The other day, I was sitting at the picnic table by the corral at our remote Texas County high country outpost, talking with Abe (our big brown donkey) about what a difference various amounts of time can make.

With his usual monotone delivery (somewhere between that of actor Sam Elliott and Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore), he had several comments to offer from the other side of the fence.

“Man what a difference a day makes,” I said. “Yesterday I was freezing my fingers off taking photos at a firefighter training exercise in a snowstorm and today I got the riding mower going for the first time this year and cut some grass while wearing a T-shirt in 75-degree weather.”

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

“I know,” Abe said. “Yesterday I was rollin’ in mud at the bottom of the pasture and today I was rollin’ in dust at the top.”

“Man, what a difference a week makes,” I said. “Last week I was still trying to get back into the swing of things after being 600 miles south of here for eight days, and this week I’m back at work trying to sort through all the issues and stories as if I was never gone.”

“I know,” Abe said. “Last week I was glad the grass was turnin’ green and this week I’m glad my fur is cloggin’ up your brush.”

“Man, what a difference a month makes,” I said. “A month ago I was trying not to fall down on ground covered with rock-hard snow and ice, and this month I’m trying to find time to turn the soil in the garden and devise a plan for planting.”

“I know,” Abe said. “A month ago I was wonderin’ why you didn’t give a bucket of sweet feed to me and those horses three times a day and now I’m wonderin’ why you don’t give us buckets of sweet feed three times a day.”

“Wait – what?” I said. “Oh, never mind. Man, what a difference a year can make. Who knew we would ever again be paying just over two dollars for a gallon of gas?”

“Yeah,” Abe said. “Who knew it was possible for that big white horse over there to produce even more natural gas?”

“Um, right,” I said. “Big Sur’s getting pretty old and maybe his internal wind turbines are working harder than ever. Anyway, man, what a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago I was living in the North Georgia mountains making a living writing about and taking pictures of school-age athletes, and now I’m sitting in the south-central Missouri Ozarks talking to a donkey.”

“Yeah,” Abe said. “Ten years ago I was, well, I’m not sure I even was yet, and now I’m sittin’ here talking to you.”

“You know it could be worse,” I said.

“I guess,” Abe said. “I could be talkin’ to that dang horse.”

“Right,” I said. “And with his tolerance level of your donkey-ness, that would probably be short conversation.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.





I don’t have all that many “pet peeves,” but there are a few things in life I do find a bit bothersome.

Although they all amount to little of nothing in the big scheme of things, here are a few (in no particular order):

Inconsistent restaurants.

You and you wife eat at an establishment a time or two and both think it’s absolutely wonderful. You want to share your discovery with friends or relatives, so you brag about the place and set up a date to go there with them.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

When you do, the wheels come off. The rib eye steak is chewy, the sauce on the chicken marsala has nowhere near the same zest as before, the deep-fried green beans are soggy, the spinach and romaine lettuce in the salad is limp and the sweet tea tastes a little like the Ajax wasn’t adequately rinsed out of the glass it’s in.

You feel let down and you’re left with nothing to do but apologize. You also don’t feel like going back.

Apostrophe abuse.

I touched on this before in this column several years ago. At a past job, I sort of earned the reputation of being the “apostrophe police.”

But you can always count on the little buggers to be frequently used when they’re not needed. It’s not really that complicated; they’re used to denote possession (like the car is Bob’s) or a contraction (a word that combines two words, like don’t, which of course means is do not).

They’re never used to signify plurality. Like to indicate there’s more than one transmission, the word is simply transmissions. It always cracks me up when you see a sign or an ad that contains both correctly and incorrectly spelled plural words (for example: “Special’s on shoes,” or “Burgers and sud’s”).

Honk-happy drivers.

I’m always amazed when someone honks their horn at me when I’m driving and make a move that’s 100-percent normal or necessary. On my way home from work the other day, I slowed down to turn from one highway to another. It’s a 90-degree turn, so negotiating it without ending up in a ditch requires slowing down to a virtual crawl – as would be the case with any 90-degree turn.

As I began speeding up after the corner, a horn sounds long and loud from a vehicle that was apparently right behind me. I didn’t see whether it was a man or woman, but in my experience, it could have been either.

To you who honked: I’m sure you’re a far better driver than me and you’re able to make your gigantic SUV fly around 90-degree corners at high speeds without so much as skidding an inch. Please forgive my incompetence and I’m sorry for being in your way.

I forgive you for your pompous impatience.

Drivers who speed up when you try to pass.

Speaking of annoying driving habits, I can’t stand it when you go to legally pass someone on a two-lane highway who’s been sauntering along at about 10 miles per hour under the speed limit and they speed up significantly while you’re in the oncoming lane trying to get around them before the passing section ends.

Come on, really?

Beginning an alphabetical “list” in a conversation, but never getting past the first letter.

For example, someone says, “I did it because, A, I wanted to make sure that blah blah blah, and boy, was I glad I did.” What about B? There was no need for A if there’s no B. The same goal would be accomplished by just saying, “I did it because blah blah blah” without leaving a listener hanging and wondering what could have been.

The bottom line is, if you “A,” you must then “B.” But never go beyond “C” (just sayin’).

Starting every statement in a conversation with the word “so.”

I don’t get it, but you hear it all over the place now, from TV and radio interviews to small talk at local fast food establishments.

“So, the reason the machine works so well is…”

“So, there are many aspects to the group’s actions…”

“So, you start with a pinch of garlic…”

It’s like beginning a written sentence with the word “well.” It has no purpose – and it’s just plain weird.

I realize none of this affects the economy or world peace, and there’s nothing here that it will help anyone survive a natural disaster. And come to think of it, it all amounts to more material for a newspaper column “about nothing” (like the Seinfeld Show, as I always say), so I should probably be thankful rather than peeved.

My bad.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Since most people do not have the luxury of being able to use their horses for work, the next best thing is the purpose of exercising minds and bodies.

We all know that the worst disease of our time is the sedentary lifestyles we are tempted to live. If we think about horsemanship in the most genuine way, it will exercise our minds and bodies. Usually exercise by itself is associated with pain, discomfort, and drudgery. But when we have a goal of smoothness and flow, we push those three negatives to the back. It always comes back to envisioning two or more dancers in motion.

The most exciting part of horsemanship is beginning to feel that teamwork flow that gets us feeling like we are moving on a cloud. If the communication is not there, we will never get the smoothness we are aiming for.
I like to emphasize all the areas of communication we have available to us. I like to explain God’s Third Commandment (“do not misuse God’s name”) as the most important, because it rightfully puts God’s name on all the things he has available to us to excel in this area as well as many others. In horsemanship, God shows us three dimensions of body language: “pressure” (I call it mom-something), “rhythmic pressure” (I call it dad-something) and “combination” (I call it God-something). Knowing and using all three of these, can get dance moves from horse and human that truly give us a high.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

It is nice to find a high that costs us more in sweat than it does in money that we don’t have. A high that helps us to run faster and jump higher when most people are making excuses about getting older. I used to think groundwork with horses was for wimps who were afraid of getting on the horses back. I know now that it is like the prayer of Jabez that God granted him (1 Chronicles, 4:10). It expands boundaries, helps us avoid needless pain and frustration, and gives us the ability to do far more.
When getting a workout on the ground with a horse, I will put together all the “hovercraft” moves in different combinations. Forward and back, sideways, front end turns, hind end turns, up and down, will all be choreographed in different combinations and patterns to keep us all thinking and moving. Props such as jumps, barrels, bridges, pedestals and cones help provide more to interact with. We can also work on slowness, and then transition up speed, making sure we do not sacrifice smoothness in our transitions.

Slow is a great challenge, because there is a point at which it has a tendency to be stop and go rather than smooth.  Speed tests whether we have been practicing good form at the slower speeds. It is something that must be slowly added, so that form is not sacrificed. To get the “Simon says” element, we have to add in the second commandment of God: “No false Gods.” These are all the things we do with our bodies or equipment that the horse should ignore, or not move (depending on the situation). Examples are found in the three “nothings”: mom nothing (stroking, or petting motion), dad nothing (repetitive noises, swinging equipment, jumping motions) and kid nothing (spontaneous noises, and movement from anywhere).
To help a horse hang in there and not fail, we will usually have a line attached to their halter while we are dancing with them. I also like a bridle with a roping rein on them at times, so I can help put the horse in position with that also. We try to guide them as though we do not have that equipment and only use it when body language itself was not enough. If we practice this in the  corral, we don’t have to worry about a horse getting away. This prepares us for a liberty situation in which equipment is relied on less and less. One real practical use of this is getting a horse easier to catch when we are not on their back. But the most important part of this is getting horse and rider more comfortable with each other.

Next time we will explain the purpose of getting better, so we can help others get better (a good pyramid scheme!).

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville.  Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.


The Ozark Mountains region of the United States is a uniquely wonderful place.

It’s both rugged and rolling, with natural beauty abounding in many forms, including rivers, bluffs and huge expanses of forest. And an interesting reality is, there’s not really a mountain anywhere to be found.

The character of the region’s landscape, climate, history and people lends to many aspects that are undeniably Ozarks, and spur an exclusive variety of sights, sounds, feelings and thoughts. Basically, there are many things about the Ozarks that help you know you’re there.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

For example:

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when the spread between the highest high temperature and lowest low in less than a week’s time is more than 70 degrees, or more than 40 in a 24-hour period.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when your neighbor – who lives more than a mile away – stops by your house unannounced to give you a several freezer bags full of various cuts of pork from a recently butchered pig and sincerely expects nothing in return.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when a female customer leaving the local pawn shop turns to the owners on her way out the door and says, “Thanks for letting me use the bathroom. I put the toilet seat back up.”

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you go to the local café on Monday and there’s more talk going on about the price of round bales than the big game that was played over the weekend.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you go to the local café and the two tables in the “no smoking” area have ashtrays on them and they’re located in the same room as the “smoking area.”

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when there are four auctions in your community on the same Saturday, and over the course of the next week you hear at least one person who went to each one describe how crowded it was.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you’re driving to town to get a gallon of milk and see a young bobcat bound across the dirt road a half-mile from your driveway, three deer standing next to the highway a mile-and-a-half from your house and a bald eagle sitting on a tree branch three miles from home.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you step outside your house in the evening, do a double-take at a sundown featuring a spectacularly vibrant array of colors in the western sky, and then stand there for 12 minutes staring at it before it’s replaced by darkness.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when a cement walkway on your property is coated with ice by freezing rain on one day, covered by sleet the next day and then buried by snow the next day.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when – if you’re a man – three of your most important possessions are your truck, boots and pocketknife.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when – if you’re a woman – three of your most important possessions are your boots, chickens and .22.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when rain can be both something you dread because it wreaks havoc on your driveway, or pray for because your cattle ponds are drying up.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if your house is 89 miles from the closest mall.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you know someone who at times addresses others using each of the phrases, “y’all,” “y’uns” and “you guys.”

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if there isn’t enough cellular coverage at your home to make calls, but there is enough to text.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you own an ATV and haven’t used it in three years, own a horse and haven’t gone riding in four years, or own a canoe that you’ve only gone down the river in once, seven years ago.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you know how to skin a deer, run a trotline and are a regular user of Facebook.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you often tell people about how things “were better” many years ago and that “they don’t make stuff like they used to,” but you own a smart phone and pay for an expensive data plan.

There are many other aspects of the Ozarks that make knowing you’re here easier. I’m glad for all of them; there’s no better place to know you’re there.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

A news report from last week that may have escaped your notice indicated that Mayor Stubbs, of Talkeetna, Alaska, was receiving medical care after being severely injured by a dog.

In an apparent nighttime surprise-attack by a loose dog, Stubbs sustained a punctured lung, bruised hips, and a long deep gash on his side, and his sternum was fractured badly enough that it might require being repaired with a plate. A veterinarian who accompanied Stubbs’ owner on the hour-long trip to a clinic where he could receive adequate care brought along a euthanasia kit because there was doubt as to whether the mayor would even make it there.

Wait, how’s that? Veterinarian? Euthanasia kit?

Um, Stubbs is a cat.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Yep, the 900 or so Americans who live in Talkeetna elected him as their municipal leader 15 years ago. What’s more, Stubbs – who was a strapping young yearling at the time of his election – was a write-in candidate.

Located 115 miles north of Anchorage, Talkeetna serves as the last stop for travelers and climbers visiting Mount McKinley (North America’s tallest peak, at 20,320 feet) and is billed as the inspiration for the town in the highly popular TV series, “Northern Exposure,” that aired on CBS from 1990 to 1995 (and was actually filmed in Roslyn, Wash.).

The off-beat little Alaskan berg barely occupies a wide spot in a moose trail, but Talkeetna features several artists’ shops, and hosts a yearly fundraiser ball where bachelors are auctioned off and a wilderness survival contest for women. But it’s now more famous for its feline politician than anything else.

Finding out about Stubbs got me thinking – of course.

I whole-heartedly believe I know of a 35-pound Pembroke Welsh Corgi who could make a whale (make that land manatee) of a political leader. I’m thinking that if Stubbs can do it, Jamie can.

Anyone who has noticed any of the columns I’ve helped him put together during the past couple of years already knows Jamie has a penchant for leadership, a great appreciation for what he thinks is right, and a keen snout for history. By applying those basic characteristics, he would likely thrive in a position of political authority.

I’ve run some ideas by him, and at this very moment he’s pondering a ground-breaking future as a canine elected official.


•Mayor Jamie: “There has been a lot of progress in this town in the recent past, and I can’t say I can’t take a lot of the credit. Certainly, many people with thumbs helped make it all possible, but I believe they needed a good delegator to give them direction, and I was just the Corgi to do it.”

•Sheriff Jamie: “So you say the gun found in your car that perfectly matched the weapon used in the crime belonged to your uncle’s neighbor, that the matching stories told by several witnesses implicating you are all lies, and that the residue found on your fingernails was mayonnaise, not meth. OK then, we’ll do a little verification of that, but in the meantime you’ll have to hold tight in a jail cell. I’d say we should be wrapped up with our investigation in, oh, about 37 years.”

•Senator Jamie: “Taxes are a necessity, but we have to find a way to administer them more wisely. I say we stop taxing dog toys, food and adoptions, and increase taxes on cat food, catnip, and anything else with that begins with the word or prefix ‘cat’ or by 637-percent.

“Also, I believe people wishing to have cats as pets should be required to obtain special permits, with costs of those permits beginning at 98-percent of a person’s yearly income.”

•President Jamie: “Now that you have given me this mandate to run – I mean improve your lives, I pledge to make sure there’s a $54,000 SUV in every garage and a pork chop bone on every lawn. And regarding recent reports that there’s too much Putin in Russia and the middle east, I say tell those people to quit eating so many beans.”

Jamie and I both hope Stubbs makes a full recovery from his unfortunate episode as a doggie chew toy. If this country is going to avoid the fall many people believe is inevitable, we’re going to need strong leaders like him to lean on.

And speaking of strong leadership, don’t be surprised if you see or hear “Jamie in 2016” commercials in the not too distant future. He’s not making any declarations just yet, but he hasn’t ruled out a run (or slow saunter) at an elected office.

And if he does, expect a spirited campaign, because this is one Big Lug who will be in it to win it.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Mayor Stubbs, of Talkeetna, Alaska, sips his favorite beverage (a mixure of water and catnip) from his favorite sipping receptacle (a wine glass).

Mayor Stubbs, of Talkeetna, Alaska, sips his favorite beverage (a mixure of water and catnip) from his favorite sipping receptacle (a wine glass).

Mayor Stubbs recovers from his recent horrific run-in with a dog that left him with several injuries.

Mayor Stubbs recovers from his recent horrific run-in with a dog that left him with several injuries.

Campaign buttons from Stubb's unsuccessful bid for vice-president in 2012.

Campaign buttons from Stubb’s unsuccessful bid for vice-president in 2012.

Stubbs 4

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city's proposed K-9 unit.

Jamie discusses his possible future in politics with Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham.





How to be a real workhorse


The obvious obstacles to conquering and enjoying work are lack of knowledge, lack of planning, being intimidated by heat or cold (and brain?) and muscle discomfort.
With regard to lack of knowledge, it is surprising the amount of times we think we know when we really do not know. People might think of shoveling material as a mindless job, but to do it in a way that it will build your body rather than tear it down takes mind engagement. The secret is to think about the different muscle groups we want to work, and position our body in such a way that we can accomplish that task. If we are standing, we can emphasize leg muscles to loosen material, and vary different muscle groups here. In dealing with loose material, we can take our legs out of the picture, and emphasize upper body toning through kneeling, or squatting positions, thinking about arm, back muscles, as well as abdominal muscles. All of this can be done keeping good back position to avoid back problems. If we learn from each other and think intelligently about our work, it is amazing how much more we will get from it, in addition to what we have produced from it.

With horses, it is amazing how many times people think they know how to train, and/or ride horses, when they really do not (let us just say their bag of tricks is much smaller than it could be). I used to have a horse rental business in which I had to look out for “the ones who came from a ranch.” Most ranchers do far more mechanical work than they do horse work today. I have met quite a few farm people who just did not have the skill they thought they had. I had 20 years experience with horses before I came across some of the main knowledge I use now in teaching horses and riders. I was definitely one of those who thought they knew, but really did not. Knowing that there is probably quite a bit more out there that we think we know – but really don’t – should humble us all. Most of the important information is not new, it has been around for the thousands of years of our Earth’s existence (remember, I intelligently reject the millions of years garbage).
Another way we need to engage our brains with regard to work is planning. The Boy Scout motto “be prepared” applies here as well as above. We need to think about the tools we need, how they are organized, steps, timing, breaks in between, and how we can relay each other.

Think of the planning that goes into sports. Everything is laid out and prepared ahead of time to plan for nearly any obstacle to succeed in skill, smoothness, and speed. When we plan work as well as a good coach prepares a team, it comes alive much more and our enjoyment and self esteem cultivates obvious skill and expertise and productivity right before our eyes. When planning, skill, and smoothness are in place, speed excites more energy from us as well as developing efficiency.

Newton’s Law “objects in motion tend to stay in motion” applies here. With horses, speed is a good test of how well we have been preparing them, and shows us what we need to work on more. Tools such as round pens, and long ropes help us immensely. Thinking out the steps so we can arrive at mini goals, helps horses and humans sense accomplishment. They help plan for break times to help us reflect on what just happened so that man and beast practice thinking rather than reacting. Remember, skill, smoothness and speed don’t just “happen” like “evolution.” They are “created” through “mind engagement.” Planning with knowledge and mind engagement can actually drastically reduce the tools and time it takes to train. Evolution takes a long time, whereas God’s way is much quicker. For example, to teach a horse a hind end pivot the quickest way possible, we need to plan and carry out steps like this. Desensitization (lessen false gods), teaching pressure (mom language) and rhythmic pressure (dad language), backward movement, move over movement, then backward and over (cutting horse style). These steps make it easier to “balance and blue print” the skill for the horse-human team.
The purposefulness I get from skill and planning helps me to not think about the heat and cold as much. When we are well prepared we can just say, “bring it on.” It helps to start work real early in the summer to gradually get used to the heat. In the winter, the Jesus Christ down to Earth (ground work) is our saving grace (our muscles heat us up here). I dress more like an Indian in the summer and a cowboy in the winter. I look forward to relaxing in the pool when the sun is at its hottest in the summer, and my midday nap inside in the winter. If I am getting cold in the saddle, I do not mind getting off and running beside my horse (Jesus Christ stuff) to get warmed up again (I multitask staying in shape and staying warm).
Overworked muscles are generally self-inflicted injuries. If we have been creative instead of evolutionary about our work, we will grow ourselves God’s way rather than destroy ourselves Satan’s way. Our muscle and lung discomfort from working out sensibly will be far out weighed by the skill and productivity we observe taking place (not to mention helping us feel and look better).

I should repeat John Wayne’s quote here: “Life is tough, but when you act stupid it is tougher yet.”

Next time: Basic economics = 14-year-old, paper route, horse.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.

Behind the Handlebars header

Cruising for all ages; keep to the roads

When you can’t ride due to rain and high water, you get a bit of a hemmed-in feeling.

Days off in summer are for sunshine and the highway, not dreaming.  On an overcast day last week, I felt glum.  Roads were wet, I had seen too many rainy days and needed to get out. Seeking adventure, I teasingly asked my 19 year old, “Hey, wanna kayak the Piney today?”

Well, I wasn’t totally serious, but as soon as the challenge was off my lips he responded “yeah!,” and from that moment began my cruise down the Piney during the flood of 2013.

Now this was a Thursday – seems we do all our crazy stuff on Thursdays!  All of our cruise ins are on Thursday nights, too. We arrived at Dogs Bluff to find the water meeting us just beyond the picnic area. It was murky and looked a whole lot like chocolate milk — foam and all. The bridge marker read 12-feet above normal. Well, that wouldn’t be bad, I thought, as many times you have to pick up and drag during the floating season. No dragging today!  It took about a 1/2-mile for me to realize that the son and I had no business out there on that river that day. We were taught a great lesson about trees and current within that first 1/2-mile. Arriving at Mineral Springs in a swift 75 minutes, we were barely able to see the conservation department signage that was peeking out of the water.  Jacob and I made it and we can say we conquered, but I will stick to cruising the highways for a while.

Houston’s Downtown Cruise In Thursday night was awesome with the cool temps. Many of the bikers donned leather to head home – some to as far as Salem – after enjoying an evening of good food, friends conversing and of course games!

Bikers challenged their mounted shooting skills, as 15 white helium balloons weighted with water bottles were targeted with water guns filled with red, green and blue food colored water.  Neal Jones from Bucyrus won this event with a little backtracking, but Jeff Scott, of Raymondville, and newcomer Justin Chandler, of Salem, were tied for the win without cheating.

A timed obstacle course was very popular and challenging.  Bikers young and old attempted the course and the best time of 23 seconds went to Shannon Wright, Salem. Many thanks to those who participated and to the city who allows us to block off the portion of Grand and have the event.  Stealing the limelight was Braden Martin, first time cruise in participant who also now holds the title of youngest cruise in rider at age 10.  He is a tough guy too! Riding in on a black mini-chopper with some sputtering and spitting, Braden looked at that obstacle course with determination.  His bike wasn’t cooperating, but Braden stayed with the course. This wasn’t an easy task as this bike was a kick start. He finished the course with the applause and hoops and hollers of the other members. Great job, man, and thanks to his dad, Michael Martin, also attending on two wheels, who brought him up to the event.

The cruise ins are for all ages!

Sponsors for the August cruise in are Memories and Dreams and the newly owned and managed Simply Sweets.  Both businesses donated prizes for the event as well as stayed open during the cruise in for patrons. Thank you for investing in downtown activities. Special thanks to D&L Florist as well for donating a gift certificate as a prize.  Shari McCallister wanted to donate in honor of her dad who also had been a rider.

If you would like to get involved in the cruise ins downtown you have one more month as the September cruise in will be our last for 2013. After the cruise ins end, you can still enjoy Bike Night every Tuesday at Side Street Grill from 4 p.m. to closing.

There are two types of people in this world: those that ride motorcycles, and those who wish they did.

See you all next month!  Ride safe.

Kerry York is a lady rider and resident of Houston, who coordinates monthly Houston Downtown Cruise-In events from spring to fall. Email kyorkrn@ymail.com.

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