Tuesday, May 20, 2008

8 Seconds - Dad's First Ride - Chapter Two

(psst -Chapter One is found directly below this post - you might wanna read that first)

Patty was quite experienced at avoiding the bit. She'd spin her head back and forth, ducking and dodging the bridle. My dad would get it over one ear and she'd slip her other ear out, then push the bit out of her mouth with her tongue. He’d begin again, and she’d respond with the old ear dodge and head bob, to the point where it looked like they had orchestrated a dance - The Waltz of the Weaving Horse Head.

The trick to getting the bridle on a horse, Dad’s book said, was to first carefully put your fingers in the horse's mouth. Yes, slide your fingers right on in there. Carefully. This was akin to carefully placing your fingers in a wood chipper.

Eventually Dad managed to get the big curb bit in Patty’s mouth without crushing a digit. Patty swished her tail, clacked her teeth, and stomped. Round 4 to a rather tired dad.

By now Patty was well aware she was dealing with horse-rookies. She knew she had the upper hoof in this arrangement, and she set the tone early and often. At times our idiocy must have frightened her. Like the time we accidentally put the bit in her mouth under her tongue instead of over. I’m sure it hurt like Hades, and when I fixed it she gave me a look like we were trying to kill her.

Patty must have had quite the life before she arrived at our little farm. For some reason, most likely valid, she had cause to despise people. Animals aren't born hateful - they need to learn it, and people can be excellent teachers. I often wondered what awful things had happened to her to make her so angry and spiteful. Usually this thought went through my head right before I hit the ground when she bucked me off.

It was time for a ride. My dad grabbed the reins and attempted to swing himself into the saddle. Each time he went to get up, Patty would step away so he’d miss, left foot in the stirrup, right foot hopping madly after his spinning horse. Always fun to see when it happens to someone else. Dad was busy not getting killed, so I knew he wouldn’t catch me giggling.

From watching many Western movies I knew that once you were up it was traditional to simply leap into a gallop from the spot. Dad didn’t let me down. Later I found out it wasn’t his idea to take off at a dead run.

Patty and Dad bolted down the hill. As Patty’s hooves spit out clumps of grass and gravel, I was impressed with my dad’s bravery, at least for a few seconds. Horse and rider reached the bottom of the hill and veered right. Actually, Patty veered right. My dad - left.

Another trick horses have is the nifty hold-your-breath-when-they-tighten-the–cinch move. They exhale when the going is good and voila – the saddle slides under the belly and it’s the end of the trail. Which was of course what Patty did, and why my dad was now sitting, spitting up daisies, in the grass at the bottom of the hill. And which is why, cowpokes, you should always recheck your cinch before you get on a horse. Game, set, and match to Patty.

I don’t think my dad ever rode again. There’s an expression – get back on the horse, meaning when life knocks you down, don’t give up – try again. There’s a little-known amendment to that expression – if you don’t want to get back on the horse, have your offspring do it.

Not that I had to be prodded. Thinking Patty’s vile ways were standard equestrian behavior, I rode as much as I could. In other words, as long as Patty would let me. Honestly, I didn’t care how mean she was – I had a horse and I was going to ride. In no specific order, I ended up getting tossed off, bucked off, scraped off, dragged, trampled and rolled upon. Once Patty even reached around, grabbed my foot in her teeth, and flung me from the saddle to the dirt. But at least I got to ride. As my mother would put it years later – I rode off and on.


Packsaddle said...

The title is appropriate to subject, tone, and genre.

The structure supports the content.

Your choice of words satisfyingly sets the mood and helps energize the emotions of the reader.

Great job, Annie!

earl's girl said...

Ever since my horse decided to do sommersaults in a field, I've been terrified to ride...that's right, shaking on the topsoil in my boots.

Annie said...

Thanks, pack. ;)

I've never had the horse somersault. Come close to flipping a few times, but never a full 360.

I've somersaulted off horses a few times, once in an arena polo match. I locked up the brakes, flew between my horse's ears, and landed on my feet in front of my surprised steed. When the referee quit laughing, he charged me with an 'illegal dismount.'

btw - if you fall in a polo match, you buy the beer after the game.

Jug said...

Illegal dismount? That sounds like something that happens when your date goes bad in a hurry.

Annie, you are an amazing storyteller and always a pleasure to read.

Kristina said...

Packsaddle, are you an English teacher?

Annie, you're tougher than I am. When I was about in 6th grade, I got a pony (Welsh) for about the same reasons. She wasn't mean, but I still had some bad experiences.

I fell off her when she was trotting, and I landed on my head in the grass.

Later, she almost got into a fight with a horse while I was riding her.

And then there was the time the pony almost kicked my little sister. To be fair, the pony didn't realize she was there.

At some point around there, I pretty much gave up riding. I still like horses, but I prefer them at a cautious distance.

Anonymous said...

Annie, I love all your writing. I also am a fan of The Blog {Dave B.}have been for many years. I know that you and Blurk are friends. Can you say why he no longer blogs? I hope he is not ill.

Annie said...

Thanks, jug. It's a pleasure to write them for you.
Kristina - ponies can be tougher to handle than horses. Sorry it didn't work out. Glad you survived. :)
Anon - not sure what's up with blurk. Haven't heard from him in a while. I'm sure he's fine.