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.