Horse Teeth and Heartbreak

by Sheilah Bright

Elbow deep inside the jaws of a stallion, Edye Lucas closes her eyes as her fingers explore a landscape of slivered canyons and barbed peaks in the moist hollow of a horse’s mouth.

It’s cold enough in the barn to freeze saliva on the stainless-steel speculum wedged between the animal’s upper and lower jaws, where up to 44 teeth could easily shred a wrist or crush fingers. Her right arm feels warm and safe as it glides along the 15-inch tongue pulsating like a pale eel.

“It’s kinda like getting a sloppy massage,” says Edye, owner of Oklahoma Equine Dentistry, based near Purcell, Oklahoma. “It rolls underneath you as you work, which is nice until you get a hold of something raunchy.”

Cheek teeth, wave mouth, shear mouth, milk teeth, hooks, parrot mouth, sow mouth, wolf teeth—this molar meadow of decay and daily grind keeps Edye and her assistant, Carmen Walker Hottel, driving thousands of miles across the Midwest.

In early January, they hobbled home on a bent tire rim, a bad fuel injector, and three quarts of oil after working on horses in five states within three days. Later that month on a Texas work trip, they picked up a couple of hitchhikers—two abandoned puppies that they hid in motel bathrooms. They named the puppies Thelma and Louise, nicknames that people often pin on them as they spin tales of their equine adventures. Before they headed back to Oklahoma, they found the pups a safe home with help from their active social media followers.

Edye learned the trade when she married a horse trainer, Dustin Lucas, in 2006. When he decided to learn equine dentistry, she tagged along. She liked the work so much that even after they divorced she wanted to continue the career. She eventually attended the Texas Institute of Equine Dentistry in 2010.

Some days, she and Carmen work on as many as 50 horses. Problem teeth are extracted. Good teeth are filed to achieve a three-point balance of the incisors, molars, and the temporomandibular joint. The duo drive from barn to barn in a used Audi that doesn’t really shout “Horse dentist on board.” Neither do their work uniforms: tank tops and scrubs in the summer, camouflage in the winter.

“Edye’s boobs might be our best advertisement,” jokes Carmen. “We can’t go into a convenience store without break-your-neck staring going on. And when we camo-out, that is the biggest turn on for guys. Guys will say, ‘Oh, I got a tooth, you want to pull it?’ Sometimes, Edye gets them back and offers to do it. We haven’t had any takers.”

What tethers me to their story is the contrast of the image I remember of the first time I met Edye. The frosted breath of a Belgian draft horse danced around her head as blood trickled down the freckled forearms of this ginger-maned woman with a cover girl figure.

I was working deep in Cimarron County on a documentary film inspired by a story I’d written for This Land a few years before. My curiosity was sparked when I first saw Edye step from her car in a cloud of dirt-road dust.

“Who is that?” I asked Jeremy Collins, a cowboy working at the Apple Ranch in Kenton.

“Best horse dentist in Oklahoma,” he said.

“No kidding. What’s her story?”

“I know she lost two kids in ‘95.”

Long in the tooth

 A horse’s teeth, roots and all, can measure four inches and grow a half inch each year. The teeth are constantly on the move, breaking down from gnashing food and constantly erupting through the gums, which also undergo a seismic shift as they age.

I learn the ins and outs of horse health, from the mouth to the penis, on my road trips with Edye and Carmen during the sultry days of August. Trailing them on backcountry roads that leave Google Maps dumbstruck, I sort through the craggy world of equine dentistry with knowledge they share at every barn stop.

Horses with balanced mouths can keep their teeth well into their 40s. Just because a horse drops feed doesn’t mean the teeth are bad, but it’s often the reason owners first call an equine dentist. Between 2.5 and 5 years of age, horses typically lose 24 deciduous teeth and erupt 36–44 teeth. If a horse is missing a tooth, the opposing tooth can move in unless it’s filed down several times a year.

The constant ebb and flow inside a horse’s mouth feeds a stream of problems that can destroy its health and performance under bridle. Sharp teeth grate against cheeks, leaving them pockmarked with puncture wounds. Like squatters, an opposing tooth can encroach into an empty socket and then spread out into the bone and even the sinuses.

Besides maintaining and fixing problems, Edye tries to educate her clients on the importance of proper dental care for their horses.

“Once I get in there and crank their mouth open and show them what’s in their horse’s mouth, they are in shock,” she says. “A lot of them are in tears.”

Leah Hochhalter, owner of L&S Horse Company in Healdton, moved to Oklahoma about two years ago from Wyoming. She uses Oklahoma Equine Dentistry for the 20 horses she trains and sells at her barn.

“Edye will help educate us about our horses’ teeth and what she is balancing and correcting,” she says. “I have seen a change in every horse that she has worked on. They are softer in the bridle, and it makes our job easier training them. We have the peace of mind that we are not training with the horse in pain.”

With Leah’s permission, Edye invites me to stick my hand into the mouth of a golden mare named Checkers.

“Remember,” Carmen says, “up to the eyeballs.”

I don’t make it that far, but the mouth swaddles my forearm like a womb, and I work my fingers across the pink sierra in awe of the size of the teeth and the softness of it all.

One day, I hear Carmen ask a gelding’s owner if she should check for a bean. Before I can spit out my question, she reaches toward its penis and pulls out a bean-shaped wad of gunk.

I’m not going there—ever—but it’s worth investigating from a distance. In the world of everything I never knew about horses, “geldings carrying gunk in their junk” ranks at the top of the list. Carmen explains geldings carry schmuck balls up in their sheath that at the very least will make a horse cranky and can cause major urinary issues.

“Ninety percent of people out there that own geldings do not understand their horses’ anatomy. We don’t advertise it, but when we’re doing a gelding’s teeth, we eyeball its penis because we can usually tell,” she says.

Later when the subject won’t leave my mind, I ask another question I’d never considered: “How do you get a horse to let his penis down?”

“You sing to it,” Edye says. Carmen laughs with a grin that seems to climb up her apple cheeks. She’s full of wise cracks but can switch to a serious tone instantly, which she does as she  explains her technique of using a grease releaser, “not quite like KY Jelly,” and a little “coaxing.” I watch her do it again in another barn and swear the horse smiles.

“My own geldings think it’s just the greatest thing in the world. Yes, Mom is giving good baths today,” says Carmen, who earned the nickname “Bean Queen” after Edye posted about it on Facebook. “We’ve seem some golf ball-sized ones that I don’t even know how the horse peed.”

Carmen worked as a veterinarian assistant for years, many of them for the late Dr. David McCarroll, a respected vet in central Oklahoma.

“I had never stuck my hand inside a horse’s mouth until I came to work for Edye,” says Carmen, whose main job is steadying the horse’s head and driving to job sites. “When you have that horse’s mouth open and you’re asked to put your hand up to their eyeball where the jawline starts coming down, you just plunge in to the last tooth. It freaks people out the first time.”

The mouth swaddles my forearm like a womb, and I work my fingers across the pink sierra in awe of the size of the teeth and the softness of it all.

They credit a common love of laugher, horses, and “horse people” for making their work relationship work. No fights. No jealousy. Edye met Carmen years ago and claims she knows every hair on her head.

“I used to be her hairdresser. I kinda got Carmen in one of my divorces,” says Edye. “She worked with my husband at the time, and he told her that she needed to come see me because her hair looked bad. We hit it off.”

Straight talk, laughter, and plenty of Dr. Pepper in Styrofoam cups filled with  “good ice” make their 14-hour workdays, stays in cheap motels, and questionable road food go down easier.

“When you’ve gone through what we have,” says Carmen as her voice loses some of its confidence, “you look at things differently.”

Life tried to grind both of them down more than once. The memory shards surface sometimes when they’re driving lonely roads. Miles of silence may go by before someone shifts the mood.

“Coming to work for Edye saved my life,” Carmen tells me. “Going to work for her was 99 percent of my recovery.”

Dark horse

Cancer snuck up on Carmen like a thieving coyote raiding a barn in broad daylight. She knew her family history caused it to skulk around her life, but cancer kept its distance for years as she raised her son, worked as a vet assistant, and trained horses with skills gained from competitive barrel racing. Some folks still call her “Barrel-Racing Queen,” as much for the horses she’s trained and sold as for her rodeo skills.

“I’ve always been the poor girl on the block. Everything that I have, I’ve busted my butt to get. Nobody handed me nothing,” she says.

Raised in Del City until she moved to Noble in 10th grade, Carmen competed in rodeos through high school. Twenty-seven years ago, she blew a kiss to a University of Oklahoma pole-vaulter named Perry Hottel, and they’ve been together ever since. She taught him how to halter a horse and then to train horses that anyone could ride. He started competing in rodeos, too. Their son, Brock, learned to ride as soon as he could sit in a saddle.

Fall off, dust off, and get right back on. Nothing could keep you down for long, Carmen thought, until 2011 changed her mind.

“I’d never even had a broken arm, so for a doctor to say that I had breast cancer—a fast-growing cancer, and it’s got to come out now—was the most devastating thing that had ever happened in my life,” she says. “It was like I was in a Charlie Brown cartoon with the lady saying, ‘Bwah, bwah, bwah, bwah.’ It was noise once I heard the word ‘cancer.’ ”

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she barreled into the cancer arena with an unfamiliar emotion—fear. After countless CAT scans, blood test, MRIs, and a double mastectomy, she returned home with 16 fewer lymph nodes and expanders in her chest while awaiting reconstructive surgery.

The “cold, deep dread” of chemotherapy spared her no mercy. She lost her hair after the first treatment, then her skin began to blister.

“My husband was great because he not only was at my beck and need, but he was there to push my butt up out of bed because I could have easily have pulled the covers over my head and stayed put,” she says. “I didn’t care if I lived or died.”

On good days, she’d go outside to pet her horses. On bad days, she’d make a list of her funeral songs. Before completing her full chemo rounds, doctors halted treatment because “my body was flaking off, crawling from the inside out.”

Next came neuropathy in her arms and legs, emergency gall-bladder surgery, and the diagnosis of liver disease, which was predicted to kill her within 10 years.

She didn’t know how to live while waiting to die. Fall off, dust off, and get right back on. That’s what she knew.

So she did. Carmen got off many of the medications that she felt were making her feel worse, including the pain pills, and climbed back into a saddle. She hit the road with Edye, who had called to say she needed a new assistant.

“So many things could have killed me years ago. So many things could have gone wrong. I could go out today and get bucked off a horse, hit my head, and die,” Carmen says. “I feel like I lost three years of my life dealing with cancer, but I’m feeling great now. If I only live 10 more years, they’re going to be ones filled with doing the things that I love.”

On their first workday together, they ran out of gas in Texas. Twice. A lady wrote them a $1,300 hot check. Still, they laughed like high school girls cruising the town, except their arms smelled like horse slobbers and their boots cradled manure in the crevices.

“Being around Edye will change your life,” said Carmen as she finished telling her cancer story from the far end of a couch at Edye’s house in Purcell. “We just went together. It blends. We blend.”

From a recliner where she sat scheduling their workweek on her cell phone, Edye pulled her long hair into a bun and smiled.

“We do blend,” she said. “We’re both survivors.”

Straight from the horse’s mouth 

Aristotle wrote about horse teeth in The History of Animals. The practice of tooth examination to determine a horse’s age dates back to 600 B.C.

For nearly 100 years, tooth floaters (a layman’s term for one who files horse teeth), horse owners, farriers, and veterinarians shared the dental pie here in Oklahoma, a state that often ranks in the top 10 of horse-population studies. In 2005, the American Horse Council estimated the United States’ horse population at 9.2 million—with 326,000 of them living in Oklahoma. It is also reported that most of owners uses better horse clippers for grooming which does not harm horses.

Tooth floaters, like farriers, held a long tradition of making barn calls. Many horse owners welcomed the convenience of having horses treated on their own stomping grounds by someone specializing in teeth. Equine dental training schools cropped up around the region, and classes filled with students hoping to start a new career. The veterinary industry noticed.

Veterinary oversight boards across the country reared up with often controversial tactics designed to rein in lay equine-dental technicians. They claimed potential harm could be done to horses, especially if sedation drugs were used to calm a horse before procedures.

Oklahoma barreled into the fray with 2008 legislation that made it a felony for non-veterinarians to file down horse teeth or provide other animal husbandry services. Representative Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, a licensed veterinarian, said he was asked to sponsor the bill by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Since 1990, it had been a misdemeanor for anyone without a veterinarian license to prescribe or administer drugs or perform animal dentistry, but prosecutors usually declined to act because of its minor offense status.

Renegar’s bill passed without a single “no” vote. Then all hell broke loose.

On March 4, 2009, Oklahoma rodeo star Bobby Griswold, one of the nation’s top saddle bronc riders and an equine dentist in the off season, was arrested for illegal dental work on a horse. He’d been called to an Oklahoma City convenience store parking lot after a sting operation by an undercover state investigator. Griswold injected the horse and administered dental work, reported the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

The arrest made national headlines and created a stampede of protests from rodeo fans, lay equine dentists, horse owners, and cowboys across the country. The Institute for Justice rode in to help support the cause of a vigilante group, the Coalition for Oklahoma Teeth Floaters, which formed practically overnight.

It was founded and led by Edye Lucas.

Another historic event earlier in her life had taught her how to deal with the media and government officials. Edye organized a rally at the state capitol and took to message boards to gain support. She convinced the Institute for Justice to stay involved. The move caught legislators off-guard, especially when horse owners and ranch families across the state began hounding them with requests to amend the law. They worried it would also affect animal-husbandry practices like horseshoeing, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and a slew of livestock services.

The debate turned even uglier when supporters of the law bought full-page newspaper ads and computer-generated phone messages claiming drugs used by equine dentists could potentially be used by humans as date-rape drugs or to induce abortion.

Both the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association joined the movement to amend the law. After weeks of rough debates where mouthfuls of “gnashing of teeth” rhetoric filled speeches and news stories, enough compromises were reached to reverse the law. In May of 2009, Governor Brad Henry signed a bill returning the act of filing down and extracting horses’ teeth without a veterinary license to misdemeanor status. A year later, he signed HB 3202, which allows equine dentists to practice without being arrested.

Currently, the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners can annually certify a “non-veterinary equine dental care provider,” but there appears to be no real requirement to do so. Horse owners can contact their veterinarian to obtain drugs for the procedure, but they must be picked up by the owner or the “owner’s agent”—which, realistically, could be the horse dentist. By law, an owner can administer drugs to his horse, but a caretaker, neighbor, or horse dentist cannot. Many horse owners still disagree with the restriction.

If wishes were horses 

On her 23rd birthday, in 1995, Edye chose a single pearl-white casket to cradle her sons, three-year-old Chase and two-year-old Colton. They lay tilted together, one brother’s hand upon another.

The night before they died, she watched them run through the new house she bought as a surprise. Her divorce from their father, Tony, had unsettled the family, and they had been living with her mother and stepfather. Quietly, she’d saved enough to secure a home loan and announced it to everyone on April 18. It was a fresh start in a dream home for just the three of them.

On the morning of April 19, 1995, Edye considered staying home from her secretary job at the Internal Revenue Service in downtown Oklahoma City. She wanted to paint the boys’ new room so they could move in as soon as she bought their bunk beds. But her co-workers wanted to celebrate her upcoming birthday with a cake, so she decided to work half a day and dropped the boys off at America’s Kids day-care center, located on the second floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda,” she says. “I’ve run that decision through my mind a million times.”

Just after 9 a.m., her coworkers shouted for her to come blow out the candles on her birthday cake. She walked toward the conference room and felt the floor tremble. It was 9:02 a.m. Four blocks away, a powerful cocktail of agricultural fertilizer, diesel fuel, and chemicals had detonated inside a Ryder rental truck parked in front of the Murrah Building.

“There was a massive explosion. We could feel the rumble. We could hear it. The entire building was shaking,” says Edye. “We all ran to the window, and all we could see were black plumes of smoke filling the sky. I knew it was something bad, but I wasn’t even thinking at the time that it was anywhere near my kids.”

Her mother, Kathy Wilburn, worked upstairs in the same office. Together, they stepped outside onto the street where the world was coming undone.

“People were running around screaming, and there were shards of glass falling from the buildings, and my mom shouted, ‘Edye, the babies’ and pointed toward the day-care center. I just started running.”

She bolted down the streets with her high school track speed, thankful she’d not changed from her tennis shoes to her high heels, which were still stuck in her purse at the office. Car explosions, sirens, and shouts pounded around her as she thought, “This feels like Baghdad.” It seemed more people were running away from the place she wanted to find than toward it. Four minutes later, she saw why.

The south side of the building gave her hope, but when an ATF agent told her she couldn’t enter, she ran to the front of the Murrah Building.

She turned the corner and dropped to her knees.

“It was just gone,” she says. “I knew. Right then, I knew that my kids were dead.”

At The Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, she waited for news with other families. Her adopted brother, Danny Coss, a police officer, had been off duty and saw his mother and sister during television coverage. He hurried to the hospital to tell them he was going to help search for his nephews.

He called once to ask if Chase was wearing blue jeans. He thought he’d found his body, but it was the wrong boy. The three-year-old had worn shorts that day. Later, he found Chase, tagged as deceased, lying in the back of a pickup truck.

“My brother came back to tell us, and he had the most dreadful look on his face. It makes me so sad, not just for me and the boys, but I think about my brother because it was so hard for him to go there and see that,” said Edye, pausing to catch her breath between tears.

What she thinks about, and what will always break her heart, is that her brother had to go back again. He stumbled over the rubble and studied the faces of some of the 19 children who died that day until he finally found Colton lying on a bench with a sheet covering him.

“When he saw a chubby body under the sheet, he knew it had to be Colton,” says Edye, smiling and crying at the same time.

Deep in the dark morning hours of April 20, as she and her mother lay on the boys’ twin beds at her mother’s house, they heard music. Across the room on a dresser, the boys’ carousel toy had begun to spin, filling the bedroom with a cartoon melody that felt eerie at first and then comforting as it faded.

More than 1,000 people attended the funeral conducted by Edye’s father, evangelist Richard Coss. He talked about the boys’ happy attitudes and praised the rescue teams.

“Jesus has been in the search-and-rescue business for a long time,” he said.

He had lived those words. Incarcerated 32 times for crimes ranging from stealing cars to assaulting police offers to illegal firearm possession, Coss had spent 10 years in jails and prisons by the time he was 25. While at El Reno Federal Reformatory in 1969, he accepted Christ. When he was released a year later, he began building a prison ministry and became an ordained minister. President Gerald Ford pardoned him in 1975.

“Because of growing up the way I did with my dad being a preacher, I always held on to my faith. That’s what got our family through it,” says Edye, who spent most of her childhood living on a Christian boys’ ranch where her father worked. “My parents divorced when I was 13, but still we all came together as family after the bomb.”

Strong family ties shaped her decision to end the funeral service with the boys’ favorite melody, a love song by a purple dinosaur: “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family…”

He stumbled over the rubble and studied the faces of some of the 19 children who died that day until he finally found Colton lying on a bench with a sheet covering him.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Edye’s story became one of the most publicized accounts of the Oklahoma City bombing. The New York Times, People magazine, OprahEntertainment Tonight, and hundreds of newspapers, radio shows, and other publications requested interviews. She felt obligated to tell Chase and Colton’s story, yet there were times when the media attention suffocated her.

“I welcomed it at first because I felt like I wanted my boys to be remembered, and I thought that this was a great way to let people know who they were,” she says.

She and her ex-husband, Tony, reconciled, perhaps more out of grief than love. Four months after losing her sons, she underwent surgery to reverse her tubal ligation. A doctor had offered the surgery after learning of her hope to have another child.

“We felt that we had to have a child together so it would be the same. We were hurting so bad and wanted so much for it to be the same,” says Edye. “It was a twisted way of thinking. I know that now.”

Tony proposed during a taping of the daytime talk show Leeza, and by September 9th the couple had tied the knot in Hawaii—an event covered and funded by The
National Enquirer

In the next few years, every shift in her life made headlines:

• 2nd Divorce for 2 Remarried after Bombing
The Chicago Tribune, September 6, 1996

• Mom of 2 Bomb Victims Is Married a Third Time
Deseret News, May 11, 1997

• For Bombing Victim a New Life Unfurls
Los Angeles Times, June 1, 1997

• Woman Who Lost Sons in OKC Bombing Gives Birth
—Associated Press, January 8, 1998

After marrying Paul Stowe in May of 1997, Edye underwent more fertility treatments offered for free by the Pacific Fertility Centers in California. Eventually, in-vitro fertilization was successful. She learned of Timothy McVeigh’s conviction for murder and conspiracy while on a plane en route to an appointment at the center.

“Cameras caught me as I left the plane. Reporters were asking so many questions,” Edye says. “I hated it.”

She had attended McVeigh’s trial for about a week but became so upset at the way people treated his family that she quit going.

Her son, Glenn Stowe, was born in January of 1998. He was named in honor of her late stepfather, Glenn Wilburn, who, along with her mother, launched their own investigation and spearheaded a petition calling for a grand jury investigation into possible conspiracies behind the bombing. Kathy Wilburn Sanders has written several books, including the recent Now You See Me: How I Forgave the Unforgivable, about how her quest to find answers led her to correspond and eventually establish a friendship with Terry Nichols. In 1998, Nichols was sentenced to life without parole for eight counts of manslaughter and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction as McVeigh’s accomplice.

Recently, Edye let go of more than 10,000 letters written to her by strangers from around the world. Terry Nichols also wrote her letters. In them, he wrote that he was glad she had found happiness. When he learned through her mother’s jail visits that Edye and Glenn were a bit under the weather he wrote a letter filled with suggestions of natural medicines that she might try.

“He is an odd fellow,” she says. “But I don’t believe he deserves to sit in a six-by-eight cell for the rest of his life. He didn’t drive to Oklahoma City and set off the bomb. I don’t hate him at all. I’ve forgiven him. He knows that he’s made some bad choices that have caused a lot of people a lot of heartache, and he’s sincerely sorry.”

It is just one of the strange situations Edye found herself in during the years following the bombing. In 1996, in hopes of finding answers, Edye and her mother traveled to Elohim City, an isolated compound in Adair County, Oklahoma, that McVeigh reportedly frequented.

“It was like a Smurf village: all these little, round huts that they live in. They have this weird church building. We went in there and they were treating us like we were heroes of the Aryan movement because we questioned what the government was saying,” Edye says. “I wanted to tell them ‘No, we’re not white supremacists. We’re not part of you, but we’ll pretend like we are if it will help us get information.’ ”

She left with unanswered questions. The family still believes in a John Doe #2. Edye wishes that “someone would grow a conscience and tell what happened.” Today, she seldom talks about the bombing unless someone asks.

Edye divorced again in 2000, followed by two more failed marriages. Her daughter, Emjay Lucas, was born in 2005. For the past three years, she’s been in a relationship with Kyle Airington.

Through the years, people have sent her paintings, stuffed animals, and other items often addressed to “the mother of the two little boys.” She recently donated many of them to the Oklahoma City Memorial, a place she takes Glenn, 17, and Emjay, 9, every year.

“Chase and Colton became part of American history, and now Glenn and Emjay are reading about them in their history books,” she says. “It’s important to me that my kids know those little blond boys were also their brothers.”

A horse of a different color

April 19 still tugs at Oklahomans when it rolls around every year. It’s been 20 years now since what we once called “the United States’ worst act of terrorism” shook our sense of security.

At this year’s anniversary service on April 19, Edye will read the names of victims. She will relive the sadness and think, like us, how something so long ago can still feel like yesterday.

During our last interview, after we talked our way through a horse’s mouth and the pain layered over both their lives, I mention how many other notable events fall on April 19 and the days surrounding it.

It’s a depressing list:

• The start of the American Revolutionary War

• Siege of Waco

• Columbine High School Massacre

• Virginia Tech shootings

• Adolf Hitler’s birthday

• Boston Marathon explosions

• Raid of the Arkansas hideout of Covenant, the Sword and Arm of the Lord, a white-power group

They are surprised at the news events and the fact that I carry them around in my head, so I tell them why.

April 19, 1980, is my wedding anniversary.

Sometimes, it feels April lives up to its “cruelest month” curse. Thanks, T.S. Eliot. I tell Edye and Carmen how in 2011 my husband and I hiked up to a sacred Buddhist site, Paro Taktsang, commonly known as the Tiger’s Nest, in Bhutan. When we stood on a cliff overlooking the monastery, our Bhutanese friend Sangay dimmed the moment with the story of a deadly fire that destroyed the main building along with many ancient paintings and artifacts. A monk died in the blaze, which erupted on April 19, 2011.

Carmen blows out a “that kinda sucks.”

Edye’s cell phone beeps with text messages from customers in Wyoming, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, and elsewhere. It seems miles of rundown teeth await them in 2015. The forecast calls for bitter cold followed by a harsh spring and a fevered summer. There are rumors the equine dentistry controversy may flare back up again in states where customers want them to work.

No one seems too worried about what lies ahead, but we leave with a bit of an ache in our hearts for April.

Originally published in This Land: Spring 2015.