Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lightening Strikes Again

Ya know, it’s funny how life sometimes hands you a do over. But you find it impossible to believe that lightning can strike twice in the same place.

I have been offered a chance to travel with Tonya Ritchie and her two young daughters and a family friend, Darrell, to South Carolina for the American Heart Association Annual Fund Raiser and ride my horse, Trig, on the beach for four wonderful days. He and I will be leaving this morning. Believe me, if someone would have told me that someday I would be galloping a horse again on the beach in front of Lakewood Family Campground on The Grand Strand I would have said, “No way! That’s impossible!”


But let me back up a bit and share how this story really begins.

It was a time of innocence in my young life when summertime meant school was out, kids kicked off their shoes and ran and played all day; the rule was you had better be back home by the time supper was laid on the table.
My sister Debbie and I, she seven and I, the younger at six, would often take off down the railroad tracks that ran in front of our house, past Hog Town and heading to a horse boarding farm nearly a mile down the way.  I guess our mom allowed us to do this because her two brothers, Clyde and Claude, both had houses side-by-side near there.
We would spend hours playing in the incredible hay loft of that massive barn with rough-hewn boards, grey and weathered.  We delighted in feeding the horses apples, pears and paw-paws we had brought in a sack from home.

What I remember most though was playing with the barn kittens and constantly begging the barn manager to let us ride one of the horses stabled there. Looking doubt we two silly little girls made a nuisance out of ourselves.
The ancient barn manager, ancient to us, was a very small statured man who wore a massive silver belt buckle and (what seemed to me) a 43 gallon cowboy hat. He was not particularly gracious but he did tolerate our whining to ride a horse, cow or ANYTHING while trying to keep us out of the way of work hands and cowboys. I never, ever remember seeing a cowgirl there but the men were constantly coming and going, hauling bags of feed and bales of hay, slinging saddles and bridles, tacking up and trying to handle their horses with more than a few rearing and bucking the whole time.
One day that will forever live with me because of its far reaching ramifications, there was a life changing incident at that barn. Activity was unusually slow and Debbie and I heard the manager give us a shout. We both bound down from the big tractor we had climbed on and raced around the corner of the barn and low and behold!, he had taken two horses out of their stalls, put bridles on them and was leading them out the barn door!
"Follow me!” he barked. We trailed him down into the bottom pasture and he first put me on my horse, telling me to sit still; then he hoisted Debbie up on her mount, once again telling us both to "SIT STILL!" He apparently wanted once and for all to shut us up from the constant “can we ride, sir, puh-leze let us get on a horse, sir” mantra.
Let me pause for a moment here to quote Vincent Van Gogh... simply because I need to somehow justify, even today, what possessed me to do what I did next while sitting on that horse. "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm is terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."
As the good Lord is my witness, the above words must have been somewhere embedded in my young soul as I do not know what made my spindly little legs do it, but I did kick my horse with all I had and he shot off across that pasture. To my utter delight.
Well, as most of you know who ride, when one horse takes off… the other usually follows. Debbie’s horse immediately gave chase. I remember so well that feeling of freedom that swept over me as if imaginary shackles were falling from my skinny body as it clung to that magnificent creature beneath me.
Then almost immediately realty set in.
I knew instinctively I had some kind of hell to pay because I did not 'just sit' as told so I did what I had seen all the cowboys do around the place as they came galloping up. I pulled back on those reins with everything I had and the horse started stopping; so did my sister's.
I was flushed with excitement; poor Debbie…ashen and shaken. The barn manager was beat red with fury. Even so, do you want to know the most heartbreaking reality of my impulsiveness, my friends?
My best buddy left the barn that day and never came back. The fear that was struck in her heart carries with her to this day. Whereas the ride that day that sparked in me a profound passion for horses blew out the tiny flame that had begun to ignite in her. Even today she is terrified of horses. I did that to her and have regretted it all my life. 
Remember at the beginning of my story I said its funny how life sometimes hands you a do over?
Several years later my parents, with their platoon of five kids, had pitched our thick green Army tent at Lakewood Family Campground at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina  for our annual two week vacation. The misery of attempting to sleep in that miserably hot tent at the beach in July was somehow erased every morning by the smell of country ham from a hog we had killed, eggs and hash brown potatoes wafting into that same tent from the iron skillets that were packed up and put on top of the station wagon by a woman we kids never really appreciated what hell that beach trip must have been for her.

 I was twelve years old and my sister Debbie and her twin, Dennis, were thirteen. Mama always let us go to the pavilion on the beach that first night where there was a live band playing all the traditional beach songs...Surfin’ Safari, The Twist, Please Stay and the ever popular, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka dot Bikini.
We three shy kids were standing on the ocean side of the pavilion watching in awe as all the older kids danced. Suddenly, a young man and woman rode up on their horses.
They had dismounted and were watching the fun when I sidled up to this strange man and, undaunted, asked if I could ride his horse. He threw back his head and horse laughed and asked “Kid, do you have any idea how to ride a horse?” I told him sure; I even knew how to gallop on a horse. Now, I had not even been on the back of a horse since that infamous day at age six several years prior. He then, with no hesitation, gave me a leg up, handed me the reins and off I went.
Debbie and Denny always loved to pick up the story at this point when it was often told through the years.
They both recanted how suddenly that night they looked around and I was nowhere to be seen. Recognizing they were going to get skinned by Mama as we had been told to stick together, they both began to panic. Just about that time they saw me galloping by between the pavilion and the ocean, heading back down the beach in the opposite direction.
"Yep, sure was", Debbie replied in her six minutes older than her twin superiority. "And I think we should tell Mama on her, don't you?"
Well, all was well that ended well that night. My brother and sister did not rat me out and once again I got to gallop on a horse. My love and passion for horses were growing deeper.

But remember... I titled this story Lightening Strikes Again.

It is inconceivable to me I am now a grown women with a horse of my own...a handsome, black, 16-hands tall Tennessee Walker named General Trig 'O Nometry. Trig and I are packing up to trailer him to Lakewood Family Campground, the old stomping grounds of my youth, to ride the wind again.
Once offered the opportunity to go on this trip by my buddy Tonya I asked my best friend, my sister Debbie, if she would go with me.
Yep, she sure could. She wanted to be there with me, she said, to see me recapture my dream to once again ride the wind on that beach I galloped on when I was but a young girl.
She said she would launder my wet jeans when I rode into the ocean waves with Trig; she would prepare me and my friends steaming pots of hot soup to ward off the chill of the cool fall evenings as we camped; she would do everything she could to be the 'wind beneath my wings'.
I could feel my heart cracking once again as tears welled up in my eyes. Those things Debbie offered to do for me were invaluable; what I really wanted though was my precious sister to ride the wind with me on a horse by my side on that beach. 
Sadly...I had sealed that chance long ago in a pasture below a barn with rough-hewn boards, grey and weathered.


My wonderful friend Tonya who invited me to go as her guest caught this snippet of video of one of our wonderful rides on the beach. Here I am riding shotgun with Derrick, a horseman since a young boy on his grandfather's farm.
Posted by Linda Blevins on Monday, November 10, 2014

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