Talking Story

gps“I lost the GPS. Come find it with me.”

The whole situation dripped with irony.  My husband Kevin, a former scout master of twenty years and born horseman, had been asked to help wrangle 12 and 13 year old scouts on an overnight camping trip in the mountains above Strawberry Reservoir. It was a trip he’d made many times before and our horses knew the trails well. But this time with more scouts and adults wanting to tag-along than bomb-proof mountain trail horses available, he’d resorted to bringing Brownie, our daughter’s high-test performance horse far more suited for barrel racing and rodeo grand entries than sloughing through alpine streams wearing saddle bags.

Loading up the horses, our daughter frowned. “Dad, don’t take Brownie. She’s not a mountain horse,” she said. “Besides, nobody but you can ride her.”

“I’m bringing her because I need to put kids on our other five. I’m already planning for Trigger and Marley to have double riders in buddy saddles. Peter’s bringing a couple of his horses, too, but we may have to ride out in shifts. Some campers will have to hike part of the way.”

“Brownie’ll be a handful and you’ve got a ton of green riders,” I said.

“Phhhhstt. She’ll be fine. This is not my first rodeo.”

Famous last words.

Brownie was fine until the next morning when the camp was packed up and everybody was saddled and ready to head back down the trail—except for the guy making sure everyone was saddled and ready. Kevin was the last to mount. That’s when Brownie threw a horsey hissy fit and reared.

It could’ve been all of the extras hanging off her sides—saddlebags, hornbags, ropes, rifle, canteens—that wigged her out. Or she could’ve been worried that the other horses were going to leave her. Or the excitement of the boys keyed her up. Or she could’ve simply had enough of gunshots and coyote nights and wanted her familiar corral and hay. Whatever the cause, Brownie decided she’d had enough.

She’s a diva, remember?

Brownie reared, throwing her head and her legs skyward, which to a guy who grew up training horses is merely annoying until the horse slips in the mud and starts the slow train wreck of going over backwards.

At the last moment she turned and landed on her side, pinning Kevin’s leg underneath her.

As bad as this is, it’s much better than going over backward and having the horse break your neck. Or spine. Or—

I don’t like to think about that.

So Kevin’s first thought was, “Sideways. Thank goodness!”

Not really. But I write a PG kind of blog.

The second thought was, “I hope that snapping sound was a twig and not my #^&*@$%^ femur! One broken femur this summer in the family was enough, thank you very much.”

Or thoughts to that effect.

There was a lot of pain, but cowboy tough, Kevin inventoried the damage while Brownie scampered over to one of her horse buddies with an oh, crap, I think I really screwed up sheepish look on her face.

One of Kevin’s cardinal scoutmaster rules is no matter what, everything’s chilly.  Most trouble comes not from the initial incidents themselves, but from people’s reactions. Probably only Peter, another horseman and scoutmaster, had any clue how bad the situation could potentially be.

On horseback, Peter leaned down. “You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah.” When Kevin stood and took a step, he realized however bad it was, his leg probably wasn’t broken. “I don’t think it broke my femur or hip.”

“How’re your guts?”

“Fine. I’m fine.” With kids saying, whoa, that was cool, Kevin walked over to Brownie, adjusted the packs, grabbed the reins, and rode on out.

Can you imagine?

Looking back, he says he realizes now he was in shock; the whole ride back he fought passing out and falling off and is eternally grateful to Peter for keeping him engaged in conversation.

Just don’t ask Kevin what they talked about.

The next day was Sunday. At church the scouts kept telling people about how Kevin was bucked off and how it was awesome.

“I wasn’t bucked off,” he sniffed. “The horse went over backwards with me in the saddle. There’s a difference.”

But it wasn’t until he unpacked that afternoon that he discovered his precious handheld GPS was missing.

Next week Part 2: It’s a Date

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