On the Back of a Horse
When I slipped from the womb, all that kept me from climbing on the back of a horse was my lack of mobility. And a horse, of course. Due to a few quality blows to the head, I have few memories of the Mesozoic-like period of my life, but the era is vaguely reproducible from a drizzle of curling black and whites and fading Polaroids of me sitting on anything that resembled a horse, along with the myriad of family complaints of my stubbornness in this respect.
The tales are enhanced by the one where I spent my entire two’s aboard my Bronco Billy in my Cowboy Dan outfit. I don’t know if it was technically “Dan’s” attire but his was the name I equated with cowboy greatness. It continues that I was supposedly stripped of my costume only while I slept but I’m sure I was coerced into dropping the facade for a bath now and then. Even the meekest of parents can convince an unsuspecting mind that tasks more important than living the dream are, well, hygienically necessary.
A few years later, I fought tooth and nail to sit in front when Babe (literally the old gray mare) was brought up for a quaint picture of our three tiny asses, small enough to squeeze into a saddle like a trio of Irish twins, for a Christmas card. Also, I recall stewing in raging jealousy when my mom would ride Babe to the bus stop to pick up my sister while she left me at home.
My point is, I had a true passion. And it was a one-way street.
So during my tenth or eleventh year, when my dad came home one summer scorcher to tell me he’d delivered diesel to a family up The Hollow who’d invited me to ride, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know who they were.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t know where they lived.
It didn’t matter that my option was to hike a few miles up the hot, dusty, gravel to get there.
Or that I’d do it alone.
Or that I had neither compass nor map, or that a GPS or cell phone had yet to be conceived.
Or that I was the size of a stray dog—unkempt at that.
It didn’t even matter that I didn’t know how to ride. That was all secondary. Had someone mentioned to me that death was the possible consequence of a novice playing a real game of chance, it wouldn’t have registered. All that mattered was, I would be aboard. In each moment, every moment of my brief life, it was all I longed for.
It also didn’t occur to me that this bunch of yahoos who tossed me up on the bare back of a green broke pony and said, “Hang on,” might have hoped that I couldn’t. But the technicalities flew by as quickly as the Iowa countryside when my pony took off after that slipshod posse in a single file flurry of blur. I had no strategy except to feel the animal beneath me explode with primal horsepower.
I don’t know what the stimulus was to stop except maybe their eagerness for a good laugh. All I heard was, “Are you still with us?”
Does a bear shit in the woods? I would have endured unthinkable harshness if only to be permanently fused to the back of a horse.
The stubbornness with which I held fast to that conviction is still revered. Then somehow I lost sight of who I was.
So at the age of 44, I quit my day job and embarked on the most difficult path I could have chosen—writing. But with this journey, I drank from the same well of obduracy that drew reverence so long ago. From my experience, I can attest that if you’re lost, there’s a journey to be found.
And it starts within.