I was a little concerned when I woke up to raging winds on the day of Clifford’s debut at Borders Books. It was blowing so hard that some of the young trees were bending over and the rain was flying sideways. The forecast called for 40 mph winds all day, along with temperatures dropping to 40 degrees.
I called Jon Sheldon, my friend who had volunteered to bring his truck, hitch up Wheelzebub and haul Clifford to Brighton for the show. Jon had a prior engagement later that morning. “I don’t want to put Clifford through this,” I said. “You go ahead and go to your other thing, and we can wait and see if the weather clears.”
Over the course of the morning I discussed weather et al with Clifford’s publicity consultant, Ken Scarnegie and we decided to cancel the event. We knew that no press would show up and probably not much public either. Besides, we wouldn’t be able to set up the tent in this wind. I knew the layout of the Borders store and couldn’t think of a spot that would be dry and safe for Clifford to sign books. We asked, but even though Clifford is basically housebroken, they were not going to let him inside the store.
Several minutes after the decision was reached, I got a call back from Ken. “We have another problem here,” he said. “The Borders manager just told me they have corporate people coming.”
“You know what? I’m going over there. I’m going to just see what the weather is like in Brighton and get an idea of the situation.”
My friend Vickie Sheathelm showed up from Roscommon about that time and we drove to Brighton together. We were greeted by a very enthusiastic Borders staff. They had a table set up with fifty or so books on it. I placed Clifford’s painting on an easel behind the table and sat down to do the signing by myself.
The local store manager, Dan, came out and introduced himself and said, “We can have Clifford back in the loading dock. It’s protected from the wind.”
He walked me back behind the store and showed me the enormous three-sided loading dock with high brick walls. I really wanted Clifford to be there. I decided if worse came to worst, this would work.
I called Ken. “You know what? We’re going to do this. When you get here, we’ll take your truck and go get Clifford.”
Ken arrived and we drove back to the farm in Gregory and hauled Wheelzebub with a big white truck that has, “K9 Classic” on the sides of it.
I showed him the loading dock and Ken said, “No. We didn’t go through all this to have Clifford behind the store. Does Vickie know Clifford well enough to unload and handle him while you go inside and sign books?”
“She does, but I have to stay with Clifford,” I said.
I unloaded Cliffy and we walked right up to the front door of Borders and we stayed there all afternoon. It was cold, but there was a small lee from the wind there. People came. They had heard my radio interview the day before, or, they happened to be driving by and spotted a horse, and stopped to look.
His book signing efforts were sporadic events. He managed to get paint all over his nose, and all over me, but he was more interested in checking out the people who showed up, especially the little kids, and looking at himself in the window.
I didn’t recognize the corporate manager of Borders, who stood watching the proceedings for a long time, while Clifford did his tricks and greeted people and made them laugh.
“I can’t get over how calm he is,” he told Ken, later. “Nothing scares him. And the bond between him and his owner is so obvious. This is amazing.”
I answered questions about Clifford all that day, and told them that this is the trademark of the Morgan horse; their gregarious nature, their acceptance and curiosity in new situations.
I said to Ken, “Do you understand now why I have to stay with Clifford?”
“Oh yes,” he said. “Absolutely.”
Borders sold a stack of books that day; I am not sure how many exactly. We had offered to buy back the remaining few, but they said no, they were keeping them! By the end of the afternoon, it was settled. Clifford’s new job is to sell books. We’re going on tour.