Episode 55: Motherhood and Horses with Co-host Andrea Otley


When this episode is published, I will be really close to having a baby (my first) if I haven’t already. So this is a very special episode for me. Andrea and I talk about what it’s like to get back in the saddle and back in shape after giving birth and perhaps most importantly, we talk about how to not lose sight of our own goals and dreams as we start to make our children’s a priority. With three young children herself, Andrea shares some great insights with me that will hopefully be valuable to you other horse-loving mothers and mothers-to-be out there.

It is a time for endings and new beginnings for me and ultimately I’ve decided to let this episode be a punctuation mark to the last 55 episodes of the Earn Your Spurs podcast. My audience has been amazing and I appreciate you so much! Please know that this is not that last you’ve seen of me and I will be back with a new podcast geared specifically toward women and horses this fall. Please make sure you are subscribed to my email list so that you don’t miss any of the details.

Thank you again for being a part of my amazing audience!

And please check out Andrea’s blog at www.andreaotley.com or her Facebook page for your fitness needs!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Patty

    Thank you Alyssa for your pod cast, I enjoyed the recent one with Andrea about build confidence, which the past year I really have been struggling with and feeling helpless. I am thank for your topics and learning that I am not alone with my struggles.

  2. raj

    Sharing my story of a COWBOY , COWGIRL and Basketball GAME…

    Rim of Glory

    Summer Showers

    The mid-summer air is broken with a gentle leg tapping sound of a three year old young white filly’s, Sundance criss-crossing the wooden logs , swiftly taking turns , breaking the air currents on the ranch circuit and cautiously watching Merly , the young girl from Houston and the only care taker of KingsVille Ranch filled with Dreams and Beautiful Horses.

    Merly watched filly in silence , hours gone by , before she cud unfurl her fingers slowly to touch filly . In a split of second the young white filly jumps off, steps back and waits for the next move from Merly , as if inviting her into the Circuit to play.

    Merlys father Ted , watching from a distance , adjusting his cowboy hat , brushing his boots , skillfully handling the saddles, walks towards her and whispers gently in her ears

    ” Cutie ,What’s up with ur Passion !”.

    She gives a glance at Ted’s face :

    ” Dad, That’s my hunter and I would like to ride it with my passion “.

    Ted chuckled , grinning and gently tapped her shoulder

    ” Sweetie , You must first win her heart , gain respect and pull the right strings to sing your way “.

    Ted slowly pulled out his cowboy hat , puffed the leather and gently crowned it over Merly’s golden hair. That moment was special for Meryl. It filled with joy and she looked into the gleaning eyes of the young white filly.

    A drizzling shower of rain, a sweet smell of the land and filly’s stomping dance in the small muddy n swirling pools of splashing water wets and paints the ranch into a bliss of nature.

    Passion Hunter was born out of the love from Meryl and dreams of grooming filly into an impeccable future Champion of Texas Rodeo Circuit. Years passed by , Passion Hunter’s transformation into a Horse on fire honed by daily routine of circling the ring, galloping , gaining trust and tempering the body into smooth shape : beast getting ready for a ride.

    Romancing the Rodeo

    One fine morning , Meryl suited to cowgirl attire , adorning the cowboy hat gifted by her father , wearing long leather sexy boots , Black Gloves , blue jeans trouser on green shirt , holding a Lasso , shouldered with leather saddles dusted and polished, jumps into the arena of the ranch .
    The gate is swung open for the Passion Hunter to freely roam around the ranch. On seeing Merly with loaded attire, halts and sways it’s head wildly. Frightened Passion Hunter jumps back , hisses and wildly runs around .

    Meryl, realizing the agitated animal instinct, slowly bends down removes the saddles and places the lasso on the ground . Holding the rim of the hat with the gloved finger, golden hair trickling down the face , she raises her head slowly trying to take a glance at Passion Hunter. Sensing the movement, Passion Hunter makes a quick circle and gouges the dust with the legs signaling the acceptance of a challenge to race .

    As the dust settles, Merly calculates distance, time and the height needed to saddle the beast. Summer swirls fills the gap, Merly reaching for the saddles, skilfully places it on the back of Passion Hunter.
    An eerie of Silence is broken with the deafening sound, Passion Hunter raises its back legs in air , trying to push the saddle down like a kid wearing new clothes. Tightening and loosening the rope from Merly’s hand , Passion Hunter gets acquainted , gains trust and settles down by moving in synchronous circular steps. Timing perfectly, Merly jumps on the saddle raising one hand in the air and kicking the buckle for ride.

    Passion Hunter zooms ahead and moves swiftly cutting the wind ahead. Merly’s war cry of neurons and frenzy excitement pushes Passion Hunter to cut the gushing wind with the flowing golden hair : a mark of Cow Girl .

    The Fever for Rodeo Championship in the downtown Circuit preparations are in full swing with a carnival of horse display shows , loops n rides and festival frenzy crowd. Merly presents Passion Hunter to the crowd and with a gentle bow and swinging both her hands .Passion Hunter raises its both legs and kicks the air showing its curves to the frenzy crowd’s applause.

    Merly pulls the string : ready to dance the passion hunter with a precision to win the championship.

    Meryl , after watching the Rodeo Arena sunk into deep thought for a second :
    ” the sand is deep down , crowd stomping the feet in frenzy , deafening sounds will drive the passion to crazy. ”

    Before she could realize what to do, her turn to enter the Arena was announced and gates in the closet were suddenly swung open .

    Passion Hunter touches the ground, smears its nose, smells the air and tunes its ear to the deafening sound from the frenzy crowd. Merly watched her carefully , pats and caress gently on the horse neck , pulls the strings softly to calm the animal instincts down. The game was on and simple , clear the barrels as cleanly n swiftly as possible.

    Dust kicked off from the previous competitors was settled, Merly pulled the Passion Hunter to the line , waiting for the gunshot to be fired. The deafening silence was broken with the gunshot and race for clearing the barrel with the fire kicked off from the Passion.

    The Beauty with the golden hair was riding the white beast with fury, a swirl of sand n dust filled the air. Cutting across the dusty brown cloud , the white beast gallops and in no time reaches the Barrel . Taking a swift turn , curving around the barrel in deep sand , Passion Hunter reaches the finish line in 15.5 secs taking a 3 rd slot on the All Women Texas Rodeo Circuit Championship.

    Merly , satisfied with the performance pats the Hunter gently on the neck and reaches for her hat to bow to the crowd in respect. Crowd applauds in a festive mood and signaling the acceptance of a new future champion on the Rodeo Circuit.
    On her way back to a ranch , a young white boy with dark hair , approaches her with a gift cover .

    Merly hums ” What’s in it ? “.

    Boy replies ” Captured my Passion for You “.

    Merly , opens the cover and slowly ruffles through it. A stack of photos with astonishing moments captured from the race depicting the Golden Hair Beauty riding the white horse: Passion Hunter in various moves and moods. Impressed with the photography skill of the boy , she smiles , bows with her hat and rides away leaving specks of dust on the face of the boy.

    Stunned by the inner and external beauty , the young boy mumbles , chuckles and smiles with happiness filled in the heart. He never felt the presence of all his senses tuning and focusing to the beautiful moment that was passed.

    He says to himself “Hope the mind has captured this happiness moment to cherish it forever “.
    and rides back home on his vintage car.

    It was supper time, the young boy JACK Higgins father Frank Higgins picks up on the brunch, fills up with chicken stew and sips the sparkling country wine.

    Greeting the young lad with a smile ” what’s up cowboy , u look incredibly attired . What’s cooking “.
    Jack smiled back , ” R u sure old horse ? “.

    Opening his closet , room filled with photos of Rodeo Horses , Jack picks up the Basket ball and dunks it into the basket. Repeats the move with thoughts of Merly gushing through and kicking up the hormones of love. Dribbles the ball and closing the eyes , with a memory of Meryl, Jack throws the ball into the basket.

    A call from Mom brings Jack to the real world , stuffs his books into the rack pack and slides through the staircase rail catching a burger on the way towards the door. Jumps into his vintage car throws the basket and rack pack into the car’s back seat and zooms towards the Texas University.
    Reaching the college, exchanging the pleasantries with friends, Jack makes an entry to the class. Pulling the book and basketball, Jacks jostles down notes from the professor class. Frequently interrupted with the photo frames of Merlys Golden Hair riding the Passion Hunter , Jacks slips into dream. The dream where Jack races with the ball towards the basket racing along with Merly riding on Passion Hunter , playing against one other . Exchanges of smiles and dunking of basketball, ends with a sudden jolt of ringing bell waking up Jack from the dream.
    Tom , a friend of Jack, pulls the basket ball and gently passes on to others. Jack swiftly moves , takes the ball under the control .Smiles back and jumps into the car driving down to KingsVille Ranch. Pedalling down slowly , Jack makes a hard stop outside the ranch. Watching from a distance , playing with her friends , Merly glances at Jack .

    Jack parks the car , picks the praier celestial flower on the ground , moves closer to the wooden log . Ranch was filled with Bumble Bee, Humming of birds and painted with variety of blooming colourful flowers . Seeing the beautiful face of Merly , Jack slowly gives her the flower

    Merly smiles at him and Kisses him a goodbye
    ” That’s for your beautiful moments captured at the Rodeo ” .
    She whistles for Passion Hunter which appears in front of her from nowhere .

    Before Jack responds, she rides away with lightning speed , leaving him spell bound with the beauty.
    Jack smiles back , dusts his boot and jumps back into the car. His love has blossomed and feels the pleasure of living the moments and urge to see her again and again.

    Jack leaves a message for Merly , inviting her for star gazing event outside the county over the hill. Meryl accepts the invitation , dresses in her cowgirl attire rides over the ridge on the hill waiting for Jack. The place glows with gentle flash lights from Jack Camera. He takes photos of Merly on passion hunter with a full big moon as background. Jack waves and extends his hand for Merly to get down . Smiling back she gets down Jack takes her hand softly , walks past and overlooks the city lit with full moon light. He shows her the tent and candle lit table.

    Merly impressed with arrangement whispers ” What do u want ?” .

    Jack was Confused with this direct question fro Merly.

    Thoughts ponder ” What should I answer ? Is it the external beauty that I am attracted to ? or Is it inner beauty that I am swept off the hook ? .”

    Looking into her eyes , trickling down the golden curly hair , beauty of curves glowing under the full moon , Jack closes the thin air gap and whispers back
    ” Eternal Love like shining Stars”.
    That night was special for Jack and Merly Giggling , Sharing , Running , making love under the moonlight and gazing stars.

    Next Morning , Jack woke up with a flower beside his bed and a letter placed under a rock. Merly was not to be seen around . Slowly picks up the letter and unfolds it reading it slowly . An eerie of silence occupies his mind . Sun rising over the horizon , dew of moisture softening the face , Jack heads to his house in his vintage car.

    Remembering Meryl

    Every word of the letter written by Meryl was reverberating in Jacks mind

    ” Why is she distancing herself from me ? What it is that she wants ? ” .

    Jack removes the reel from the camera and develops the photos in the darkroom. As he removes and separates out photos , one photo catches his eye . Merlys face partially covered with golden hair trickling and swinging down the hat , beautiful face lit under full moon light with an enigmatic smile and a horse exuberating confidence ready to ride the gazing stars.

    That night Jack understood how much Meryl liked Passion Hunter . Sipping the coffee , the content of letter was reverberating word by word ..

    It was wonderful night and you made it a special one. Glad that Passion Hunter liked the place .
    Before u cud read this letter , I would be gone and leaving you with trail of eternal memories and moments to cherish them forever. Journey of life has just begun and want to live up with beautiful moments ahead. Every second counts for me..

    Getting to know your dreams and passion for Basket Ball game is amazing. You should pursue your passion and share it with deserving kids . I am sure with your heart and soul, the game will be lovely to watch out for.. May your dreams come true…

    See you soon…

    Yours Ever Loving Cowgirl Merly ”

    Jacks thoughts were broken with a call from his father. He calls up the Ranch to check for Merly. With no response, he drives his vintage car to the Ranch. A pale of gloom filled the air and bustling with cars getting parked. Ted standing against wall , puffing his cigar with his hat lying low and in deep thinking.

    As Jack approached ,

    Ted mumbled in low voice :

    ” Jack , Merly wants to see you , come inside “.

    Jack opened the door , climbed the wooden staircase and swung open the door .
    He gets a shock of his life seeing the events in the room and remains frozen with time. Chaos filled the room , Merly was lying on the bed with fragile and weak half shut eyes , shaven head, tubes running down and bottles hanging with fluids , Doctors discussing with reports in hand and trying to catch with pulse . Jack could not believe that an energetic and fun loving young girls fate is cut short with this situation.

    Merly opens her eyes , looks at Jack and signals him to come closer with a smile. Jack takes her hand gently to rub and comforts her.

    Merly with a feeble voice and whispering into Jacks ear :

    ” Jack, I am sorry to hurt you to see me this way. The time we spend together was very precious and boundless. My life had to go through a rainbow of emotions filled with happiness of Sunshine .
    Promise me Jack that you will fulfil your passion of Basketball game and make the deserving kids carry forward your legacy of smile. I want your contagious smile to be eternal in the minds and souls of the young kids. Will be watching you from the stars above..”

    It was terrible to hear , Jack pulled his strength and gently kisses her :

    “It’s a promise, my love.”

    Merlys pulse was going down , Doctors advise Jack to step aside. Jack in deep thoughts , steps back and stands beside a window.

    Glancing outside the window , the ranch was filled with dry leaves , birds were gone and silence filled the air. He was looking for the white beast . Passion Hunter was tied to a pole and was agitated with the stream of visitors in Merlys Room. It was stomping muddy ground for a glimpse of Merly. Jack swiftly moves down the stair and unties passion to freedom. The white beast gallops the wooden staircase enters the room watches the beauty queen lying on the bed. It remains standstill , swings its head and smells the situation in the room. Merly unfurls her fingers and signals Passion Hunter to come near by. Passion steps forward and kisses her finger. Makes a U turn and stands at the entrance door , inviting her to come down and play. Merly gives her a signal that she will come down and play. Passion Hunter runs down to the Ranch for Merly to join , little did the beast knew that Merly was not joining her.
    Doctors in the room were running the reports , monitoring the instruments and concludes that she need to be shifted to hospital.

    Merly signals her father to come nearby and whispers:

    ” Dad , Time has come to start my beautiful journey and ride the stars. Your love and care will be guiding me to the Eternity and Beyond. Leaving my passion under your care. Wish me good luck ” .

    Ted looking into her weak eyes , with deep voice , kissing on her forehead

    ” Cutie, you will be loved and cared where ever you go…You forgot to wear something for your Journey ”

    Ted places his cowboy hat , Merly smiles at him and closes her eyes in deep sleep .

    Ted talks to the doctors and looks out for Jack for arranging the ambulance. Ranch is filled with siren of ambulance and flash of lights . Passion Hunter swirls around , paces the length of the ranch and kicks the dust in agitated mood. Stretches rolled out from the ambulance , ward boys quickly unfolds bed and rumbles up the staircase into Merlys room.

    Doctors checks the final parameters and monitors the transition of Meryl to the bed. Accompanied by Jack with Merlys hand , ward boys shifts her to ambulance.

    Passion Hunter gets distracted with all commotion , kicks the dust and nods its head vigorously . Merly rolls its eyes wink at Jack to swing open the doors of the ambulance to have a last look at its beast. Passion Hunter rises its legs in air trying to display its energy and trying to grab the attention of the beauty. Merly bids a good bye and the ambulance door is closed .

    As it reaches hospital , doctors waiting at the entrance rolls the stretcher with Merly into emergency ward. Ted and Jack watch Merly lying on the bed behind the glass door. After sometime , the instruments fell silent , doctors mumbling in despair , Ted and Jack saw Merly sleeping with a smiling face. The Journey for Stars for Merly has begun .

    Ted received the stream of visitors paying respects to Merly, beautifully decorated with flowers in glass casket. Jack attired in dress holding the Passion Hunter walked thru the graveyard and reaches the dug up pit and place where Merly will be rested finally.

    On seeing the Casket lowered into the pit , Passion Hunter picks up the Priare Celestial flower and gently places on the casket. Kicks up dust and turns back its neck to Jack for comfort. Jack rubs its neck and the beast gallops back to the ranch. Jack completes the sermon and drives back home.

    Next day , Jack visits the Kingsville ranch to see the Passion Hunter. On reaching the place , Jack n Ted worried little bit staring at the eyes of Passion Hunter .

    Seeing Jack , Ted responds ” Looks like the luv of the beauty is slowly killing the beast. It has not taken anything and called the vets for help “.

    Jack with his both hands raises the head and puts it on his lap looking into its eyes and rubbing its neck. Passion Hunter with a feeble look waiting for Merly to return back and play.

    As days passed by , Jack is worried with the health of Passion Hunter. The vets decide to shift Passion Hunter to Hospital .and force-feed the dumb animal with food and revive. Sensing this Passion Hunter does not move and slowly gives up the pulse. Looking at Jack , slowly closes its eye , bidding farewell to him and kisses Teds finger. The last breadth was finale and Jack coud nt stand this shock. Ted kisses the Passion for the last time and completes the formalities , by placing at rest Next to Merlys grave filled with Prairie Celestial flowers.

    Magic of River Oaks Park

    Jack drives back home in his vintage car , thinking about the Promise he made to Merly. As he passes by the River Oaks Park , a statue with a Cowgirl on a Horse catches his attention. He pulls his car and walks into the Park filled with Young lads Cutting , Dodging , Passing , dribbling and dunking the ball into the basket. He looks around for basket ball to hold and mingles with the lads for a game. Jack does a double dribble , long-haul and dunks the ball into the basket.

    Watching from a distance , coach Bern Hut calls him up to join team the next day if he so interested. Jack leaves the place and reports to court next morning before leaving for the college.
    Practicing for hrs , learning the defense and offensive strategies , Jacks moves up priority list on the Roster of probable’s team.

    Each player on the roster was gauged on the points , rebounds and the number of games played. Jack was standing last against his team of Longhorn Lennon , Barracuda Ben , Viper Vix and Chip Chucks.
    The locker room was abuzz with the discussions of the game and Jack was standing against door.

    The arrival of Coach Bern Hut silences the buzz and with rapt attention each player listens to him :

    ” This season will be a testing ground for Vipers Team facing the formidable Armageddon of South Texas team Thunder Boltz . Strategy is simple . Get the ball to the forward consistently and create a magic over the Rim. Remain focus and never ever let the ball slip thru the fingers.”

    Bern leaves the room with reigniting discussion on the upcoming season game. Jack try’s to open up to share his views. All players give a hard look at Jack . Ben signals Jack to share his views. Jack with deep breadth starts the talk:

    ” The Coach says its offensive strategy. Being a new member , each one of you has a great skill : Barracuda Cuts, Viper Dribbles , Lonhorn Shots , Chipmunk Dodging . Not sure what I bring to your table. All I can do is move swiftly n race like a horse and ride the ball. Proud to be a Viper and ready to set the game on fire ”

    Silence gripped the room : Lennon , Ben , Vix and Chuck looked at Jack with a chuckle and threw the ball with a challenge to dunk the ball. Jack raged out of the dressing room , dribbling the ball raced out to the basket ball court. Ben watched him silently and in a split of second made cut to snuff n snatch the ball from Jack. Passed on to Lennon for a perfect long short over the Rim. Jack learnt a lesson and returned back home. That night Jack played the basket ball with his shadow , training his mind to improve the reflexes . Blind folded , with can of bottles as obstacles on the court , rap music on high pitch fever, Jack does a dribble and pushes the ball hard into the basket. Stumbles on the ground and misses the target. Not satisfied , pulls himself up , self correcting and starts the practice again. Sweating the chest , breathing heavily, focusing the mind on the path and the basket , Jack throws the ball over the rim successfully. Not satisfied , Jack lights up the obstacles on fire and repeats the feat again. Tuning his senses to heat , sound , memory , smell and focusing on the basket , Jack navigates the obstacles and throws the ball successfully over the rim. Gaining control and confidence on the reflexes , Jack calls off the practice and was ready for the game once again.
    Next day , Jack visits the River Oak Park Club Basket ball court. Viper team was lined up for evaluation by Coach Bern Hut. Jack rushes to the change room and doubles to the court. Silently , joining the team and aptly listening to the coach speech.

    Bern Hut addresses the team:

    “ The first game is lined up tomorrow . Good news : we have been selected and the Bad news : still searching our souls for the right skills to play the game. All your hard work and the honing of your skills will be tested on that day as a team. Never play the game alone . Work as a pack , change the game as you move but never lose the cool and remain focused on aligning the ball to the basket and wait for the perfect moment to throw the ball. I will be watching you “.

    Pointing fingers into his eyes and swinging back to the team , Bern Hut concludes and dismisses the team. Ball is thrown into the court , Jack snatching it swiftly moves head , dodges the opponents by faking his body movements and eyesight, race up the court and throws the ball into the basket. Impressed with Jacks skill , Vix and Chuck dribbles the ball n try to cut around to reach for the basket. Jack in aggressive mode , takes a stance and makes a move to take the ball. Vix cuts a viper move and Chuck chips dribble confused Jack . In a split second mode , Vix equals the score of Jack by dunking the ball over the Rim. Practicing until dawn, the Viper team disbands , satisfied with their performance and ready to play the Game.

    Next Day , the River Oak park club is decorated with posters , carpets , colour ful balloons , cheer girls dancing and motivating the teams. Auditorium is buzzed with the young kids , couples and family.
    Jack glances around , Ted attired in cowboy leather shoes , touches his hat and slightly bows with respect wishing him good luck. Jack parents wave their hands and wish him luck. Jack rushes to the locker and change room, swaps jeans with his shorts and huddles with the team.
    Viper Team steps out and line-up in the court , each player gets introduced to the frenzy crowd

    ” Let me introduce you the Vipers : rustling , hustling and ready to spring with surprise attacks .
    Here comes ,
    Barracuda Ben ,
    Vix the Viper ,
    Lennon of the Longhorn,
    Chuck the Chimp, and Jack the Racer ”

    The crowd applauses with the hands raised by the Viper Team with a spell bound colourful dance display by the cheer girls.

    Next announcement followed with the introduction of Thunder Boltz team

    ” Its a honour to introduce you the Thunders of the game , unparalleled Hero’s , winning the season so far , unchallenged , unleashing lightening where ever they go.. Here comes the ….
    Holtz the Jammer ,
    Pitt the Wedge ,
    Shultz the shooter ,
    Andy the arrow , and Buzz the Rumble”

    The pitch of the sound auditorium breaks the record as the thunder Boltz team waves their hands and gently bowing to the frenzy crowd. Cheer girls acrobatic display further ups the crowd pitch and concludes with raining of spirals , flowers and papers.
    It was a Magical display at River Oaks Park , Jack was left spell bound and struck with awe.

    First whistle blows , coaches of both teams exchange pleasantries , the Vipers and Thunder Boltz teams huddle in the opposite corners of the court to discuss the strategy.
    All set , the ball is tossed into the court , the game is on. Several rounds of applauses from the crowd , Thunders lead the game with 10 points in the first half . Vipers chasing the score , working hard, exhausted but not losing the spirit of the game.. The bell for the first half rings in Jacks mind.
    The team huddles to the corner of the court and discusses the strategy for the second half. Thunder Boltz team remains comfortable with the lead and plan to dodge time in the second half. Bern Hut huddles with the Vipers team , suggesting the folks to be aggressive after sensing the comfort strategy adopted by the opponent team. Vipers team decide to change the tact from defensive to offensive , assign specific instructions to block Pitt and Shultz from breaking the defense, dunking the ball. Jack is tasked with dribbling the ball to race the length of the court in short time and pass on to Barracuda Ben to throw and net it in the basket.
    The bell rings again for the second half. Both the teams huddle in the court . Ball is tossed into the court with Jack taking the lead and racing the length. To his surprise Buzz and Holtz springs him a surprise , snaps the ball from Jack and quickly pass it on to Andy to dunk the ball into the basket. Thunder Boltz team claps in applause making a mockery at Jack . Vipers team could not stand it but for the intervention of Lennon , tempers cooled down and the focus shifted to the Game. Playing hard , netting the basket ball , chasing the score with razor thin margin , time was running out . With one point lead Thunder Boltz team were passing on the ball to dodge and delay for more time. Jack makes a quick bold move and takes the ball dribbling the length of the court and directly nets into the basket , catching the opponents with the element of surprise and levelling the score.
    The crowd breaks the silence and applauds. Jack quickly repositions on the court and waits for opponents to cross the line . A quick look of the court landscape and the position of the team members , Jack signals his team to corner Pitt and Buzz of Thunder Boltz team. It was a flyby strategy , regrouping of Ben , Vix they make an all-out attack on the Thunder Boltz team. Taking the ball from Pitt and forming a wall of defense, underpass the ball to Jack. Seizing the opportunity, Jack takes the ball and races like a horse to net the ball in the Basket.
    Stunned by the sudden change of tactic , a bolt of lightning struck the Thunder Boltz team. The bell rings concluding the game. Thunder Boltz team cudnt believe and remained motionless. The crowd went into frenzy mode , the Viper Teams were jubilant and a festivity mood was set in the River Oaks Park.

    The Vipers have woven a Magic , Mesmerizing to Win the game. Jack remembering Merly and Passion Hunter , looked for Ted in the crowd. Ted standing among the crowd and waving with his hat in Happiness.

    Tryst with Destiny

    It was memorable game . Jack left for the University to meet his professor.
    Learning that he won the basket ball game ,

    Professor said

    ” Congratulations ! You won the crowd . Would you be interested in taking up Internship in India ?”.
    Jack was surprised and not sure what to say ” Let me think and get back to you professor “.

    That night Jack spend time in understanding about India. India was going thru post-independence industrialization . The internship is an opportunity for Jack to Help built factories in the remote places of steel mines of southern India. He was excited and confirms his acceptance to take up Internship the next day.
    Professor smiles at him
    ” You can give much more than helping built the steel factories in India .Get set ready in a week , for the Trip to the Incredible Indian Subcontinent.”

    Jack was thrilled not knowing what was in store and excited with adventure trip to India.

    The day has come , Jack pays a visit to the Ranch along with Ted and places the Praier Celestial Flowers on the Merly and Passion Hunter graves, bidding them goodbye. Reaches for the airport and hops into the plane for a long Travel to India.

    The trip to India was long and tiresome. The plane shrugs off to halt in Bangalore , a small suburb Indian airport. Picking up his luggage , Jack sees an unusual head gear and lion clothed people wandering around the airport. At the exit , a placard with his name is displayed along the route in chaos. Jack raises his hand and asks for Vishweshara Iron and Steel Works , Badravathi address . The driver with great difficulty understands the language , nods up and down .
    Jack repeats the address and the driver nods up and down. Not knowing why the driver was indicating unacceptance , Jack tries to ignore him.
    The placard holder appears in front of him again , politely shouts ” Jack Higgins , Sir” .
    Jack says ” Yea ” nodding sideward.
    Placard holder gets confused and says ” I Ramu the driver from Vishweshara Steel Works and Mines , R u Jack ” .
    Jack realizes that nodding head up and down is an indication of acceptance in India .He gets his first cultural shock . Ramu picks up the luggage of Jack and stuff into the white Ambassador Car parked outside the airport. Jack gets into the Car with driver Ramu and zooms out . Tired with Jetlag , eyes half shut Jack experiences the rugged and bumpy ride.

    Ramu driving the car slowly opens up in broken English ” Sir , u come from where ? ” .

    Jack at first could nt understand the broken English , Smiles at him and gets back into the sleep mode. After several hours of drive , Jack woke up from the sleep with a sudden halt of the car. Looking at Ramu smiling with his shining teeth , glances outside . A stream of white cows and buffaloes were blocking the road controlled with a small stick wielding and lion clothed persons. Jack couldnt believe ..Where the heck the horses are hiding… Just then he saw a horse driven transport cart was passing by… That was the second cultural shock thinking
    ” How many more surprises are in Stock ! “.

    Cool mountain air breeze thru the lush green forests surrounding Jack . The nature has cast a spell for Jack to slip back again into sleep mode

    After a long spell , Jack woke up to the rude hard stop of the car. Getting down from the car , Jack removes the dark glasses and watches the building in front of him. Its a an old colonel British styled officers club . Ramu picks the luggage , guides Jack to the reception , strolls up the terracotta corridor , climbs the wooden staircase and swings open the three bed room with scenic beauty . Ramu throws open the window , a scenic picture of Steel plant under construction with swirls of raising dust fills the Jack opens another window , stunned with scenic view of forest . Jack loved the place , looks for couch in the Balcony. Being thirsty , Jack looks for a Beer . The cook appears with a bottle of water and toasted bread.

    Jack freshens up and picks up the basket ball starts playing the game in the open ground. The sound from the dribbling ball gathers guests arrived from different parts of the world. The game is new for the Indians watching it curiously. The receptionist suggests Jack to practice the same in the basket ball court of British Missionary School . That night Jack slept with memories of Merly under the net .
    Next day, Jack reports to duty at the office of steel mines factory. The Manager with British Accent gives him a hard look and delegates design work introducing to his colleagues.

    After hard days work , Jack checks for the British Missionary School for basket ball court. Cycling back to the officers club , air is filled with red color iron ore dust , clearing the chaff the majestic terracotta tiled long corridor school with basketball court appears in front of him. Captivated with the old Victorian architecture , Jack parks his cycle , adjusts his leather bag filled with drawings and enters the School. Looking for the principal room , talks to the receptionist to seek an appointment . Buzz of activity surrounds him with Boys attired neatly dressed in squared pattern shirts , well-polished shoes. Jack covered in red dust of iron ore and dusted shoes becomes the show stopper and attention grabber of young school kids.

    After sometime, at the appointed time ,
    Jack enters the principal room.
    Principal Thomas Hardy gestures Jack to sit down , adjusting the round spectacles , with authoritative tone ” What can I do for u gentlemen . You need to clean up ! “.

    Jack moves forward ” I am a basket ball player. Your basket ball court looks a good place for me to practice. Would u give sometime to practice “.

    Looking straight into Jacks eyes , adjusting the round oval shaped spectacles ” On one condition .Teach the game to my students “.

    Jack was happy and extends his hand to thank Thomas Hardy. Giving a hard look at Jack , Thomas dismisses him.

    Jack walks out happily and picks up the bicycle. A thin skinned brown puppy wagging its tail looks at Jack for food. Reaching for his pockets, Jack pulls a pack of biscuit and empty out for the Puppy to Devour. Jack cycles back to the Officer club , parks it and relaxes in the couch of his room with a beer in hand. Looking at the window and enjoying the beauty of the lush green forests against the dawn setting sun sprinkled with red Iron Dust from the steel mines.

    Full moon is about to set in and slowly shines the photo of Merly attired in Cow girl dress with a leather hat and passion hunter raising its front legs set against the full moon on the Table grabs his attention. Slowly dipping his eyes , takes a good nap .

    Next morning , Jack wakes up to the call of sparrows chipping at the windows. Slowly pulling up , grabs a coffee and enjoys the rising Sun over the hills from the window. Its a Saturday and was time for playing the spoil sport.

    Jack freshens up and bicycles back to the Missionary School with the basket ball. The school court was filled with young school lads dressed meticulously with clean polished shoes. Jack parks his bicycle against the wall , picks the basket ball and enters the court. The boys line up in drill and wait for Jacks instructions.

    Jack in casual mood relaxes them and politely questions them ” Give me one reason , Why you all want to play the game ? ”

    They looked at each other and in chorus responds that they were asked to take the coaching session as part of their curriculum.

    Jack looked down and disbands the class , dumb stunned and disappointed the students leave the basket ball court. Every day Jack asks the students the same question and disbands the team .
    Untill one day Thomas Hardy calls on Jack for an explanation.

    Jack responds
    ” Sir , The students are well disciplined but act stupid when it comes to learning the game. I don’t see a fire of passion in their mind and heart for the basketball game. It doesn’t make sense to teach the kids and impose our likings. It’s of no use.. Hope u understand the essence of my coaching!”.

    Thomas understood the reason for Jacks odd behavior with the students on the court. He thanks Jack for taking the time off and bids him a good bye.

    Thomas , after taking a deep breadth
    ” Jack is right. We cannot force a Horse to drink water unless it is thirsty. ”

    Summons his assistant and students into his office. Students , not knowing what was happening , assemble in the office of the principal .
    Thomas Hardy looking at the students ” How is the Basket Ball training?”. An eerie of silence filled the room ,
    Thomas strolling up and down ” You are not ready for the Game. We have an interschool competition in a weeks’ time . Boys , do you want to bring honor to the School ? ” .
    ” Yes , Sir” , all students sounded in chorus .

    Thomas looked straight into their eyes

    “Let the fire of Passion light up the path and the rim of the basketball . Not with dumb expectations . Get out on the court and show your skills . Earn the respect from the crowd .Win the Game in style. “.

    The talk was reverberating in the ears of the students and they understood as to why Jack was disbanding them every day on the basketball court.
    Next day , the students assembled on the basket ball court .Jack as usual asks them why they want to learn the game.

    The students respond to Jack in chorus ” We want to play the Game fired up with our Passion and Win the hearts of the crowd “.

    Pleased with their answer , Jack throws the ball for practice. The schedule lined up with exercises , criss- crossing sessions of ball exchanges, netting the ball in the baskets, making notes . Jack was enthused with young team catching up with the daylong trainings. Impressed with their performance , Jack sets their winning strategies for the coming interschool basketball championship.
    With greater confidence , the students play the competition pitted against the arch rivals from the neighboring district. They win the game and return to the school holding the cup in Jubilant mood.

    Indian Rookies Rock

    The next day , the Missionary school students look for Jack to thank him .
    To their surprise Jack lying on the basket ball court ground facing the sun , sweat wetting his chest , looks up to see the kids in jubilant mood.
    ” Congrats boys . Your shadow is blocking! . Can u move away a little bit ” .
    The boys were taken back with rude response .
    Jack continued
    ” Why do Sun Shines in Eternity and has a Legacy ? Why is that a shadow blocks our egoistic views ? . Ur Next goal should be : Winning the national game of basketball championship ” .
    Thrilled by Jacks talk , the team shout out for aiming the national championship. Listening to the chorus young village kids with unbuttoned shirts , dust laden curl hair , gather around fence to get a glimpse of the jubilant commotion. Missionary school students make a mockery at them and funnily throw the basketball. Village kids kick the ball and smile back at them. This enrages the Missionary School team leader who shoos them of the wire fence. The village kids smiles at them , get off the wire fence and continue playing their game on the village streets.
    Jack picks up his ball from the court and reaches for his bicycle. The brown puppy appears again wagging its tail. Jack looks around for its mother , with no sign of it , he picks and takes it to his room .He names the puppy as Dusty and pampers it with food . Dusty loves Jack playing the basketball and licks the photo of Merly on the table.
    Next day , Jack along with Dusty reach the court . He saw the wire fence was lined up with village kids on one side and other side Missionary school kids were seeing each other eye for eye.
    Jack looked at both the teams , turns his head towards the village kids , bends down extending the ball
    ” Do u want to play .?” .
    The village kids nod their head and in a split second , Jack throws the ball over the fence. The village kids juggle around , positions and throws it back to Jack over the fence. Impressed with their skills in handling the ball , Jack invites them inside the school. Stiff resistance from the elite missionary school students disallow the village kids entry to the school premises. Jack steps forward and ask for their names :
    The village lads answer Jack in low tone :
    ” Tulsi ” ” Appa ” ” Jhon” ” ” Nikhel Patil ” Reddy”
    It’s a tongue twisting names for an American, Jack shortens and gives them nick names :
    ” 2C ” ” Alpha” ” Jhon” ” Nickle” ” Red ”
    The village kids recognize the Dusty and instantly connect to it. Dusty wagging its tail licks the boys face. Jack is thrilled to see Dusty getting friendly with village boys. The Missionary British bred school students express their displeasure of Jacks friendly behavior with the Village lads. To his astonishment, Jack comes to know about the inhuman and disrespectable treatment meted out on some of the communities in the nearby village. He feels empathetic about the village kids and takes a position to visit the kids house .
    Cycling back home , taking the help of Ramu the driver Jack pays a visit to the village . The village roads littered with dry leaves , buffaloes taking bath in mud pools , ringing bell from the temples decorated with flowers , curious onlookers , short clothed villagers with sticks in their hands make Jack to a feel in different world. Ramu leading in front clearing the path for Jack , takes him to ” 2C ” aka “Tulsi” house.
    As Jack enters the small house , a heap of coconuts are piled up with ” 2C ” synchronizing catching them , teasing the coworkers , passing the coconut and then shoots on to the top of heap. To Jacks surprise , he was simulating the basketball game. Jack signals 2C to come down . Seeing Jack , “2C” throws a coconut at him . Jack holds the coconut , does a swift pass and hands it back to “2C” . On seeing Jack “2C “ parents welcome him in traditional way and whispers in the ears of Ramu. Jack asks Ramu to translate his request for allowing his parents to send “2C” for the game. Parents remain skeptical on the backlash from the elite missionary school students. Jack reassures them on the need for the boy to hone the skill of the game , not to fear and will bring name to his family. Reluctant but convinced with Jacks good intention of grooming their kid to be player , they thank him. Jack bids a good bye and move on to the next door guided by Ramu. By then a group of women fully covered with a cloth carrying earthen pots on their heads walk past Jack. They have never seen a white person and curiously watch him amazed. Jack smiles at the women , they turn their heads away and walk ahead. Ramu tries to protect Jack from the mobbing crowd of villagers. As he moves to “Appa” house , Jack observes a small wooden thatched hamlet . ” Alpha ” aka “Appa” comes out of the house with his widow mother folding hands and welcoming him. Ramu conveys Jacks intention to widow mother. With tears rolling out , Appas mother whispers in low voice. Struggling to understand the language , Jack asks for Ramu to translate it. Ramu with deep voice
    ” Jack Sir ,she wants to know if any harm comes to Appa from the game as he is the only earner for her family “.
    Jack looking into the weak eyes and holding her hands , he assures her silently. Alpha smiles at Jack and seeks blessing from him by touching his feet. Jack doesn’t understand the strange costume. As dawn sets in Jack calls off the day and heads back to the officers club. Seeing Jack home Dusty jumps onto him and licks his face. Comforting Dusty , Jack pulls the pack of biscuits and fills the bowl . Dusty devours the biscuits and sleeps in a closet. Jack picks up the drawings and move to the board preparing for the next days presentation in the office. Working late hours , Jack sleeps in the open couch.
    Jack wakes up with the licking of Dusty and all drawings littered over room. Looking at the watch , Jack rushes to take bath and cycles back to office with black glasses. The office conference room is filled with Indian and representatives of other countries discussing the technical and progress of steel mine construction. Jack presents his case for design changes and answers the queries from the participants.
    A Young lady officer , Belle from UK catches Jacks attention. Meeting concludes , Jack catches up with Belle over a cup of coffee .Sitting across the table , Jack orders cup of coffee and strikes a conversation with Belle. Belle impressed with Jacks presentation , asks for more details .Gladly sharing all the details , Jack ” What’s up today ? Any plan for a Date ” .
    Belle smiles at Jack ” Lets see my schedule and will let u know the day after “.
    Jack smiles at her and Belle leaves the place .Jack picks the bicycle and call Ramu to continue their Journey of selecting the dream team from the village. The next boy on his list was that of “John “. Johns father works in the steel plant as a labour. As Jack visits Johns house , his father instantly recognize him and offers a wooden chair for comfort . He orders a cup of coffee after checking with Ramu , if it is ok . Jack gladly accepts the coffee. The taste of the fresh bean pounded coffee kicks in and enjoys it.
    Looking at Jhon , Jack ” Do you want to play basket ball ? ”
    Jhon nods in acceptance. Johns father approves and thank Jack for taking pains in come over to his place. Ramu continues the Journey by taking Jack to ” Nickle ” aka ” Nikhel Patil ” house. Looking at Jack coming into his house , Nikhel’s father stops him and does not allow him any further. Ramu tries to explain the reason for the visit , but Nikhel’s father doesn’t budge. Unhappy , Jack returns back along with Ramu.
    On the way back , Ramu shows Jack ” “Red” aka ” Reddys house “. Let’s try this out ..On seeing Jack entering his house , “Red” aka “Reddy” runs out holds Jacks fingers and lead him inside his house. Ramu tries to avoid but Jack signals him that its Ok. As they sat down , “Red” s mother and father with folded hands greet Jack . Ramu explain to “Red” parents on the purpose of visit . Both the parents gladly accept and offer him sweets. Jack relishes the traditional sweets and bids goodbye to them.
    Back in the Officers club , Jack was surprised to see Belle with friends enjoying her dinner with colleagues. Jack smiles at her and rush to his room to freshen up . With a casual attire , Jack picks a table in the pool side restaurant of the club and orders drinks. Thinking of Belle , he looks around for her. Across the counter , Jack watches Belle giggling with friends and glances towards him.
    Jack picks up his glass walk down to Belles table ” Would you care to join for a dance”.
    Belle smiles at him , with hip hop music in the back ground , she takes Jack hands and swirls around syncing with his movements. The night is filled with music , dance and drinks . Jack looking into Belles eyes and passing his fingers across her curly black hair , gently touching her lips closes the gap. Belle hugs Jack and moves closer .The Music stops and Jack invites Belle to his room. With hands clubbed , Jack leads Belle to his room. Impressed with the view of the room , Belle glances around n watches the Photo of Merly with Passion Hunter on the table.
    Jack whispers in her ear ” She was my first love life and now riding the stars up above ”
    Pointing to the stars from the window , Jack narrates the whole story .Both spend their time in the couch and making love. The rays of early morning sun warm-up Jack face , looking around the bed understands that Belle left with a note on the bed , he looks in to the mirror reading the note smiles and gets ready for the office.
    Jack gets a call from the principal Thomas and meets him up in the school. After waiting for some time , Jack enters the room . Thomas sinking deeply on the notes , signals Jack to sit down.
    Thomas with deep voice
    ” Jack , I understand that u are gathering village kids to train them for the basketball game. Please understand that this is an elite school with kids from well off families and foreign nationals. Your experimentation will become a cultural pot boil detrimental to the reputation of this school . Suggest u to withdraw or else you may lose the privilege of using our basketball court for practice. “.
    Jack listening to the speech and after long pause politely rebukes
    ” Mr Thomas Hardy , You are a principal of this elite school with a job of igniting young minds tempered with ethics and making sure your students excel as responsible citizens. It’s a shame that you are not practicing what u preach. What message would u be giving, in not giving an opportunity for under privileged kids to play the game of basketball ? What reputation would u get for an elite school by denying the Game for underprivileged kids ? Thank You your valuable time “.
    Jack disgusted , leaves the place for office. Getting into deep thoughts , remembering Merlys promise , Jack calls Belle and shares with her the sequence of events so far. Belle aptly listening to Jack , pats him on the back ” Donta worry , Jack . I will take care ” and kisses him goodbye. The next day Jack gets a call from the principal. As Jack enters his room , he is surprised to see Belle standing next to Thomas. Not sure what was happening , Thomas offers Jack to take his seat. Thomas starts the conversation ” Let me first introduce you to my daughter Belle Hardy from London. After long conversation , I have come to a conclusion that an opportunity for noble cause would only enhance the reputation of the school rather than avoiding one. You may choose to start the training session as early as possible “. Jack thrilled with the news and turn of events , smiles at Belle thanking her for the support. Jack leaves for the Steel mines office and sends a word out for Ramu to gather the kids at the basket ball court. Ramu summons the kids and line them for the training session.
    Looking at their dress and slippers , Jack pulls out his purse , shovel few notes into Ramus hand
    ” Get our kids good shoes and clothes from the market “. Ramu obliges by taking the kids in the car to the market and buys them shoes and dress up for the game.
    The next day , kids with smiles n giggle assemble on the court premises waiting for Jack to start the training on the game. After long hard work , Jack visits the school premises , pleased with new attire and neatly dressed kids , throws the ball and starts the practice. “Nickhel Patil ” aka “Nickle ” watching from a distance over the fence feels sad and calls out his friends. Seeing him , boys gather and lineup displaying their new clothes and shoes.
    “Nickle ” in low voice mumbles ” I want to play the game “. Just then “Nickle” father appears and drags him off the fence to his house. Jack feels bad about it and send a word out for Ramu to check out .Ramu comes back to Jack with a news that “Nickle ” s father doesn’t allow his son to play with kids from lower strata of the community. Jack was surprised with this social taboo and decides to have a chat with “Nickle “s father. Jacks visits “Nickle ” house with Ramu as a translator communicates to his father and convinces him that playing the game will only bring reputation and does not in anyway belittle their community strata. After a long pause “Nickle ” s father looks at the dull face of his sons face , accepts Jacks proposal . “Nickle “s face lit up with smile and hugs Jack thanking him. Jack patting his head , leaves for his club.
    Happy that the dream team is ready , Jack makes notes on the Game . Jack set his sight on the competitions lined up and the long term strategy of planning the state and national games. Basketball game is new in India and is a game only for the elite. Jack understood the resistance but is prepared not to budge from the goal of spring boarding the village kids into national limelight of basketball game.
    Next day , the village kids summoned to the basketball court with Ramu being the language translator for the long practice. After several hours of practice , Jack readies the team for the first match with Missionary School team. The village lad team loose the first game with a wide margin . Jack understands that the village kids get demotivated when the opponents take aggressive stance and weaken their defence. Jack takes a position and reassures them to be strong and asking them to focus just on netting the ball into basket. Jack instructs the village team to ignore outside influences and play the game on their own terms. Village team quickly understands the gap and prepares themselves for the next game. The second game was lined up , Missionary School being complacent winning the first game takes it lightly . The village team seizing the opportunity play the game aggressively and wins the game comfortably. The scores are levelled and thrilled with taste of first success , the village team thank Jack. The Village team winning spree continue after successful campaign of the season reaching the state and national games. The village team creates a history and legacy of basket ball game.

    Return of Cowboy

    After winning several cups and national medals , the team reaches the officers club looking for Jack and Dusty. To their surprise , Jack was packing the things and preparing for returning back home. The village lads picks up Jack in the air with pride and thank him for the selfless effort. The village is in festive mood and organize a hero’s welcome for all the player. Organizing small farewell function , the village lads team gift Jack a golden dusted basket ball . Jack declines it politely but on insistence from the team accepts their gift. Jack thanks them and wish them well for their future success. The village lad team with drumming sounds and colorful displays bids farewell to Jack.
    Ramu packs the Jacks stuff into the car and drives him to the airport. Belle waiting at the lounge receives Jack and together board plane bound to Texas. Jack fulfilled Merlys promise and was happy to take all the wonderful memories to cherish them forever.
    Tears rolls out from the eyes of Ramu and bids farewell to the great soul and friend he has ever come across.

    1. raj

      How I wish , if this story was converted into a PODCAST ?

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