Monday, February 25, 2008

“He loves me...”

“Soooooo,” cooed one of my dear, recently “involved,” friends, “what did you get for Valentine’s Day?”
From experience, I know that relationship neophytes are never really interested in an answer. Their polite query is for the sole purpose of giving a breathless report of what their “wonderful, new, man” gave to them on the Big Day.
“You start.” I replied.
“Well, I just couldn’t believe it. First, three dozen red roses. Then a copy of “Leaves of Grass,” (I can never think of this classic anymore without thinking of the Lewinsky scandal. Thanks, Monica.) and he booked a room for the whole weekend at The Grove Park Inn – we’re going to have a spa, dinner, the works!”
Awww. Don’t you find it sweet when people are in the blush of new love? When everything is heady and dreamy; when they haven’t heard for the twenty-seventh time that his mother wasn’t demonstratively affectionate, resulting in a difficulty of intimacy for you? Before the object of love is discovered to have bodily functions? It’s nice. A little obnoxious for the rest of us, but nice for them. I don’t begrudge them a bit.
I stand with a lot of people who have been in a relationship for so long that we vaguely recall (or was this a movie we recently saw?) feeling giddy seeing a flashing message on the answering machine or being amazed that someone is really interested in our life story – at least the first time the tale is told.
Like many of you, I don’t need a Hallmark Holiday to manipulate my fella into bringing home a box of chocolates like a cat at the front stoop with a dead mouse. It’s the same expression, really: “This is for you. You do want it, don’t you?” But he does. He’s a good man. And he’s a good man every day. I’ll take that hands-down over a weekend at The Grove Park Inn.
I will say, however, that this time I was armed and ready to reply after my friend finished her litany of gooey items.
“That’s nice.” I said. “Paul filled up the dually for me and then we drove to Clemson after he got off work to pick up a load of Timothy hay that was only $8.00 a bale and so, even with the price of gas, we still saved about $150.00 compared to buying it at the feed store.”
My friend could only work her mouth wordlessly.
Take that, Cupid.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dog day afternoon

Editor's Note: Commedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office in the "Unabomber Shack" on her Gowensville farm. Want a chance to respond to this column?
Go to Pam’s blog at
I have more than once told friends that if they ever hear that I have been arrested, it will be because I will not have been able to control my "inner mullet" in regards to treatment towards an animal. Living in a rural area, one simply sees more animals, I suppose, and generally, my dismay is inflamed by the all too common sight of wretched and lonely dogs, chained to a stake with little food or shelter and certainly no human or animal interaction. One can only imagine the despair of an animal that is imprisoned this way for 24 hours a day and always begs the question, "Why on earth do you have a dog?!"
Animal control can only do so much. I have telephoned them on occasion and they have responded quite promptly. There was a day last summer during the wave of 100 degree temperatures, that I drove past a young Doberman chained to a stake in the mid-afternoon. His owners were not at home and the pup had wound the chain around the stake until he couldn't move more than a foot in either direction. There was no water, no shade, and he was in such distress that he could neither lie down or stop moving, panting uncontrollably. Animal control arrived, unchained him and he bolted under the house for shade. Water was given to him that he immediately ingested and threw up. A "warning" notice was tacked to the front door as two pit bulls, in a tiny chain-link enclosure around the side of the house, barked profusely. I felt I had at least released the young dog from his distress that day but as the owners moved a few days later, taking their dogs, I don't know what the future held for him.
I wish I had the ability to articulate the indignation I feel to the owners of such animals. I go from zero to spluttering anger in about 4 seconds. I know by opening my mouth I won't be able to diplomatically reason or educate, so I stay quiet: a coward, ineffectively smoldering.
The same feeling washed over me as I drove along Highway 14 from my farm to town, last week. It was pouring: a raw, penetrating rain that my windshield wipers were useless against. Ahead of me, in the bed of a bright green truck, easily traveling 70 mph, were four adult, golden, Labradors. One was distinctly advanced in years and they huddled together, fighting for space behind the truck's cab, to get out of the worst of the downpour and wind. Untethered and agitated, they circled the truck bed, sat, rose, pushed against each other and waited for their ordeal to end.
It was all I could do to safely keep up with the speed of the driver and when we finally arrived in town, thankfully detained by a traffic light, I was able to maneuver up alongside the truck. He looked straight at me and my outrage was impulsively released with an angrily pointed finger at first him, then the dogs, as I mouthed the word, "Idiot!" He remained expressionless and continued on his way.
Man's inhumane actions toward man have always broken my heart and when it comes to animals, who ask for so little and give their all in return, I am beyond bewildered. It's the ignorance that kills me. I'm sure the owner of the Labs would have dismissed my concern with, "Ah, they've got heavy coats, they're fine." Or the people responsible for the thin horses in a nearby, muddy, field with no grass or shelter from the elements would wave a hand and say, "Hell, they're OK."
I think of the old cowboy proverb that says, "You can tell the inside of a man by the outside of his horse." Nothing truer was ever written and it applies to any animal. Man might like to think his best friend is his dog, but one can only imagine who his dog would choose...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Houston, we have poop!

Editor's Note: Commedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office in the "Unabomber Shack" on her Gowensville farm. Want a chance to respond to this column?
Go to Pam’s blog at
Yes, I was aware this title might raise an eyebrow or two... read on, it will all make sense.
Having spent something like 20 years on the road touring as stand up comics, Paul and I know what it is like to go out for New Year's Eve. It's the big "money gig" of the year for any comedian, generally earning triple what one would normally make, simply for one night's appearance. I've been in front of restive, drunken, patrons, five minutes until midnight everywhere from San Francisco to Atlanta. I've jumped off stage in Chicago, five minutes after midnight, to grab a cab to O'Hare to catch a flight to London. And each one of those nights, as I reapplied make-up between shows with a trowel and 'Spackle,' I would say to myself in the mirror, "I cannot wait to just stay home for New Year's!"
That fervent wish came true when Paul and I moved, fulltime, to South Carolina in 1999. New Year's became a gloriously mundane tradition of sprawling on the couch, with terrier bookends and a cat on each lap, in front of a roaring fire and Dick Clark on the television. We'd never, ever, have to go out on New Year's again!
Funny how naive some folks can be.
This year found us indeed out, not only in the wee hours of New Year's but the following night as well. With a very sick Mini-mule. Some of you might recall an earlier column I wrote entitled "Lionel the Mini-Mule" which described how Paul discovered the ancient, abandoned, fellow at his nursery. We brought him home and tended to his parasites and neglected hooves and were pleased that he had had a lovely year of Mini-mule bliss living among my other horses and, in particular, Moose, a 27 year old draft horse. Now he lay before us, as the effects of the injected pain-reliever, Banamine, wore off, beginning to writhe and thrash with the pains of colic.
Winter sees a lot of colic cases, particularly in older horses with a slower digestive system. Like people, horses don't feel particularly thirsty when it's freezing outside and the food they eat, without the necessary fluids, can become an impaction inside their intestine. As their throat is a one-way street, there is no relief from this distress and they become agitated, rolling and, the fear is, "twisting a gut." At the age of 25, Lionel was no candidate for surgery and the vet's exam revealed a 'displacement' inside, not good, but moving gut sounds, which was good.
Twice was inserted a long tube down his nose to his stomach which was pumped with a bucket of water to see if we could flush something through but to no avail. Not sure if there was indeed a twist, we were in a dilemma: put him down now to avoid any unnecessary suffering, or try a last ditch effort: hook him up with an IV to fill him one last time with fluid while keeping him comfortable on the banamine. By the morning, if there was no movement, we would put him down. What was heartbreaking was that each time the pain was taken away by another injection, he was completely at ease with bright eyes and a braying welcome. It was easy to kid oneself that he was just fine.
Throughout the night, Paul and I traded off checking on his progress. His last shot of banamine would wear off by around 3 am. The wind whipped up and the air was brittle. Walking through the crunching frost of the paddock at 3:30, Paul saw him peering comfortably out of his deeply bedded stall, Moose standing sentry by the open door, dozing. The beam of the flashlight, flashing within the stall and along the ground revealed what was possibly Mini-mule droppings although Moose appeared to have stepped right in the middle of them, flattening them out, so it was difficult to tell who was the owner. At 5 a.m., it was my turn and with a nod towards the Saint Francis statue calmly surveying the fields from the front yard, and a quick prayer under my breath, I ducked through the apple orchard and opened the paddock gate. At first, I only saw the pale outline of Moose, standing nearby, and then Lionel poked his head around his buddy's shoulder and with a shuddering bray, welcomed me from both ends.
Some people treat themselves to a champagne toast on New Year's. Others go out dancing. Still others cram themselves into Times Square. But nothing, nothing, I tell you, is as glorious as the sight of Mini-mule poop at 5 a.m.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Resolving to laugh!

Editor's Note: Commedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office in the "Unabomber Shack" on her Gowensville farm. Want a chance to respond to this column?
Go to Pam’s blog at
The most common New Year's Resolution, I am quite certain, is "to lose weight." A nutritionist friend of mine says that most folks who attempt this feat, beginning on January 1st, are doomed to failure because it takes skills and understanding of how your body works to be successful.
Another friend said, "Saying, 'OK, starting January 1st, I am going to lose 25 pounds' is akin to saying, 'OK, starting January 1st, I'm going to build a house.' Oh, really? You know how to do that? You have all the tools and know how to use them? You have a structured plan? You have the ability?"
Jeepers! That kind of pressure is going to lead anyone into free-basing Haagen-Daz.
Wouldn't it be nice, for a change, to put together a New Year's Resolution List that is easy to do and guarantees a reduction of stress? And while I won't promise you'll lose weight, I think you'll actually have fun. Remember that? Give it a shot:
1. The next time you're introduced to a stranger at a cocktail party, tell them you're on medication and could burst into tears at any moment if the word, "corn" is mentioned.
2. When you take your used goods to the local recycling place, ask the manager where you should put goats.
3. Start using phrases like "Goodness Gracious Me!" in an Indian accent whenever you are surprised.
4. While circling the parking lot looking for a space, pick out any man you see and yell, "Sheila, hey Sheila!" When he turns around, say, "Wow, sorry, you look just like my friend, Sheila!"
5. If anyone asks you the breed of your dog, reply, "Chinese tufted-rat burger."
6. When at the check-out at Bi-Lo, hold up a banana and ask the cashier, "Now, is this guaranteed to get out grass stains?"
7. The next time someone asks, "How are you?" Answer, "Flawless!"
8. If pulled over for speeding and the officer asks, "Do you know how fast you were going?" say, "Heck, I dunno. The speedometer only goes up to 120."
9. Start a rumor in your neighborhood that you saw a big truck unload a crate full of monkeys into one of the houses.
Finally, for those of you who still insist you should at least attempt to diet January 1st, just try this:
10. Tell any new acquaintance that you just lost one hundred pounds. This way, everyone will think you look amazing.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Glad tidings please bring... and that's it!

Editor's Note: Commedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office in the "Unabomber Shack" on her Gowensville farm. Want a chance to respond to this column?
Go to Pam’s blog at
I am delighted to say that Paul and I, over the past couple of years, have succeeded in keeping Christmas simple. My rabid political rants have resulted in well-meaning friends who have, overnight, timidly returned jaunty little Santa figurines or snow globes, meant to be stocking stuffers for yours truly, because of the dreaded little decal on the bottom that reads "Made in China."
Instead of knickknacks in our home that live eleven months lumped away in a closet, the house is filled with the symbolic greenery cut from the woods: the holly with its fat, vibrant, berries historically represent the "Crown of Thorns" and the berries, the drops of Christ's blood. Candles, placed in windows, are reminiscent of the goodwill by the Victorians as a sign to passerby that warmth and comfort could be found within. Pine and ivy curls around the nativity.
I find such fulfillment, settling back on the couch and drinking in the sights and scents of these decorations, knowing that they haven't contributed a penny to that overused and annoying term: "commercialism."
If I had a dime for every person who has ever wailed, "Christmas is sooo commercial!" I would be bloated with wealth. The phrase seems to have been around forever, I certainly have used it and keenly recall my mother's laments. I thought it might be interesting to try and trace its roots...
Paul and I own "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on DVD and it is a must that we play it every year, generally a week before the big day, with a glass of good wine in hand, dogs on our laps and a fire roaring in the hearth. Besides acknowledging the sentimentality of this 1965 classic, we always comment that, with its religious overtones, particularly Linus actually quoting biblical scripture with the reading of Luke 2:8-14, there is, quite frankly, no way this lovely film would be made today. Before beginning to research this column, I always assumed "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was the first real cry against the commercialism of Christmas. Ignorant was I!
Scholar Charles C Haynes, observed in an article he wrote for "The Daily Herald," "...even the Puritans foresaw this problem by passing laws to prohibit celebrating Christmas on December 25th... an ill-fated attempt to ban from the New World a holiday celebrated in England with drinking and feasting originally associated with the Roman festival of Saturnalia." The Puritans truly wanted to keep Christmas, well, pure.
Actually, if you think about it, the blame might just lie at the feet of the Three Wise Men. They could have simply brought to the Christ child praise and music, but they chose to bring a weird little spice no one has ever really seen, incense and gold – Gold! Bringing an infant cash – that's as bad as when grandparents smother their grandchildren with extravagant gifts that overshadow the gifts given by the children's actual parents. I understand the rationale behind the gold, but it proved to be a difficult act to follow.
Well, I'm just not playing anymore. Paul and I give each other stockings each year and that's it: modest little trinkets, perhaps imported chocolates and much needed gloves, shoved deep down inside the toe with the obligatory candy cane sticking out of the top. If you try hard enough, you do not have to take part in the commercialism. Or so I thought. It's pretty good at trickling in. Watching "It's a Wonderful Life" for the five thousandth time the other night, Paul and I noticed that when George and his Guardian Angel, Clarence, were in Nick's Bar, Clarence hears the ring of a bell and informs George another angel "has gotten its wings."
The bell was the ring of the cash register.
Oh, well. Even Charlie Brown and Linus were brought to you by Dolly Madison...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Everyone benefits!

Editor's Note: Commedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office in the "Unabomber Shack" on her Gowensville farm. Want a chance to respond to this column?
Go to Pam’s blog at
God and I have this deal. Well, let's just say I offered God this deal and I'm assuming he's OK with it; I haven't received a memo.
I feel downright blessed about my life in many respects: through my work I've had the opportunity to travel the world: skiing in New Zealand (Oh, all right, a lot of falling in New Zealand), riding horses across southern Ireland, spending Christmas in Salzburg, drinking in the views from Capri and hoisting many a pint in the English countryside. Stateside, there's been trips to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Muir Woods, Bean town, Wrigley Field and embarrassingly finding myself on a nude beach in Sarasota. Can I just say that I've always wondered why the people you least want to see naked insist on being naked? In public? There's something very disconcerting about walking behind a naked person to whom gravity has been unkind and wondering why, besides foot prints, you also see shallow trenches on either side? But I digress....
Because I have lived a life which can only be described as full time Adult Recess, I mentioned to God that to thank him, I would do my best never to turn down performing at benefits to help raise funds for worthy charities. And so I answered the call countless times in Los Angeles: Concerts for Battered Women, AIDS, the Humane Society, Muscular Dystrophy, Amnesty International, the Homeless… I can't even remember half of them but felt a desire and moral obligation to be a part of them all.
Moving to Landrum several years ago, I became aware that there are several worthwhile charities in this area as well. I also became aware that, unlike Los Angeles, where a charity has its pick of literally thousands of performers to choose from, I was pretty much it. Perry Como had died just after I moved here and I don't think he felt, at that point in his life, up to doing much performing, anyway. I'm quite sure I was soon programmed into several speed dials:
"Yes, we're having a benefit to raise money for Habitat For Humanity... would you mind doing headlining a Comedy Concert?"
"No problem."
The calls came fast and furious: Red Cross of Polk County, Cancer Survivors, Crop Walk, Animal Shelters, Domestic Abuse Shelters, AIDS, Therapeutic Riding Programs... truly, I've been happy to oblige. The problem is, I try gently to explain to the callers, is that this is a town of just over two thousand people, the point being, well, everyone has seen my act by now. They're sick of me! Talk about saturating the market... even new jokes become old after a couple of months. And while I realize that each and every charity means something dear to someone, there's some that, quite frankly, I have to turn down...
"Yes, hello, we run an Alpaca Rescue service and we were wondering if you would agree to perform..."
"Er, yes."
"The animals with the really bad perms?"
I probably didn't make any new friends during that short telephone call.
That's also probably why each time I see an Alpaca, they always seem to be glaring at me.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

God bless Mr. Linder

Editor's Note: Commedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office in the "Unabomber Shack" on her Gowensville farm. Want a chance to respond to this column?
Go to Pam’s blog at
Surely you know him. On a little road just off across from The Pizza Hut with a chain link fence and gate that politely informs you of business hours, Henry Linder is one of those Honest-to-Goodness rarities seldom seen these days: a shoe cobbler. If you think about it, a cobbler is as hard to find as a new shoe with an actual leather sole and heel. I suspect the rubber-bottomed ones aren't too good for business.
"That's true." he said. "But they don't last that long, either."
I first met Mr. Linder by following up on a recommendation by a fellow horseman when it came time to have my riding boots resoled. To my delight, not only could he replace soles, he could also (cue the angelic chorus) replace zippers! You have no idea what that means to a dressage rider. The zippers are generally on the inside of the boot, against the horse and are zipped and unzipped, depending on the number of horses ridden, as many as ten times a day. The factory in Holland where my boots originated are happy to replace them, for about the price of a Kia.
"I believe I can do that" Mr. Linder mused, looking them over. "Would fifty dollars be too much?" Seeing that was one-third of the price I had been quoted elsewhere, it would do nicely, thank you. Mr. Linder scribbled down my name and number and asked, as it was Saturday, if it would be acceptable if the boots were ready by next week. Are you kidding? Yes!
I love his shop. You can tell everyone who rides worships at the alter that is Linder Shoe Service. Along a shelf near the door usually sits four or five pairs of hunt boots like slightly slouching soldiers, shined, buffed, repaired, waiting to be claimed. On the rack behind the counter sits an amazing array of repaired shoes: pumps, brogues, evening slippers... Cast your eye around and you will see, awaiting your perusal, buckles, shoe polish and heel protectors, made by "Cat." The funny black cat logo immediately engulfs me with nostalgia.
As a town, we are simply blessed to have a man dedicated to a lost craft. I don't think Mr. Linder will mind me sharing that he recently turned 88 years of age and he is still working because he was simply too busy to retire and missed his customers. Each time I see him he gently smiles over the top of his glasses and asks about my mother and Paul's nursery. We chat about the weather, the war and my boots.
"Yes," he says again, "If that's all right with you, I can have them ready by next week."
Four hours later a message is left on my answering machine.
"Miss Stone? This is Henry. Your boots are ready. I reckoned you'd need them with all those horses you ride."
God Bless you, Mr. Linder.

Love your mother

Editor's Note: Commedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office in the "Unabomber Shack" on her Gowensville farm. Want a chance to respond to this column?
Go to Pam’s blog at

I write this as I look at a report from The Atlanta Journal which warns that “Atlanta Has Less Than 81 days of Water Left.”
Video reports from nearly all southeastern lakes show several feet of red clay shore, boats, once floating and tethered, now lying on their sides in the mud. It’s a frightening time. Here in the Tryon and Landrum area, we certainly know first hand how bad it’s been. Those of us with livestock fret over the availability of hay and the fear that wells are drying up. “How sad is it,” my co-host, Ramona Holloway, remarked on our new radio show we are presenting on Sundays, “that I have to wait until an actual watering ban is implemented before it occurs to me to conserve water?”
How very, very true. During a normal summer, tucked safely into the pattern of rainy systems sucking up moisture from the Gulf and sweeping through every four or five days, I don’t think twice about watering my dressage arena. I leave the tap running as I brush my teeth. And when I fill the horses’ water troughs, I’m ashamed to admit that I have forgotten to turn off the hose~ once even for the entire night! But the water table was high, our well is deep.......excuses are terribly convenient, aren’t they?
One of the most inspiring sermons I ever heard Father Doty, our rector at Holy Cross, preach, was in regard to stewardship to the Earth. I cannot quote his text but of what I remember, he explained that when people hear the phrase that “Man was given Dominion over the Earth,” there is the tendency to understand that the word “dominion” has an aggressive feel to it. When we “dominate” someone or something, we think of putting it under our thumb. We rule it! We do whatever we want.
However, Father Doty informed us that the word “dominate” has its roots in divinity and stems from the word, “Dom,” which, in its Latin translation, means, “Deo Optimo Maximo: To the Best and Greatest God.” Keeping that in mind, if we then are given the Earth “To the Best and Greatest God” then how dare we foul it? How dare we take its precious resources without a thought of conserving? As a struggling Christian, I believe that Christ was very clear in that we are expected to serve each other and, of course, Him. His expression of serving was overwhelming.
How then can we, given “dominion” over His gift, not have a natural affinity to serve it? If we are given a thoughtful, lovely gift, should we simply rip off the wrapping paper, say, “Oh, yeah, thanks,” and then proceed to destroy it?
On our radio show, our third host, Sharon Decker, a lay minister, gave wonderful tips on how to conserve water: if you buy bottled water, don’t throw it away with water still in it – use that to water your plants then recycle the bottle. Keep a bucket in your shower and let the excess water fall into it also be useful in watering plants, even flushing your toilet!
Turn that tap off when brushing your teeth. Using your dishwater actually uses less water than washing by hand, but only if the machine is completely full....
There’s countless other things to do that I believe we have a moral obligation to undertake: recycling, driving fuel efficient cars, planting trees. Especially if you live in the country.
So many of us have moved to this slice of heaven in the desire of living closer to nature and breathing clean air. How then dare we to methodically and carelessly destroy and greedily remove its resources?
Shame on us for waiting to be told.