It's a rainy morning here and has me in a story-telling mood. Someday, Lord willing, I will be a grandma and I want to be the cookie-baking, story-telling-on-a-rainy-day kind. So if you don't mind I'll practice on you, because you are wonderful.
|Me, on the horse on the left, supported only by a disembodied hand.|
We lived on a ranch outside Denver when I was about 3. We have photos of toddler me on a huge black horse, smiling like an idiot. Then we moved to a farm outside Pimple-on-the-Map, Iowa. 6-year-old me had one of those get-thrown-from-a-horse-and-have-it-run-over-top-of-you moments. A couple of years later and we were living on a Wisconsin farm (we moved a lot) and 8.5-year-old me had become terrified of horses. I blamed my parents. They didn’t put me right back on the horse that had thrown 6-year-old me.
“We didn’t put you back on because you couldn’t walk. You had just been run over by a horse for Pete’s sake.’
Fine. But I hated being scared of horses.
Our little rented house was near the big farmhouse, which contained the farmer and his family. He had a daughter about my age named Lisette. She was skinny, had red hair, a temper, and perpetual dirt under her fingernails. That dirt was a badge of honor because she was a FARM GIRL. She called me a CITY SLICKER, and supported this slander by pointing out that my parents made me bathe every night.
City slicker? How nasty could she get? Since my parents wouldn’t let me skip the baths, I needed an alternative plan to prove my city-slicklessness. I would ride Lisette’s horse Bubbles.
One fine morning found me standing by the barn, breathing deeply of fresh country air delicately scented with manure, Lisette at my back and face to face with Bubbles.
“Get up.” Lisette ordered.
“This is the most enormous horse I have ever seen!”
“It’s a pony, and it’s shorter than you. So am I and I can get up. Chicken.”
“There’s no saddle!”
“Could you get up with a saddle if there was one?”
“Then get up!’
Something that sounded suspiciously like ‘city slicker’ followed. My pride welling, I put hands to Bubbles’ broad back. I launched into the air. Too much adrenaline. I almost vaulted clean over to the other side and would have landed head first in heaven knew what if Lisette hadn’t grabbed my ankles.
With much squirming (me) grunting (Lisette) and eye-rolling (Bubbles) I managed to get astride the creature. I was even facing the right direction. Lisette levitated up to sit in front of me, grabbed a handful of mane and bellowed, “Get movin!”
One second the world was quiet, orderly and stationary around me. The next second barns, outbuildings, cows, and telephone poles shaped liked Lisette were flying past me in the opposite direction. My ears were roaring and my eyes were stinging and if we had come up alongside a race car at that moment I’m sure we would have left it in the dust. I felt myself slipping sideways and clutched at whatever was within reach. Something long and red caught my eye and I snatched it like a lifeline.
“Hey, let go of my hair!”
I saw Lisette’s eyes glaring at me where her mouth should be. Her face was upside down. I pondered how this could be for a moment and then realized I was pulling back on her hair so hard that she would end up with her head in my lap if I didn’t act quickly. I let go. Gravity immediately asserted itself and I started to slip toward the other side. I grabbed her around the waist.
“Can’t breath! Can’t breath!”
“What? I can’t hear you! Slow down!”
I must have gripped tightly enough to stop the flow of blood to Lisette’s brain because she slowed to a trot.
Technically, trotting is when the horse comes up as you are coming down and you meet with enough force to crush cylinders of steel. After a few minutes I was convinced that I would never sit on any solid surface again without a pillow strapped to my backside.
“D-Does B-Bubbles have any sm-smoother gear?”
Lisette, who somehow seemed to bounce in time with Bubbles, said through what sounded suspiciously like gritted teeth,
“Sure. How’s this?”
“Less bumpy. Still too fast”
“Nope. Too fast yet”
“I know.” I slid to the ground with amazing grace. Once I could stand without wobbling, I brushed Bubble hair off myself and started down the road.
“What are you doing?”
“It’s over a mile!”
Limping happily back to the farm, I startled an inquisitive little mouse who scampered out of the ditch to see who was bow-legging her way down his dusty road.
“Don’t mind me,” I told him. “I’m just a city slicker.”