begin to fall that one hoof landed on a long strand of her hair. He stood like a statue until I lifted his hoof and the crying youngster started laughing.

Michele Brenner holds Tony while her cousin Tracy climbs aboard (1970s).

That was the Tony Michele and dozens of others “owned.” He enriched so many lives!

After his second long ride with Jubilee and me, Tony had a year of retirement before going on to eternal green pastures. The retirement party, held in our front yard, was attended by a large group of his former “owners”/riders/admirers. Tony got the biggest piece of the carrot cake and obligingly sipped champagne from a plastic glass.

From left, Tracy, and sisters Rhonda and Michele groom Tony. (1970s)

Monday, December 6, 2021



When it comes to making clothes last a while, I have been known to excel. Last summer (2021) I popped on an orange T-shirt that says, “Paul Bunyan Show 1984.” The 37-year-old shirt, which I wear a couple of times a year, has a nice soft velvety feel and still fits. I earned it as a “prize” for standing on a log, which was rolling in a pond of cold water, for approximately one second.

After I put together the photos for my book, “Journeys: Finding Joy on Horseback,” I did a double-take when I noticed I was wearing the same blue-jean vest in several photos from different eras. It is easy to spot because of the white cotton pieces attached to each breast pocket. The vest shows up in six photos throughout the book, including in the cover photo (I’ll let you find the rest). The earliest photo is from The 1983 Ride and the latest is from The Y2K Ride.

Now a vest is an extremely handy garment—especially when it comes to horseback rides. The pockets can be stuffed full of very useful things a rider might want if they are parted from their equine partner. Food, matches, paper and pen, knife, tissues, cell phone and so on. Plus, a vest adds a layer of protection from weather while not adding a lot of weight or heat (depending on the material).

“Hmmm,” I thought, “I know I’ve worn that vest in recent years.”

I was pretty sure I knew exactly where it was. But before I could launch my search I happened to sell my 1988 Ford Bronco. I had used the Bronco to pull my Featherlite horse trailer for many years and each trip I added at least one more useful item to the back seat. My helpful husband tossed everything from the vehicle into large black bags which got tucked away in the barn for future sorting.

Eventually sorting day came and I was halfway through the second bag when to my wondering eyes appeared a dark blue vest with a patch of cotton adorning one breast pocket. It was even in reasonably good shape, although a bit dusty and missing one cotton patch. I looked more closely at the remaining cotton patch and realized all these years I’d been wearing a fishing vest. In fact, the label says, “100% cotton, WALKER®, The Ultimate Fishing Vest (made in Hong Kong, of course).

The patches are intended to attach various fish lures and in fact they are called “fly patches,” indicating the vest would be popular for fly fishing. An online search quickly showed several vintage (1970s) vests exactly like mine for sale from $32.99 to $60. I probably paid ten bucks for my vest when it was new. Then I found replacement fly patches online, which I ordered.

Now all I need to do is launder my vintage vest (carefully), attach a new fly patch and I can add a valuable skill set—fly fishing from horseback.

Saturday, September 18, 2021


Why write a memoir?

Memoir: Merriam-Webster: a narrative composed from personal experience.

Reading the definition of a memoir given by Merriam-Webster, it would seem anyone can write a memoir. For who doesn’t have personal experience? All you need now is a way to write down your story, right?

Well, kinda.

To write a memoir someone other than your family and friends would want to read takes effort. But a personal history for your descendants may be a good starting point. Would my great-grand nieces and nephews find it interesting, even astonishing, that their now-old aunt was once a young dreamer who roved the countryside on horseback? Would they be compelled by the fact that she was able to ride for weeks by herself, counting on her only companions, her horses and dog, to take care of her? I thought they might.

I also mused that people who thought they knew me well might learn more than they ever guessed about my aspirations, actions and abilities. But I also wanted a theme I thought might interest other groups of people—namely, women, horseback riders and those interested in adventuring.

And so I wrote, Journeys: Finding Joy on Horseback

People learning more about me was actually an uncomfortable thought. My journalism career has revolved around interviewing people—probing sometimes to depths they might not have expected to reveal and then telling their stories. But I have always considered myself a very private person. To be truthful, an introvert.

So why the heck put my own story inside the covers of a book?

To begin with, I am a writer. Most writers write about what they know about. Many novelists create characters based on their own personalities or on people they know. Over the years I have had a lot of ideas for fiction stories. Maybe I’ll write one someday. But I decided to start with what I knew most intimately—me and my stories.

Writing a memoir may seem like just plastering a page with words that flow from the gray matter through the fingertips. It can be that way to begin. But it is actually a lot of work. As I wrote, I realized my memory was supplying some pretty good stuff, but I wanted to be as accurate as possible. Here are some of the prompts I used.

  •          Notes and journals, of which, sadly, I had but few.
  •          Published stories I had written.
  •          Photographs, some of which miraculously came to light after nearly 50 years, and some for which I am still searching.
  •          Conversations with family, friends and even people I had not previously met.
  •          Google.
  •          Road trips, retracing routes of adventures.

These are just a few devices to help untangle that cobweb of the memory.

Back to the original question—why write about yourself?

Because you can. Anyone can. Everyone has had life experience that, although may seem common and unexciting to you, may be so different from others’ experiences that there is someone out there who would enjoy or benefit from reading about it.

If you have ever thought about writing, be it a short story, an essay or a book, it won’t ever get done if YOU don’t just “do it.”




  How far will your ripple go? We have all, at some time, tossed a pebble into water and watched ripples spread. It can be mesmerizing—sta...