Monday, February 28, 2011

The Wild Ride

As a boy growing up in Crockett I was around horses on a regular basis.  We didn't own an oat burner ourselves, but a lot of my friends did.  Many times one of my buddies would ride up on a horse, leading another, and ask me to go riding.  I never turned down an invitation.

My most memorable experience occurred the summer I turned twelve years old.  Dawn Rials, a close friend of the family and truly my second mother, invited me to accompany her to visit her parents.  They lived on a small piece of property several miles out  in the country.  They were getting on up in years and in failing health, so family members paid regular visits to tend to their needs.  I'd been there many times and always looked forward to seeing them.

That afternoon some of their relatives from Houston were also visiting.  Dawn's niece and nephew were there and taking turns riding their grandparents' horse around the property.  They were two and four years older than me and I had met them on several occasions.  After greeting their Aunt Dawn they invited me to take a few turns on the horse.  I thanked them, mounted the horse and made my away along the fence.

The horse was well on up in years and moved at the speed of a thousand pound snail.  I gave him a couple of light kicks to get into the next gear, but it had no effect.  The adults were standing by the fence visiting and paid no attention and we flew by at a slow walk.  I decided if things didn't pick up after another round I was going to get down and call it a day.

As we passed by I heard Dawn's mother say, "Maybe this should be his last ride.  You know how he gets when he has had enough."

I didn't know what she meant, but the only thing I could imagine that slug doing when he'd had enough was stop, fart, and lay down for a nap.  In about two minutes I was going to find out.

Apparently the horse had a built in sense that picked up some kind of demonic signal.  The message he received was always the same; "Whatever you are doing, stop, run directly for the barn and to hell with all the obstacles in your way. NOW GO!"

About a second before the horse got the command from the devil, I decided to kick him one more time.  We were across the yard from the barn, so he was about to cover a lot of ground, unknown to me.  As soon as I kicked he raised up on his hind legs, spun completely around, and  took off for the barn like he was leaving the gate at the Kentucky Derby.   He lined up with the barn and took off at a dead run.

The first thing I saw that might present a problem was a three strand clothesline. We were approaching fast and gaining speed with every step.  In the moment I had to assess my predicament I noticed the wires were about six inches higher that the saddle horn.  The horse was moving too fast for me to jump off, so I leaned back in the saddle as far as I could and hoped we would pass under the wires.  The first wire caught me just above the belt, traveled along my stomach, under my chin and clipped my nose for good measure.  A layer of skin was removed during the ordeal.  This was repeated when wires number two and three made the same journey.  I was in pain.

I sat up in the saddle just in time to see the tree.  I don't remember what kind of tree it was, but it did have thorns.  The horse picked up the pace as he lowered his head and passed under the lowest limbs.  The resistance of my broken and bloody body passing through limbs and thorns finally made him slow up a little bit.  As he came out the other side I flew off the back of the saddle and hit the ground, stomach first.

I was flat on my face in the dirt and gasping for air.  When the adults helped me to my feet I looked down at my shirt, or what was left of it.  I had cuts and scrapes from my waist to the top of my head.  The sweat from the one hundred degree heat wasn't adding to my comfort level either.  Someone brought some water to wash the cuts and some ointment and bandages to dress the wounds.  I didn't care.  I had shown those wimps from Houston how a stud from Crockett could handle a stallion.  I think of that horse each time I see a bottle of glue or a can of dog food.  It always brings a smile to my face.

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