Thanks for coming by to visit! Let me give you rundown on who I am and why Fire Safety in Horse Barns is so important to me, and hopefully, to you, too.
My pal in this photo is Ginger Man, one of the last babies Loveman Appaloosas bred and raised. He was the beloved pal of close friends who had him since he was two. Ginger Man passed away in July, 2009 at the age of 30 and rests in the apple orchard of the farm where he spent the last half of his life.
But, a long, long time before Ginger Man came along, I was involved in one way or another with horses. It all started when my dad and uncle took me riding at Black Beauty Stables just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I was 4 when these Sunday morning rides commenced, and I really don’t remember much about them except for the time my horse took off with me (in a ring) and I was paralyzed with fear. The shock of such speed clamped me so firmly to that horse’s back that when the wild ride (the horse was probably only doing a slow canter, but you know how 4 and 5 year olds exaggerate) was over, and I was applauded for being a great rider, the horse-crazy disease struck in all its power, never ever to leave me.
But, I liked all animals, and would have been glad to graduate high school and disappear into the farmlands of northeastern Ohio, where I still reside all these years later. However, as the social structure of the 1950s demanded, I was sent off, unwillingly, to Ohio University to make something of myself. Since I was only interested in farming at the time, and OU had a business agriculture degree, I took every agriculture class offered. I also taught a physical education course in horseback riding (mostly trail riding in the beautiful hill country of southeastern Ohio) and bought, for $125, a little buckskin and white paint gelding named Sunny. The beautiful tack you see Sunny wearing cost $150 and it took me six months to scrounge the cash to pay for it.
It took me almost 3 years to get through all the agriculture classes at OU since my time was taken with pinochle games, dancing in the student lounge, and a stint of breezing Standardbreds at the Athens County Fairgrounds to pay for Sunny’s board (that’s where Sunny is in the photo). I didn’t particularly enjoy driving, but I did have an opportunity to ride a wonderful Standardbred mare whose registered name was Cass Dailey (Cass Dailey was a singer who entertained the troops during WWII). We all called her the Pacing Mare, and there are many times nowadays that I wish she was here with me in spite of the fact that I’ve been blessed with caring for and knowing marvelous horses of every breed and mixture of breed. And, I must admit that despite my admiration of Appaloosa horses (we bred them for 15 years) I do long to ride that easy pace while everyone else is galloping their hearts out.
Well, my carefree college days couldn’t last forever, and in truth, I didn’t really want them to, so I came back to Cleveland (Sunny was sent home before me and my dad sold him to a nice family for me so I could spend more time with Cass Dailey.
I had an opportunity to buy her, but in the end, didn’t because of her advanced age of 14 years, which in 1959 was “getting on”). I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with my life, but I developed an interest in laboratory medicine, and was accepted to train in cytology (the study of cells) under a grant from the American Cancer Society.
From screening cervical cells for cancer, the test now commonly known as a Pap test, I trained in histology (the preparation of tissue samples for microscopic examination) and accepted the position of supervisor of the histology and cytology laboratory at Highland View Hospital, a large county facility for people with chronic illnesses. Ralph Loveman and I were married in 1966, and with Highland View Hospital scheduled for closing, I found a job as a veterinary assistant at a small-animal clinic. On the weekends, I managed the riding program at a private vacation club. When I say I’ve been blessed to know some fine horses in my life (along with all the school horses that taught me so much) these are the horses I’m talking about.
They came from farms, sale barns, straight out of pastures with their manes and tails matted with burrs; we bought them from all the “wrong places,” and we worked gently with them until they were safe for anyone to ride. Oh, they weren’t perfect, by a long shot, but they were usually kind and only a couple needed occasional “reminders” to behave.
With the purchase of the Appaloosa stallion, Raider’s Star “H” Jr, in 1972, Ralph and I ran a very successful Appaloosa breeding business and built an excellent show record. We also had two great kids, Cindy and Tom, and a couple of great dogs, Shadow and Annie.
Then, in 1980, a tragedy struck that once more changed my direction in life. Close friends lost their 14-year-old daughter in a house fire. As commonly occurs, questions were raised about the fire department’s response time and their firefighting tactics. I wanted to find answers, so with the approval of several area fire chiefs, I interviewed firefighters, observed and participated in station duties and training, and went along on fire safety inspections and arson investigations. I considered writing a nonfiction book about firefighters, but then decided fiction was a better way to go. That’s how my Firehouse Family novels came to be.
Divorce brought an end to the horse-breeding operation, but not to my involvement in the horse industry. In addition to writing my novels, I became a contributing editor to APPALOOSA WORLD and also wrote articles for other horse publications.
So, while I was raising kids, dogs, my remaining horses, and spending time in local fire-houses, I discovered yet another career! Through the Open Learning Fire Service Program, a nationwide special distance-learning college degree program available to fire service personnel, I earned a B.S. degree from the University of Cincinnati in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology. It took me 30 years to finally get a college degree (I urged my kids to study a little faster, and they listened). Now I started writing for fire service publications in addition to articles for horse magazines. Then, along came an invitation from Chief John O’Neill (Ret. Shaker Heights OH Fire Department) to help him organize a new fire department for the Village of Highland Hills, Ohio. Wow! In 1990 I became a charter member of the new Highland Hills, Ohio Fire Department and I’ve been here ever since.
The only difference between 1990 and now is that since I became a grandma in 1995, I no longer respond to calls. I’m strictly deskbound now. Since I’m old enough to be the mother of almost every member of our department (except our current chief), I gladly leave the physical labor of firefighting to them. I continue my physical exercise on weekends at my friends’ farm where they breed Foundation bloodline Appaloosas to produce Appaloosa Sport Horses. That’s where Ginger Man lived the good life every horse deserves.
I’m proud to be a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Committee on Fire Safety in Animal Housing Facilities. This used to be NFPA 150 Safety in Racetrack Stables, and only concerned itself with race track barns. My original aim, and the reason I contacted NFPA, was that I thought the standards (requirements for minimum life and fire safety protection) should be enlarged to include other commercial horse facilities. Well, not only was I fortunate enough to be directed to Bonnie Manley, P.E., also a horse owner, who became our liaison person, but through her efforts we found some absolutely brilliant, experienced people with backgrounds in many aspects of animal housing and care, to form a Technical Committee. NFPA 150 has now been enlarged in scope to encompass all animal housing facilities from laboratories to zoos. As a result of the fantastic job of all our committee members, animals now have their own requirements for protection from fire.
My other interests, even if I haven’t had a chance to indulge them for several years, include restoring old pickup trucks and Triumph TR-2s and 3s, and researching the history of old houses. I’m currently helping friends restore a 150-year-old farmstead and I find tremendous gratification in helping to bring life back to the old buildings.
I’m a very lucky person, all things considered. I have a wonderful family and some very special friends, human and animal. I have a great time being with my kids Cindy and Tom and my grandkids, Robin (also bitten with the horse bug), Ryan, and Rachel, and my son-in-law, Dale Cohen, who’s Assistant Fire Chief in the Woodmere, Ohio Fire Department.
Dale was also a charter member of the Highland Hills Fire Department and was my commanding officer. He still occasionally jokes, “How many people get to send their mother-in-law into a burning building?”
That cracks me up because he never really did that although I’m sure there were many times when he wanted to.