H. Alan Day's Blog
Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing on September 18th brought the nation’s flags to half-mast. Millions mourned the passing of this great lady, who served on the Supreme Court for 27 years.
The following week marked the anniversary of Sandra Day O’Connor’s swearing in as the 102nd Supreme Court Justice and the first woman to serve on the court.
Talk about memories being triggered.
Sandra’s swearing in was a momentous event for the Day family. One of those you never forget. My family, including my parents, flew to Washington D.C., a city that I had only visited a handful of times. Just setting foot inside the Supreme Court Building was awe-inspiring. The Great Hall with all the busts of the justices quickly became one of my favorites. After a tour, we were ushered into the courtroom and seated in the section reserved for special guests. President Reagan did the swearing in. It all felt a bit surreal.
A reception followed. Though I can’t recall where it took place, two things stand out in my mind. First, is my sister Ann’s husband, Scott Alexander, who at the time was an Arizona state senator. Scott was big on meeting people. As President Reagan walked our table on his way to the reception line, Scott jumped at him to shake his hand. This abrupt action caused the Secret Service agent next to Reagan to draw back, ready to pummel Scott. If Scott had taken one more step, this guy would have laid him down. Scott did get to shake Reagan’s hand in the reception line.
The second event occurred in line. When my mother got to the President, she looked up at him and said, “You have a familiar face. Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” My mother had the start of dementia. I don’t recall what Reagan said, but true to form, he played it cool.
On the flight back to Arizona, the pilot announced that there were dignitaries on the plane. I was surprised that he was referring to our family. Sandra, of course, had remained in D.C. The entire plane applauded. What surprised me even more was that my father, who was such a strong personality, turned bright red when this happened and couldn’t even speak. Sandra may have gotten her strength from him, but I think that she inherited her style and grace from my mother.
Over the years, I visited Sandra and John many times in D.C. Each experience was special, a chance to step into Sandra’s world, which to me was other-worldly. As I’ve said many times, one of my best jobs in life has been being Sandra Day O’Connor’s brother.
If you’re interested in more stories about her years on the Court—stories that she shared with me—tune in to The Cowboy Up Podcast, Episode 8 “The Making of a Supreme Court Justice” and Episode 9 “The Lady Who Led the Way.”
Before the start of this crazy pandemic, my friend Russell True asked me if I would cohost a podcast with him. I wasn’t sure what a podcast was, and I’m not sure if I know what it is now. My background and heritage are all about dirt, sand, rocks, grass and livestock. Podcasting? That almost goes beyond where my imagination can stretch. But then again, so did the pandemic.
Russell suggested the podcast theme be about cowboy and western culture. Rightly so, as Russell is the owner and manager of White Stallion Dude Ranch. Like me, he was raised on the back of a horse. So, we started The Cowboy Up Podcast.
Two other people joined us for the ride. Stan Hustad, Russell’s longtime buddy, is a talented veteran of the radio business. He knows how to translate an idea into action. And like many other endeavors going from idea into action is the critical part. He also knows how to work a soundboard and which mics to use and how to get two cowboys acclimated to using them.
Lynn Wiese Sneyd, who designed our logo, books guests, handles our social media, and keeps our talk on track. You’ll hear her voice at the beginning and end of each episode. I’m thinking pretty soon, she’ll join Russell and me in the recording studio to talk about western books.
To date, we have recorded six episodes. As of the posting of this blog, five are live and ready for you to listen to at your leisure. You can find them on Apple, Spotify, Libsyn and also on the podcast page of my website. A special thanks to author, photographer and TV personality Mark Bedor and Randy Helm, supervisor of the Wild Horse Inmate Program at the Arizona State Prison for joining us. Soon to go live is an interview with Diana Madaras, artist, gallery and horse lover. Such a great conversation we had with her.
Pop some popcorn. Have a listen. Give a critique. Good ideas are always welcome. We live and learn, especially in this time of a virus gone wild.
Speaking of which, please stay safe. Or as we say for The Cowboy Up Podcast, “Stand tall and ride safe.”
Until next time.
We all need a chuckle these days. Here’s one that I hope at least brings a smile.
One of the first things I learned when ranching in the Midwest was to circle May 10 on the calendar. This was the day ranchers moved their livestock to summer pastures. My “livestock” happened to be 1500 wild horses. My crew and I had been preparing all winter, training the horses to follow a cowboy on horseback around corrals, through gates and alleys, and into open pasture. On May 10th we planned to move the entire herd from headquarters to Mud Lake, where summer grazing would begin. It was a 6-mile journey. Would the horses make it through all the gates and across all the pastures or would they bolt in every direction? Even the best cowboy never could have predicted the adventures in store for us. I shared the following story at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, renowned for its Equestrian Studies program.
During these days of COVID-19 quarantines, our animal friends are important in our lives. Just their presence can lighten the stress and anxiety so many of us feel. Even during less tumultuous times, pets have been important in my life.
One of the pets embedded in Day family history is Susie, the dog we had while I was growing up. She was a little, short-legged, barrel-chested dog, with short, white hair and a tail that curled over her back. I think she was a stray that Sandra found on the ranch. Susie was the only dog allowed in the house. This privilege was granted her when I was too young to know that not every dog received special treatment. When she looked at you, you could read the intelligence in her eyes. She fit in our family like a fourth child.
Susie loved all the family equally and would always come with a smile when called. Every morning she made it a point to visit each family member in bed and greet them with a smile. If you didn’t know better, you would think her smile was snarl. She pulled her lips back, stuck out her tongue and hissed.
Susie wasn’t spoiled and never was in the way, yet she was always part of any event in the house. One of her best traits was that she could hear cars coming up the ranch road when they still were several miles away. She’d give a couple of little barks. You could always tell whether it was a stranger or a ranch vehicle by her bark. If we heard a stranger bark, we would say company is coming, and my mother would make a fresh pot of fresh coffee and get ready to receive guests.
Susie only had one enemy—the pig we kept down in the corral. Once a day, the pig visited the back of the bunkhouse to eat the cowboys’ table scraps. When that pig took one step out of the corral, Susie jumped and had a barking tantrum even if she were napping soundly indoors.
I loved having Susie as a companion. I’d take her with me to check windmills or put out salt licks for the cattle. She loved to come along. I almost always took a 22 rifle to shoot jackrabbits. They ate a lot of grass that I wanted for the cows. Susie would spot the jackrabbits first and would tell me. I’d stop and shoot the rabbit. She’d then jump out of the jeep and land on her head because her legs were short. She’d pick herself up and run over to the jackrabbit, shake it to death, then strut back to the jeep so proud of herself for being such a great hunter. Sometimes, she would get a little blood on her chest or leg. She’d make sure to show me the badge of courage that she earned while shaking that mean rabbit.
Susie lived a long and healthy life. When she finally got old and passed, it was one of the saddest days we had on the ranch. I was a senior in high school. Of course, I missed her. Terribly. But when I think of her, I don’t think of the missing. I think of all the fun we had and feel grateful that she was a part of my life.
I’m an avid University of Arizona basketball fan and was at a game the other week with my friend Jimmy Patterson. At one point during the game, Jimmy pointed to a fellow walking on the floor. “There’s Bob Baffert,” he said.
I immediately took interest. I respect any master horseman and Baffert’s success in horse racing is unmatched, if not legendary. I knew Baffert had been raised in Arizona, but I was surprised to see him at a game.
Afterward, Jimmy and I went to a local burger joint to celebrate our victory. Who should walk in but Bob Baffert and his look-alike, who was presumably his brother. Jimmy, having never met a stranger in his life, got up and went over to talk to them. I’m a bit embarrassed about approaching strangers so stayed at our table. After smiles and talk, Jimmy waved me over. Introductions were made all around.
“Did you know Bob is one of our fraternity brothers?” Jimmy asked me. I had no idea that Baffert was an SAE. And, as it turned out, Baffert had no idea that I was from Duncan, Arizona. He volunteered that when he had been a jockey, he had ridden a couple of races in Duncan at the county fair. I was overwhelmed by that factoid. Bob is arguably at the top of his profession and Duncan County fair races are arguably at the bottom of horse racing. You have to admire someone who has risen from the bottom to the top of any profession.
Later as I ruminated on the surprising connections between Bob Baffert and myself, I realized that I knew someone else who had risen from the dusts of Duncan to the top of her profession. And then it struck me. Maybe we need more folks to pass through Duncan, Arizona, population 200.