#1 Riding From Sunup to Well Past Sundown
We have a series of books out, called Unforgettable Suspense, Unforgettable Romance, and other Unforgettable happenings. All with romance in them. I decided to make my blogs about some of the unforgettable things that happened in my life, such as riding horseback from sunup to sundown.
A lot of things that happened to me go into my books. Most writers do that. I think the more things that happen to you, the better your stories are filled out.
I grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch, in the days before cell phones, TV, and computers. My parents paid to bring a telephone line out into our area. That phone hung on the wall, and you called the operator by cranking the handle, gave her the number, and she switched you through. Lightning hit the pole outside one day, shooting fire out of the earpiece, and knocking it off the hook. My mother had just hung up from talking to someone. We stopped using the phone during lightning storms.
I always had a horse, riding with my dad until I was three, when I could start riding by myself. They bought an old mare for my brother and me, but I rode more often than he wanted to. When we were all small, and my cousins came to visit, we would put seven kids on her, from neck to tail. No one had to wait for a ride.
We always rode bareback. The theory was that if a horse fell with you, and you landed under the saddle, you could get killed by the saddle horn. Since I rode in the wheat fields while I was little, and didn’t want to walk the distance home if I fell off, I learned to pull my horse’s nose to the ground, climb on behind her ears, and let her lift me up.
Bareback riding was the only way to ride during the winter, as the horse kept you warm. I would throw a blanket across my legs and take off, getting in an hour or so before it got too dark to see.
During the summer, I had to work most of the day, so I rode every evening. I would take off after supper and ride the dirt farm roads until well after the moon came up. It was always a beautiful time, with the warm breeze coming off the mountains, carrying the sweet scent of the hayfields.
The moon shone so bright, no other light was needed. Once it looked like the wheat was on fire, and I rode quickly to the top of a ridge, ready to report a fire, and saw that it was just the rising moon, glowing red in the dusty air.
On my days off, I would start early in the morning, pack a lunch, and head into the mountains, not returning until dark. Usually I would saddle up for those trips. My horse liked my peanut butter sandwiches, and would reach over my shoulder for a bite if I wasn’t paying any attention.
When I was thirteen, my grandfather was afraid the old mare would fall on the mountain trails with me, so found a three-year-old, sure-footed, mountain-raised mare. They brought her down from the mountains, “green-broke” her in a couple of days, and handed her over.
She was part Morgan and part Quarter Horse, and had the Morgan walk, which was faster than other horses, which meant they had to trot to keep up. Her trot was also fast, so other horses cantered to keep up. I would put her at that smooth, mile-eating trot, and ride the mountain roads all day.
One spring day I went out into the corral, and she had a colt beside her. She had been carrying that colt without it even showing. From then on things got interesting. When I rode, she wanted to be with her colt, and would clamp the bit between her teeth and run away, back to the corral. I didn’t ride her much during the first few months, but the two times I got injured riding, was during that time.
Once I was riding bareback in the fields, and she ran away. For some reason I lost my balance, so pushed off rather than fall under her hooves. I sprained my ankle and had to walk home, about a half mile. That ankle always gave me problems after that.
Another time she ran away on the road, passing a truckload of potatoes, taking me under some branches that scratched my eye. She stopped running when she got up on our front porch. My mother wondered why I had ridden up there. I tried different bits, finally rode with a hackamore, which gave more control.
The girls in my area had a drill team I joined, where around forty of us rode in the fair, at a fast gallop, doing our drill. They said, “Just steer your horse straight towards the other horse, and they’ll swerve to avoid each other.” I said that my horse wouldn’t do that, since she was used to pushing cattle around. She knocked the other horse almost off its feet when she hit it. Scared the rider, but I had pulled her aside at the last moment, or it would have been worse.
After I was married, I rode a stallion in the SeaFair Parade in Seattle. He was a handful, pulling constantly on the reins, so that my arms ached before we even got started. They had trailed him to the parade in a tandem trailer, putting him behind a mare in heat. He kept wanting to mount her, so the other rider and I kept the width of the street between us, as well as we could.
A lot of Western writers have these memories, but fewer now, I’m thinking. I am amazed at the things parents in those days let their kids do. No helmets, no riding gear except saddle and bridle, and no particular hours to keep.
The book that has the most of these experiences written into them is Appaloosa Blues, a story about two ranch families and a feud that is keeping their children apart. Sort of a Romeo and Juliet theme, but of course they don’t try to commit suicide.
Appaloosa Blues can be found at Amazon.
Appaloosa Blues at Amazon