Travels With Charley

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No, not the John Steinbeck book, although it was a recent Final Jeopardy answer and maybe the only Steinbeck book I read all the way through. I travel with my own Charley, a stuffed mini horse. After all, he has to fit in carry-on luggage rather than a pickup camper like Steinbeck’s Charley, who was a standard poodle.

Charley takes a break from securing finished tests to watch an awards ceremony.

Charley takes a break from securing finished tests to watch an awards ceremony.

When scribes ask me why he’s named Charley, I say his full name is Charley Horse, because he’s obviously never had one in his life. His main raison d’etre is that he sprawls. He makes the perfect traveling paperweight, light but can hold down a stack of finished dressage tests in gale-force winds. He’s had plenty of practice.

One thing judges and scribes need to do in order to perform their jobs well is to cut down on distractions. Weather is probably our biggest distraction, and a lot of wind makes the job particularly difficult. Some shows provide paperweights (painted horse shoes are a favorite), while others rely on us scrounging rocks. Charley is a lot cleaner and a lot more fun than a rock. He works particularly hard at once specific task – he holds down the finished tests, and only the finished tests. That way I never misplace a test, and the runners can easily find the finished tests under Charley.

I started taking paperweights seriously after a memorable show in Oregon a couple decades ago. When I arrived in the judge’s box I noted there was a lovely collection of rocks all neatly wrapped in aluminum foil. I thought, “what a good idea,” because the foil would keep dirt from dropping off the rocks. It never occurred to me until too late to wonder why this show was so well-prepared to lash down stray paper.

In mid-afternoon, without a whiff of a breeze beforehand, suddenly whirling winds were throwing papers, ribbons, anything not tied down over the ring, while those of us in the box dropped flat on the floor. The horse in the ring fortunately remained transfixed, like a statue. Charley now reminds me in advance to keep papers firmly secured.

Charley is very well dressed (well, half of him is) with a wardrobe of tiny shirts. However, they’re getting harder to find and I need to do his laundry more often so he doesn’t get too scruffy. I wish I could toss the whole pony in the washing machine, but I suspect his innards would turn to mush. Right now he’s sporting a mouse-sized shirt from my daughter’s college. College bookstores, I’ve found, are a good source of Charley-sized gear.

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