“My Gutsy Story®” Patrice Garrett
Many moons ago, when my world was young, my husband, and I packed into our old van, and headed south to Mexico for rest and relaxation.
On our travels we befriended an American hitchhiker, a likeable fellow in his late teens, who’d had his money and gear stolen. Peter spent three weeks with us, roaming dirt roads and Mayan ruins south of Cuernavaca.
He told us little about his life in the States except to say, his folks had mandated a change of scene, and shipped him West to live with his cousin, Ben.
When he finally decided to head for home, we drove him up to Mexico City and staked him to a bus ticket and pocket money. As we hugged goodbye we accepted his proffered invitation to visit him on our way back to California, and “stay as long as you like.”
“Take Black Canyon exit off the freeway. Go about ten miles. You’ll see the place off to your right. There’s no street address, but you can’t miss it,” he said, and scooted into the waiting Tres Estrellas bus.
We tooled around Mexico for two more weeks, making our way north through marketplaces and fiestas. When our trip ended, we pointed the van toward the Arizona border crossing and decided to find our mysterious friend, Peter, and say hello.
His simple instructions were easy to follow. We took the proper freeway exit, shocked, when in less than half a mile, all asphalt vanished. Wondering what we were getting into, we drove on. Surrounded by an endless, cactus studded desert, and imposing flat-topped mesas, we bumped along a dirt road in the afternoon heat, at speeds below five miles an hour. I grew anxious, picturing crazed, back-country cult communities … then suddenly, to the right and slightly below us, a vast swath of lush green appeared. There it was!
Several houses, palm trees, flowerbeds, and barns were visible as the dusty road wound down into a shallow valley. I could hardly believe my eyes when white-fenced pastures dotted with grazing horses came into view. Excitement shot through me. Worries about safety evaporated. Horses. My childhood fantasy! My wannabe inner cowgirl danced a jig.
We pulled into a dream world, where “Cookie” provided meals in the main house. All of us, Peter, his older cousin Ben, the ranch manager, horse trainers, my husband and I, gathered around a big, wooden mess table and ate beautifully prepared food. Our seating shared floor space with a priceless four hundred year-old, blue and white, porcelain Dutch oven. My husband spent afternoons in the swimming pool—a glittering jewel, set in a sea of sand.
In the evenings we tumbled into our guesthouse digs, complete with French antique furnishings, a huge comfortable bed, and centuries old Chinese embroideries, artfully hung. Stone by stone, a floor-to-ceiling fireplace climbed one full wall. There was a tiny kitchen. The bathroom offered shampoo and toothpaste, and engraved matchbooks.
My first thought was, Peter lived at some sort of fancy western dude resort. I was soon set straight. It seems that our hitchhiker was the son of an American banking family. I was in horse heaven on Ben Rockefeller’s tax loss ranch.
The first few days, I jumped out of bed early, pulled on my cowboy boots, and wandered the property. One particular animal caught my attention. She lived alone in a big pasture. A dark bay, with flecks of gold in her coat-she was a beauty. Her name was Teya, an Arabian mare, ranch hands told me, shaking their heads, warning me off.
I spoke to Peter about her, over a breakfast feast he explained she wasn’t a good horse to ride. She was hard to catch, unsociable, mistrustful, and quite uncooperative under saddle, dangerous.
Naturally, after hearing that, all I wanted to do was win her over. So, every sunup I trotted out to her paddock with an apple in hand. I stood for long times near the fence, sometimes quietly, sometimes chattering in soft tones, inviting her into my space, holding apple halves out in my palms. Finally, one day, she ever-so-slowly picked her way towards me and daintily gathered up her treat. ‘I’m gonna ride that wild horse,” I announced at dinner. Peter choked on his beef stew. My husband drained his wine glass.
Each morning, she came more quickly than she had the day before to collect her apple chunks. In less than a week, Teya let me rub her muzzle, fling my arms around her neck, and press my face into her long, thick mane. That little mare stole my heart. I never had to catch her. She willingly slipped into her bridle for me, she was all mine, and I treasured her.
My biggest delight was taking her on trail rides. We explored dry desert washes and wended our way up onto ancient mesas. Teya loved to run, hated to stop, and on narrow tracks tried to push her nose into the rear end of any horse that dared step in front of her. She had no respect for the bit. It was a challenging riding experience that came with a gift, the realization of my lifelong desire—she made a cowgirl of me. When our splendid visit came to an end, leaving Teya and Peter’s ranch was especially hard. Wrenching.
Though Teya’s gone to her reward, I always smile when I remember riding horseback on an Arab mare, some forty years ago, wearing leather gloves to protect my hands from rope-rein blisters. It changed me. I found my courage and self-confidence on her back. Because of Teya I bought my first horse. I learned that horses mirror the fears, thoughts and resolve of their riders; they decipher nuance and interpret body language. Mine have taught me patience, honesty, leadership, and conscious riding. My acquired saddle skills also inform how I walk life’s road. I’ve learned there’s no faking it. I live with intention.
PATRICE GARRETT embraces the American West and has a penchant for the cowboy way of life. Her published writing includes press releases, articles, and short fiction. She has a first novel in rewrite, a website where you can enjoy her stories and blog. Her work has appeared in the Nob Hill Gazette, Marin Independent Journal, FYI San Francisco, The Horse Journal, Family News, Up Beat Times, Petaluma Post, Tiny Lights, Call of The Wild, and other publications. In 2014, her stories are appearing in two new anthologies. She is a member of Redwood Writers. Contact Patrice thru her website: www.wordwranglingwoman.com
SONIA MARSH SAYS: I have always had a fear of horses, mainly because I am not used to being around them. Your “My Gutsy Story®,” showed me that:
“Horses mirror the fears, thoughts and resolve of their riders; they decipher nuance and interpret body language. Mine have taught me patience, honesty, leadership, and conscious riding. My acquired saddle skills also inform how I walk life’s road. I’ve learned there’s no faking it. I live with intention.”
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