We recently had the a professional photographer come to the horse barn. Yes, this is a thing. Horses are beautiful, they don’t live as long as we do, and please don’t begrudge me this extravagance when I haven’t taken a vacay in four years.

The photographer requires two kinds of assistants. Somebody must hold the horse. This duty usually falls to the owner, who knows the horse’s secret passwords, favorite scratchy places, and dirty tricks. The second assistant has one job and one job only, and that is, to make the horse prick his ears forward.

The equine ear is a marvelous organ. Our hearing range is 30-19,000Hz, the horse’s range is 55 to 33,500Hz. He not only can move his head the better to position his ears to catch a sound (as we do), he can move each ear independently (ten sets of muscles compared to our three), and listen to sounds from two different directions simultaneously.

So you would think, when I stood behind the photographer, and shook that tin of horse treats, Santa would have been all ears-at-the-ready. No such luck. I shook the treats, I whistled, I snapped my fingers, I threw handfuls of grass into the air, and… nuffink.

I consider myself a dignified person, but the occasion called for extraordinary measures. I did some hitch kicks, which came off more like hitch-flops. I danced around with my finger on my head. I smacked the treats against my, er, hip, and I shook the overhanging branches while la-la-la’ing the Toreador song. The horse all but fell asleep, though the photographer and my riding instructor were both vastly entertained.

“I’m a lawyer,” says me, as if that sad affliction has any relevance. “If you DARED to take picture of me while I shook my booty at that horse, I’ll–”

“Too late, Grace,” says Madame Nikon. “First rule of horse photography, always get some blackmail shots.”

The horse remained toweringly bored, but the photo session became fun, because I allowed myself to play the fool, a side of me my riding instructor hadn’t seen before, and I hadn’t seen in much too long either. Since my impromptu barnyard pirouettes, I’ve been a little lighter of heart. More inclined to joke when texting, more patient with traffic and cats and life in general.

Younger children in large families often learn to play whatever role is needed in a given situation (sixth out of seven lest anybody ever forget), but I had lost track of how useful and joyous the role of jester-at-large can be. The horse won’t forget the photo session, and I won’t forget that I was a little silly, and the world did not stop turning.

Have you ever played the fool? Gotten the giggles? Had to leave because you were about to be ridiculous?




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13 comments on “Grace-foolery

  1. haha, I would have loved to see that photo shoot! It makes for great mental pictures. I always appreciate when people are comfortable enough to make fools of themselves. It makes everything seem lighter, ya know?
    I can be very silly and childlike, especially when I get together with one particular friend, or my sister-in-law. Giggles abound, and it lightens my heart SO MICH.

  2. I am what is known as a soubrette, a soprano with high notes who is a comedian. She’s *worldly*, as Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte is or Susanna in Marriage of Figaro–those maids with hearts of gold written by Mozart. I’ve played more maids than I can tell you–high notes, taking prat falls aplenty.

    I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself if it moves the story along but in real life, it’s a bit harder. When things get tough, I can appear to make fun of myself, but inside I am crying. That’s the funny thing about comedy; it’s a bit of tragedy close to the surface. There’s a saying that comedy is tragedy plus time.

    To laugh at yourself to make others laugh is truly a gift.

  3. Silly, goofy, spontaneous are not things I’ve ever been. I do appreciate those who are and who enjoy it. We used to have unplanned musical nights when those who could, sang, those who would, danced and those of us who couldn’t do either, played whatever instrument was to hand. I can only play piano and am stuck to the notes, so someone else did the improv.

    I can perform a wonderful, doddering old woman, nursing home style, but it frightened my kids and hits too close to home for it to be funny for most people.

    I wonder if that’s why people talk baby talk to infants and animals? We had a dog that posed every time a camera/phone came out. The only part of obedience she ever passed was stand for examination. She knew she looked good. Our current pup tries to stick her nose on the lens, eat the cell phone or turns her back.

  4. Played the fool? Gotten the giggles? I’m happy to say that my husband & I do that all the time, especially with the grandkids. We are not above having “toilet bowl races” in the pool with the kids (floating with knees to chest, using only your arms to propel yourself), blowing huge bubbles (with 5 gallon buckets of bubble solution and large bubble rings), running around a field trying desperately to get a kite to soar, making silly faces with our food (monster pizzas anyone?), have fits of giggles over the card game “Spoons” (when Poppy is repeatedly the last one with a spoon), or over Jenga (when the tower collapses noisily). He and I also spend a lot of time laughing together over silly stuff, when one or the other of us has a “Duh!“ moment of doing something incredibly dumb, or he bests me his first time playing a dance game that I’ve played a million times. I really believe that a large part of the reason that we have been so happy together for over 44 years is our ability to laugh together. Remember what Reader’s Digest always asserted? That laughter is the best medicine! Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  5. That is a wonderful story, which made me laugh. It’s been way too long since let myself be silly – I’ll have to remember to purposely add some goofy to my life.

    Your story made me remember a dance I learned in a class I took in college. It was probably an indigenous dance and I don’t remember what group created it. I remember it as ‘pulling down the sky’. Picture this: crouch, then stomp with left foot, and pull down the sky with your right hand. Continue stomping and pulling while crouching – make sure you stare at the sky while doing it. I just did it sitting and it made me happier. I’m not sure I ever knew what the purpose of the dance was – maybe a rain dance?

  6. Thanks for the freebie!

    You have not lived until you’ve seen six foot me doing the hunch backed, low growl/howl while circling around each other play fighting with a kitteh who knows I’m playing. Right down to the half hopping toward said fur ball & back again & abrupt direction changes.

    My dearly departed moggie who was still galloping around the house tail in the air until age 18 when she abruptly wore out taught me the ritual posturing right down to her throaty war cry. There was nothing more ridiculous on the face of the planet than big old me circling a 22 pounder whose plume tail could fluff out as big as she was while I rowwwed back at her in approximation of her mighty war cry while circling, arching, and play striking. If I did things wrong, she’d dart in for an ankle bite faster than I could move, which inevitably left my now gone as well elderly parents howling with laughter back in the day. (Unless she nabbed them in a sneak attack as a reminder to fill her food dish. Then I learned new words.)

    I’ve initiated play a few times since with kittehs who know me & their expressions as I hunch up my back in an approximation of a cat’s arch is always a hilarious combination of What the heck?! Big clumsy human knows our moves! combined with Oh goody! Sparring partner! leavened with a hefty dose of The Vacation Food Goddess isn’t for real mad at me, right?! RIGHT???!!!

    Leaves their humans in stitches every time. I can’t stop giggling hysterically while I’m doing it.

  7. I recently had the opportunity to be ridiculously silly when visiting with my niece and nephew. Upon the arrival of my brand new niece, I was invited to visit with the goal of entertaining the older brother and sister who are 7 and 4 years old. I may be prejudiced, but they are very intelligent youngsters with very vivid imaginations so keeping them entertained required me to let go of my grown up self and reconnect with my inner child. It was amazing! I giggled and laughed and even squealed a time or two. I came home feeling rejuvenated in a way no grown up vacation has ever made me feel.

  8. Being a fool is what I do best. I am perfectly happy to do whatever it takes to make children smile, laugh, or whatever to feel I am a person worth cooperating with. This is why I enjoyed working with kids so much. I get along fine with adults in a therapy environment too I just tone it down. I feel no need to leave when I become ridiculous. I agree it is a real mood booster.

    On the downside people who take themselves very seriously dislike me intensely which can be very painful. I never did master that one before I retired.

    PS my dogs are bored with me too Santa!

    • PS: I feel I should share that being the way I am help getting my daughters through high school. When they were ranting about whatever I would offer to come on campus for a meeting. Suddenly they were able to resolve the issues themselves. They are both very successful adults now BTW.

  9. I get the giggles all the time… of course, examples are eluding me at the moment. But, I’d take a prat fall for the comedy of it!

    When I was young-20s, I lived in a place that had a pool. I was messing around with friends (not proper swimming, you see) and started doing the “Jaws” theme song and re-enacted the scene of “Jaws” where the young lady, the first victim, gets bitten.
    Then we started practicing theatre “death scenes” and whose ever was the most overacted/overblown/dramatic got the “Proscar” (pretend Oscar)… (probably an ice cream cone.)
    Anyway, I have no idea why we were howling with laughter… writing it all out, it seems so grim… but, I promise it was fun and no one was hurt in the reenactment! 🙂

  10. I learned today that when it comes to ego depletion (that phenomenon we all experience of diminishing returns the more our will power is tested), a good laugh can help to reset your reserves. So can a surprise gift. Delight in other words is how we replenish our will power. So not only will you be lighter of heart, more patient and more playful for the silliness, but you wall also be that much more inclined to stick with whatever needs to be stuck.