I have one gratitude this morning but it will encompass not only the three I promised to post but even more. My gratitude today is for my friend, my mentor, Huston Jenkins. It was a year ago that Huston had the first stroke that greatly altered his life. Up until then, my friend was still training and riding horses at eighty-seven, still traveling alone across country whenever the whim hit him, and still imparting his wisdom and humor and friendship to me. Exactly a week before his stroke last year, I had just jumped an emotional hurdle and overcome a long standing feud with a fear that had been winning up until then. It was a total knockout though, I beat that fear to a pulp and the first person I called was Huston. He listened patiently as I went on and on about how ecstatic I was. I could feel his smile across the miles and through the phone. When I finally paused, he said something to me that touched me more than anything anyone has ever said to me. He said, "I'm proud of you. I always knew you could do it. I believed in you when you didn't believe in yourself." It still makes me cry to think of that. I've been blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my life, people who have loved and supported me but until that day, I'd never really felt that someone believed in me and I don't think I ever believed in myself. Today, Huston's kids, who take such wonderful care of him, are picking him up at rehab to bring him home. He broke a hip a few weeks ago and had to endure yet another surgery and then over two weeks of rehab. He and they have been through so much this past year but they stick by him and he keeps fighting. Every time I've had the opportunity to talk to him again (the first time I heard his voice on the phone after his stroke, I felt pure joy), he always tells me he's doing great whether that's true or not. He won't give up and that is another lesson he's taught me. I use to tease him by saying that when he sold me a horse eight years ago, he had no idea that he was taking on a fifty year old to raise. Oddly, at fifty-seven, I do feel as if I'm finally growing up, like I've learned so much over the last decade, and so much of that new knowledge, so many life lessons came from my friend, Huston. I miss my friend, we use to talk several times a week and for hours at a time. He always use to say that he wished that we weren't separated by so many miles and I told him that I don't know if us being neighbors would be such a good thing because neither of us would get anything done but riding and talking horses. Then again, what would be wrong with that? I'm grateful to my friend Fran Forester for introducing me to Huston. I'm grateful to Steve who bought me that horse. I'm grateful to Huston for selling me that horse because he only sells his horses to people he likes and people he knows will love and care for them just like he does. In fact, he was offered five times what we paid for Mouse by an interested buyer in Europe and he refused them. They might have gone higher in price but Huston stopped them and told them that it didn't matter how much they offered because he had already promised the horse to me. Of course, I also remember the sadness in his voice when I called to tell him that I was coming by to pick up my horse. "You're taking her?" he asked and he wasn't happy. I later asked him about those buyers in Europe with the deep pockets that Huston was unwilling to delve into. We were sitting at his kitchen table and I'd just told him that I was leaving Mouse with him for the summer so that he could breed her for us. I really didn't want to breed her although I am quite happy with the results. I was leaving her with him because I knew he needed her. His beloved wife, Patty, had passed away the previous June. I knew that nothing could take away that pain but I thought Mouse would distract him. I asked him that day something I'd been wondering about for years. I told him that his niece had told me about the European buyers and how much money they'd offered for his little gray mare. I asked him, "You used me as an excuse but you wouldn't have sold to them even if I hadn't been in the picture, would you?" He dropped his head and said very quietly, "They would have mistreated her. They wouldn't love her like you do." And like he did. He is an incredible horseman, he is an incredible man. I am lastly grateful to God for bringing him into my life. What he's given to me through his friendship, through his wisdom, and through the kindness of his heart, I can't even begin to measure and I'll never be able to repay.