Ya got plans for the summer? I’ve been making them for my kids. And it seems like there is almost no summer at all to work with. Like, I think Daylight Savings has removed so much daylight from each year that summer is now about a week long. I’m pretty sure that while I’m sitting here in June, yesterday was September and I was just sending my peeps off to school in their squeaky new shoes and trendy little skinny jeans.
One of my mini-me’s is going to be taking a horseback riding course with his cousin in the next few weeks. And I have to say that I honestly didn’t see that coming from this snowboarding-karate-nerf-dude-man. But I guess it’s in his blood. I mean I totally rode horses when I was younger. Well, a horse. When I was first married. Practically the same thing. And speaking as a pro, I’m a bit nervous for my rather adrenalin-laden boy to hop up on some bronco and actually stay there without getting launched headfirst into the bushes. It’s challenging. I would know.
My husband grew up on a farm in I-dee-hoe (that’s how they say it up there. No really.) He spent long summers — much longer than the ones we have now — driving tractors, thinning beets, milking cows, bailing hay, and yes, riding his father’s stallions. His dad loved stallions. There are pictures of that man sitting astride his steeds, gazing off into the Idaho Sunset, obviously dreaming of winning a triple crown. Or maybe even a quadruple. His were good horses.
So naturally, once I married into the family I was expected to at least try to get up in the saddle at some point and stay aboard the thing for a respectable amount of time. But I was terrified. Have you seen horses? They’re forty feet off the ground, can crush a human being’s entire skeletal structure with the tap of one hoof, and have nostrils the size of my head. But my first summer as a Miller I figured if I wanted to fit in with my huz’s crowd, I’d better establish myself as a country girl instead of a woman who grew up around air bases and wouldn’t know a pommel from a P-39.
One day my lovely bro-in-law decided it was time for me to learn to ride. But I was going to learn to ride real. Like without a saddle. The boy was nice, though. Said he’d get up right behind me to make sure I didn’t fall off. Filled me with confidence.
Well, we went out to the driveway, and there stood the flame-eyed, foam-flecked beast I was to take a trot around the pasture on. I knew that if I didn’t ooze confidence I was toast. And the way that animal threw disinterested contempt at me from it’s blood-red eyes, I knew I was going to have to ooze it hard. So I leveled a gaze at him that said, “Please don’t throw me, horsey. I’ll do anything you want!” And when he snorted and looked away, I knew I had him.
Bro-in-law sort of wrangled me up onto our ride, despite nearly losing a nose to my flailing knees. Then, once I was situated on the fat sweaty thing (it makes me feel better to call the horse fat and sweaty. It wasn’t. It was sleek and completely justified in looking down its equine nose at me), the boy leapt up behind me. Then he began giving me instructions. Lots of them. Designed to keep us safely astride and dignified. But this is what I heard:
“Grab the buzzzzzzz bzzzzz hold on with your knees bzzzzzz bzzzzz won’t fall bzzzzzzz bzzzzz long way down bzzzz bzzzzzz with your knees bzzzzzzzzzzz…”
Then we were off. Horseface took a step. And another. Pretty soon it got enthusiastic and began trotting. I started bouncing. Like, all over the place. WHOA! NOBODY SAID THIS THING WAS GOING TO BOUNCE! HOW THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO NOT FALL OFF?! I gazed down at the gravel forty feet beneath us and terror gripped me. I tried pulling on the reigns to slow the creature down, to no avail. BIL was yelling something but I think he was speaking New Jersey (which is where he served his LDS mission, and I’m pretty sure was fluent in the language), because I totally didn’t understand him. All I knew was that I was going to die if this horse didn’t stop rattling my brain against my teeth, and I hadn’t had any children yet. It wasn’t my time. I was not going down. So I did the one thing I remembered my instructor saying: I held the heck on with my knees.
Yeah. Did you know horses have a bucking button? They do. And if you forget where your knees are and hold on with your heels instead, you’ll totally press it. Up and down up and down! Neck snapping, arms flapping, bro-in-law trying to grab me around the waist and save my life, and suddenly . . . air! A brief flash of sunshine and . . . Bam! My husband’s brother’s knee in my kidney and my skull cracking on the driveway. So. Far. Down.
Horse made some sort of snotty comment, then walked away to find lunch. I rolled off BIL’s knee with a groan to look for my kidney and the back of my little white shirt, which had shredded off in the gravel. Someone stopped their car to ask if we were okay, and I stumbled into the house, glaring my husband’s amused look right off of his face.
And that was the last time I rode a horse.
Hmmm. Summer is incredibly short this year. I’m pretty sure my kid doesn’t have time to learn horseback riding. Think I’ll sign him up for speed-walking instead. At least then when he falls it will only be a few feet. And the ground? Ain’t got no bucking button.