Sunday, July 10, 2016

SLIPPERY SLOPE

Did you ever deeply regret posting something before it was edited...and before you sobered up and gave it careful consideration? I do that very often - - and, in the process, I piss people off. It's part of my many charms.
Anyway, here's the edited version: 


After I wrote Wild Ride I suddenly remembered that there had been a much earlier time when I had trouble with a horse. It's not nearly as exciting a tale as when I rode Pal in New Jersey, but it's worthy of mention.  And I have some supplemental photos, just for those skeptics who think I make this stuff up.

I was six years old and my parents were spending a few summer weeks in Red River, New Mexico. 

Boring but necessary background information:

Red River is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet. My mother had relatives who owned a resort there. Mom used to spend all her summers working at the resort before she was married.

Long ago Red River was a very quaint and obscure place, which was only open to tourists during the summer. Wealthy people would come there, mostly to hunt and fish. Nowadays, it has been turned into a big gaudy commercialized ski resort and all of its rustic charm has completely vanished.

When I was six, the place was still isolated and the roads were treacherous. We had to be transported there by jeep. 

 The old switchbacks near Red River, which are no longer in existence.

We stayed in some cabins owned by my mom's relatives. Every morning, just after dawn, a large herd of horses would run right past my window. I always jumped up and watched them, mesmerized. Sleek, beautiful animals, with thundering hooves that shook the earth and kicked up enormous clouds of dust.

 Patty Kane (left) and me standing by one of the cabins

I wasn't the only kid at the Red River ranch that summer. There was also a girl named Patty Kane who was about three years older than myself. Her mother was a friend of the family and lived in Los Angeles.

One day someone suggested (I don't remember who) that Patty and I should  go riding. A big, old clodhopper of a horse was extracted from the stable. He was undoubtedly chosen because of his mellow and amicable disposition.

Patty, who had ridden before, took the reigns and I was perched behind her. Several other riders were ahead of us on the trail.

 Patty and I on the horse, just before we got on the trail (Polaroid photo taken by my father)

Everything seemed to be going fine until the clodhopper Patty and I were riding decided to get feisty. He neighed, kicked up dust, and started going in circles.

Then, completely without warning, he left the trail and took off down the side of the mountain! This was no hill, it was a dangerously steep slope, and the horse was bounding out of control. The faster we went the more I panicked.

Never one for chivalry, I leaped off the horse and left Patty to fend for herself. The horse screeched to a halt at the edge of a precarious cliff.

All I remember after my leap is that some men came down the mountainside with ropes to rescue us (and the horse). I wasn't traumatized. I didn't cry. But I don't recall having the urge to ride again any time soon.

And I didn't get on a horse again until ten years later, when I had the unforgettable wild ride on Pal. I suppose the Red River incident was a sort of precursor.  

There's a sad footnote to this story. Shortly after that summer in Red River, Patty Kane's mother was brutally murdered in Los Angeles. Her mother owned a business on Figueroa, and she happened to be there doing work after hours. Somebody broke in through a back window to rob the place and shot her. The killer was never found.

That tragic incident always haunted me. I wonder where Patty is today, and if she remembers that long-ago horse incident in Red River.

  


 



21 comments:

  1. What a dramatic tale. And the sad aftermath with Patty's mother. The switchback roads and cabin photos really take me to this place, somehow. Wild and hot and amazing. Great story. One of my favourite of your posts.

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    1. Many thanks, Jenny. Unfortunately you read the unedited version. It's a little more concise and amicable now...

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  2. You really knew how to mysteriously rile up a horse, didn't you! ;)
    The old photos really bring the story to life, for sure. That is so sad about Patty's mother. Yes, makes you wonder whatever happened to her.

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    1. It's amazing that I didn't think of this incident until after I wrote my first post, Wild Ride.
      For some reason, horses and I don't seem to connect.

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  3. Took down my comment on yesterdays piece as ultimately I did not feel qualified to comment.Happily though my comment on today's will serve to comment on both.
    In all senses you sure can ride.

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    1. Angela, I'm not qualified to write these posts, but that doesn't stop me....

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  4. ew, that first pix gives me vertigo. have you tried googling patty?

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    1. Unfortunately I don't know Patty's current name. I never saw her after that summer and she probably eventually got married.

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  5. Now you've gone and made me homesick! :) I don't recall our ever visiting Red River, tho' we weren't that far. Touristy or not, I'd love to see it someday.

    That pix of you and Patty on the horse is adorable!

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    1. I've only seen Red River about four times in my entire life. My mom knew everything about it because she lived there so often. She absolutely loved that place.

      I should really do a blog post about Red River. I have lots of old photos and information.

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  6. Amazingly told and written, as always. I hope they find Patty's murderer someday...cold cases are often solved these days.

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  7. I admittedly don't know much about the murder and would like to know more.

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  8. There is nothing more mesmerizing and beautiful than WILD horses. As for the one you and Patty could not tame, I'm glad you both lived to tell the tale. Going over the edge of a precarious cliff would have been tragic. So sad to hear Patty's mother was murdered.

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    1. I've often wondered if those herds of horses I saw in Red River were wild. Probably not.....but I do remember that I was completely fascinated by them.

      I wish I could recall more details about the murder, but I was so young then.

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  9. I have inspected the horse in the old photo and decided there is some business in his eye. He was planning outrage. But then I decide that about every horse I've been invited to ride. Glad you and friend survived!

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    1. Horses always seem to have a secret plan....and they can definitely sense tenderfoot sissies. I'm sure the Red River horse was a distant relative of "Pal" in New Jersey.

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  10. I've never met a horse who liked me, most of my sister's would purposefully step on my foot.

    We had a 'summer' place like that in the southern coastal range in Oregon, a jeep trail of several miles. My uncles would go deer hunting there in August and Sept., well before the actual deer season started. They explained to me the woods were 'less crowded' then....
    Cheers,
    Mike

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  11. Horses are very strange and mysterious animals. They are never congenial and reliable like all the ones I saw on TV westerns. Every horse I ever encountered would inevitably cause trouble.

    Some of the hunters around here also start hunting in Aug. and Sept., too.

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  12. Another fascinating story Jon! Have you considered getting a horse where you live now? Several good reasons. That horse could take care of your overgrown weed problem. Also, having a horse nearby could provide you with a quick getaway. Or then you could get goats. No quick getaway but no more weed problem either.
    Always thinking of you Jon and your precarious isolation!👍😝

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    1. A horse would probably be more trouble than it's worth - and with my luck it would take me over another cliff. I have thought about getting goats, but there's no guarantee they'll eat weeds. I knew somebody in Texas who had goats. They only ate the GOOD grass - they wouldn't touch the weeds.

      Goats seem to be smarter than we think...

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  13. Those old photos are great. With an experience like that, it's a miracle you ever put your derriere in a saddle again.

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