I've often wondered about the first person in history to consider trapping a horse, buckling a saddle to its back, and climbing on the two-thousand-pound muscular creature. Then I always wonder how someone could train these horses to perform on command. Attend any horse show and you will see the relationship between rider and horse. It’s not one of control and submission but of respect and understanding. Each horse has its own personality, much like we do. Learning these personalities seems crucial to being able to teach them and, in some cases, ride them.
Out past the major cities like Tampa, you will find farmland for as far as the eye can see. Horses are a common sight while traveling these quaint roads far from the highways. My destination was a town called Lithia about an hour from my home. I was invited out to the ranch by horse enthusiast, Savannah. In her spare time, Savannah takes care of a beautiful horse named Dee Dee. She’s a friendly horse with a lot of character and had once taken home third place at a horse show.
First, we had to make our way out and retrieve Dee Dee. Savannah told me she wouldn’t allow herself to be reined in if Savannah was holding the harness. I followed Savannah to the back of the ranch, stepping through patches of mud and puddles. It had been advised to wear boots to the ranch and I now understood why. It was, unfortunately, an advisory I had neglected to follow. But a pair of muddy shoes wasn’t going to stop me from getting up close with these magnificent animals.
I waited as Savannah approached Dee Dee with careful concentration and gave her a calming rub. Dee Dee stood proud and waited for Savannah to clip the harness around her. With that, we led her back through the muddy field and to a large wooden post. This was where Dee Dee would be groomed. A brush was handed to me and I went to work trying to brush out the shedding coat. It’s not as easy as brushing, say, a dog or a cat. No, this coat takes a bit of hard work to brush it out. Before my arm could grow too weary, Savannah informed me it was much harder to brush out their winter coat. I had never been more relieved for summer to be upon us.
There’s a lot of terms when it comes to horses. For example, a gelded horse is a male that has been castrated. A horse between the ages of one and two is known as a yearling and anything younger is foal. You can also call a baby horse still nursing a suckling. It seems like too much to remember but Savannah cited it like letters of the alphabet.
One of my favorite questions to ask during these adventures is “How did you get into this?” because the answer is never simply “Just felt like it.” Everyone has a story to tell about their favorite hobby and Savannah’s is no different. Since she was little, she had always wanted to work with horses but never had the opportunity. One day, her aunt invited her to climb up on a horse and rest in the saddle. From there, her aunt proceeded to smack the horse’s rear end and shouted after her, “You either hang on or fall off.” From that moment, Savannah was hooked.
After we were finished brushing Dee Dee’s coat, we lead her to an open field were Dee Dee could get some exercise. I watched as Savannah led her around the field, leading her left and right with nothing more than a shift of her body. She could get her to trot and stop on command. Of course, I was impressed by their combined showmanship.
Naturally, it was my turn. Savannah handed over the rope and gave me a quick rundown of how to get Dee Dee to move how I wanted. There was a warning, however. She would try and test me. Little things, like stopping just after I wanted her to or taking extra time to turn. Like I said before, they do have their own personalities. But she walked with me with very little effort. She turned when I wanted, walked where I wanted her to and came to a stop when I pulled on the rope. However, she did always make it point to be ahead of me, apparently letting me know she was the one in charge. Then, Savannah asked if I wanted to make her trot. I was a little reluctant but went for it all the same. And I’m glad I did. She told me to take two large steps forward as we walked and Dee Dee would follow with a trot. As I did, she trotted along. Guiding an animal larger than myself with nothing but a short rope, and at a trot no less, was powerful, to say the least.
Finally, it was time to end our time at the ranch. It was fun meeting the horses, the barnyard dogs, the wonderful people who work there, and Dee Dee, of course. Being out in the hot sun can be brutal and yet, working with these majestic animals is rewarding. It’s not hard to see why someone would spend their time caring for these wonderful animals and training them for the shows. Savannah invited me to come along with her to the ranch sometime later, when the weather was a bit cooler. I had such a fun experience, that I might just take her up on that offer. Of course, I’ll bring you all along as well. Thanks for coming with me on this Avocation Adventure and remember to keep wandering, just not alone.
There’s something relaxing about the aroma of fresh wood. Maybe it stems from a primal nature somewhere within our DNA. Walk into any home improvement store and find the lumber aisle and stand there with your eyes shut. You would be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to the middle of the forest. The trees sway in the light, summer breeze. Maybe a brook babbles nearby. Birds sing their pretty songs as they flutter about. Of course, when you open your eyes and realize you’re still in the home improvement store, you may notice some odd stares coming your way.
Wood working can conjure up these same images and from the comfort of your own work shop or garage. In my case, it was in someone else’s. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Joey and learning as much as I could about wood working. He’s been crafting such things as coffee tables and cutting boards for the past six years. His garage was less for storing cars and more of a wood working utopia.
Beneath the work table, crafted out of wood of course, rested planks of wood from various sources. Some were salvaged from an old bench in his backyard which had broken. Other pieces he had received from places such as Offer Up or Craigslist. Our project was a wooden chest meant to look similar to a pirate’s chest. We wanted it to look weathered and old as if it spent most of its life at the bottom of the ocean. Luckily, Joey had just the pieces.
He sorted through his stack and pulled out the broken bench pieces and handed them to me. They were old and weathered alright. I could almost picture the chest in my mind. But how to actually craft it, I hadn’t the faintest idea. Of course, that was no issue for him. I could see the excitement on his face as he snatched the pieces and went about telling me our plans for the day. Before long, I was excited to jump in and start sawing some wood.
Saw dust encompassed the entire space as we sent planks through the table saw. As the day grew longer, the heat grew with it. After an ice-cold beer and some pizza, we returned to the garage to continue our work. I learned Joey had always loved crafting things out of wood. From a young age, he would whittle things with nothing more than a pocket knife and sticks. Coincidentally, I had done the same when in Boy Scouts. I told him my skills had merely been sharpening sticks with pocket knives.
Wood working is a lot of just that, working. It’s a lot of sawing, drilling, hammering, measuring, and repeating. But something about it is fun and relaxing. Therapeutic, almost. I could tell it meant more than just a weekend hobby for him. It was a passion. In fact, it was a passion he was dying to share. I was taken under his wing and shown the ropes and sent home that day with a project I would need to finish. So, that day, I took a trip to the home improvement store and picked up some items I would need. For the first time since I started Avocation Adventures, I brought the hobby home with me and might very well make it my own.
“Pretty soon,” he said, handing me a few pieces of wood to take home with me. “You’ll be taking your kitchen knives and smashing the handles so you can carve yourself a wooden one.” In fact, he had done that very thing with one of his own. Had he not told me he had crafted it himself, I would have never known.
Handmade items have a certain character to them. It’s personal and real. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with buying a factory-made desk or entertainment center. But when you see what a skilled craftsman can do with a few planks of wood and a Saturday afternoon, it makes you want to own nothing but handcrafted goods. Or better yet, it might make you want to start creating your own. Thanks for coming along on this Avocation Adventure and remember to keep wandering, just not alone.
It’s easy to assume someone’s hobbies were discovered when they were young. Of course, there are many who have. Like the dancer who’s been doing it since they could walk or the singer who’s been doing it since they could talk. You would be forgiven for thinking most hobbies manifest themselves in our younger years but you might just be wrong. Sometimes, these avocations can present themselves in ways we would never expect.
Painting is an artform that has survived since the dawn of time. We’ve found cave paintings on walls dating back forty thousand years. Millions of people still practice this art form today. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a good friend who paints in her spare time. Her discovery of this hobby is far more recent than the cave paintings of ancient man. Instead, she found it only recently and in the most unlikely way.
As we sat and painted from an example lit from her tablet, I asked her how painting became one of her favorite hobbies. She told me she participated in a secret Santa gift exchange at work and wrote down creativity as one of her descriptive words. This prompted her secret Santa to purchase her a paint set. It’s interesting to think our hobbies can be founded by shear accident or coincidence.
Our subject was a colorful sky looming over a dark mountain range and a frothy blue ocean. The original painting was beautiful and I knew I couldn’t possibly do it justice. But painting isn’t about creating a masterpiece. Painting is about creating a picture, it’s about crafting your own beauty on the canvas. I watched as Caitlyn dipped her brush in paint and carefully mixed them together to create different colors which would become the sky. Colors I never would have thought to mix became streaks of yellow, silver, blue, and purple in permanent fixture of a setting sun over the mountains.
You don’t have to be the next Picasso or Dali to enjoy putting a brush to canvas. My skills couldn’t even come close. You just have to want to craft something to share with the world or keep for yourself. Either way, the accomplishment is real and I look forward to displaying my painting somewhere in my house. Perhaps just not where anyone will ever be able to view it.
You can follow Caitlyn on Instagram and see the kinds of things she creates. Click here and give her a follow and like some of her work. Be sure to let her know Evan from Avocation Adventures sent you. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Get out there and paint the town! Just, try not to get arrested while you do it. Until next time, keep wandering, just not alone.
A friend of mine said it best. YouTube is cable for Millennials. Think about all the content you can find on YouTube. Just looking over my subscriptions alone proves the myriad of content available. There’s everything from video games to urban exploration videos, and everything in between. There’s so much you can watch and learn on YouTube.
Which brings me to my first Avocation Adventure. Recently, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my buddy Josh a he filmed content for his YouTube channel. Definitely check out his channel here. It’s called Live it Above 100. The message there is to go outside your comfort zone, live life and don’t just be a passenger. Live Above 100. The message is a fantastic one. You don’t have to go out and do something crazy like parkour or jumping from an airplane to live above 100. Sometimes, it’s just about doing something new, something different.
To really understand the kinds of videos he makes, you really should check out his channel. If you like all things paranormal, abandoned, historical, or just plain creepy, his channel has it all. I helped him film about a month’s worth of content in a single day and I came out exhausted but with experiences that will last a lifetime.
Picture this, a naturally formed, limestone cave system in the middle of the woods in Florida. It’s hot, it’s humid, and it’s a long walk. You get there, and you have to climb down a rather steep embankment using only rocks and roots as your grips. But when you get down in there, the view is worth every second of exhaustion. Imagine ducking down low through smaller caverns to venture into the back of the cave so you can shut off your lights and sit for a moment in the darkest darkness you’ve ever witnessed in your life. Your mind conjures up all sorts of terrifying images staring back at you from inside the darkness and your heart races. I clicked on my flashlight and expected the creatures from The Descent to be staring back at me.
Of course, I love camping and hiking so these things aren’t outside of my comfort zone but urban exploration is something I’ve never done. We found an entire abandoned neighborhood and explored its streets. It felt like a scene straight from The Walking Dead. I wouldn’t have been surprised had zombies shuffled around the corner and surrounded us inside one of the homes we ventured inside of. In fact, part of you wants it to happen to make the experience authentic.
We did that in the middle of the day which dramatically dials down on the creepy factor. You know what really cranks that knob to 11? Sitting under a bridge at midnight with a Ouija board, trying to summon the goblin like creatures who, supposedly, guard the nearby creek. You see, there’s an urban legend in our neck of the woods about a witch having lived on this particular bit of property and set her minions to guard the land. Of course, the legend says they can still be summoned to this day. And let me say this, the first time you see an EMF spike and have some strange phenomena happen that you can’t explain, you get shaky. Your heart races much the same as it does sitting in the darkened abyss of the caves. It might only be your imagination running wild but it doesn’t matter. It still gets you going.
Josh has always had a passion for videos and YouTube so it’s no surprise he was so passionate about this project. His energy kept me going throughout the day. When he got excited about a particular shot for his video, it pulled me further into the experience. It’s for this exact reason I started Avocation Adventures. I wanted to experience other people’s excitement first hand. Stepping out of my comfort zone makes for some pretty wild stories and, like Josh’s channel instructs, Live it Above 100. Thanks for coming along on our first Avocation Adventure. Make sure to check out Josh’s channel, Live it Above 100 and look for his videos featuring me soon. As always, keep wandering, just not alone.
Avocation (noun): A hobby or minor occupation. It's a fancy word for hobby, clearly. In the past few weeks, I've learned more about the people I know. Mainly, their hobbies and interests. I've always been fascinated with other people's hobbies. Seeing others excited about their passions makes me excited for mine. Positive energy is influential. When I learn of someone's hobbies I want to hear all about it and I end up getting just as excited for it as they do.
So, I started thinking, how can these experiences be shared with the world? How can we take people's excitement and let everyone experience it? I got talking with someone whose hobbies include woodworking and carving. In fact, it was a conversation with him that sparked this idea. He texted me saying, "Sorry, I have no one else to talk to about this that gives a shit. I may become annoying soon."
Honestly, this text really made me think. People have interests they love and not everyone has someone to share that with. And sharing your passions with the world is fun and exciting. Trust me, I understand that feeling as an indie author. I genuinely love sharing my work with the world. Writing is my passion.
Which is a perfect segue into the point of this post. I wanted to combine the positive experiences of people's hobbies and combine it with the feeling of sharing it with everyone. Hence, my new blog series. I'm calling it Avocation Adventures. And yes, the tagline is inspired by Supernatural's Saving People, Hunting Things.
I've got some cool things planned and underway so stay tuned for that blog series coming soon! What do you think about this idea? Are you excited for it? Let me know in the comments below.
Evan Bond, author of To the Wolves and Death Can Wait, is a thriller/suspense author. When not writing, he can be found hiking or camping in the beautiful state of Florida.