Sunday afternoon, drugged out on ibuprofen and hobbling, Kevin came into the house. “Wanna go on a ride with me? I checked the packs. My GPS must’ve fallen out when Brownie tipped over.”
“You’re kidding me. You lost your GPS? Again?” This was the third handheld unit he’d owned and the seventh or eighth time he’d lost one in the wilderness. I’d told him over and over that obviously God expected him to use an old school compass, not a new-fangled toy. But like a toddler with a blankie he insisted on hauling his toy everywhere. Any trip longer than 20 minutes from home and that stupid thing would be sitting on the dash, calculating speed, distance, and all things who cares engineery and geeky, marking a trail of electronic breadcrumbs we could follow back in case we missed the entire highway and had to blaze a new path back to the homestead through the vast Utah wilderness. It drove me crazy. Knowing I started it all with a Christmas present years ago didn’t make it better.
“The snow’s melted, but it’ll be back this week. I need to go today if I’m going to find it. Come with me,” he asked.
I looked out the window. “It’s cloudy. It’s going to rain.”
“It won’t,” he said.
“It’s late. It’ll be dark before we’re done.”
“We’ll take Marley and Rojo. They’re fast Tennessee Walkers,” he cajoled. “Three hours, tops.”
“More like four or five,” I said.
“Back by seven,” he said.
“More like eight.”
“It’ll be a date,” said our daughter.
“Yeah,” he said.
I looked at him. He seemed so hopeful. “Okay,” I sighed.
I am a reluctant rider. I didn’t grow up around horses. Like Sherlock Holmes, I think you have to be crazy to voluntarily get on something that’s dangerous at both ends and crafty in the middle. On tippy-toes as they pandered to an opera house diva, my family has made all kinds of accommodations for me—extra cushy saddle, wide stirrups, easy mountain trails, a mounting block, and no loping, only a slow but ground eating Tennessee Walker gait allowed. My horse Marley is the equivalent of a tricycle with training wheels and eight-wheel drive. She’s surefooted, calm, stable, and big enough to pack me around all day long.
I know she’ll take care of me, but I’m still nervous. I’ve fallen a few times. The most spectacular was when Charlie, a trusted paint I’d ridden a couple of years decided he’d rather be a bucking bronco at the rodeo. I was bruised black and blue and to this day my tailbone hurts if I sit too long. When we couldn’t find a reason for the bucking, I decided I couldn’t trust Charlie (Chucky!). It took Kevin a long time and a lot of test drives before he found Marley for me and longer still until I’d ride her without grinding my teeth the whole time.
I swear when you’re older the ground is farther and harder. A lot.
But when your spouse really really loves something, sometimes you gotta suck it up and get on a horse.
I try not to complain, but it’s hard.
It was four-thirty by the time we’d trailered the horses to the trailhead and saddled them up. In a maroon fleece jacket and hunter’s orange vest, blond hair standing out in tufts under my pink and black riding helmet, I looked like a deranged Bozo the Clown. I know because I saw the iPhone photo my husband posted on Facebook later.
At least no hunter would ever confuse me with a deer or elk. Moose, maybe.
As Kevin limped over to mount Rojo, our son’s big strawberry roan gelding, I asked, “You sure you want to do this? Shouldn’t you be in bed icing that thigh?”
“I’m fine,” he said.
“I saw the bruising.”
“I don’t bruise.”
“You did this time, Buckaroo Bonsai. Purple, yellow, and green.”
“It’s still a needle in a haystack.”
“I know exactly where I was when Brownie fell,” he said.
“Okay, Hoss,” I said. “What’re we looking for? What color is the GPS unit?”
He sighed. “Camouflage green.”
We turned and headed up the trail.
Next week Part 3: The Things We Do For Love