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 https://cowboylawyer.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/hot-girlfriend-28/. 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 https://cowboylawyer.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/the-rest-of-gypsys-story/
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.