Tuesday, June 28, 2016

WILD RIDE





My cousin Nancy and I are the same age. Well, actually I'm five months older. Our mothers were sisters (both now deceased). Nancy grew up in New Jersey and I was raised in Southern California. Despite the span of three thousand miles, we always shared a close bond - more like siblings than cousins.

Now - at this late point in our lives - we both live in Tennessee (only a few miles from each other), and we enjoy remembering the youthful adventures we shared.

 Sixteen years old

I always savored the summers that I spent in New Jersey, staying with my aunt and uncle. It was like a prison break - - being away from my father and all the trauma, chaos, and stress he constantly caused. The freedom was exhilarating.

My cousin Nancy and I shared an inherent knack for courting adventure and getting into various degrees of trouble. On this subject alone I could write a book.

This story doesn't necessarily pertain to trouble, but rather it's about a ride I'll never forget. We were sixteen years old that summer.

Nancy always loved horses and is an expert rider. She rode very frequently when she lived in New Jersey. The closest I ever got to a horse was watching Gunsmoke on TV.

It was inevitable that she'd ask me to go riding. I suppressed my intense apprehension and summoned the paltry portion of machoism that I kept on the bottom of my Keds tennis shoes.

"I'd love to!" I said, while visions of my obituary raced through my head - Headline: California Kid Clobbered in Colossal Riding Catastrophe.

My fear was momentarily sidetracked when we got to the stables and Nancy accidentally locked her keys in the trunk of the car. Actually, it wasn't her car. It was her parent's treasured Camaro -- which was more sacred to the family than the gigantic Catholic Bible they kept stashed in the dining room closet.

After exhausting every conceivable attempt to extract the keys without damaging the car, we resorted to one final desperate ploy: removing the back seat.

How exactly we removed the back seat I can't remember - - but after some laborious maneuvering, the seat finally popped out and we had access to the trunk.

Putting the back seat together again was a challenge worthy of minds far more sophisticated than our own. After an hour of agony (or so it seemed) we completed the task.

  Our inept handiwork didn't go unnoticed. Ever since then, every time the car was used, the back seat would slowly but steadily pop out and had to be forcefully pushed back. My aunt and uncle never knew why.


  But I've sidetracked my story.

We eventually made it to the riding trails, and I  managed to mount a horse. In consideration of my apprehension and minimal riding experience, I was given a horse aptly named Mule. To say that he had been ridden by General George McClellan during the Civil War might be a slight exaggeration - but nevertheless, Mule was undeniably old. He was also slow, gentle, and clockwork predictable - - which suited my timid riding personality.

I won't mention the painful saddle sores that inflicted my tender virgin ass during our early evening rides. I will say that I eventually got used to Mule and enjoyed our rides on the trail.....

....until the fateful day when Mule was suddenly incapacitated. I don't exactly remember why he was unavailable, but I vividly remember the substitute horse with which I was provided. His name was Pal - - and a more inappropriate name for a miserable mount was never devised.

Pal was not only mercilessly stubborn, he could instantly sense that an inexperienced sissy was in the saddle. And he was determined to make my equestrian experience as unbearable as possible.

He stopped when I wanted to go. He went when I tried to stop. He deliberately maneuvered his stride into an unpredictable clumsy pace, which elevated the pain of my saddle sores to new levels.

Halfway along the trail was a house where an old lady lived who hated horses and their riders. On previous occasions, every time Nancy and I rode by, she would inevitably come out of the house and scream at us to keep away from her flowers.

She had a large and very impressive-looking flowerbed at the front of her property. We did our best to avoid it at all costs.

Pal, as if eagerly sensing an invitation of danger, stopped by the flowerbed and began nibbling the begonias. When I frantically tried to pull him away, he ventured farther into the vast roadside bouquet and greedily chomped every flower within reach. I panicked.

"Nancy!" I yelled. "What should I do?"

My cousin jumped off her horse and took my reins - but Pal was obstinate, even with an expert. He refused to obey Nancy and wouldn't budge from the midst of the fragrant blooms.

Fortunately, the old lady didn't seem to be around. I figured either she wasn't home, or she saw us from the window and dropped dead.  

After Pal had his fill of flowers, I desperately tried to steer him back to the trail but he had other ideas. He headed for the open door of the old lady's garage and went right in! Fear turned into shock as Pal and I were suddenly occupying the empty place next to a big Oldsmobile.

It took a Herculean amount of persuasive power to finally, somehow, maneuver Pal back onto the trail. After completely trampling the flowerbed and touring the garage, he seemed a little more calm and agreeable. I actually felt confident enough to retrieve a cigarette from my pocket and light up (smokes were one of our secret pleasures).

When Pal suddenly stopped and reared up on his hind legs, I choked on my smoke and realized I was in big trouble. Before I could get my breath, the horse did a quick about face and --Hi-Yo Silver!-- we were off!

In my wildest cowboy fantasy, I never dreamed a horse could gallop so fast. We were racing back towards the stables at breakneck speed - bounding over rocks and ruts, leaping over bushes, and zooming past dangerously close trees.

"Nancy!" I shrieked in an alarmingly high falsetto. "How do I stop him?"

Nancy was now very far behind me, but I could hear her shouting "Pull the reins! Pull the reins!"

I pulled - and the harder I pulled, the faster Pal went. I was eventually pulling so hard that his head was all the way back and I could see his denture work.

The cigarette blew out of my mouth, my feet slipped from the stirrups, and I was clutching Pal for dear life as I repeatedly ducked to avoid being decapitated by low overhanging tree branches.  

When I glanced ahead and saw the tall fence that surrounded the stables, my pathetically brief life flashed before my eyes. If I wasn't so terrified I would have screamed - -  my scream was merely a silent gesture of farewell.

I opened my eyes after enduring a hard and sudden thump and saw a cloud of dust. We had successfully leaped over the fence and were now galloping toward the barn. I didn't have time to thank God that the door was open. In another instant we were inside, in total darkness, and Pal didn't stop until we nearly plunged into the opposite wall.

I slid off of that horse onto skinny legs that were weaker than two strands of spaghetti. I was shaking like a pansy in a zephyr and it took all my effort to emerge from the barn.

Nancy was there - - unquestionably concerned but erupting in convulsive laughter. After realizing that I was still alive and reasonably intact, I started laughing, too. 

If any event in my life could have been captured on film, that ride with Pal would be my first choice. It was far beyond priceless.

Did it dissuade me from ever riding again? Not much. A few days later Nancy and I were on the trail again - - and I was safely back on Mule

 Nancy still rides here in Tennessee.
So far, I haven't. 



 

35 comments:

  1. Glad you and your cousin have each other. When a horse has a mind of his own you just have to hang tight. You painted a vivid picture of that ride with Pal. Glad you kept your wits about you and could have a good laugh afterwards. A faux cowboy needs to ride again. Pick a date Jon and get back in the saddle.

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    1. It's a rather strange and satisfying fluke of fate that Nancy and I finally live near each other after all these years. I'm not sure if I'd had the stamina to dare ride again.

      I wonder if Pal is still alive???

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  2. I have always been fondest of horses with no spirit whatsoever. Wonderfully written anecdote, Jon!

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    1. Mule had just enough spirit for me to handle. I have enough trouble trying to control my cats.

      I've slightly revised this post since you first read it, Geo. And I still think my writing is rather sloppy....

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  3. I was on a horse once, when I was about 12, once was enough for the horse and I learned to never argue with a horse. I laughed at the phrase "virgin ass," sorry I did.

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    1. I threw in the "virgin ass" thing because I thought it was funny. I also figured that no one would notice it. Glad you did!

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  4. Replies
    1. Horses are kinda spooky. You never know what they're thinking. And they're too damn big.

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  5. Oh you bring back memories. But I have broken bones to go with my stories. I owned and showed horses. I called them "My drug of choice".
    I loved this post.

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    1. I'll bet you have some fantastic stories to tell!

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  6. I'm amazed you stayed aboard the animal through all that, esp. the jumps. Mys sister owned horses, mainly Arabians, most of her life, and my youngest Emily is an expert rider. As for myself, despite owning Acme cowboy boots since I was 12 (all skiiers back then wore cowboy boots), the few times I've ridden usually ended with the horse leaving me in the dirt.
    I'm off to LA in a few hours,
    Cheers,
    Mike

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    1. Much like you, I've worn cowboy boots since I was a teen - - but they did nothing to make me a good rider (*smile*). I don't know much about horses, but Arabians are truly beautiful.

      In retrospect, I have absolutely no clue how I managed to hang onto Pal. At that time I was weak and pathetically skinny (only around 120 pounds!). Today I weigh in excess of 185.

      Enjoy your time in LA.

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  7. OMG! I'm wiping away a tear...from laughing! I know that had to be so scary, but one of those events in life that you just can't help but laugh about later. Maybe we laugh because we survived--who knows. I bet it didn't stop you from smoking, either. When I smoked nothing would have stopped me. Not even when they put those new "you might die of cancer" warnings on the packs. ;)

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    1. My cousin and I have laughed about that incident many times. I truly don't know how I survived, but in retrospect it's hilarious.

      As for cigarettes - I mostly smoked for "show" and seldom inhaled. But I sure miss the good ol' days when the government didn't warn us about the dangers of everything.

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  8. That was hilarious. Visions of things like that wild ride is why I have only been on a horse once in my life.

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    1. Once can definitely be enough. Fortunately my wild ride on Pal didn't frighten me from riding again - but it made me extremely cautious. I never again took a horse for granted.

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  9. Life tells wonderful stories. There's magic in your storytelling ... I didn't wish it to end. I can't imagine how you managed to hold on through all of that. Too funny !

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    1. Wow, thanks for the compliment. My biggest concern was that this post is too long - - yet I didn't want to drastically cut it. Delighted to know I made you laugh!

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  10. I thought I'd seen a part of this on your other blog, but I don't recall the Camero drama ... and certainly couldn't have laughed as hard. In particular? The visual of a gigantic Catholic Bible, stashed in the dining room closet.
    I imagine ole' Pal had himself the best time at your expense. (Was he grinning last you saw him?) Never have I ever bought into what some people call, 'dumb animals.'

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    1. You're very observant. I did indeed write about this in my old blog. When I reread it, I thought my writing was incredibly shoddy so I decided to write it again from scratch.

      I honestly don't remember ever seeing Pal again after my wild ride. He was probably in the barn having spasms of horse laughs for days (maybe weeks).

      The family Bible thing is an inside joke - since Nancy dislikes the Catholics and has long abandoned the religion. Her parents did indeed keep a HUGE expensive Catholic Bible in the closet, which they treasured. Unfortunately, they never read it.

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  11. I too remember reading some of this adventure but it's always good for a laugh. The first time I got on a horse it walked under a clothesline. I've only been on one since and I don't care much for horses or goats but you know I love cows. You and Nancy look alike, two nice looking people.

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  12. I thought you'd probably remember this adventure. I wrote about it in Lone Star Concerto, but I decided to revise it. I like horses and cows - but mostly from a safe distance. I could sure use some goats to eat all the weeds around here.

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  13. Jon,

    Thank goodness you didn't resort to trying to open the trunk with crowbars to get in the car! Now if that horseback ride should occur today I'm sure somebody would have gotten it for YouTube. Ah, I wish it could have been.

    Larry

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    1. I have no doubt that my wild ride would have gone viral if it was on YouTube. Thank goodness YouTube didn't exist back then....

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  14. Jon, I know all about skipping words and sentences, but I missed not ONE word. You had me all the way and there was no chance of losing my interest. I cannot imagine what kept you in the saddle! Glue? Sheer fear on your part allowed Pal to have control, and maybe that is what saved you. My horse once walked right into our kitchen (about 1/2 mile from his fence) due to smelling mom peeling potatoes. She feared horses, but sadly survived the fright.

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    1. Who ever knew a horse could be attracted to the smell of potatoes! That's funny!

      I'll never know how I stayed on Pal for the entire duration of the ride. I was a weak and pathetically skinny kid back then - probably only around 120 pounds. I now weigh in excess of 185.
      All I know for sure is that I hung on as tight as I possibly could. My initial instinct was to jump off the horse. Good thing I didn't.

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  15. I have enjoyed both your blogs for some time.They have been part of the inspiration that that gave me courage to begin my own blog.Stop by if you want to and thanks.

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    1. Thanks for your input, Angela. I'm flattered to hear that my humble blog was part of the inspiration for you starting your own.

      When I started my first blog (long ago) I had no idea what to write about. It's amazing how many things come to mind when you start thinking. The most important thing is to just be yourself and let the words flow.

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  16. A wonderful story, beautifully told. I could just about see you hanging onto that horse for dear life. I did a little bit of riding when I was young, but I'm not sure I would've gotten back on a horse after that kind of experience. (You really ARE a cowboy... er... horseboy...)

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    1. Hey, Donna - thanks! I'm glad I revised and re-posted it.

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  18. OMIGOD JON! I was a little late to getting around to reading this blog entry but I'm glad I did! LAUGH OUT LOUD! This was hilarious Jon I can so identify with your experience. I've never ridden a horse. I think I was on one at one time but maybe it was a dream. All I can remember is my legs straddling a hot sweaty beast. The horse didn't move. I got off. Jon, can you imagine if the ubiquitous smart phones were around at that time and someone videotaped you and put it on You Tube? You would have went viral! So funny. You really do have a natural talent for writing Jon. That's why you have so many devoted blog followers.
    Ron

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    1. I knew you'd like this one, Ron - and I'm glad I made you laugh. Out of all the many crazy incidents that happened in my life, this is the one that always stands out. Nancy and I still laugh at it.
      (in fact, she told me that when she read this, she almost wet her pants laughing)

      I only wish that my wild ride could have been videotaped! Things were so different back then. We didn't even have a camera.

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  19. Hey Jon - I don't get around to reading blogs often but Ron pointed this one out to me. What a great story of an amazing experience. I loved your closeness to horses only being Gunsmoke. But wow - a rapid gallop and jumping the fence. And you lived to tell the tale. Kudos to you! My experience was a one time only. Never really interested but back then when we teenagers got away to a summery resort area - the things to do were - swim in the lake, go go carting, and ride horseback. Certainly didn't mind the first two. I was afraid too that the horse would sense my nervousness and take advantage of me. But all in all it was just a slow trot - tho cigarettes, and I think sunglasses, quickly escaped my shirt pocket never to be seen again.

    Pat

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    1. Hey, Pat - thanks so much for visiting my blog. My wild ride was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wouldn't want to repeat it.

      Horses can definitely sense a nervous, inexperienced rider - and Pal took complete advantage of me. I'll never know how I hung on.

      I'd rather just watch horses on TV (Gunsmoke).....

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