Skip Boyland was so small as a young child, he was regularly picked on and bullied at school in his hometown of Newburgh, New York, along the Hudson River. Fortunately, Boyland had an inventive, creative mother. A stay-at-home mom raising four children -- Skip was the youngest -- Gail Boyland had an idea to make her son feel better about himself. In 1963, on a legal-size notepad, she wrote and illustrated a story about a boy like her youngest son. She called it "Danny Peanuts."
Now 54 years later, and 26 years after his mother's death, Boyland has published "Danny Peanuts" both as a tribute to his mother and an inspiration for other young kids struggling with their self esteem.
"My mom wasn't a professional artist but she could have been. She was very talented. She drew at home and did a lot of crafts," Boyland said. "She was very cool. Everybody loved her. She was everybody's favorite."
Becoming a publisher is not anything that came naturally to Boyland. He's a ferrier with 300 "clients" a month, primarily at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez.
"I'm the only shoer in the Valley that is California Horse Racing Board Certified," Boyland said. "Racing horses are my niche."
Boyland shoes horses being trained to go to the track and when they return, when they're retired from the track for breeding or for rehab. At Magali, another shoer is responsible for the mares and babies.
"They've had some famous horses here at Magali but to me, a horse is a horse. I'm just in charge of their feet," Boyland laughed.
It was his size that led Boyland toward horses as a career. Coming out of high school, his original goal was to become a jockey, and although his height never exceeded the jockey average, he developed a stocky build. At 5 feet 5 inches tall, he currently weighs 145 pounds. The limit for thoroughbred racing jockeys is 112 pounds, he explained.
Boyland's grandparents lived in Porterville, which opened up an interesting career alternative. He stayed with them while attending the Porterville Horseshoeing and Training School, which at the time, was one of the biggest such operations in the state. It prepared Boyland to spend the next decade working as a shoer and exercise rider at tracks throughout Southern California.
"I had clients at Santa Anita who had horses up here in the Valley. They asked me to come up to shoe their horses. At the time, it was Westerly Training Center which is now Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. That's how I ended up here," he recalled.
An outdoorsman and adventurer, Boyland volunteers with the U.S. Forest Service clearing trees and trails in Los Padres National Forest. He has a special affinity for national parks, and recently went off-roading in Death Valley National Park and Canyonsland National Park in Utah.
"I'm an advocate for a healthy lifestyle. Just keep moving," he said. "I do a lot of hiking, backpacking, a lot of cycling."
For a while, his adventures also took him indoors, leading a spinning class at Performance Fitness in Solvang. He enjoyed it, Boyland said.
"They're great people there but I was shoeing at the same time and it got to be too much."
He gave up the 6 a.m. commitment after five years. It was fortuitous timing because he's spent so much of his free time in the last two years working on the publication of "Danny Peanuts."
The project was launched when a good friend, Debbie Jenae, saw the original notepad version of "Danny Peanuts." An author and illustrator (and former Santa Ynez Valley News columnist), Jenae immediately thought "Danny Peanuts" had potential as a book.
"I thought it would be fun," Boyland said. "Little did I know what it would entail. She got the ball rolling."
Gail Boyland's original illustrations were in black and white. However, she also produced a single copy of the original as a small book, adding color. Jenae cleaned up all those illustrations and added color to the book's cover and through the story to Danny as well. Jenae is credited for the book's design and production.
"We also cleaned up the grammar and some spelling errors because we want it to be a school book. It's for little kids who are learning to read. I wanted to do it in a good way," Boyland said.
The result is the book is already being read in some schools in Oxnard and Boyland hopes schools in the Valley, Lompoc and beyond will pick up on it.
But most importantly, Boyland published "Danny Peanuts" as a tribute to his mom.
"She was crazy. She was a nut. As a kid, I had to warn my friends before they met my mother. She wore crazy outfits and had a great sense of humor," Boyland laughed. "She would be so thrilled. I can see her smiling."