This week it’s time to ‘mix it up’ a bit with something NOT related to the year’s harvest or recipes or Regular Rural Updates… So, we’ll have a wee dip into Phonetics Phun and the Pharm.
Have been submitting a lot of short-piece writings lately to various lit magazines, environmental journals, etc. One of the works I spent some time on this year was a 14-page ‘limerick’ (or rather an extended poem) about a young girl in a fantasy world where conservation and communion with Nature are the norm. Each verse was in limerick form : a a bb a (with the two ‘b’ rhyme-lines shorter than the ‘a’ s). Thus, I thought I’d do a wholly entertaining post for my readers as well, but on a slightly different theme.
I’ve known -and know – a lot of Richards in my lifetime. All the ones I shall mention have either a connection with Blue Belldon Farm and how I ended up here, or an appreciation of Nature, the Great Outdoors/Environment, or both: To start with my mother’s brother, ‘Richard’, the first Richard I ever met –
An uncle of mine of this name, Helped an outdoor tree-house game By telling his son To join in the fun Thus, a tree-hugger I became!
I also had a great-uncle, Uncle Dick – He and Aunt Jessie both inspired me in various ways, she in the tomboy/outdoor hobbies, he in the creative theatrical hobbies – and both entertained constantly with their humour:
There once was a chappy named Dick Whose wife was a very choice pick She worked with wood Whenever she could Inspiration was surely their schtick!
As most children my age did, I loved Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke’s speaking (in horrible Cockney!) to the penguins meant , to me, that he would help save them in real life too – just as he himself would be saved a half century later by other water animals in an amazing miracle:
Old Dick was eighty-four'd But went surfing on his board He fell asleep, In oceans deep - Dolphins pushed him a-shored!
The next Richard of whom I was aware was the author of Watership Down, Mr. Richard Adams, a one-time president of Britain’s RSPCA, who just passed away last year. He and Thornton Burgess began my worrying that someday the animals would all be killed off , either by hunters or because their natural habitats were being taken over by idiot humans:
He cared so much for each pet For a scratch, he'd call in the vet! The wildlife hopped Through his pages they popped. With concern, I'd continually fret...
An amazing young artist with whom I took art classes in high school and whose last name I can’t remember, began my love of wildlife and landscape art, so that my appreciation for nature became even greater. His first name was Rick. (And I then went on to adore Robert Bateman’s nature paintings, especially since I found out Mom/Joy’s mother had taught school with him in Burlington for a time)…
Rick's sketches of wildlife amazed He calmly drew, was not phased By the hustle around In a classroom of sound, He just penciled a doe as she grazed...
Richard Thomas, of The Walton’s fame, also made me lust after living a quiet, old-fashioned farm life in the mountains. Most of my friends in England (where The Waltons was even more popular !) write and ask me how things are going here on Walton’s Mountain now… I didn’t have a crush on John-Boy, as many my age did. I wanted to BE John-Boy! A writer who lived in a rural community in the rolling mountains…
John-Boy scribbled and edited his papers Calmed Cousin Corabeth's hysterical vapours Climbed up the hill Where his thoughts could be still And reflected on his family's capers!
The next Richard to influence me re: life in harmony with Nature and our countryside was a man I worked for one summer, Dickie Lamley. I got a job working on the farm with ARC industries, where many mentally challenged ‘clients’ from my home town and area were privileged to feel purposeful. We hoed rows of veg, planted fruit trees, built fencelines and harvested and sold at a roadside stand ACRES of gladioli (which by the way I despised even BEFORE I worked there!) . Thirty-something Dickie was not only strikingly good-looking, but knowledgeable and sensitive – a real Mr. Darcy type in all ways. Very influential on all teen-age girls who worked for him in the 1970s!
Be glad with gladioli, gals And help your less-lucky pals To pick and prop, Display their crop And fence out deer with those corrals.
The next Richard is important to me for many reasons, and he has twisted in and out of my life, both himself and through 6 degrees of separation, for decades. Richard Farnsworth has been a stuntman (mostly as a rider) since the 1930s, when my sweet friend Kay Linaker, the actress and screenwriter, was also starring in a variety of films. Kay (aka Kate Phillips) used to say that she and her hubby ‘found’ Steve McQueen, in fact, and made him a star in their co-written The Blob. Later Richard and Steve would star together in Tom Horn. Kay starred in a serious of Westerns and frontier films herself – with Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda in Drums Along the Mohawk (directed by the great John Ford) and with Buck Jones and “Buck Benny” (Jack Benny) in some gritty-riding-and-roping scenes – she told me she did a lot of the riding herself, and she once laughed at Jack Benny when his horse ran away with him. Apparently, as soon as he was rescued, he vomited violently! During those years Richard worked in such films as Gone With The Wind (an uncredited soldier) A Day at the Races (as an uncredited jockey) and in The Ten Commandents (as an uncredited chariot driver!) He was always, his whole life, in outdoor films, and usually working with horses.
From the 1930s through the 1950s Richard worked as a stunt man and in crowd scenes (By the 1950s Kay was working as a screen-writer, which is how I met her). By the time the early 1960s rolled around, Richard had decided he quite liked acting and began taking more and more speaking roles, still in outdoor films primarily – and with a horse wherever possible! But of course most of us came to know him when Sullivan Productions introduced him as the driver of a certain buggy through the White Way of Delight and past The Lake of Shining Waters:
Richard played Anne's Matthew hero When he told her she could stay and grow At his Green Gables (Where, in his stables, His compulsory horse did stomp and blow).
Sullivan Productions then went on to do a spin-off series, Road to Avonlea, in which two of my fellow competitors in the eventing world would stunt-ride for the episode The Great Race. Hugh Moreshead, now a well-known Canadian course designer, and our pal Dick Bayly (yes, ANOTHER Richard) had loads of fun steeplechasing for the cameras during the filming of that one!
But back to Richard Farnsworth. Although we all came to love him as Anne’s beloved Matthew (and it was at this time that he began being nominated for awards in nearly every single movie of quality in which he starred right up until his death – not bad for a stunt rider!) it was as the crotchety Mr. Foster, ex-cavalry rider and now-trainer of future Olympic event rider “Charlene Railsworth” (Melissa Gilbert, all grown up from her time as Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, another influential show for my dreams of living self-sufficiently in a rural area). This 3-day Eventing film, Sylvester, was produced in the same year as Anne of Green Gables (actually filmed close to us in Ontario, not PEI – how I wish I’d gone to meet Richard Farnsworth at that time!) Richard did several other movies and television shows that year as well, so it was one of the best and busiest of his career! And although I had some vague ideas that I wanted to be an event competitor someday, it was Sylvester that clinched it. This film, already exciting because it had two of my favourite actors as leads and was about the sport I was thinking of pursuing as a new adult, was also a pleasure to me for two other reasons: 1) I had been a dusty cowgirl for the first part of my riding career (age 10 to 16) and then turned to riding English and enjoying all the many disciplines offered in THAT style. Sylvester started in Texas – where I’d visited and ridden when I was 11 – taking place on a dirty horse ranch (thus, Richard fit in perfectly!) and then the film moved for the English/Eventing scenes to the Kentucky Horse Park (where I’d also visited on the same trip through the United States when I was 11!) 2) One of my favourite eventers whose magnificent career I’d been following for several years , was Kim Walnes. With just her ONE horse, The Gray Goose, she was climbing the world-leader board in the Eventing world, and inspiring those of us who would only ever HAVE one horse at a time TO DREAM BIG. She was (and still is) an inspiration to many of us, and when I discovered that she and Gray were the stunt doubles for Melissa Gilbert for all the dressage, cross-country and show-jumping scenes in Kentucky, this movie was destined to be extremely influential for me.
Two of my favourite shots from the film, Melissa getting told off by Richard after she falls in the water jump and Kim and Melissa on their two primary grays (Gray Goose and the real Sylvester).
For more of Kim’s memories during the shoot (like having to jump over cameramen in ditches, read this article http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/tbt-summer-sylvester
(For the last year I have been corresponding almost daily with Kim to try and organize a short documentary that I’d like to see made about her life – she is truly an amazing woman. If you’re reading this, and have any access to film-makers or video production companies, please contact me! We have a keen film editor, permission granted for many of the old clips, but not yet someone who wants to do the actual present-day filming! For more of Kim’s extraordinary life (though she’s too humble to admit it has been so) read this article: https://sidelinesnews.com/sidelines-spotlight/sheer-will-and-determination-the-story-of-eventer-kim-walnes-and-her-extraordinary-horse-the-gray-goose.html
If the link above doesn’t work and you want to read more about Kim’s WOW lifestory, type in “Sheer Will, Sidelines, Kim Walnes” in google – it’s a really good article, and at the end is her website address if you want to read even more!)
There was an old fellow named Farnsworth Who seems connected to me since my own birth He rides, trains and acts He's full of farm facts And of horses and tractors there's no dearth.
Right to the end, Richard Farnsworth played roles that kept him outdoors, and RIDING. His last part in 1999 was the lead role in The Straight Story, (directed by the famed David Lynch) which won him an Academy Award nomination. He could no longer ride horses at his age, so the role took place with him primarily riding a John Deere lawnmower, very much like ours. He rode it in nearly every scene in the film!
If my own Richard keeps not bothering to shave, he’s going to soon look exactly like the above, tooting about Blue Belldon on our own nearly-identical John Deere!
There’s another former steeplechase jockey (like Hugh Moreshead and Dick Bayly) who also titillated my love of countryside and eventing. Author Dick Francis. Of all his English countryside/riding-based thrillers, my very favourite is Trial Run, centred around the fictional Russian Olympics lead-up for horse-trials (eventers) competitors.
A Dick who once rode for the Queen Is another to whom I will lean When expounding my faves He has many raves On the covers and pages between
When I moved to England, the first time, in the late 1990s I LOVED taking the trains as they allowed me to see so much of the countryside I’d dreamt of and read about my whole life. I didn’t especially like Richard Branson’s Virgin line, though. However, in 2014, Branson joined forces with African Wildlife Foundation and partnered with WildAid for the “Say No” Campaign, an initiative to bring public awareness to the issues of wildlife poaching and trafficking, and for this I gotta admire the man. He does lots of other philanthropic works across the globe with his billions as well… which means he has certainly TRUMPED other billionaires…
There was a tycoon name of Branson Who said "no" to animal lancin' Or of shooting outright The beautiful sight Of magnificent beasts. Now they're dancin'!
More than a nod must be given to another screen legend – Richard Briers. My own Richard and I have long watched dvds from the library of the first 3 years of Monarch of the Glen (after that, they killed off Richard Brier’s hilarious character)- in fact on a trip to Scotland before I moved there, in late 2008, we even saw the small castle and wandered the wilderness estate at which Monarch was filmed – in the stunning scenery of the west side of my grandfather’s native land. So, as if that wasn’t enough, Richard Briers has inspired me. BUT, since moving here and watching so many BBC shows (we have no television so watch shows online in the winter evenings…) we have very much enjoyed one of his first series for the BBC, the 1970s popular “The Good Life” – all about, guess what? A couple who are determined to live self-sufficiently. If you’ve never seen it, you must watch a few episodes at least – we’ve actually had TIPS and GOOD IDEAS we’ve considered from this fun but ‘thinking-outside-of-the-box’ sit-com.
Richard 'Briers Rabbit' they called this guy In the back garden digging, and he'd try and try To make veggies grow In the mud and the snow While inside his wife'd have a pig-fry!
I’ve mentioned him before in this blog, but John Rikards, a different type of “Rik” ,is another author who has intrigued me – by writing about this very county where we’ve moved, without ever having laid eyes on North America !
Young British writer, Rikards, became a FB friend When I wrote him we'd moved here, setting of "Winter's End" I read it many years ago Never dreaming we'd be here in snow A decade later, now part of Appalachian trend.
Of course the Attenborough brothers, both Richard and David, have been highly influential to me in their on-screen and in print formats. As a drama major, I’ve long admired Richard in his many roles, but David has been an activist for ending climate change and trying to save the planet for decades before it even became ‘trendy’ (for those of us that know it isn’t all a ‘hoax’, anyway!)
Dear Dick and Davie, brothers true Bring nature's joy to me and you Attenborough Pride So dignified! And always they have something new
This has been an especially hard year for my own Richard’s good friend Rick Madden, and I’d be remiss not to give that particular Rick a special tribute of his own:
There was a pure gent called Rick Madden Who, this year, has had much to sadden But so many love Rick And they close 'round him quick That we pray his heart will soon gladden!
I’ve written of my friend Remy, whose real name is Richard McEvoy. He spent 3 weeks with us here in the fall because he wanted to work on his North American bush-and-survival skills. He and his son Joe run a company in West Yorkshire called Brigantia Bushcraft. http://www.brigantiabushcraft.com/about-us.html
Last month I posted a photo of the two Richards going down the Saint John River in our new/old canoe ( search for the Lorne Green/ Long Green post). This was part of the goals Remy had, but he also had another important one he wanted to accomplish whilst here – and did!
A man called Richard built a lean-to With knife and hatchet, tools so few He nearly got shot By hunters, alot But still helped us to make partridge stew!
2nd limerick for Remy:
But though time for ole Remy was fraught With listening to quibbling a lot About how to farm No, there's little charm - When Richard wants you to garden, you're CAUGHT!
And lastly, and the real driving force for writing this particular blog, is my own Richard Reich, who agreed to buy this farm and give trying to live off the land a chance. He’s been a good sport about most things, giving the production of maple syrup a good go last spring, learning how to do ‘barn chores’ with crazy animals he’s never had anything to do with prior to this year – and incidentally this week we went to the woods with Chevy and Richard had him finally hauling out logs (photos and blog on this in a month or two) – and working especially hard on his two chief projects: the composting for the garden and the wood for heating (also devising ways we can harness solar and wind for future…)
There once was a family of Reichs Whose Richard bought a farm and said "Yikes"! Now I have ALL this work It will drive me berserk And I've no time for quiet drives or hikes But after a while he did realize That much to his happy surprise The livestock were sweet They made life complete This farm life has opened his EYES!