Oct. 29, 2002

Riding Lesson

by Henry Taylor

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Poem: "Riding Lesson," by Henry Taylor from An Afternoon of Pocket Billiards (University of Utah Press).

Riding Lesson

I learned two things
from an early riding teacher.
He held a nervous filly
in one hand and gestured
with the other, saying "Listen.
Keep one leg on one side,
the other leg on the other side,
and your mind in the middle."

He turned and mounted.
She took two steps, then left
the ground, I thought for good.
But she came down hard, humped
her back, swallowed her neck,
and threw her rider as you'd
throw a rock. He rose, brushed
his pants and caught his breath,
and said, "See that's the way
to do it When you see
they're gonna throw you, get off."

This day in 1929 was Black Tuesday, the day of the Stock Market crash, and the beginning of the Great Depression. The New York Stock Exchange reached its all-time high in September 1929. During this time, investors bought borrowed money from their brokers. The brokers went to banks to get the money. Stocks started failing, investors needed to default, and the money was lost. The economy was also slowing down at this time, adding to the crash of 1929.

On this day in 1787, Mozart's opera Don Giovanni opened in Prague. The opera was a huge success. Mozart described the opera as a "dramatic comedy," and it's the story of Giovanni, an infamous seducer. He has "destroyed the virtues" of over 1,800 woman, and in the last scene is confronted by the ghost of the father of a young woman he tried to seduce. He refuses to repent for his sins and is condemned to hell.

It was on this day in 1956 that Maria Callas made her opera debut in New York City in the opera Norma. She said, "An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I've left the opera house."

It's the birthday of Henry Vincent Yorke, born in Gloucestershire, England (1905). He would later be published as Henry Green. His nine novels include Living (1929), Loving (1945), and Concluding (1948) as well as a memoir, Pack My Bag (1952).

It's the birthday of war correspondent and cartoonist Bill Maudlin, born in New Mexico (1921). His cartoons featured two recurring infantrymen, Willie and Joe, creating the image of G.I. Joe for American culture.

It's the birthday of Scottish author and biographer James Boswell, born in Edinburgh (1740). He became famous for A Life of Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest biographies of all time. Many of Samuel Johnson's friends did not care for Boswell since he stuck so close to Johnson and was taking notes during conversations and recording all that the great man said. His biography was published in 1791, on the twenty-eighth anniversary of their first meeting.

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