Tobi Taylor's Journal


News > Tuesday, January-08-2008

A Secretariat Surprise, or Twinkie Rides Again

Recently, I was staying at the home of my friend Sherri. On her coffee table was her Christmas loot, which included a new book, by Lawrence Scanlon, called The Horse God Built: The Untold Story of Secretariat, the World's Greatest Racehorse. I'd read a review of it but hadn't seen a copy. As I flipped through it, something caught my eye: my name, right there in the text:
"Tobi Taylor was a horse-mad eight-year-old girl in 1973, and the one horse she loved most was Secretariat...."
The book goes on to summarize an article I wrote for Dressage Today, back in 2000, about the life and times of Statesman ("Twinkie"), who was then Secretariat's oldest son. It's always gratifying to know that people read what you write. I had another moment like that, about six months after I'd published an article about Statesman in the Blood-Horse. Statesman's shoer at the time, Jean-Pierre Luyssaert, went to the 2001 Rolex three-day event in Kentucky. While there, he visited an art show that featured artist Salina Ramsay and Secretariat's owner, Penny Tweedy. J.P. found a small print of Secretariat and decided to buy it for me. While he was waiting to have it signed by the artist and Tweedy, he told them that he was farrier for Secretariat's oldest living son. "You mean Statesman," said Mrs. Tweedy. "I read about him in the Blood-Horse." After the artist had signed the print, Mrs. Tweedy wrote, "To Toby [sic] and Statesman."

News > Friday, December-28-2007

Playing Cards of the Apaches Named a Top Book of 2007

Good news! Playing Cards of the Apaches: A Study in Cultural Adaptation, by Virginia and Harold Wayland and Alan Ferg, was named a Southwest Book of the Year for 2007 by a panel selected by the Pima County Public Library and the Arizona Historical Society. Congratulations to Elizabeth Barber and Ann Peters, daughters of the Waylands, and Alan Ferg on receiving this honor. I’m proud to list this title among the award-winning books I’ve edited.

News > Friday, November-16-2007

Art and the Power of Intention

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to have more art in my home. I go to the nearby YMCA to work out a few days a week, and one day, on the wall above one of the machines I work out on, I noticed a stunning photograph. It combined multiple negatives — one a shot of the interior of a Spanish mission (San Xavier, I presumed), and the other a view of the Sonoran Desert. I got in touch with the artist, Bill Lesch, also a member of the Y, and arranged to buy the piece. Not long after that, I was watching television one Sunday afternoon and saw an entire program devoted to his work. Check out his website:



A few months later, I was at Brusally Ranch, near Show Low, visiting artist Chaille Trevor in her studio. She uses a lot of snapshots of horses for inspiration, and several of my horses have ended up in her paintings. I like some of the resultant paintings, but not so much that I feel I have to have them. However, the painting that was on her easel at the time really caught my eye. It was of my mare Rosie and her foal Tess. I was very taken with the composition more than anything else. A few weeks later, I called her and left a message telling her I wanted the painting and that I’d pick it up the next time I was at the ranch. Somehow, though, she never got the message. When I was at the ranch again in October, she was horrified to learn that I’d wanted it and sheepishly said that it had already gone down to the gallery in Scottsdale that represents her work. Fortunately, when I called the gallery, the painting was still available. After two trips from Tucson to Show Low to see the painting, and then a trip to Scottsdale to fetch it, the painting is now hanging in my living room.


The next piece of art came from an unlikely source, Mark Tashiro, one of the writers in my writers’ group. Aside from being an incredible writer, it turns out that Mark’s a fine amateur painter, too. One day, after a meeting of the group, he brought me a wedding gift — a landscape he’d painted on board. I put it in my kitchen, but within a day it had disappeared into my new husband’s office. Mark seemed pleased to hear that.


The last piece of art — so far! — that has wended its way to me this year is coming from artist Amy Novelli ( We met when I was selling my horse trailer and she offered to do a painting in trade for it. She sent me a couple of emails with probably thirty pieces, and I was very impressed. She got a trailer, and I got to commission a portrait.


It didn’t take me long to decide which of my horses I wanted Amy to paint. Who do I miss the most? Answer: Statesman, a.k.a. Twinkie, the “Second Son of Secretariat.” His body type also seemed the most suited to Amy’s style. Another thing that I found very impressive, and professional, about Amy has been her interest in seeing as many photos as I could find of him, hearing my innumerable Twinkie stories, and watching video of him. She started working on two canvases, and invited me to come over and observe/critique. I was astounded at how quickly, and how well, she captured him. At last report, he’s almost done — all four feet by five feet of him.

News > Wednesday, June-06-2007

Mayo Clinic sells Brusally Ranch House to Developer

Brusally Ranch was one of several large Arabian horse farms in the Scottsdale, Arizona, area from the 1950s to the 1980s. The ranch's owner, Ed Tweed, did a great deal to make Scottsdale the Arabian horse capital of the country. He was a founding member and first president of the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona, and in 1955, the association put on the first Scottsdale All-Arabian Horse Show, held every February at WestWorld. Today, the Scottsdale Show contributes more than $50 million each year to the local economy.

In the 1960s, local breeders began going abroad to buy Arabians to improve the quality of their breeding stock, and Arabians became big business. By the 1970s, various farms held yearly auctions timed to coincide with the Scottsdale Show. I grew up in Phoenix and began attending the show, and the sales, in the mid-1970s. Each year, I'd tour the well-known farms in the area, like Brusally Ranch, Lasma Arabians, Karho Farms, Gainey Ranch, and Tom Chauncey Arabians. Those were the days when on one drive you could see such famous stallions as Bask, El Paso, Aladdinn, Naborr, Ferzon, Gai Parada, Orzel, and Zbrucz. Lasma, Karho, and Gainey are long gone, replaced by housing developments and office complexes; Chauncey's farm is under a car dealership. Over the years, the Scottsdale Show itself was held at different venues, and two of those locations -- at Paradise Park and on Bell Road -- no longer exist.

Now the only vestige of the heyday of Arabian horse in Scottsdale, the Brusally Ranch house, is threatened. The 6,000-square-foot house, built in the 1950s by Tweed, and the five acres on which it sits are all that remain of the 160 acres that comprised the ranch. Tweed's daughter donated the house to the Mayo Clinic in the mid-1990s to be used as a temporary home for those awaiting  organ transplants. Known as the Arizona Transplant House, it has served thousands of patients over the years. However, the Mayo Clinic needs a larger facility, and so it has sold the property to a developer.

I breed Arabians and half-Arabians with Brusally bloodlines, and I'm currently at work on a book about the ranch's imported Arabians. Through my research, I've discovered that the horses born on Tweed's ranch have descendants throughout the world that excel in a number of disciplines. I was interviewed for a recent article in the East Valley Tribune about the plight of the ranch, and I tried to make the point that Brusally isn't simply a name from the past: "Tweed’s importation of about two dozen Arabians from Poland in the 1960s put Scottsdale on the equestrian world’s map. From the 1960s to the 1980s, Scottsdale was basically the place to be for Arabian horses. Three generations on, we’re talking about thousands of horses that have the Brusally bloodline. These horses are so good that they’re sending some back to Arabia to be race horses.” (East Valley Tribune, May 9, 2007)

An Arabian owner who relocated to the Phoenix area last year asked me if I could give her a tour of the old-time Arabian ranches. I still haven't been able to bring myself to give the tour  -- there is so little left to see -- but I think we'd better visit Brusally before it's too late.



News > Wednesday, June-06-2007

Turkeys 1, Humans 0

The latest issue of Archaeology Southwest (Vol. 21, No. 1) contains two of my articles -- one on Zuni ethnoornithologist Ed Ladd, and one on the reintroduction of turkeys at Mesa Verde National Park in the 1950s. "The Great Mesa Verde Turkey Experiment" had some hilarious unintended consequences: "Once the turkeys were established, they began to overrun the place: 'It was not long before they paid little or no attention to humans, cars, or racket.'" They were obnoxious, slow-moving, and territorial; a Park Service employee came home one evening to find a turkey in his living room. When the employees decided that enough was enough, and tried to drive the turkeys into the wilderness -- by shooting over them, lobbing cherry bombs at them, spraying them with water, and chasing them with cars -- the turkeys viewed it as a game of wits, which they won. The employees gave up. 

A few weeks after the issue of  Archaeology Southwest came out, I was talking to a current Mesa Verde employee about an unrelated matter. Just for fun, I asked her if she'd seen any turkeys in her area. "Well," she said, "I had to brake for a puffed-out tom turkey on my way to the office today. I didn't have any cherry bombs handy, so he was lucky!"

The turkeys are still winning.



News > Sunday, March-18-2007

The Lass of Aughrim

In January, I traveled to Ireland to visit a friend from Tucson who'd emigrated there a few years ago. She understands that, as an anthropologist, I’d prefer to live in the community I visit instead of making the rounds of various tourist attractions and crossing them off of someone else’s “must see” list. She knows, too, that I like to read, or re-read, a book about the area in which I’m staying, and that she’ll have to hear about it whether she likes it or not.


While packing, I’d thrown several books into my Land's End bag, and had finished two of them before I left LAX (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Sight Hound). But the book I was saving until just the right moment was Dubliners, more of which below.


Near the end of my stay, my friend and I decided to spend a day in Dublin, and round it off with a lovely lunch at Avoca Cafe, in Suffolk Street. We took the train from Newry, Northern Ireland, to Connally Station and went for a leisurely, if chilly, walk through Temple Bar, across the River Liffey (which confirmed for me the aptness of Brendan Behan's remark that "Somebody once said that 'Joyce has made this river the Ganges of the literary world,' but sometimes the smell of the Ganges of the literary world is not all that literary"), and towards the Writers Museum in Parnell Square.


It was in the Writers Museum's bookshop that I experienced the first part of my trip’s “perfect moment” (a tip of the cap to Spalding Gray here). A volume of Irish poet Paul Muldoon’s work somehow fell into my hands, and I quickly found a favorite poem of his, “The Lass of Aughrim”:


On a tributary of the Amazon
an Indian boy
steps out of the forest
and strikes up on a flute.

Imagine my delight
when we cut the outboard motor
and I recognize the strains
of The Lass of Aughrim.

”He hopes,” Jesus explains,
”to charm
fish from the water

on what was the tibia
of a priest
from a long-abandoned Mission."


Gleefully, I handed it to my friend (who is not a poetry person), and told her that reading this poem always makes me think of her. "I don't get it," she said, even after I'd enumerated, as eloquently as I could, the various ways that the poem seemed to intersect with her life, and mine. Then she led me out of the museum and around the corner to the IRA bookshop. There, the selection was more to her liking and I spent my time looking at all of the Che Guevara Lynch memorabilia (he's Irish! who knew?)


On my last night in Ireland, I was upstairs reading just before dinner. I'd read a little bit of Dubliners each day, so I had only one story, my favorite, remaining. I was twenty when I first read "The Dead," during a particularly bad summer when I was recovering from a love affair. I wondered, turning the pages two decades later, whether I would find it as compelling as I had then.


My friend gave me the fifteen-minute warning for dinner just as Gretta was standing on the stairs, listening to Bartell D’Arcy singing despite his cold. A few paragraphs later, she spoke to him:


"Mr. D'Arcy," she said, "what is the name of that song you were singing?"


 "It's called The Lass of Aughrim," said Mr. D'Arcy, "but I couldn't remember it properly. Why? Do you know it?"


"The Lass of Aughrim," she repeated. "I couldn't think of the name."


Neither could I, until then. “The Lass of Aughrim.” I’d just had my perfect moment.


News > Tuesday, October-10-2006

Lucky Baldwin

Recently, while proofreading Playing Cards of the Apaches: A Study in Cultural Adaptation, by Virginia and Harold Wayland, and Alan Ferg, I was struck by this passage, a quotation from another playing-card scholar, Sylvia Mann: "I happen to collect playing-cards as my way into history." Intrigued, I consulted Mann’s book, All Cards on the Table, where she writes that “a true collector, whatever the object of his particular interest, be it children’s comics or gold snuff boxes, touches a live element of history...I have acquired, through application and countless reference works and the talents of other collectors, some knowledge about a lot of subjects hitherto outside my interests.” In the case of Playing Cards of the Apaches, my own "way into history" — horses — came in handy. In the book, the provenance of each pack of cards is traced in minute detail, whether the pack belonged to a captured Apache girl, or a U.S. Army soldier, or even Vincent Price.


But when I proofread the pages devoted to a pack owned by Elias J. Baldwin, he was mentioned simply as the donor of a pack of cards — and not, as I knew from my crazy patchwork way of assimilating history through horses, as "Lucky" Baldwin, the founder of Santa Anita Park (named for his daughter Anita), where Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in 1940. Hearing this, the junior author (Ferg) agreed to add some biographical information about Baldwin. It’s no surprise, given Baldwin's interest in horses and gambling, that he owned a pack of Apache cards — aside from their use in gambling, Apache packs contain cards featuring caballos, ridden by jaunty caballeros.


I don’t consider myself a collector of horses (though some of my friends might disagree), but, like Mann, my interest in equines has led me to learn about (and what is perhaps more frightening, to retain knowledge of) subjects that seem, at first glance, to have no connection to horses, including: genealogy (horse and humans); textiles; W. K. Kellogg; hide-tanning; the King Ranch; Jostens' class rings; General Patton; Bromo-Seltzer; the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts; John Davidson; the Battle of the Little Big Horn; Catalina Island; the Polish language; charreria; Calumet baking soda; the Doors; the paintings of Degas, Lord Munnings, and George Stubbs; and, of course, Ramtha (whom J. Z. Knight channeled in What the Bleep Do We Know?).


As Dorothy Parker noted, "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."