RedRoom, the site for readers and authors, had a contest this week. We were to blog about our favorite illustrated book. My choice is a highly personal one. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a book I wrote about a remarkable horse. Tecolote was born prematurely on a freezing night. There was no reason for him to survive–but he did. The book tells and shows what happened as Teco (as we called him) grew into a strong, mature horse.
Tecolote and his Mother, Rosie–
This was taken when he got on his feet.
Although the book is illustrated with photographs that show Teco from his birth all the way to an adult riding horse, the story focuses on his tricky first year. We didn’t know if he would live five days. People from our neighborhood gathered outside the corral where he and his mother lived, praying for him and crying. He looked beyond terrible. Even so, he brought people together from the very start.
Later, when Teco was out of the woods, his mother died. She was an older mare with health problems. Teco faced life as a preemie, then a young horse without a mother. The book centers around how we as his caretakers used the other horses of the ranch and its facilities to give the youngster a secure and normal start. It’s about how he found his place in the herd and made dear friends in the horse and human worlds.
Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a beautiful tale for children, especially those with disabilities or facing loss. Teco’s story shows people––kids and adults–that those with problems can make it and have good lives. It’s is a kids’ book, 44 pages long.
Why did I stop writing at the end of Teco’s first year? We ran out of photos. Once Teco got his feet under him, he took off. The rest of his life was so normal that there wasn’t anything to photograph. He went under saddle so easily it was laughable, and then just headed down the road.
I cover Teco’s early days in the book, but I’ve never written about what follows here, the final part of Teco’s life.
Sandy & Tecolote–My author picture shows
just my face and a bit of Teco’s cheek.
This is the REAL photo. Teco’s giving me a hug.
Tecolote ended up being my horse. I’m an older rider with so many things wrong with me that I don’t know if I should be riding. Actually, I didn’t ride for several years. Due to an improperly set broken leg from a skiing accident, I developed severe arthritis in my knee and ankle. I had to have my knee replaced and my ankle fused. I also have a bad back. Plus I’m a cancer survivor and pretty chopped up because of that. After all that pain and surgery, I lost my nerve. After a lifetime with horses, I became afraid to ride even the calmest horse.
But my husband wanted me to ride with him again. He cajoled me into trying Teco, who had turned out to be the mellowest horse in the world. My husband’s coaxing worked.
Teco took care of me. I needed a special horse like him––gentle and kind and unspookable––to keep me safe. We became a pair as he took me on many safe, smooth rides up the trail.
One of the things that people who don’t ride don’t know about is the bond between horse and rider. Teco and I became as bonded as an equine/human pair can be.
I loved him. And he loved me back. He did a special thing that no other horse has done with me. I’d approach him, scratching his shoulder and neck the way another horse would if grooming him. He’d wrap his head and neck around me, encircling my body. It was the only way a horse could give a hug. (They don’t have arms, afterall.) He gave me a hug every time I approached him.
The book Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could came out and I entered it in a few contests. Life went on. When my grand kids came to visit, Teco amazed me. He’d never seen kids before, yet he packed them around like a trooper. They fell in love.
Sandy & Tecolote –– He’s my boy,
the horse that got me back into riding
After the kids went home, I got back to writing. I was working on manuscripts for two books. I didn’t go down to the barn for about a week. Finally my husband called and said, “I’ve got Teco saddled. Come and ride.”
I was high as a kite, euphoric. The book contests I’d entered were announcing their winners. I’d found out the night before that Teco’s book had won 2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Gr. 1-6). The Nautilus Award recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change. Previous winners include Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was overjoyed–Teco’s book belonged in that company.
Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could
Won the Silver Nautilus Award
My joy lasted less than 24 hours. I went down to the barn. My husband had Teco saddled and ready. There he was, resplendent in his golden coat with its black trim. I found it impossible to look at Teco without feeling happy. He was a buckskin; his body was golden palomino color. His mane, tail, and legs were black. I could run my eyes over him and appreciate his straight legs and how his shoulder angled back the way that a gaited horse’s should. He had a short back and long hip, an adorable face. All of Tecolote was beautiful.
But not that day. He stood in the barn, head down, mucous pouring from his nostrils. He coughed. I didn’t like the look of him at all.
On the other hand, he was saddled. Show me a horse person who can resist getting on a saddled horse and I’ll show you someone who isn’t really a horse person.
I decided to ride him to the arena and see how he did. He walked slowly, head almost touching the ground. He coughed and had no energy. In fact, he acted as though he might fall down.
“This horse is sick,” I said to myself, heading slowly back to the barn. When I got off of Teco, he lowered his head. Liquid poured from his nostrils, splattering on the barn floor.
He had pneumonia. It didn’t respond to the massive doses of antibiotics the vet gave him. I was mystified; I’ve had horses for 55 years and have never seen one with pneumonia. Our part of California is too mild.
Teco kept getting sicker. We took him to the hospital. We have one of the best equine hospitals in the country in our valley. Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center is a wonderful resource. They’ve saved the lives of many of our horses.
They’d save Tecolote, too. When he unloaded the horse from our trailer, my husband said a half dozen bright young vets swarmed around him.
“They climbed all over him for hours, discussing what might be wrong and doing tests,” my husband told me. They’d fix our horse.
Tecolote: Always Elegant
A day later, we went in for a conference. The vet who was coordinating Teco’s case said, “If we can stabilize him well enough to go home, he can hang out in pasture with his buddies the rest of his life. But you can never ride him again.”
We sat there, stunned. “What do you mean?”
“He’s too dangerous to ride,” the vet explained.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s in heart failure.” He drew a diagram of Teco’s heart, showing how part was greatly enlarged. Their ultrasounds had given them a clear picture.
“But how did this happen?” I couldn’t believe it. “Is it because he was premature?”
“It has nothing to do with his prematurity. It’s been happening over the last two or three years.”
In shock, I realized that no one had ridden him during those years. My husband likes rip-roaring horses with tons of spirit. I wasn’t riding, being too traumatized by all my surgery. Teco stood in pasture, apparently fine, enjoying life with his friends.
And dying. We brought him home and gave him all the zillions of meds the clinic prescribed. Twice a day, my husband ground maybe thirty human pills with a mortar and pestle. He mixed their dust with molasses and water, and loaded the mess into a syringe with the end cut off, which allowed him to squirt the meds into Teco’s mouth. The horse raised his head as high as he could; he did not make it easy.
When the heart begins to fail, it enlarges, trying to make up for it’s decreased strength. It can’t pump enough blood to the animal’s body, and it can’t recirculate fluids. They begin to build up. On a horse, fluids collect along the animal’s belly––the lowest point on his body. Fluid gathers between his front and back legs as well. Teco looked he had a blanket of gigantic kitchen sponges stuffed under his skin from his the front of his chest through his hind legs. The meds did nothing.
Teco’s book kept winning awards. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a finalist in two categories of the 2011 National Indie Excellence Contest: Animals/Pets General and Juvenile Non-fiction.
I was in this crazy world where the awards kept coming in and Teco got worse. I’d go down to see him in his pasture. He’d be standing there, head down, in a corner by himself. He was leaving this world. He was leaving me.
Tecolote–– Making a Full Circle
The vet said he had only a day or two to live when we put him down. If we hadn’t, the end would have been horrible. Just before I left the field so the vet could do his job, I scratched Teco’s neck the way I always did. Sick as he was, he turned his head and neck around and embraced me. A final hug, and he was gone.
I ended up in the hospital in the midst of all this. I started getting chest pains as Teco deteriorated. If you call up your doctor––and my internist was pretty far away––and say, “I’m having chest pains,” that doctor will say, “Go to the Emergency Room right away.”
If you walk into an Emergency Room, a haggard-looking lady in your mid-sixties, those medicos will JUMP. They did every test you can imagine. I was scared stiff, not knowing what was happening with my body.
It boiled down to: My heart was breaking. Tecolote was being ripped from my soul.
* * * * *
Tecolote died May 1, 2011, four days before his tenth birthday. He was a miracle when he was born and a joy all his life. He brought horses and riding back when I thought that part of my life was over. I loved him for the obstacles he overcame in his life, and what he helped me overcome.
Here’sTecolote: The Little Horse That Could’s Amazon page. You can loook inside the book and see Teco. I put up some photos of him and our other horses on the page, too. At the end of 2011, the book garnered two more prizes. It was a winner in Children’s Nonfiction and a finalist in Children’s Picture Book Softcover Non-fiction of the USA BOOK NEWS “USA BEST BOOKS OF 2011” AWARD.
* * * * *
That’s why Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is my favorite illustrated book. It’s all I’ve got left of him. I’m glad I’ve got the awards and the book.
Here’s a video to give you the look and feel of the book:
Wonder what a book’s characters look like? Here’s a special video prepared by author Sandy Nathan to show you what she thinks the characters ofThe Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy look like:
TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD
Coming out simultaneaously with The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could presents a heartwarming tale of survival and overcoming pretty much every obstacle life can throw out. This is the true story of Tecolote, a Peruvian Paso colt born prematurely on a freezing night. Join Tecolote as he fights for his life and grows strong and big, becoming a member of the herd and trusted riding horse. Illustrated with photos of Tecolote and his friends taken when the action was happening. Great for kids of all ages.
Here’s a video that gives you the heart of the book:
“The most splendid part of the day just happened… and I am sad and happy… I just finished reading your novel. It was such a wild ride… so clever and perfectly timed. I am astonished by your imagination. It worked so well… and it was so out there!
“When can I get my hands on the sequel?”
A reader from California
Captivating from the first page onward, this entertaining tale will draw readers in and keep them riveted. Highly recommended.
L.C. Evans, author of Talented Horsewoman
A good book elicits an emotional response while being read; Nathan’s book haunts the reader long after the final page is turned. In The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boytwo dying worlds fight for survival, their futures dependent on a revolutionary and an angelic otherworldly dancer. It is world not that many heartbeats away from our own, making the premise chilling. Todd A. Fonseca, award-winning author of The Time Cavern
One of the really great things about being on a spiritual path is that you get to eat crow really often. A few days ago, I wrote and published a scathing article talking about monster houses and other things, my dad, Andy Oddstad among them. (My dad built houses, but not monster houses.)
How scathing? I spoke of the “McMansions littering our hillsides” and hoped that the home in which I grew up “doesn’t get transformed into an ostentatious edifice fit for pseudo-royalty.” I closed with an indictment of modern capitalism: “Today, companies are about marketing position and branding, about the “USPs”–unique selling propositions––magic words to charm the consumer into buying an illusion that she can’t afford and doesn’t need.”
Those words scathe effectively.
A TRUE MONSTER HOUSE: The Palace of Versailles was home to Actual Royalty. I’m illustrating this post with photos the prototypical Monster House, elegant in every way, full of pretension––I mean, if you think you’re God, you could live in this house with a straight face––and the best of everything. It differs from modern monster houses in that its real, way upscale, and conforms to the principles of design, listed down below.
Only a few hours after posting my position statement on large houses and the contemporary practice of flashing every dime you’ve got, I went to a social function at a home that can be described as plu-perfect, and huge. A monster house, by size, anyways. Oops.
I wandered around the edifice, marveling at the workmanship, the 3 ” thick marble counters, wood floors, plaster finishes, gorgeous fenestration (windows), views of the Pacific Ocean from every window. Sweeping panoramas of the City of Santa Barbara, offshore islands, gardens. Everything.
This was the most beautiful home I’d ever seen, and a monster house. I’d never want to own it: I couldn’t afford the gardener, much less the utility bills. But, wow. And what a spiritual feeling about the place.
Plus the owners were really nice, humble, kind people.
Never underestimate the value of nice landscaping in increasing property values. Look what it did for Versailles!
My cheeks burned and I felt that inevitable, “I blew it,” walking around that beautiful place. So what’s wrong with this picture? First off, my original mind set was that big equals evil. Big is just big. And wealth is OK. Better than OK. Where’s the wisdom in this experience?
I immediately thought of the four goals of life. You know them:
These are straight from the Guru Gita, an ancient Vedic text. Other philosophic systems will have different goals, but I like the simplicity of the four above.
Dharma refers to living a spotless life by whatever moral system you espouse.
Artha––well, we all know what wealth means. Pile it on. My mom had a great poster in her house: A southern mansion with the line, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” That’s easy.
Kama––kama as in kama sutra. Pleasure. Better far better life goal than pain. Pain comes on its own.
And Moksha––liberation. Means liberation from the wheel of life, attainable by union with God.
The King’s Bedroom at Versailles: With the right karma, you could sleep here. Of course, it didn’t do much for Louis XVI.
The magnificent edifice I wandered into after my rant about monster houses was the fruit of a life well lived. The individuals owning the house had all four goals, in spades. The wealth one, artha, very obviously. And humility.
Versailles, Beautiful, Ornate, Over the Top. Sparked a revolution.
The difference between a monster house and a very large and beautiful house rests in the five principles of design:
And one other, which I forget. Let’s call it taste, or beauty.
Sandy Nathan is the winner of seventeen national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.
Her books are: (Click link for more information) The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money
Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could
Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice
Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with a late (very late) 2011 publication date, or early 2012. If you liked The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.
Okay, so it’s a little after Father’s Day––the thought was there. One of the terrific things about the Internet is that it brings people together. People you didn’t even know introduce themselves. About a year ago, I heard from the daughter of the folks who bought my family home in Atherton CA about 35 years ago.
It is a special house. Built in six weeks (that’s right, 6 weeks) in the middle of a carpenter’s strike (you got that right, too), the house was destined to be memorable. Not because it was a McMansion of the type littering our hillsides today. The home my parents, Andy and Clara Oddstad, built in the 1950s was a comfortable rancher on an acre. It had a pool, but it wasn’t a showy house. Atherton always has been a pretty fancy address, a bit more restrained in those days.
The move from San Francisco was a huge leap for my folks, both of whom had grown up on the rough side of the Great Depression. “If we can’t afford it, Honey Chum, we can always sell it,” my dad told my mom, thinking positively. (He called her Honey Chum, typical of those goofy ’50s nicknames.)
My dad was Andy Oddstad, President of Oddstad Homes, which was at that time closing in on being the largest residential developer in northern California. He started out as a carpenter, which is why the guys built his house during a strike. He had been––maybe still was––an AFL/CIO Carpenters’ Union member.
The house was built, we moved into it and spent many happy years living there–-my folks didn’t have to sell it after all. Oddstad Homes became the biggest home builder in northern California by a long stretch.
In 1964, my dad was killed by a negligent and possibly drunk driver. Everything changed. After a few years, my mom found the house was too big and too laden with memories. She sold it and moved on––regretting the sale almost immediately, actually.
The house passed from our hands but continued to glow in our memories.
What a surprise when I heard from Stephanie, the daughter of the people who bought our house! She found me searching online. We hit it off by email right away. The house continued to charm: Her family lived there for years, kids growing up with memories as glowing as mine. She told me stories of the house––including a real ghost story! I was so glad that our old home had been so cherished.
Recently, Stephanie emailed me again to say that her parents had sold the house. It was time for them to leave. But they didn’t want to move. None of the solutions Stephanie showed them felt like their nest of so many years. Other houses just weren’t the same.
“I found one house for them, and just felt ‘This is the one.’ I cut through all the ‘We don’t like it’ and got them to move.” When she was moving her parents into their new home, she found something in a kitchen drawer. It was a brochure by the developer, pointing out a philosophy of building. The brochure dated from the 1960s and was signed by the builder, Andy Oddstad.
From the minute Stephanie’s folks knew they were living in an Oddstad Home, they settled down and felt they were in the right place.
An amazing story, yes? It brought tears to my eyes. I hope the new owner of our families’ home at 69 Catalpa Drive in Atherton hears it. I hope the simple and comfortable home that we knew doesn’t get transformed into an ostentatious edifice fit for pseudo-royalty.
What did the brochure say that prompts me to post it here? The text of the message is below. It’s a clarion call of an era based on true value, not show and appearance. Listen to my dad’s words:
The brochure’s title: FARM HILL
“WE FIRMLY BELIEVE that every home buyer should select a home with an eye on investment, as well as a place to live. We firmly believe that every builder has a responsibility for the kind of homes he creates. We accept this responsibility. As local builders, not here for a day on a quick investment, standing behind the 8,000 homes we have already constructed in the bay area, we realize that keeping an eye on the investment value of your home is a solid, responsible way to do business.
“We have carefully selected conservative designs because experience tells us this is the surest way to keep property values high––for the individual owner and for the community. Fads come and go; we’re here to stay.
“We purchase land in the thriving Bay Area communities, easily accessible to work centers, and because we are a big outfit, we buy big––we develop the land ourselves put in the improvements: roads, sidewalks, and sewers; no middle men [implying] no hidden costs when you buy one of our homes.
“Our production is enormous. Each working hour, a new foundation is poured; each working week, 40 new homes are completed. Skilled crews go from job to job without wasted motion or lost time; ready made forms, jigs, scaffolding and labor saving equipment go with them to save time and expense––so we can deliver a better home, better built, at a lower price.
“The executives in our organization came up from the ranks. I myself was a carpenter. I still am. I take pride in the materials and the workmanship that go into each of our homes––from the foundations to the trim. You are invited to come out and watch us build––to see for yourself why our homes cost less when you buy … are worth more if you sell.”
We’re in the middle of the Great Recession now. I read my dad’s words and thought, “If our society had continued to be base itself on the solid reality and true financial conservatism that this brochure demonstrates, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in.”
Today, companies are about marketing position and branding, about the “USPs”–unique selling propositions––magic words to charm the consumer into buying an illusion that she can’t afford and doesn’t need.
My dad’s words on a forgotten brochure reminded me of who he was. I could almost hear his voice. Growing up around Andy Oddstad was a lot like growing up in the Marines––he was very demanding. He required excellence of everyone around him. But he had something very valuable to say and a product to offer. Mostly, the way he lived––athlete, body builder, community member, husband, father, philosopher––was his message.
Andy Oddstad & Triff Trifeletti
Thank you, dad, and many thanks to all those who worked for Oddstad Homes and with him. I remember Triff Trifelletti, Gordon Hanson, John O’Malley, Chuck Jonas and so many others who worked with and for Oddstad Homes. And of course, I love and remember my dear auntie Elma Mendola, who worked with my dad from the beginning, along with my mom, Clara Oddstad.
As of 1964 when my dad was killed, Oddstad Homes had completed over 14,000 homes, 2,500 apartment units, three shopping centers, a youth center, and a couple of churches in the San Francisco Bay Area. An incredible legacy of achievement.
I often wonder what my dad would think of the world today if he could see it. He died before the Beatles became popular, when a really nice house could be purchased in the SF Bay Area for $36,000, when cars had fins and so did guys’ hair styles. He would not be able to believe housing prices or the consumer lifestyle of today.
Sometimes networking on the Net isn’t about wasting time, it’s about remembering what’s important.
Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!
By winning a Nautilus Silver Award with her book, Numenon, author Sandy Nathan joins the ranks of Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Thich Nnat Hanh, Jean Houston, PhD., Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All are Nautilus Award winners. “Joining the company of these people moves me to tears,” says Sandy.
As a Silver Award Winner, Numenon will pass to the highest level of judging for the Nautilus Awards, the Gold Award level. If Numenon wins at this level, it will be featured at the Book Expo America and win many other honors.
“As wonderful as it would be to win the Gold Award, what thrills me is what the Nautilus Awards are about,” says Sandy. “My writing and life are directed toward making this planet a better place. I feel like I’ve found a spiritual home with the Nautilus contest and the people behind it.”
The Nautilus Award was established to find and reward distinguished literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change as well as to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults.
The Nautilus Awards are dedicated to “changing the world one book at a time.” Books are judged in a three-tier system using a carefully prepared list of notable characteristics. The judging process is laborious and long, carried out by three teams of highly qualified reviewers. They have successful careers in the book industry as well as the vision to pick out books that offer new options for a better world. Each book is evaluated by at least two judges. Silver winners are selected from each category by the readers in Team #2, and these winning titles are then passed along to the third team where the Gold winners are chosen. Two judges must agree on each Silver winner – and consensus is required for the Gold Winners.
Sandy Nathan, "one happy author!"
“This blog is one way that I connect with my fellow writers and authors, as well as my readers,” says Sandy Nathan. “I have a request. I would appreciate your prayers, blessings, good wishes, positive thoughts, or whatever fits your personal beliefs for Numenon as it winds its way through the Nautilus judging process and the judging of the other contests in which it’s entered. It’s entered in four or five more. I believe in the power of prayer, and I always pray reciprocate. Actually, I just pray for everyone all the time. If you could cast a positive vibe in Numenon’s direction, I’d be very grateful.”
Am I crazy? Like a fox! When I last looked, Numenon was #8 in Religious Fiction (closing on The Shack), and #1 in Mysticism in two categories of Religion & Spirituality. JOIN THE STAMPEDE!
Buy the Kindle version of Numenon, and you can enter the world of Will Duane, the richest man on earth, and Grandfather, a great Native shaman, in less then a 60 seconds. Numenon won two national awards as an Advance Reading Copy. It’s entered in more contests. We’re waiting for results.
I originally posted this blog in March 2009. It’s got a funny poem at the end I’d like to share.SN
Last Tuesday, I visited Dr. Rick Ferkel, the surgeon who fused my arthritic ankle last September. He pronounced me healed. Yep, my ankle is officially better. I am cleared to walk, swim––and ride my horse! Which I did, minutes ago.
Here’s pictorial evidence. Any problems? Not while I was riding. I’m sore all over now, and I expect my mare is as well. Horses are just like people; they get flabby and out of shape. I suspect that Shakti and I both need an exercise class.
In honor of the historic and successful healing of my ankle, I’m sharing a REALLY BAD POEM that I wrote in 1995, when I was much younger, but had not been rebuilt. That is, my knee had not been replaced nor my ankle fused. This little ditty is also an ode to the Peruvian Paso Horse, the smoothest riding horse in the world. Our Peruvians have kept me in the saddle for many years.
AN OLD LADY ON HORSEBACK
Sandy Nathan 6/95
Got bad hips, shoulders, knees, and more.
A back that’s degenerated, herniated
The –itis family––
arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis––
has moved in on me.
I’m an old lady on horseback!
When I was young, I rode ’em all:
Quarter horses, Arabs, Appies and Paints.
Loped with a drill team and through many a show.
I trained and rode with the best,
Competed hard and won my share.
I had a glorious time–
Until the –itis got me.
I’m an old lady on horseback!
Now, I get on a horse that trots,
My back talks back and I see spots.
I saw the light and changed my tune,
Traded my Quarter Horse
For a sports model, made in Peru.
You may laugh when you see him move,
Sliding along in a four beat groove.
But his funny-looking paddle
Keeps me in the saddle.
When we cruise by, don’t you cry.
I’m having the time of my life.
My little fellow is smooth as Jell-O,
And my –itis likes him, too!
Though I might have to ride in spurts,
When I do, nothing hurts!
And while I can’t always show him,
At least I get to know him.
I’m grateful to my little gaited horse.
‘Cuz of his easy going ways, I get to stay–
An old lady on horseback!
And that’s what’s important, in my book.
For as long as I can ride,
I know I’m alive!
(And I’ve gotten to like that Peruvian look.)