I’m a chicken girl and I’m not ashamed of that at all. Those poor chickens have gotten a bad rap by being portrayed as the cowards of the animal world and their name is used in vain far too often. Here’s to being proud of being a chick….or a chicken.
Growing up riding horses presents you with many opportunities to exercise your courage muscle. Horses get moody, especially mares (at least in my experience), have bad days and get spooked from time to time. Any of the above can be the trigger for a surprise ride and /or the occasional ejection. I’ve been bucked off a few times and it’s never any fun. While most cowboys and cowgirls are undoubtedly tougher than me (and more power to them), my instinct is usually to go sit in the shade and let my heartrate slow down. I’d rather go have a Coke or go read a book than get back on a horse at that moment. In fact, I’d probably rather go do dishes or chores, or pay bills than go get right back on a horse, especially one that just bucked me off. But my Dad taught me better than that. And I’m so glad he did.
Dad had a horse call Peggins, short for peggin’ string, I think. He was a short-coupled sorrel gelding who was usually quiet and calm. When I was in 7th or 8th grade I sneaked down to the corrals one afternoon and decided to go for a ride with only a halter on him, not knowing he wasn’t completely broken yet. He took off at a run and came to a sudden stop at the fence and at the same time dropped his head. I didn’t get bucked off but I did go sailing into the fence. Dad gave me a hug. He let me recover and a short time later suggested I go for a ride. I was scared. But if the alternative was not ever riding again, I wasn’t having that. So with racing heart and sweaty palms I got on a horse and learned to get over the fear of that last bad experience, but to be just a little wiser than I was before it happened.
When I was in junior high school and high school I was lucky enough to be included in our family Grandpa-Grandkid summer trailride. My Grandpa Red Lamphere had died when I was only 8 but his brother, Oakley, made sure to include Grandpa Red’s grandkids in the annual rides. Glenn Hardy and Mick Roberts were old Cowboys and friends of the Lamphere brothers. (By the way, I capitalized the “C” because all of those old boys earned the title “Cowboy” and it’s a sign of my adoration and respect.) Anyway, you had to be at least 5 years old in order to go because the Grandpas said you had to be old enough “to wipe your own butt and old enough not to go crying for your mama” if something happened. If you weren’t able to do those things, you weren’t allowed to go. All the Grandpas were shared by all the grandkids even if we weren’t related in any way to them. Grandpa Glenn brought his beautiful palomino horses, Scotch and Soda, each year. And Grandpa Mick would sip “nectar of the Gods” from his mug by the campfire at night. We grandkids told ghost stories by the fire and drank near beer and ate beef jerky. We did chores, tended to our own horses on the picket line and helped with the cooking and the dishes. Some of my favorite memories are from those rides.
One year we were riding back to camp when my mare started to crow hop and pull because she knew we were headed back to camp and she wanted to get there and get unsaddled and fed sooner than I was allowing her to do it. Grandpa Glenn told me to give the reins a good tug and not let her get away with it. So I did. And Tommy reared up and went over backwards with me and landed on her side and back with me partway under the saddle. It spooked me to say the least. But the Grandpas didn’t miss a beat and didn’t let me get scared. One held the reins while another helped me back on. I didn’t even have the chance to think about it, and probably all the better I didn’t. It must have scared Tommy too because she walked timidly all the way back to camp.
I’ve been thinking more of my Grandpas this week with Dad, and my uncles and cousins having just come home from the Buckaroo Ride. It makes me happy to think of the old Cowboys who have been part of our family (relatives or not) and I’m so grateful to have had them as role models. Thank you Dad and Grandpa Red (I know you were there in spirit), Grandpa Glenn, Grandpa (and great uncle) Oakley, and Grandpa Mick for all that you taught and continue to teach all us grandkids.
About 10 days ago I got back on a motorcycle for the first time since my accident a couple of months ago. I was nervous and really didn’t want to. But if the alternative was never riding again, I wasn’t having that. I wasn’t ready to get on my own bike just yet so I hopped on the back of Brian’s. Well “hop” is an exaggeration. It was more like a scramble/struggle. My left leg is the weak link in this chain so I climbed on from the right peg which is awkward for me. And apparently I am a control freak who doesn’t like to ride as a passenger any more. Because even though I know I’m as safe as can be with Brian, it was really unnerving to not be able to see around his helmet and be in control of the ride. It was best I wasn’t in control anyway, with my nerves being as they were. So after a quick ride to Cape Spear (maybe 20-25 miles?) and only having to choke back tears a couple of times, it was over. The ice breaker.
I got the all clear from the doctor last Thursday afternoon and got my boot back from the repair shop on Friday afternoon. So with Sunday’s good weather I decided it was time to stop sweating my first ride and just get it over with. I wasn’t sure I could lift the bike off the stand, and struggled with it for sure. But that seems to be my weakest point right now. It will be a while before I am as strong as I should be with maneuvering the bike in turns and parking, etc. My eyes welled up when I went to put my helmet on, and TMI but my tummy was a mess, and my heart was racing. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I knew I had to. I rode all of 15 miles, and I was on high alert the whole time. I didn’t really enjoy it, to be honest, but when I got back home in one piece and parked the bike…..that feeling was incredible. Being a chicken isn’t a bad thing. It’s a survival instinct. And not getting back on a bike wouldn’t be the end of the world. I respect people who choose not to get back on a bike after an accident. But getting past that first ride, for me, was the overcoming of a big hurdle and I’m proud of that. And my Dad and my Grandpas were with me every step of the way.