Like an old time search light, the headlight of my bike illuminated a cloud of particulate matter as I walked the bike and Chavali up Quail Lane. It was fun tracing patterns in the air born dust, but as I neared the barn I smelled smoke; not much and not the barn, but still the faint, distinct smell of burning grass.
After feeding and filling waters, the smell was still there, if not a little stronger, with the addition of sirens from emergency vehicles. I called Jan. No, she didn’t smell the smoke from the house. But moments later she joined me down the hill at the barn. She said, “Looks like it’s on the hill across the way. But I don’t see any real signs of fire.” I said, “Yeah, no plumes of smoke; no orange glow on the horizon.” There was obviously no real danger, but she reassured me that she’d take care of the ponies. She said, “We have an evac plan. David puts the cats in the cat carries and takes them away in the car and I grab the ponies. Worst case is I’d open paddock gate and just let them out.”
We chatted for a bit more about wildfires and whatnot when she noticed I was heading out on my bike. She admonished me to be careful, then shared how she’d gotten hit while on a bike, or at least that’s how she introduced the story. A car had turned suddenly in front of her and she “jumped off the bike and landed on my feet” while the bike continued to skid right under the car, which “trashed the front forks”. This is pure Jan.
When Jan had her own horse, as a teenager, she’d race him down the as yet unpaved freeway and jump him over 3 foot fences, bareback. She also recounts the time that a motorcycle, taking a jump, landed on her horse. (Horse was fine, bike was ruined.) The horse, needless to say, bolted, “but I stayed on. However, he never did trust motorcycles again after that.” She was also in the habit of cleaning the mud off her horse, who was white, by riding him down to the stream (Adobe creek, near the intersection of Fremont and Edith), which often runs three feet deep in winter, and simply letting him roll around in the water. Effective, practical and fun for the horse.
Jan moved on from horses to running her own business and singing in an award winning choir. But she loves having them around. I call Jan the patron saint of KidsLoveHorses. I wish there were more people like her in Los Altos HIlls. That would be nice.