On Saturday, I rode a horse in the snow for the first time! Ben, an Arab that belongs to a friend (above, at left), got spooked by the blowing wind that brought ghostly snow swirls onto the road but we worked it out together. I rode Ben again on Sunday with no wind he was better but not thrilled about barking dogs or passing cars. We both have hang-ups, it seems.
Horses, in fact, have a ton of hang-ups. Their entire survival system is based on paranoia, which is what makes them dangerous. Bob, the studly Paint on the right, is a tough guy but he is deathly afraid of flags, trash cans, dumpsters and newspapers wrapped in bright yellow plastic. When Bob freaked out over one Sunday paper package after another, I had to sympathize, "Well, it is the news... he has every right to be afraid."
To understand my unabashed joy around the second First, you'll need some back story:
In case you have not noticed, I am somewhat obsessed with the old West and American life in the 1800s. (Curse you HBO for cancelling "Deadwood"!) In the absence of a working time machine, I find other ways to entertain my fantasies. Living in the gold rush capital of San Francisco made this fairly easy.
When I first began working in downtown San Francisco - before I was sucked into the corporate vortex or made any friends in that world - I would take my sad little sandwich and walk straight to Wells Fargo bank on Montgomery Street. This was no ordinary bank branch but it happened to be the first Wells Fargo and it was also a history museum of the bank's history and the West.
The museum had two stagecoaches, one authentic antique and one built for show. The fake one upstairs was rigged so you could get into it, push a button and it would simulate a real stagecoach ride with mechanized jumpy movements. Along with the physical experience, you also heard the recording of an actor's voice reading from an actual travel diary of some hearty dude who had ridden from St. Louis to San Francisco sometime in the late 1800s.
And that is how I would spend my lunch time, about once a week or so. Dorky, I realize.
Flash forward to my Sunday shift at the NWSS when I was helping out with The Wild West Show. What a blast! Talk about getting a front row seat! Not only was I opening and closing the gates for all the horses and performers, I actually got filthy from all the flying dirt and mud. It was GLORIOUS.
At one point, the head dude, Chet, came up to me and said sternly, "Heather, after the Silver Screen Cowboy segment, you haul your ass back to the paddock."
"Yes, sir!" I responded dutifully. "Um, so what do I do when I get there?"
"You get in the stagecoach. You're riding in the final segment."
"ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!" I sputtered. I may have even pulled on his arm and continued my gleeful rambling, "Omigod, omigod, omigod! No way!"
"And don't forget to wave to the crowd," Chet said. "And take off your cowboy hat and wave that around too."
The man did not have to tell me twice. Anyone who knows me can tell you - these are the kinds of spontaneous gifts that I live for; they actually define me and are one of the few true perks of living in my skin.
WHEEEEEEE! What a treat! I piled in, along with a few others, including a lovely and very funny gal named Tracey Nelson, Miss Rodeo Queen for Douglas County.
So there I was at last, squealing with delight in a real stagecoach, with horses attached and everything. It was all I'd dreamed of and more. The show biz aspect, with the roaring crowds, was just the icing on the cake. But, I have to admit, I loved waving to the masses next to a real live Rodeo Queen.
Man! When those six horses took us off, we went fast! I was smiling so big, the back row of the arena could probably see my molars. It was amazing to me how many people - not just little kids - waved back. We circled the arena three times and nobody seemed to tire of the waving. Big music, big lights, big horses and thousands of cornball humans in cowboy hats, just moving their hands around. It was sheer delight.
So, I have to marvel at life, it truly is a series of trade-offs. One day, I'm sucking my thumb and singing the blues and the next, I'm riding a stagecoach in a Wild West show. You can just never tell what is going to come out charging of those gates. I guess the trick is to just keep showing up for your shift.