A DEAD BLOW hammer leaves little to no mark on the surface it strikes.
That’s the tag line to Sequim author and competitive endurance rider Lisa Preston’s new book “Dead Blow,” and I can’t wait to read it after it’s released this fall.
She introduced its main character, Rainy Dale — a female farrier who tends to be a bit mulish and impulsive — last year in “The Clinch,” the first novel in that she hopes becomes several, in her “A Horsehoer’s Mystery series.”
A dead blow hammer is a specialized mallet more commonly used in auto body repair work or in woodworking for knocking joints together without denting the wood.
As a kind of jack-of-all-trades gal, Dale is familiar with their use in precision work, thus spurring her on to find answers to the questions cropping up in her ever-inquisitive mind as to how her new client became a widow.
Her character’s curiosity peaked when her client told her there was hardly a bruise on her dead husband when he died.
She wondered why the deceased was driving his tractor so dangerously near a bull known to brutally attack people. How long did it take him to die after the machine rolled and pinned him? If the whole town seems aware of the dead man’s wandering eye, did her client know, too?
Knowing Preston is a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I asked her what prompted her to start writing a mystery crime novel featuring a woman blacksmith.
“I’ve always worked in physically demanding, male-dominated types of jobs. I’ve lived it, I get that world, I know what it’s like,” said Preston, a former paramedic, then police officer and finally a detective in Alaska before retiring to a safer and more sane life in Sequim.
When her agent asked her to write in the cozy mystery genre, she immediately knew she wanted her main character to live in that world, too.
“The interest in the cozy type of series is that you get to know that character. In my case I have a usual character, with an unusual occupation,” she said. “The reader becomes interested in the character’s life, town, friends and family, and then sets about trying to solve the mystery along with the character.”
In her first book, “The Clincher,” readers were introduced to Dale, a young woman working as a farrier in a small, rural town in central Oregon, who sort of falls in to becoming an amateur detective. “The Clincher” has proved so popular it’s about to be released in paperback.
“My character is pretty rough along the edges,” Preston said, noting, “She’s a bit of a hick and affected by the world she resides in. Folks really get that in ‘The Clincher.’ ”
When I asked Preston why she set her series in central Oregon and not here she told me her last two novels were set in Washington and she just wanted someplace different.
As a young woman, she’d attended college in central Oregon, and she has since competed in many endurance races, both running and riding in 50-mile competitions, on the Pacific Crest Trail.
“I’ve run there and competed in Ride & Tie events there, so I just have a really good feeling about the area,” Preston said. “So for the book I made up my own county and small town there — it’s really kind of cool.”
Ride & Tie is a back-country trail race that combines running and riding with a partner. One runs while the other rides to a set point, ties the horse up and starts running while the horse waits for the runner to catch up, hop on and ride past the running partner to a designated stopping point. This is repeated until the race ends.
Currently Preston competes on either one of her two talented and beautiful Akhal Teke/Arabians.
“My little one, Savvy, totally gets it,” she said. “She knows when I start dumping my stirrups, gathering up my reins and bundling together with the twist ties I keep on the front of my saddle I’m about to start running. I bale off the saddle holding only the lead rope in my hand to tie her off. When I take off running she’s not looking forward at me; she’s looking back for the runner coming up behind her.
Recently, Preston turned in the manuscript for her third book in the series, due out in 2020.
Also published are her novels “Measure of the Moon” and “Orchids and Stone.”
Her nonfiction work includes “Canine Scent Work Dog,” “Bitless Bridle,” “Ultimate Guide to Horse Feed, Supplements and Nutrition” and “Natural Healing for Cats, Dogs, Horses and Other Animals.”
To learn more, go to Preston’s website at www.lisapreston.com.
One of my favorite destination rides is the 13-mile loop starting at Littleton Horse camp, at Forest Service Road 3071 near milepost 216 off U.S. Highway 101, up to the top of Mount Muller and back down around the east side.
I highly recommend tackling the 13-mile looping trail if, and only if, your horse is in good physical condition.
When starting the trail to the top of Mount Muller from the horse trailer parking area one quickly discovers it’s a long, arduous and steep uphill climb on a narrow path consisting of many switchbacks — the trail climbs 2,200 feet through three miles of Douglas fir trees before reaching the top at Snider Ridge.
Turn right and the trail weaves through trees for miles across the ridge top before opening up to stunning views of Mount Olympus, Lake Crescent, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Sol Duc Valley below.
I was inspired to read on Preston’s Facebook page that she and her friend Carolyn DeSalvo recently rode the loop. A few miles into the ride, they came across a downed tree that would have blocked the path to most users.
While most horses won’t attempt to climb over logs, their horses are used to at least trying.
“After we climbed over Carolyn looked back and said, ‘We really should clear that for others.’
“Okey-dokey, I’m game,” Preston wrote. “We got out our handsaws, cut it down and cleared the pathway.”
Using a handsaw to cut that log away I’m sure was hard, physical work, but in their case they felt happy and satisfied to finish the task.
“Horse trail riders should always carry a handsaw with them,” Preston said. “Can you imagine riding all that way, and then having to turn around because you don’t carry a saw?”
It was after descending the mountainside that she and DeSalvo ran across Larry and Sherry Baysinger, who, with their pack mule carrying tools and chainsaws, were looking for windfalls to clear off the lower trail that meanders through strands of maple, Douglas fir and western hemlock.
Sherry Baysinger shared on her Facebook page that Mike McCracken and Larry Baysinger had already spent four days mowing, trimming weeds and clearing debris off the overgrown lower trails.
The Baysingers, as long-time members of the Peninsula Chapter of Back County Horseman, were the driving force behind the group building the Littleton Horse Camp so equestrians had plenty of parking and turnaround space for their trucks and horse trailers.
When the Peninsula Chapter moved most of its focus on to building the Miller Peninsula parking area and other amenities for horse trailers, along with making and maintaining new trails, the Baysingers, who live on the West End near Mount Muller, were instrumental in forming the new Mount Olympus Chapter.
As a group, they concentrate on building and maintaining trails west of Port Angeles.
It’s my hope that others can hear about the hard work local folks like the Baysingers, Preston and DeSalvo do to clear the trails.
Without these volunteers most of the back country trails would soon become overgrown and impassable.
I’m filled with awe and appreciation for all the work those folks, and others like them, do for the benefit of all trail users.
I hope you are, too.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.