The Trail Ride

This is a story from long ago but somehow it seems pertinent to today’s world. Settle in and let me know if you agree.

Now for two testosterone fueled high school boys like me and Lynch what activity would sum up our consummate courage, our wild west fortitude and our lack of dating prospects better than a horse back ride for the two of us one late summer afternoon. Dating was the Kilimanjaro of our existence. A mountain off in the distance, forbidding, looming like a mirage, a taunt, a triumph for someone not named us. Who knew what it was like actually? We had so little experience. Hemingway knew and he had to go to war to figure it out. Not for us. Horses were our pastime that fine afternoon instead. We lived in a part of the world where trail rides could be rented. These stables were located somewhere out in the farmland and it kept somebody occupied enough to rent out these poor nags to young inexperienced riders like ourselves. We lied of course and said that we had ridden plenty of times. Oh sure, steer with your legs, yep I knew that. I had watched Broderick Crawford ride a horse. The horses knew the routine of course and once we mounted and cinched ourselves in for the ride of a lifetime they hurried out of the stable at a breakneck pace. It’s called walking. Clip clop and then again clip clop. These horses knew that they had two yo-yos on their backs and they also knew that if they brought us back in one piece maybe they could get some extra brushing or an apple. We entered the wilderness on their backs.

This desperate territory we rode consisted mainly of plowed flat Illinois fields. These fertile tracts produced no gila monsters, no rock outcroppings, nor any dead end canyons where we might get ambushed. Nope they were flat as a ruler for miles in every direction. We continued our perilous journey astride our steeds, our eyes peeled for signs of trouble. Where was my cowboy hat? The trail followed the tree line or hedge row between fields of soybeans and young corn. The staples of a Midwestern diet. Many is the day now that I long for a good bowl of soybeans to remind me of my youth. Along the fields stood leafy trees, a patch of water or two left over from yesterday’s or today’s 5 minute rain storm and plenty of horse manure to keep our noses clear. We walked around and past a small pond of brown water that lay in our path. We didn’t get lost, no sirree, as Lynch knew the way. He was a horseman of great repute. He had ridden here once more than I had so he was trail boss. We followed the hedge row for another couple of acres.

We meandered down this one line of trees, saddle sore for sure, but we kept on and turned, slowly to head down another fence line. We had been told to go only so far down from the barn until we got to a lake. At that lake then the horses would know when it was time to turn around so we were just to let them do their job. I spit into the dust when I saw the lake. It held a lot of water and was large enough that it would be well past our hour’s time if we decided to ride around it. Still the explorer in me wanted to urge us on.

The horses checked their watches and turned around. They must have given each other the eye as they headed in unison back to the barn. They started back along the trail of empty fields. My thoughts turned to Kilimanjaro of course there just barely visible in the distance. As we made that sharp left turn to pick up the hedge row trail again, Lynch turned to me and in one of his moments of inventive brilliance bestowed this surprising idea on me.

He said, “Let’s gallop ‘em home.”

To me this thought had all the merit of spitting tobacco juice into the wind. I was no tinhorn. Besides my bottom hurt. So he took off without me. That boy was a racer and a bonafide idiot. That was for certain. For when he picked up speed by kicking his Keds into the horse’s flanks, the thoroughbred took off for the homestead like she was made of lightning and grease. They charged along with that small pond just a short ways off in the distance. They raced towards it, Lynch urging his pony on. What could stop those two? My horse and I looked on in admiration.

Lynch aimed straight for that puddle. He wanted to charge right through that mud pond in a hurrah of splish and mud splash and the horse had other ideas. She veered right while Lynch’s body hurtled straight ahead. They separated like only a rider and pony can. The horse threw him off with the help of centrifugal force just like shaking off a flea. Who knew why she did it? The horse was in charge and so probably had said to herself, I’m not running through this mud puddle. There could be dragons in it or giant eels or it could be 2″ deep and I could get my legs wet. I don’t want my legs wet. Who knew what she was thinking at the time she turned right. She zigged because there was always a puddle there on the trail. Any fool could see that. There’s a mud hole there, a depression in the ground filled with water and slime. And if it was supposed to be avoided on the way out, why not avoid it on the way back when you and your no count mount on your back were sort of galloping home to the feed bag. Just as easy to go around it as go through it and get wet. This is to the horse’s way of thinking.

Threw Lynch right off into the mud puddle and the horse made it around it just fine and slowed up at the other side of the small pond to stop and take in the sights of the day. Oh look there’s my rider and he’s all wet. However did that happen?

Lynch got up without trouble and no wear on his body. The horse politely waited for him on the other side of the waters. He clambered aboard his mount muttering a bit to himself. It just goes to show you that sometimes you’re expecting to go one way and the horse will go the other. Now here’s where I tie everything together for us. Lynch fell off that horse because he assumed that he and she were going straight through that puddle. Now why had he made that assumption? Well cuz it was what he expected. It was to him the logical thing to do to go straight on home to the barn. Why not go straight? It made the most sense. But the horse had it figured out different. Lynch couldn’t tell the future any better than you and I could last February. Just like you and me back then we thought we knew what would happen in March. It would unfold just like we expected it to. We raced forward and then the world went a different way.

Boy oh boy did we get thrown. I’m mostly done drying off from the mud bath but it’s time to get back on that pony.