Once every couple of years or so, a bunch of folks would ride their horses on a long trip that passed through our area. They’d camp across the road from us in an empty field. They had chuckwagons. It was a big bunch of people.
One year, my dad and I rode out to meet them. I was on a little white pony with a black rump. Her name was lady. The man who’d given her to me was Mexican and called her Dama.
Lady didn’t like leaving home. On the way out she got a little hoppity. I was kind of worried that she might not want to go much farther. After we met up with the folks, we turned around and headed towards home. Then she was in a little bit of a hurry. But it turned out well.
That night I walked among the campfires and sleeping horses. I ate beans off a paper plate. Exciting stuff for a kid.
The next morning, my dad and I rode along with these people a little ways, just to see them off. My little pony really didn’t want to leave home that day. Maybe she thought that we were going on the trip with everybody else. I don’t know. She was slow and balky. My dad got farther ahead and I lost sight of him.
Near the top of the first hill, Lady started rearing and bucking and kicking. One of the cowboys grabbed her bridal and tried to calm her down, but she wouldn’t hear of it. We weren’t using a saddle that day. Just a bareback pad with a loop of cloth where the saddle horn would have been. I was holding onto that while Lady was rearing. I was very worried. What am I going to do? Turns out, it wasn’t up to me.
Lady took off running down the hill, towards home. I never would have thought a little pony could run so fast. The loop of cloth tore off the bareback pad pretty quickly. I wrapped my arms around her neck. At the bottom of the hill, she landed on the asphalt road with a clatter and galloped like crazy. At this point, with the air blowing through my hair, I was scared spitless.
I vividly recall being very aware of Lady’s hairy neck extending so far, then pulling back to prepare to extend again as she struggled with her whole body to go ever faster. The trees overhanging both sides of the road passed by so quickly. Dapples of light flashed on my eyes. In the sunshine it was warm, but in the shade it was almost too cool.
The next thing I know, we’re turning a corner at high speed. I don’t think that I was shrieking in terror, simply because I hadn’t got around to thinking of it yet. Lady ran into her stall in the barn, and stopped dead. My arms were tight around her neck, but the inertia swung the rest of me off her back. I landed on my feet, next to my horse, with my arms around her neck. After a while, I could let go and keep standing all by myself.
I didn’t get right back onto that horse. It took a few days. And we never went on a long ride again. Lady had showed me that she didn’t like leaving the ranch. I let her have her way.
My next horse was named Nosedive.