Mr. Millman

Mr. Millman on Scout

February 2006. Mr. Millman's first ride on Scout

In February of 2006, I got a call from a man who wanted to book a trail ride. He was old. I could tell from his voice. I was nervous. Even in a best case scenario, taking brand new riders up into the mountains on horses in good weight (i.e. not half-dead deadheads) is an anxiety-producing endeavor. A brand new rider who is also elderly is not a best case scenario.

Mr. Millman and his wife showed up later that week, confirming my worst fears. He was elderly, he was frail, he looked like he’d break into a million pieces if he fell. I prayed Scout and Lady would be on their best behavior, and they answered my prayers. That day he told me he’d ridden some a few decades ago, and since then it had been his dream to own a horse.

Many people believe that horses are like unicorns. They’re not. They are a catastrophe waiting to happen. If you wait long enough around a horse, you will witness a catastrophe. But horses produce more than catastrophes, they also inspire love, and hope, and joy. Mr. Millman wanted himself some of that.

After he had a couple of rough rides on Scout, and stayed resolute in his desire for a horse, I introduced him to Colonel, a Quarter Horse gelding I’d had my eye on for some time. The very day Mr. Millman tried out Colonel Mrs. Millman gave me some news – Mr. Millman had been diagnosed with cancer. It was serious. The thing was, Mr. Millman didn’t have time for cancer. He had a horse to buy, a skill to learn, a life to live.

I should have known it wasn’t destined to work out with Colonel when we discovered the horse had a swastika brand on his hip. What are the odds that a horse with a swastika brand would be purchased by a Jewish man in South Carolina who was of age in WWII? We rebranded Colonel to obscure the swastika and got to work. Unfortunately, Mr. Millman made the horse nervous. I loved Colonel, found him to be a wonderful horse, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t produce a catastrophe. He was a horse, after all, and along with love, hope, and joy, catastrophes were his stock in trade.

Mr. Millman on Colonel. Catastrophe imminent.

Mr. Millman’s sister had come visiting, and Mr. Millman being Mr. Millman, he wanted to show off his new horse. I looked into Colonel’s eye that day and saw bad things. He was anxious, and shied as Mr. Millman dismounted. Mr. Millman stumbled backward, tripped over the mounting block, fell to the arena sand, hit the back of his head and lost his memory. He didn’t know who Colonel was, he didn’t know what had happened, he didn’t know his address. It’s never a good day at the barn when your rider leaves in an ambulance.

I found Colonel a new home, and cried when he left. Years later, I would see him at a horse show, looking fat, healthy and happy, and cried again.

I felt certain Mr. Millman would abandon his quest to become a rider.

He didn’t even take a break.

Shortly after the catastrophe, he called me up to Chesnee, to come see a Missouri Fox Trotter for sale. I looked into the Trotter’s eye and saw something I didn’t like. A hardness. Mr. Millman passed on the horse. A few days later, he summoned me back to Chesnee. The Fox Trotter farm had a new horse in, a horse named Sam. I made the drive to see the new prospect. He was coppery red and awfully young. I looked into Sam’s eye, and saw goodness reflected back at me. I rode him. He had a fire to him that matched his blazing coat. Sam was alert, responsive, ready to do whatever you asked. He was sensitive. But the look in his eye told me it would be okay. Sam arrived at the equestrian center and once again, we got back to work. There were many obstacles. Sam was young and green, Mr. Millman was old and green, but they were both hard triers. Slowly but surely, their partnership grew.

At the same time, I found a new horse for Mrs. Millman. Johnny was sold as a Quarter Horse cross, but I didn’t see the Quarter Horse as much as I saw the draft. Johnny was nothing like Sam. His eye did not reflect back pure goodness, but rather a most healthy sense of self. No one had ever told Johnny he had a giant hammerhead, or that his back was as long as a drive through Texas. But even if they had, Johnny wouldn’t have listened. He knew the truth – he was one glorious hunk of horseflesh. As such, he was entitled to his opinions. Some people he didn’t like, others he loved. Thankfully, he loved Mrs. Millman, and toted her around with a smile on his face.

Mr. Millman’s cancer advanced through his body, even as he perfected his riding skills and his partnership with Sam. I left the equestrian center, and left Millman duty to my friend Melissa, who would take Mr. Millman and Sam on two hour trail rides over hill and dale. Sometimes, when he felt poorly, Mr. Millman would list in the saddle. Sam would find a way to get back underneath him. With sweet, young Sam, no catastrophe lay in wait. Only love, hope, and joy.

Mr. Millman had lived his dream. He owned a horse and had learned to ride. But Mr. Millman wasn’t done dreaming yet. He wanted to own his own farm. He’d expressed this desire early on, and I, stupidly, had dismissed it as too far fetched. By 2008, Mr. Millman had moved to Charlotte and built his two geldings a magnificent barn to call their home. He had done it all. Through the years we stayed in touch. I kept up with Mr. Millman’s equine adventures, and was saddened by the news that Mrs. Millman had left. I sent holiday cards and emails, and made sure Mr. Millman knew I was always there if he needed me.

In 2006, Mr. Millman and I had obliquely discussed it. I don’t know if it was ever named, and doubt that it was. I think it was more a matter of knowing looks and a nod of the head. But there was an agreement between us, and it was an agreement I knew would stick. And so, I waited for the call.

I got it on October 27th.

Mr. Millman was dying, and he needed to find a home for Sam and Johnny. He had one condition – Sam and Johnny must stay together. I wrote up an email and sent it out, knowing it would find the right person. The email was forwarded, forwarded again, and forwarded several times more. It came to a woman named Karyn, who had just built a brand new barn, who had acres of perfect pasture, who had a daughter with a pony, and who was looking to find a horse for herself and her husband. She’d grown up with gaited horses, and would fully appreciate a Missouri Fox Trotter like Sam. I spoke with Mr. Millman about Karyn. Our conversations were the same as always – namely, me trying to wrangle the indomitable force of nature that was Mr. Millman, with much respect on both sides.

Before Karyn’s visit we talked again, about his hopes, his fears, his expectations about this potential new owner of his beloved horses. I counseled him as best I knew how. He told me, several times, how much he appreciated my help. “Of course,” was all I said. Some duties you do not choose; they choose you.

Karyn came out the next day. The day after that I didn’t hear from either of them. I became nervous. Maybe it hadn’t gone well. I emailed Mr. Millman, who always emailed me back instantaneously. I heard nothing. I called Karyn. She said it went beautifully. She and Mr. Millman had clicked, she said, and she loved the horses. He’d shown her around his house and his property, he had introduced her to the horses. She watched as Mr. Millman said good-bye to Sam. “We’ve come a long way together,” he told Sam. “I will never forget you. I hope you don’t forget me.”

Karyn told Mr. Millman she could pick the horses up on the 12th or the 20th, and Mr. Millman chose the 20th. He couldn’t ride any longer, he said, but he enjoyed coming down to give them a treat. It kept him going. Love, hope, and joy.

As it turns out, what had really kept Mr. Millman going was the knowledge that he needed to find his boys a home before he died. After he met Karyn, he returned to his house, and passed away. The date was November 5th.

Mr. Millman and Sam and Johnny

Mr. Millman with Sam and Johnny. Photo taken by Karyn during her visit.

A Story About a Nightmare

Carrie

"Oh, honey! I have a good idea for a name!"

I was born on Halloween in 1976 and my parents named me Carrie.

If I ever write a fan letter to Stephen King, that will be the first sentence. With such a beginning in life, some things are just destiny. (I’ve always wondered – Carrie opened in theaters on Nov. 3rd, meaning the promos had to have been out there before I was born. Is that where they got they idea? Even subconsciously? If so, I am all for it.)

I rather think my interest in all things supernatural is in my nature, but it was definitely in my nurture, too. Our house was a natural home for ghost stories, we all enjoyed them, and Granny, my dad’s mother, grew up in a haunted house. A naturally gifted Southern storyteller, she’d regale us with her tales. She even told her stories to the girls at my 11th birthday sleepover. My Grammy, my mom’s mother, let me read a book, Mysteries of the Unexplained, whenever I came over. One day, she let me take it home. It remains one of my most prized possessions. My Uncle Robert was also a big contributor in the development of my interest in the supernatural. He gave me countless paperbacks about psychics and UFOs, and would call me whenever there was a special on TV about Bigfoot. My mom read Poe to me when I was little, and my dad would tuck me in at night to tellings of his very own stories, stories that would have made King proud.

So, really, pretty much everyone in my life encouraged my interest in all things dark, spooky, and mysterious. But there was another person, a person outside of my family, who had as great an impact on me as any of my relations. I would not learn his name until 2001. Until then he was known to me only as the Green River Killer.

I like to joke with my friends about being psychic. I am not, though. Despite my better than decent record with gender id’ing babies still in the belly. I like making predictions, I like to try to listen to my gut and pluck out a fact about the future, but it’s just guesswork. In all my life, I’ve only had one experience that felt profoundly psychic. And really, that’s all I can say – is that it felt psychic. Although I guess I can also say that it had a big impact on me.

By the time I was in the third grade the Green River Killer was everywhere. I remember driving down the Auburn-Black Diamond Road, not at all far from our home, and having a white house pointed out. “He dumped a body behind that one,” it was said. On the local news, tales of new bodies discovered would dominate the news cycle. The Green River Task Force was a term everyone was familiar with. Much later, I would board my horse at a farm, and would learn he’d dumped a body in the ditch next to my horse’s pasture.

I was profoundly aware of him, frightened of him, and fascinated by him. Who was this monster? And what had made him that way? There was also, in a weird way, a sort of pride. The whole country was watching us, our tiny, insignificant little neck of the woods. South King County wasn’t good for much, but we sure could grow ourselves a serial killer. Early on, I had a sense that creepy things grew in the dark, wet woods of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve never been to Maine, but clearly, Stephen King feels the same way about that state. But did Maine produce Ted Bundy, Keith Hunter Jesperson, Robert “William” Pickton, Clifford Olsen, Robert Lee Yates, Kenneth Bianchi, John Allen Muhammed and the Green River Killer? I didn’t think so.

No, I don't believe there is a body here, in Earthworks Park.

No, I don't believe there is a body here, in Earthworks Park. Besides, I already looked.

But on to the point of this post – my third grade nightmare about The Green River Killer. I am going to put it down here unedited, even though it features some silly, dream-like aspects. My dream began with me on my pony, Candy Cane, trail riding in Earthworks Park in Kent. Becky was there, on Rocky. At this time in my life, I had never been to Earthworks Park, but I’d seen it from the road. It is an urban park, and you cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, ride a horse in it.

Becky and I split up, and I rode Candy deep into the interior of the park. A thin band of forest encircles the green space, and I heard rustling coming from the trees. I dismounted, and walked in on foot. Silently, I approached the sound of the rustling. There, before me, was a man unloading a woman’s body. She was dead white, nude, and turgid. She was laid out on black plastic, and I got the impression he’d carried her in wrapped up in it. He was now covering her with the plentiful fall leaves from the forest floor. Before my eyes, as though through time lapse photography, her body decomposed, down to her skeletal remains. Horrified, I stepped back. That’s when the man looked up at me. We locked eyes.

For the first and only time in my entire life, I woke up screaming. My parents fetched me from my room and I spent the rest of the night in their room. The next day, I felt it very important to draw what I had seen. In that moment, I believed wholeheartedly I had seen The Green River Killer. His face shape was distinctly oval, his hair straight and styled forward from the back. He wore a simple white t-shirt. There were two important details. His wore a cross around his neck and his utilitarian pants had so many pockets. I’d seen them before, but didn’t know what they were called. I described them to my mom. “Oh, those are painter’s pants,” she said.

Years later, my sister Becky and I took her daughter Courtney to Earthworks Park. I was a senior in high school, and it was my first time visiting the park. Eight years had passes since my nightmare, but it was as vivid as ever. I remember telling Becky about it as we strolled around, exploring. The park looked exactly as I had imagined it. To be fair, you can get an idea of it from the road. But the paths, the little bridges, the shape of the outline – it was all so perfectly familiar. It was an eerie experience, to put it mildly.

Gary

Gary.

Another seven years went by. The Green River Killer was arrested. Now he had a name. Gary Ridgway. I instantly recalled my dream and my third grade police sketch. I went to my computer and pulled up the story. It looked like him. He’d been arrested at the Kenworth plant, where he painted trucks for 32 years. Paint fragments transferred to his victims wound up being an important piece of evidence. Gary Ridgway presented himself as a devout Christian, would read the Bible at work, go door to door evangelizing, and attended church.

All that said, wearing a cross is a common thing, and painter pants were popular in the 80’s, as was the hairstyle the killer had in my dream. All I can say is, it felt like a psychic experience. And, since that dream, and my Green River Killer-adjacent childhood, serial killers have infected my imagination. Gary Ridgway, and his distasteful brethren, live inside my mind and come out whenever I get to typing.

Mary Kole Webinar

So! Once upon a time, about a week and a half ago, I had a vision and a plan of revamping my website, and then, once it was beautifully and lustrously revamped, I would lead off with the beautiful and lustrous story of my agent acquirement, and I would tell all y’all that I’d signed with Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (For reals. I’m not even lying about that part.)

Alas, the site is not yet redesigned, nor has the story of the agent acquirement been written, but I must tell all y’all about Mary’s Writer’s Digest Webinar, and so my eventual agent acquirement story will be written sans punchline. But we can all pretend to be impressed and surprised once I do get it written, and announce that I signed with Mary Kole of Andrea Brown. (NOT EVEN LYING. I SWEAR.)

So! Mary Kole’s Webinar! All the cool kids are doing it. Here are the stats:

September 23rd * 1pm Eastern * 90 minutes long * Year long access to archived transcript

Best of all, every registrant is guaranteed a critique by Mary. Let me assure you, based on the notes she has given me, the critique will be a.) awesome and b.) worth every penny. For serious. Truly, the woman has a talent. I recommend taking advantage of it!

Here’s a link with all the details: Mary Kole Webinar 

It’s going to be good times, as anyone who participated in Write On Con already knows!

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

Crystal ball

Me, staring into the future of Fanfreakingtastic.com

I have not been around much. Perhaps you have noticed. Perhaps you have thought, where is the witty? The entertainments? The delights? The bizarre obession with song lyrics? Where has it all gone?

It has gone to a variety of places, my friends. It went to FlowerFest, it went on a ten day vacation with strep throat, it went to work. Work, you say? Surely not.

Indeed, I reply, but not the work you think, the work involving phones and W-2’s and 1099’s. It was work involving writing.

Gasp! You say.

Yes, says I.

Things have been afoot in my writing world. It may even be that yours truly has–

DUN-DUN-DUN

An agent.

I know. Craziness. And so, Fanfreakingtastic is on the dark side right now, but it shall come back, a new and better Fanfreakingtastic. I have visions, my friends, visions. Also, dreams. Dreams even more glorious than nailing 99 Problems. (NOT A WORD FROM YOU, SEAN CANNON. MY RENDITION WAS AWESOME AND IT BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN.)

But I digress.

Please stay tuned to this channel for more. Do not be surprised to find some awesomeness occurring in the near-ish future. DEFINITELY by October, the hallowed month of my birth, there will be awesomeness.

In the meantime, probably more blather about song lyrics.