Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “Gypsy”

How to Impress a Girl

The summer after my freshman year in high school, I worked at a horse camp for kids, as a counselor. It was called The Lazy H Dude Ranch for Kids. They had over 90 horses, including foals, yearlings and two year olds, which were not ridden by the campers. There were about 50 kids a week attending the camp and enough gentle horses for them.

My cousin Heidi got me the job. She was the head girls’ counselor the year before, when she graduated from high school, and returned every summer during college. She is four years older than me, Uncle Jack’s daughter. I was happy to get to have a job riding horses everyday.

Plus, I was allowed to bring my own horse, Gypsy, about whom I wrote in another blog post, Hot Girlfriend At that stage of our lives, I had just turned 15 and Gypsy was 3. The camp kids thought Gypsy was the coolest horse. She was pretty, a blood bay, and fast, always the first to run in from pasture. She was spirited, which does not make for a good kid’s horse, but is an impressive quality for a counselor’s horse. The kids enjoyed it when she tried to buck me off on certain occasions. It was good for Gypsy to get ridden for hours every day.

There was another girls’ counselor, Mary, who liked to ride another horse we brought to the ranch, Heidi’s black gelding, Domino. So, at the end of the summer, I lured her to visit me to go for a ride on Domino. She was my age. Neither of us were old enough for a driver’s license, so Mary’s brother drove her across state lines from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Nebraska, and I got another horse for him so he could accompany us on our romantic ride.

Since we were no longer at the Lazy H, we were where I knew the territory and they were unfamiliar with the area. So, accordingly, as host of the event, I led the way. For awhile.

I led them on a shortcut behind some houses that backed on the field. I showed off a little by galloping across the field. Gypsy was, as I said, fast. She was half Thoroughbred, racing stock. (The circumstances of Gypsy’s conception is another story, but I will say that Uncle Jack was surprised by her dam’s unplanned pregnancy.) See

So, as I swiftly led the way, full speed ahead, Gypsy changed direction from forward to up, then down, when a dog came from one of the backyards and ran at Gypsy. Gypsy’s “fight or flight” responses were cross-wired. Similar to the time she dumped me onto the hood of a car by bucking towards it rather than fleeing, Gypsy again chose to buck. Her bucking was not to get me off, I like to think, but to stomp the dog. I say that because after I went out of the saddle over her head and on to the ground, she kept bucking. I know that because I looked up from my back (having instinctively broken my fall as I’d learned in judo) and unhurt looked at the underside of my horse and quickly noticed a hoof coming at my head. So, without pausing to gather my thoughts, I quickly rolled out from under the horse, but not quite quickly enough because that hoof landed on my jacket and, in that instant, it tore because it was held briefly by the force of the hoof hitting the ground softened by the jacket being pinned as I rolled. Get the picture? The fact that the jacket was too large for me probably helped since I was not occupying the part that was stepped on.

As was her custom, Gypsy eventually stopped and waited for me to remount. It would have been more embarrassing if she had run home, riderless. She had unseated me before and, apologetically, always waited.

I remounted and, as if nothing had happened, rode on. However, something had happened. Besides the brief event itself, there was a reminder that could not be ignored. The jacket I was wearing was my father’s college letter jacket. He was not in college anymore, and it was very cool for me, a sophomore in high school to wear a college letter jacket. Wearing a torn jacket, however, was not nearly as cool. It was decidedly uncool, a totally new and unique experience for me.

I don’t remember ever seeing Mary again after that day. Her brother drove her back across the river to their home in the neighboring state. I made no more long distance calls to her. She did not return to the Lazy H the next summer like Heidi, Domino, Gypsy and I did. It seems she did not care about Domino as much as she had indicated. Poor Domino! He felt kinda rejected.

I didn’t like Mary that much anyway. And that is a good thing because, years later, when I met Miss Texas, I was available.

Miss Texas, aka Sugar, has seen me get bucked off too, but she stuck with me anyway. That is the kind of girlfriend to have. No brag, just fact.

I don’t wear Dad’s letter jacket anymore. I got one of my own. What I can’t figure out is why mine is too tight now. It probably shrunk in the wash.

The Rest of Gypsy’s Story

Those who read my “Hot Girlfriend” post might wonder what happened to Gypsy.  Those who read my “Lost and Found” post know what happened to Sugar’s Apache.  Here is the rest of Gypsy’s story.

For two summers during high school, Gypsy and I worked at the Lazy H Dude Ranch for Kids, a camp where each camper was matched to a horse that was theirs for the week.  We had about 50 kids each week.  As the boys’ counselor, I was automatically cool by virtue of my position.  And riding Gypsy didn’t hurt none either!  She was an impressive steed.

Allow me to digress.  Gypsy was the product of an illicit liaison.  I used to ride her mother, Flicka, who was half-Arab and half-Quarter Horse (which is not the same as 1/8th).  Flicka was very pretty because she had a refined head with a dish face like an Arabian, yet better size than most Arabs, with a big Quarter Horse butt.  Gypsy’s sire, a Thoroughbred, came to Uncle Jack’s barn the night before a parade he was to be in for Pioneer Days.  My cousin knew that Flicka was “in season” and arranged a secret meeting.  They were married without benefit of clergy.  Uncle Jack did not know about the midnight rendezvous and commented the next spring that Flicka was looking fat.  Surprise, surprise, she had a baby in May — Gypsy.

Gypsy got her beauty from her dam and size from her sire.  She was tall, with longer legs than Flicka.  She was a “blood bay” — a deep red horse with a black mane and tail.  She also had white socks on her back legs and a white star between her eyes which extended to a snip of white on her nose.  I was not the only person who thought she was gorgeous, everyone did, including horse show judges.  As a foal, she was Reserve Grand Champion in Halter Class, which is a beauty contest, at the county fair.  Not too shabby!  Later, when I could ride her, she did well in barrel racing and pole bending and reining classes.  She still won halter class too.  Very hot horse!  Red hot!  When I rode her in the Pioneer Days Parade, she would prance around and people watching the parade would point to her because she stood out.  No brag, just fact.

Meanwhile, back to the ranch … we worked at the Lazy H the summers when she was three and four and I was fifteen and sixteen.  The campers would watch the horses come in from the pasture each morning and Gypsy always led the way.  It was impressive to see fifty horses running after her as the leader.  The kids would talk amongst themselves, like kids do, saying that Gypsy was the fastest and they wished they could ride Gypsy.  Like I said, I was cool due to being Gypsy’s owner and rider.

So, like Sugar, when I was fixing to go to college, I sold Gypsy.  I sold her to a family whose kids had gone to the camp and admired her there.  Also, their daughters were friends of my younger sister.  Also, as part of the deal, they invited me to come visit Gypsy whenever I wanted, which I did.  Gypsy’s new family had a nice farm and other horses.

I went to college in another state and did not get home much during the school year.  In the summers, I took advantage of the offer to come ride Gypsy.  Like Sugar’s Apache, Gypsy came running to me when I called her and clapped my hands.  (Here is a tip I picked up from Uncle Jack — if you clap your hands when you feed horses, they come running and associate clapping with eating.)

The summer after I graduated from college, I was at my parents’ home for a few weeks before moving to Washington D.C.  My sister, Judy, and I decided to go out to see Gypsy.  I could ride her and Judy could visit with her friends.

Before we went up to the house, I stopped by the pasture fence.  I could see the other horses, but not Gypsy.  I called her name and clapped.  Gypsy did not come.

So we went to the house.  The girl who came to the door saw us and her expression got sad.

“I guess we should have told you,” she said.  “Gypsy is dead.  We had a storm this spring.  The horses were standing under a tree.  Lightning struck the tree and a big branch broke off and hit Gypsy in the head.  We don’t think she suffered.  I am sorry to have to tell you this.”

I was sorry to hear it.  I maintained my composure because I am real tough.  We talked a bit more, about school and my up-coming move and stuff.  Then Judy and I left.

We drove away, but not very far.  Even though I am a very tough cowboy, I pulled over and sobbed and sobbed.

I warned Judy to never tell nobody that I cried and I am warning you all too, dear readers, to not tell nobody neither.

P.S.  Uncle Jack was a talented artist.  When I graduated from law school, he gave me a painting that he did of Gypsy.  It is hanging in my office.


My First Hot Girlfriend

Before Sugar, I had another hot girlfriend.

Below is a link to something that I wrote about her last year.

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