Sandy NathanSandy Nathan, National Award Winning Author

Sometimes, wonderful things happen on the Internet. A few years ago, I posted an article about my life with horses on my web site. It was a trip down memory lane for some of us who go quite a ways back. I wrote about all sorts of things, which I’m going to repeat a bit here.

I had wanted a horse since she could stand up and cried every birthday until I got one. My parents finally got me a horse, and then I couldn’t be pried off. I still ride as much as I can.

Here’s memory number one for those of you who remember the San Francisco Peninsula before it was Silicon Valley. Here are some photos of the San Mateo County Junior Sheriff’s Posse, led by Toots Lopez in the 1960s. Please click the link to see the full sized images on my web site.
TOOTS LOPEZ LEADING THE JR. SHERIFF'S POSSE“Toots” Lopez leading the San Mateo County Junior Sheriff’s Posse, I believe in a parade in Redwood City.
POSSE KIDS AROUND THE BUSSome kids from the Jr. Sheriff’s Posse in front of “The Bus.” Some names include Rick DeBenedetti, Cathy Matson, Sheila Trifeletti, and me––Sandy Oddstad Nathan. Shep, our family dog is in front. (Check the article for everyone’s names.)

My father, Andy Oddstad, was one of the most efficient people I’ve ever known. When I joined the Jr. Posse and he saw twenty moms and dads hitching up the ol’ truck and pulling out every time we had an event, his sense of efficiency was wounded.

He dug up an old bus somewhere and turned it over to Triff Trifeletti, who was one of his right hand men in those days. Triff and his guys at the shop fixed it, painted it, made a ramp and set it up as a horse hauling vehicle that could hold eight to ten horses, stacked sideways.

It looked incredibly impressive and wherever we arrived: The bus was painted in green and white, the posse colors, with matching horses and riders. I don’t know what happened to the bus after I moved on. I expect that old bus is moldering away somewhere.

THE SAN MATEO COUNTY JUNIOR SHERIFF'S POSSE, early 1960sThe whole Posse and nothing but the Posse.

When I put up that earlier article on my web site, I heard from some people I hadn’t seen in almost fifty years––men and women who were kids with me so long ago. Click to read the whole article. With big pictures!

If you contacted me from that article, I’m going to ask you to contact me again. We’ve a couple of computer melt downs and I’ve lost all the email addresses of those folks who wrote earlier––my entire address book. You can write in the comments part below, though I’m not sure it will get through. I’ve got such an aggressive spam filter on this blog, I don’t think my own name could get through. (And you know why––who puts out that nasty spam, anyway?) Could you repeat the post on my email? That will get to me.

Lots of people from Woodside’s Mounted Patrol wrote to me. We relived great old times.
And I was able to write to the Town Council about the place the Mounted Patrol, its Grounds, and horses generally have held in Woodside for so many years. Like everywhere else, my old home town is beset by those who don’t see the need for horses.

MORE AMAZINGLY––Some folks from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Posse (and that’s a BIG, SPECTACULAR posse) found an old flag from the Junior Sheriff’s Posse at a garage sale and sent it to me.

If opening that package didn’t bring some tears to my eyes. I always wanted to post a bit about the whole event, them, their Posse and that flag––but time slips, as we know. I’ve got the flag, just lost their contact info. Please, if you find this drop me a line and I’ll get back to you.

DAVID ODDSTAD & TUCK AT SKYLINE RANCH, early 1960sDavid Oddstad, my brother, riding Tuck in the Skyline Ranch rodeo arena in the early 1960s.

Here I go to another location on Memory Lane: Anybody remember a guy named Stan Cosca? How about Jim Black? A horse named Tuck? The fine and wonderful days of the Skyline Ranch in the Oakland Hills?

Let me tell you about these people and the Skyline Ranch. Stan Cosca built the Skyline Ranch. I don’t know when he built it, just that it was definitely there when I found it, back in the early 1960s. I heard that it’s owned by the City of Oakland now.

One of the neatest things about Skyline Ranch was that it was right across the street from an huge regional park. You could ride on those trails until you passed out––the location was horse heaven and Stan recognized it. The Skyline Ranch might look skimpy next to today’s equestrian super-centers, but it was state of the art when it was built. Most ranches back then were family affairs. Someone built a house, added a barn, an arena, some stalls. Ramshackle and built as the owners could afford it.

The Coscas built one of the first really “all of a piece” ranches in this part of the state. It was a complete facility with a house for the Cosca family, one for their trainer, Jim Black and his wife Tiny. It sported a fantastic rodeo arena, a coffee shop between the arena and the road. Next to the coffee shop was a saddle shop with a great saddler, Earl Naninga. The barns had an small indoor arena (unheard of at the time) and rows of stalls backed up to a central hay storage aisle. Whoever was feeding could toss flakes to the stalls on either side and feed in jig time.

They held rodeos on the weekends. Tuck was a trick horse and Stan’s daughter did a trick riding and roping act. People could ride any time. Get a burger afterward. Order some chaps from Earl Naninga, or take a number to wait a couple of years for one of his saddles. Then you’d go right down the hill and back to Oakland and urban life, such as it was.

Here’s the good part about the Internet: When you forget something’s up on your site, it’s still there. I got a great email from Traci LeMire whose grandmother, Lenore Bauer owned the restaurant at the Skyline Ranch for years. Traci wrote me a wonderful note about hanging around the ranch as a young person.

That time glows, doesn’t it? Those memories glow.

And if that wasn’t enough, then I heard from Carole Jones, Lenore’s daughter. She told me about her brother Dan helping in the coffee shop kitchen and playing his guitar for the Monday buffets. Jim Black, the resident horse trainer was also the resident artist––his paintings were in great demand. I have one of my gray mustang. Carole wrote to me recalling Jim Black’s paintings and her mother’s. Lenore was a painter, too. She wrote about days spent growing up on the ranch around horses.

Recalling this time stops the blood and raises goosebumps and seems more real than what we’ve got today. Heroic and noble. Thank you Carole and Lenore for bringing that time back. I posted this because of you.

Well, back to my story. I don’t really know how my dad met Stan Cosca. My father was building in Oakland then, Crestmont, I think. He met a number of people, including Peter Tripp and his family, going to City Council Meetings. I think he met Stan there. He began to visit the ranch to have lunch with Stan. They became friends. Soon enough, Stan knew I rode and he and Jim Black, the trainer, were trying to find me a show horse.

WATER DOG & SANDY AT A SHOW Water Dog, a typy Quarter Horse in the early 1960s.

They found me one. Not the horse above. This was my dad’s horse. He was out at Stan’s eating lunch one day. Jimmy Black was riding Water Dog in the arena. The horse was for sale. My dad flipped for him. “He’s got muscles like a wrester and red hair like my wife.” He had to buy him. (My dad was AAU Champion Heavyweight Wrestler and Commissioner of Wrestling for San Francisco’s Olympic Club. He wrestled. And he just loved my mom . . .)

Water Dog joined the family. I showed him for years. We’re at some show in the thumbnail above.

SMOKEY JOE & SANDY NATHANSmokey Joe. This is the show horse Stan and Jim Black found for me. He had been owned by one of the Rose Brothers from Hollister. A Nevada mustang. It was a case of the trainer never having time to train his son’s horse. A couple of months of training with Jimmy Black, and I was able to ride this horse to more show wins than any horse since.

Smokey is probably my favorite horse of a lifetime. Perfect behavior, never sick or lame. Never even spooked. You could ride this horse anywhere. Perfect manners with other horses or anyone.
The Rose family called the horse Tommy Tucker, I believe. After I’d traded him back to the Roses for a horse I’ll discuss below, my riding teacher saw him at a show. Still truckin’, after all those years. If you know the Rose family in Hollister and remember a gray gelding with no papers and lot of heart, I’d love to hear from you.

I did hear from Stan’s brother a while back, and I found out about the family over the years. And #@!#!!! wouldn’t you know it, the $#@!!! computer I had not only lost their email address, it lost their letters, too. I’m finally taking people seriously when they say, “Back up everything.”

So, if there are any Coscas out there, or any of Jimmy Black’s family, or any of the folks who have dropped me a line earlier, would you please do it again? Try the forum thing down below, or try I’m not a computer person, so I botch these things sometimes.

THE ODDSTAD FAMILY AND THE RANCH IN WOODSIDEThe Oddstad Family at the ranch on Canda Road.

All of you in Woodside who’ve arrived in the last 20 years, you are in for a shock. Know where the driveway is that goes to Canada College from Canada Road? There used to be an old barn up there and a Victorian house. That’s it, behind us. Our whole family rode for a while, with that barn as headquarters. Where Eucalyptus Dr. is now was pasture, as was the row of houses next to that driveway. Open space, privately owned.
SANDY NATHAN & BILLY HOWEMe on Billy Howe. Santa Rosa, 1965. This was one of the horses Mickey & Glenn Burks found for my family. One of my last shows from this time of my life.

About the time I got Smoky Joe and Water Dog, two people came into my life and changed me forever. I’d been plugging away, trying to turn from a gawky kid into a horse show winner.

My dad took me to horse shows for a whole year, hauling me and my horse from one end of the Bay Area to another, rain and shine. Pursuing the illusive scrap of rayon––the horse show ribbon. Never mind trophy. We couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t winning; I followed all the books.

Again, my dad came to the rescue: He saw that I needed more help than a book could give. I needed a coach. A trainer. He asked one of his friends, the owner of Olsen Nolte Saddle Shop. (Is it still there, on El Camino in San Carlos? I hope so.) “Mickey Burks is the best western trainer in Woodside,” he said.

I started taking riding lessons with Mickey and Glenn Burks. They were just putting the original Willow Tree Farm together at that time. Billy Burks was a baby. Mickey used to park her station wagon in the middle of the arena with Billy in it and give me lessons.

“Now hold that position,” she’d say and dash back to the car to see why the baby was crying. I’d ride around on the rail glowering. We did that for years.

I changed, turning into a competent competitor. I brought home my share of ribbons, until I won something in pretty near every class.

SANDY & ROBIN ROSE AT TALLY HO, MENLO CIRCUS CLUB, 1965Robin Rose, my best and last reined stock horse. Jim Black found this horse for me. I believe from the Rose brothers again, the same ranchers and horsemen who had Tommy Tucker. Robin was a Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross, agile, athletic, and the best working horse I’ve seen. When she wanted to be. She was temperamental and could buck with unfailing effect. I don’t know how many times I went off of her.

A young man named Spencer Chapin showed her better than I did. Went all the way to Reserve Champion Junior Stock Horse for the State of California. I understand she would have been Champion had some paperwork recording a win been mailed on time. I haven’t heard from Spencer for years.

Are you a Stephen King fan? I am. I like the less-laden-with-crawly-things books he writes. I loved his Dark Tower Series. In that, his characters talk about the world “moving on.”

My life moved on. In 1964, my father was killed by a drunk driver. My life changed forever. My horses left, and all that I had went away. Now I have these memories, which glow in my mind, stepping back to a world that no longer exists.

The San Francisco Bay Area isn’t what it was, is it? Maybe it’s fine the way it is. But it’s not the glowing time.

CLAIREThis is a little Jack Russell terrier. A happy face. She got adopted out in Albuquerque. Our dogs are all rescues. They tell you that anyone, anything can come back, with a helping hand.
Hard years followed after my father died; I still feel their echoes. But I don’t want you to think life ended there for me.

Things turned out okay. What was supposed to be mine came to me and what wasn’t, left.

I’ve had more grace fall on my head than I can admit. I’m happy in my family, my marriage, my life. I’m so happy, I might need to shout!

Life isn’t about the past or remembering, it’s about what’s right here, now.

With that, I’d like you to take a look at all the HORSEY STUFF I offer on our family of web sites. That link takes you to four horse magazines and my book. That’ll do you for a while.

We have Peruvian Paso horses now. Why? I like them better than any kind of horse these days. I’d still be riding a reiner if it wouldn’t kill me. Those are my all time favorites. But I’m falling apart. Knee, hips, ankle, you name it, it doesn’t work. I’ll keep riding as long as possible, though. And a Peruvian horse is as handy as any reiner, and maybe smarter . . .
And I can write when my riding days are done. I’m a better writer than I ever was rider. I’d like you to take a look at my book. The navigation bar above should get you that far. I’ve taken up winning in an arena where you don’t have to get on and off.

In 2007, I won six national awards for my writing. My first book, Stepping Off the Edge, won five national awards. It was a finalist (one of three books) in the Benjamin Franklin Awards in New Age (Spirituality/Metaphysics). A bronze medal winner in the IPPYs, and a finalist in three categories of the Indie Excellence Awards. The big surprise––my novel, Numenon, which isn’t even out yet, WON the Religious Fiction category of the 2007 Indie Excellence Awards.

Did showing horses help my books win? Yes. The attention to detail and fanatical pursuit of perfection that were drilled into me helped a lot. So did all the horse stories weaving through both books. I can’t tell a story without horses being involved. Both of those books have horse stories in them you’ve never seen and won’t forget.

Finally, before closing, has anyone seen this horse?


I eventually gave Robin Rose away. My friend, Sue Conley, knew a young trainer, Tommy Sondgroth, in Southern California somewhere. Tommy took Robin, who was around 23 years old by this time, as a lesson horse. (This was some horse! Incredible legs. Strong.) He liked her so much that he bred her to his stallion––a geriatric maiden mare, yet. I understand that she’s got a baby somewhere. Probably an old baby by now.

I sure would love to see a picture of Robin and her filly. Any one know Tommy Sondgroth? I’ve never met him. I sure would like to find out what happened to Robin and her child. You pass the word on to him, if you know him?

And does anyone have news of Mickey Burks? She, Glenn & Billy moved to Hawaii. I heard Glenn has passed, but I’d certainly love to learn of Mickey.

And this is what I believe the Internet is for! Bringing stories together, bringing people together.

All the best to you! Happy trails!

SANDY & REY DE CORAZONES Sandy Nathan and Rey de Corazones BSN, her Peruvian Paso gelding.

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