“We were, wanna be rebel’s who didn’t have a clue…
in our rockin’ roll t-shirts and our ty-pi-cal bad attitudes.”
That was my best friend and me! There was one summer when we were sixteen, we had way too much fun. For us girls it was long horseback rides wearing shorts and moccasins riding home in the dark. It was that time at dusk a coyote stalked us for over half an hour. It was running our horses with the elk in the vast Idaho woods around her house. It was skinny dipping in the lake or better yet jumping in fully clothed and then getting the worlds worst saddle sores riding home wet! She got hurt so much that year her parents dubbed their place “Kicking Horse Ranch” in honor of our antics. Guess I shouldn’t wonder where my kids get it! This was one of those kicking horse stories.
It was spring breakup, the time the loggers have to find other things to do because the ground is so soft and muddy. It’s a great time for riding horseback and we hadn’t been out in ages. Forgetting all inhabitions we bridled the horses in the field and took off down the mountain. We were so anxious we didn’t bother to follow the proper steps; halter, brush, tack, bridle then go. I gave her a leg up onto her dun mare and then, while she held my horse I backed up far enough to get a few good steps running and lept onto my appaloosa hooking my left arm over her tall wither, then shimmyed myself up onto her back. It was slow and not at all graceful. Later into the summer we could swing on bareback with ease but it was spring and our riding muscles were weak so we scrambled up any ol’ way we could manage.
Away we went.
Our girls, Kyanne and Shadow were smoked, heads held high, ears perked and prancing up the logging trail as we giggled and sang in our best Reba accent,
“I remember it ah-all very weh-ell, lookin’ back it was the summer I turned eighteen. We li-ived in a one room, run down shack on the outskirts of New-ooo Orleans.”
She picked up the pace and I followed then gave her a mischievious look, nodded and leaned forward to indicate I wanted to race. Without a word she slapped her mare gently on the rump taking her from a trot to a run. Shadow picked up her feet faster and faster galloping ahead to meet my challenge.
The trees whipped by like dark fence rails… one, two, three. Faster and faster we went. Now five rails at a time, now ten. We were flying!
Bareback at a full gallop our seats no longer touched the horses. We knew we needed to slow down because up ahead the road would switch back and start up the steep mountain. Out of breath I tried to rein in my horse. Fighting for balance and leverage I bumped on Kyanne’s back.
Bump, yank, bump, yank.
I hated to yank on her but she wasn’t responding. She was usually so good but her instinct was too strong. I could not get her to stop!
My friend was a good couple yards ahead of us not having any more luck with her horse Shadow.
“I can’t STOP!” she hollered into the wind!
The hairpin turn was fast approaching. The trees were still flashing past by the dozen. Up ahead the road had washed out from a stream caused by melting snow. Shale had collapsed down the steep shoulder into our path.
I watched helplessly as Shadow slowed and kicked up her heels to attempt to strike my horse and maintain her lead. My friend swung herself off the side, still hanging onto the reins and was dragged face first into the mud in front of me.
I was pulling with all my might but desperately trying not to fall off when my horse lurched to the right and up the steep incline of shale and falling rock. We scrambled and slid down toward the heap that was my best friend.
Forgetting the reins, I wrapped my arms around Kyanne’s neck and squeezed my eyes shut letting out a weak scream as my little Indian horse pushed off from the bank and lept over my huddled friend.
It took less than two seconds but it felt like an eternity. I peeked through one eye as we sailed over the top of her and then squeezed both eyes shut again to brace for the landing.
She landed and stopped.
Still wrapped around her neck I slowly let out a stifled breath, “whoa.”
I quickly dismounted and made a feeble attempt to catch Shadow who was undisturbed by the events and happily eating grass. She took one look at me and bolted for home.
My best friends head was bleeding, I had noticed it the minute I opened my eyes but she insisted I catch her horse. Not wanting to alarm her I followed her directions until the horse took off then turned back to her, purposely defeated.
She put her hand to her head and brought it down in front of her face covered in blood. “I’m bleeding!”
I responded in a calm monotone, “I know.” I was not calm but had to think clearly, this was no time to panic.
The blood trickled all the way down to the bottom of her long blond hair and began to pool on the ground behind her but she was alert and sitting up so I was optimistic. We were a good couple miles from home and left with only one horse.
I asked if she thought she could stand up while secretly trying to see if her eyes were dilated. My dad, being an EMT and firefighter by trade was a safety nazi and prepared me constantly for emergency situations and concussions. To my recolection I had never had to use my “expertise”. Yet!
I had an extra shirt so I used it to provide pressure on the cut and attempt to stop the bleeding. Slowly she clamored to her feet and I let her lean on my horse. We began the long walk back.
“Well, you won!” I teased.
“Very funny Jess.” she grumbled and rolled her eyes holding the wadded up shirt awkwardly atop her head.
When Shadow arrived home without a rider my friend’s brother was sent down on his motorcycle to see if we needed help. He roared up and skidded to a stop, took one look at his sister and went into panic mode!
“Get on I’ll take you home!”
Yeah right, she will be real safe on your dirt bike as you race her back up the hill in a frenzied panic!? I worried silently.
My friend was quick to think, “I’m okay, just go get the farm truck” she instructed.
He started his cycle back up, revved the engine a couple times, did a donut in the gravel and raced back up the mountain spitting rocks at us as he retreated.
“Hrmph,” I snorted, “I hope he makes it back safely!”
Once again we were left in silence. We sat down in the grass beside the road and stared into the blue sky. Why do these things always happen to us? I sighed heavily and knelt to peel back the shirt just enough to see if the bleeding was beginning to slow. It looked good to me but what did I know.
Once the pickup returned I mounted Kyanne and rode the rest of the way home in silence. I knew my friend would be okay but it could have been much worse! I trembled a little as the adrenaline left my body and praised God for His hand in the situation….
Thank you Lord for protecting us even in our stupidity!
Her mom and I washed the wound and joked about whether or not we could tape her sliced scalp back together. She felt no real pain, just a dull headache and had no signs of concussion. Still we decided she had better go to the ER and have it checked out. I don’t remember exactly how many stitches she got but I do remember sitting there begging the doc not to cut her beautiful hair!