Sunday, March 14, 2010

Two Charlies, Dopey, and a Ten Year Old

As a child, my parents would take us to Huntington Lake every couple of summers for vacation. They would rent a cabin. We would go fishing, with those tiny little marshmallow-looking baits. I liked the hot pink ones. We would roast marshmallows (not power bait) with dirty sticks we found in the woods…and it was okay because we were camping. We would ride horses and walk funny for the rest of the day. I always looked forward to it.

I had a special horse that I got to ride almost every time we went. My brother’s horse was the sibling of my horse. Their names were something like Red or Red Charlie…and Brown Charlie something. Obviously, I forget.

Those horses were beautiful and gentle. Not being raised in a barn, I did not grow up riding horses. Naturally, the horse tour guide picked out well trained horses for us kiddos. I never felt scared riding Brown Charlie. There was a mutual understanding that he would take care of me, and I would pet his long mane.

The last summer we went back to Huntington Lake, I got a different horse. The two horses were not around. I am not sure what happened to  Red Charlie and Brown Charlie. I imagine they died. Perhaps for the stories sake, I’ll say they were adopted by a kind Dutch rancher.

The new horse was white. I don’t recall this horse’s name either, but I will call him Dopey. Dopey was picked again, by a horse trainer. Dopey didn’t look me in the eyes. We did not have a mutual understanding. I was older, so the mutual understanding wasn’t necessary. I was a big girl (perhaps ten) and wasn’t going to act like a sissy.

Dopey was fine. We went up the mountain with no problems. Despite this, my heart was racing. I squeezed onto the handle so tight, my hands ached. I tried to reassure myself: my parents and my older brother were there, plus the horse guide. It would be okay.

We reached the top of the mountain and stopped the horses for a small break/ vista moment. To my left was the edge of the mountain. It was a long way down. To my right were boulders and more trees. I looked back and there was a horse behind me… it was close, a little too close. Suddenly I was thrown off the horse. By the grace of God, I landed between Dopey and the edge of the mountain. I started crying. No longer pretending to be a big girl, everyone rushed to my side to make sure I was okay. I was fine, more emotionally scarred than anything. The horse behind Dopey nipped his butt, and Dopey did not appreciate that.

After the scuffle we had to get back down to the bottom of the mountain. I assumed I would be walking. This was fine by me. Instead, I received a lecture from my father and the horse trainer that went something like, “When you fall off a horse, you have to get back on and ride again.” I may have been ten, but I thought this saying was a metaphor for other hiccups in life. How funny that I literally had to get back on the horse and ride again.

Dopey and a slightly bruised little girl made it down the mountain, with no more scuffles. When I got off I said I wouldn’t ride a horse again. Yet I have. I rode a galloping horse on the beaches of Pismo and a gentle white horse in Pine Crest. I even thought about riding a pony at Almond Blossom a few weekends ago…but I decided to spare the pony.

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