I Left My Horse in San Francisco  

 

I Left My Horse in San Francisco                 by Kate Peters

 

As a young lass growing up in what is now called “Silicon Valley,” my family had six bucolic acres rimmed by pastures and orchards on all sides. As the youngest of a large brood, I grew up under laissez-faire tutelage, doing pretty much whatever I was wont to do, which was mostly talking to and petting the animals who roamed the earth around me. If they were breathing and covered with hair, I related to them.

Next door on one side was a brood mare who birthed a new foal each spring. This was always a high point of the year for me, for to my mind, there was nothing more beautiful than a horse, except a baby horse. We also had a dairy farm across the road, and I often visited the calves and let them suck on my fingers. A modest-sized flock of sheep populated our own pasture, and I once took a lamb to school in a cardboard box for show & tell. Over that decade I had the customary dog, cat, parakeet, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, fish, and turtle that all “normal” post-war children had. Less common were the rats and mice that my father, a research scientist, brought home for me from time to time, whenever I was experiencing an animal void.

I also had a leghorn hen who was a particularly excellent companion when I was feeling introspective. Always barefoot, I would sit outside on a step to think about the meaning of life, and my faithful free-range chicken would peck among the geraniums around my feet. Sometimes she would mistake my toenail for a sow bug and give it a nibble, which altered the course of my thoughts and caused me to pick her up and stroke the satiny spot between her shoulder blades. I liked her a lot, and it was a sad day when the neighbor’s dog dispatched her.

But what I really wanted was a horse. From the moment I could talk, I began begging for my own equine. Our pasture was already fenced, so why not? One day my parents bought me a burro. But Rosita was definitely no horse. She didn’t care to be ridden, and she leaned all of her weight on me whenever she could. We didn’t hit it off. I wanted a horse!

…At age twelve, I finally got one, and for the next three years I was in heaven. As soon as I got home from school I’d slip a bridle onto my best friend and partner, and we’d take off through the surrounding apricot orchards and hay fields, barebacked and barefooted, to return at dusk, riding beneath aromatic eucalyptus and pungent pepper trees, to eat and sleep, and start the next day at 4:00 AM with a hypnotic sunrise and a hefty load of homework. The routine worked for me and I was happier than I had ever been, until I learned that we would be moving to Honolulu within the month, where I would continue my high school experience.

A week later I was told that I could pack two Mayflower packing boxes with my lifetime of belongings. This was when I realized that my horse would not be coming with me.

The separation was devastating and I remember crying half-way across the Pacific Ocean. The airline stewardess was perplexed. “Most people flying to Hawaii are happy,” she said. “Can I do anything to help?”

“No,” I sobbed, “you can’t help. I’m just sad because I left my horse in San Francisco.”

My First Smart Phone Lesson

My First –and Last– Smartphone Lesson, by Kate Peters

 

I’m sixty-eight. I recently plunged, feet first into the 21st century, by purchasing a smartphone. I should have plunged in head first, because now I’m lost in a jungle of ethernet, cyberspace, clouds, and unending and totally intangible options.

In November, my husband and I entered a store, trepidatious but buoyed by many unchallenged claims that my life would be hugely improved if I owned one of these super-mini-computers. Two and a half hours later, we left the service provider outlet with my $700 new B.F.F., and three new user id’s, email addresses and passwords.

Being basically a right-brained animal, I am confused by decisions, mathematical algorithms, and more than three steps in a recipe, but thankfully, they offered classes for free, on the fifteenth of every month, one hour before store opening. We signed up.

 

Our first class was two days later. We both went, but it was to be my instrument. I had two questions:

  1. How do I make the keyboard keys larger?
  2. How do I get my photos off this phone, and onto, or into my computer?
  3. And by the way, am I uploading or downloading, when I do this?

The answers came randomly, interspersed with the needs of others, as this was no tutoring session. We were two, among many confused and grasping silver-haired seniors who had ventured into an alien world.

“Any Questions?”

I raised my hand. “Can you enlarge the keys on my keyboard, please?”

He worked with my phone for five seconds. “No, I can’t. …Next question?”

 

For the next four weeks, the only app. I could use was the one where you speak to a little microphone icon and the phone answers your question, as neatly as if there was a miniature woman sitting right there inside the thing. I still didn’t know how to answer a call, though. Something about dragging your finger with just the correct pressure, in just the right direction… Callers probably thought I was being snobby.

 

A month later, we huddled with a handful of other hopefuls, outside the storefront in a predawn chill. After a while, we were huddling even more closely, as no service provider had arrived to unlock the doors or provide us with service.

I, being a natural ice-breaker in any group, discovered that one woman had driven all the way in from Florissant, while another was deeply concerned about arsenic in old dental fillings. I said I was having trouble downloading (or uploading?) my images of our autumn drive to Deckers.

Not a natural conversationalist, my husband waited in the warm car.

When a young woman in pre-ripped and stoneground jeans came to unlock the door an hour and a quarter later, I helped her to understand that we were all waiting for our free smartphone lesson. She nodded, went inside the store, and locked us outside. Then, she whipped her own phone out of her back pocket, and made a call. Five minutes later, she delivered the bad news:

“Class is canceled, due to a family emergency. We’ll call each of you, when we’ve scheduled a makeup class.”

“Well, since we’ve been waiting here for over an hour, could we just ask someone our questions?”

“Okay. Come in, I guess.”

“Can you show me how to transfer my pictures off this smartphone and onto (into?) my computer?”

She glanced at my device. “Uhh.”

A young male clerk arrived. We could both see his breath in the air as he passed through the waiting zone and entered the store. “Here comes Carl. He can help you.” The lass looked relieved.

“Hi, Carl. Can you show me how to transfer my pictures off this smartphone and onto my computer?”

Carl took a look at my phone, and then at the twenty-pound laptop I’d been holding for the past hour. “You can’t transfer from this phone to a three-year-old computer. You’ll need to buy a new computer.”

“Oh.”

We left. “Well, if I absolutely must update, I do NOT want to update from Windows 7, to Windows 8 or 10. I’ve heard horror stories about them.” I had drawn my line in the sand.

 

The store never called to reschedule the class, and when we called them (three different times) we were told three different dates. So, we skipped December, and waited for January.

 

On the appointed mid-winter morning, we showed up at, but no one else did. A note on the store door read, ‘Smartphone classes are no longer being offered.’

I guess there’s a lesson in there, somewhere, but I haven’t been able to #hashtag the correct ‘app,’ to decipher it yet.

 

Post Script:

 

I recently bought a new computer. It came with Windows 10, which is significantly different from Windows 7. Now, I need some lessons…

 

 

 

Passing Down Memories

PASSING DOWN MEMORIES by Kate Peters

 

Before I started kindergarten, I used to walk up the path to visit my “Grandma and Grampa Folks” almost every day. Grandma was usually sitting by the window, working with her substantial collection of stamps. She also had several rare treasures of yesteryear, including a treadle sewing machine, a Civil War-era parasol, and a tiny shoe from China, that was worn by some unlucky “fortunate” who had been born wealthy enough to have her feet bound, as a little girl.

My grampa, Theodore Abijah, maintained a ‘truck” farm on a flat space near the top of our hill. He had lots of hobbies. He had been a teacher and a high school principal, by trade. Now retired, he was a rock collector and an inventor. He even had a little mail order business in rudimentary spectroscopes coming to T.A.Cutting.

Sometimes he would let me come up into the attic with him, to see his little inventions. You had to be careful not to step off the two planks, or you would fall through the ceiling into the living room, below. He had a box of colored gels framed in white, with little handles. They were shaped like suckers. Looking through one made the world turn a completely different color. It was very fun.

He taught me to read. We read a book about a little girl with blonde hair and her black cat named Smoky. When I got my first kitten, I picked the all-black one, and named her Smoky.

Grampa also wrote books and printed them on a huge peddle-operated press in the old barn. It was fun to get going really fast and ride the peddles, while I stuck my hand down into the press and withdrew it just in time, over and over again. I’m lucky I have a hand today, I guess.

In his study, Grampa had a small bookshelf with some books and a bowl of fossils and half-rocks. The half-rocks were some he had sawn in two with his rock saw. A rock saw was harder, even, than a rock, because it had real diamonds around the edge. The fossils were from a long, long time ago.

Somehow, I was fortunate enough to inherit his bowl of rocks, and I still have it, after an Alaskan odyssey and a dozen other moves. Whenever I pass it, I am reminded of my Grampa Folks. Today, I’ve brought one rock to show you. I don’t know how he acquired it, but I picture the episode as a hot dash, a quick press, and a rapid withdrawal. I think he “made” it on Mt. Lassen in 1915. Was this one of his brightest moves, or one of his dimmest? Who’s to say, but I feel proud to be its present owner. One day soon, people won’t even recognize the head of Mercury on the face of a dime that was pressed into the belly button of this piece of lava rock. I wonder, where will my Grampa’s prize go from here? Maybe my story can go along with it. I’m glad I’m telling it while I still can. I think writing is one of Humankind’s greatest inventions.