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THE SECOND OF TWO REVIEWS I DID LIVE AT THE BOOK RELEASE PARTY ON  SEPTEMBER 19, 2017. PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT ARE AT THE BOTTOM.

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The world has lost its mind.

If it isn’t official already, it’s at least in the pipeline toward making it official. I’m sure there are people somewhere sitting around in committee meetings right now, maybe in someplace like Oslo, Norway or Paris, France. They’re writing stuff, debating, setting parameters, establishing dates—getting ready to make the announcement that the world has officially lost its mind.

The evidence? Hobby horse competitions in Finland.

Yes, you read that correctly. Right now there are over ten thousand girls in Finland between the ages of 12 and 18 who spend hours each week preparing routines, practicing form, and grooming their steeds for competition.

“So, what’s the big deal with that?” you ask.

Do you know what a hobby horse is?

“Yes.”

Oh good, then you know it’s the replica of a horse’s head made from various materials and attached to the end of a stick—or a “dowel rod” to the people who still ride hobby horses and are easily offended—and the stick is placed between the legs of the rider who prances around attempting to mimic the movements of a real horse. From what I know, it’s something that’s been around for centuries. It was used in theater, festival parades, and as a child’s toy. I’m pretty sure my sister, Shelley, had one. I just leaned over to my wife to ask her about them and she said she had one, too.

“Again, so, what’s the big deal?”

Well, I don’t normally find myself moved to criticize child competitions. Gymnastics, soccer, and even Comic-Con events—these all have their value in the lives of human beings inundated with the challenges of everyday existence. But when these competitive lifestyles become all-consuming, overshadowing attempts by parents to live vicariously through their children that ultimately result in the snatching away of childhood and other more important things in life, it’s then that I tend to offer commentary. In other words, when these things cause you to skip school and dodge Sunday morning worship, I’m annoyed.

Beyond this, and as it meets hobby horse competitions, I certainly wouldn’t think to criticize the playful activities of children. I have four, and it is always a bright-eyed event when they are carried away into imaginary spaces—realms where cardboard boxes are castles and hobby horses are majestic steeds, sometimes even with wings that lift them into the open expanse above the clouds. The castle is called “Eleanor’s Realm” and the horses have names like William, Lance, and depending on the child, sometimes Steve. I know the importance of such play. But again, when imaginary things cross over and into the realm of more important things, I begin to question. Again, in other words, when I listen to an interview with a little girl who speaks of her hobby horse as though it were a living horse, I begin to wonder. I get concerned when she talks to it while practicing her routine, telling it, “When we go into the jump, I’ll kick and you lift your head.” Or when she gets visibly frustrated and near the edge of tears before the interviewer as she explains that she’s doing her part, but she feels like the horse is having trouble learning its part. This should bother folks. God forbid the glue that’s holding the hobby horse’s head on the stick gets weak and the head flies off in the middle of a jump. On the other hand, maybe that’s all it would take to get the child into the therapy she so desperately needs right now.

Who knows? I sure don’t.

In the end, I wonder if this is merely an emanation resulting from life in a world where many of our relationships are virtual. We are connected to others through digital devices, and eventually, the device becomes the reality, the thing we can’t live without, rather than remaining the means of representation or communication of someone real.

Once again, who knows? I sure don’t. I just know that when I watch these hobby horse competitions on YouTube, I can’t help but feel like shouting out rebelliously against a world that has lost its mind. But in order to keep from raising my voice and frightening the nearby children in the cardboard castle, I pour a drink instead—one that’s calming, but can also do the shouting for me. The Rebel Yell American Whiskey, if only in name, is certainly an acceptable partner.

A rather nicely balanced blend of Bourbon and rye, the Rebel Yell American Whiskey is a warming dram, offering scents of cola, bubblegum, and rye spice. Disregarding an initial sour, a sip brings what tastes a little bit like Raisin Bran Crunch cereal in vitamin D milk.

The finish is a medium jaunt that maintains the raisins and nuttiness from the palate while bringing back the cola from the nosing.

In all, the whiskey was much more complex than I expected. And apparently, with the ever-increasing insanity—I mean, popularity—of hobby horse competitions, ESPN might just end up needing one more channel to make sure you experience the thrill in your own living room.————

Evelyn and Harrison hocking raffle tickets.

My daughter, Madeline.

Yeah, this guy won the Rebel Yell American Whiskey. Congrats, Ryan!

Madeline choosing the raffle winner.

Joshua hiding in a corner.

Evelyn had fun. But she also wore herself out.