Certain smells take you right back to being a kid. Nothing conjures up summer like walking into a school when everything is pulled out of the classrooms and you get a whiff of floor wax.
Last Friday my psyche returned to yesteryear when I went to Sedalia to do an author talk on “Twist of Fate, the Miracle Colt and His Friends.”
Who should meet me at the front door at Skyline Elementary but the trustworthy keeper of the keys, the janitor. With her warm welcome, I began a 21-hour-hospitable stay the likes of which I’ve never experienced.
The invite to Sedalia was extended by Rita Fry, a Skyline teacher I met at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch’s Spring Fling. Rita brought her daughter to the ranch for the annual event to meet Twist of Fate and they stayed around after I read my book in a stable next to Twister.
Rita mentioned she’d love to have me come to Sedalia for Skyline’s summer reading workshop. They were doing a horse-themed week. She even had a cabin she would let my husband and me use.
The extra sugar on the carrot came when she said I could have a reunion with DD, one of the horses rescued when the tractor-trailer overturned on Interstate 44 in 2006. DD is featured in my book and is now owned by Jen Kruse who lives outside Sedalia in a rural area where she gives riding lessons and riding camps.
I hadn’t seen DD since I went to Longmeadow to do a series of interviews with Earlene Cole, who was the ranch manager back then. At that time DD was suffering the effects of the horrific accident, physically as well as mentally.
Once the folks at Longmeadow worked their magic, DD became a horse of a different color. She literally was when I saw her on Friday. Earlier in the day, the students at Skyline had been allowed not only to pet DD, but to decorate her, apply their painted handprints to the appaloosa’s coat. Talk about a reading enrichment activity, and one that was just plain fun.
The students were primed and ready for me when I arrived, having just met DD, who went home when I got there, yet the 40-plus youngsters, ages kindergarten through third grade, were attentive throughout my presentation, some coming with questions jotted down on slips of paper.
The children were too cute, all pumped up about books — what a great way to avoid the summer slide kids sometimes experience because of their long vacation break.
When one student asked how I got the idea for “Twist of Fate” I told her I’d read about the accident in the newspaper, and then learned one of the rescued mares on the truck was going to have a colt.
“Just think of that,” piped in teacher Jeri Perkins. “She got the idea from reading a newspaper.” Come to find out Jeri utilizes The Sedalia Democrat as a teaching tool throughout the year. Yeah, Jeri!
After a quick burger for lunch, it was off to Jen’s property to see DD, and meet some of the children who had just finished their riding lessons. It was touching to see the mare — and note her calm demeanor. Jen sang her praises while I batted back tears, remembering how unapproachable DD had been after the accident, how banged up and skittish.
Not now. “I can put anyone on her back,” Jen said. There were more book and T-shirt signings, with DD in the background, followed by photos galore.
The cabin was a delight, miles down country roads with cattle lowing in the distance. Later that evening we saw a deer glide over a fence, and many more munching on greens in a pasture adorned by full moon so perfect it looked like a cardboard cutout hung in the sky.
Sometimes you don’t have to go far from home to be treated to an unforgettable experience.