I wasn’t about to let anything like freezing weather and snow keep me from riding my horse. I had thermals to wear under my jeans, a couple pairs of thick socks and a ski mask with the eyes and mouth cutout making me look like I was ready to stick up the closest convenience store.
I was going to use the snow to my advantage. We didn’t have any decent hills near our home to sled down, so I had the brilliant idea of pulling my brother through the snow on my horse. I could picture us– Cherokee’s mane and tail flying as he galloped, hooves tossing up glittering bits of snow, as my brother sat on his brand new metal flying saucer, enjoying the ride.
We couldn’t get off of the school bus fast enough. The snow was deep, the sky was clear and we were going to have some fun horseback riding and sledding. I was out to the barn in a flash, saddling up Cherokee, careful not to get any of his long winter coat caught in the cinch. I need to point that out because in all the Westerns I ever watched, when the horses trudged through snow and blizzards, they looked nothing like the wooly mammoth my horse turned into when the weather started getting cold.
I slid my foot into the stirrup, mounted and walked Cherokee over to a stump where my brother was standing. Keith climbed on behind me, holding the round, silver saucer in his right hand. I brought along about 12 feet of dog tie-out chain with a piece of clothesline added to give us some extra length. We looked like gladiators heading across the street to conquer the open field.
We reached the area behind the road-front businesses and Keith jumped down with his saucer. I uncoiled the chain/clothesline concoction and he fastened the chain end to the handle of his saucer. He sat in the center, legs crossed and I urged Cherokee ahead slowly. The slack was taken up and I looked back to see my brother with a big smile on his face as we headed across the field. I urged Cherokee into a faster gait and looked back again at my brother. It was one of those perfect Norman Rockwell Americana scenes until Cherokee looked back and saw something was following him. I was too busy feeling smug to notice he didn’t share our enthusiasm with our winter outing. Cherokee started to go faster without any encouragement from me. He looked back again and realized he was being chased. He turned a little to get a better look and didn’t like what he saw. That’s when he started to buck.
I came out of the saddle fast. I still don’t know if I hit my face on the saddle or on my knee, but it hurt like hell as I tumbled through the air and landed face first in the snow. I remember thinking how good it felt to be lying in the snow. The cold seemed to caress my face and beckoned me to close my eyes and stay awhile. Then the thought of my horse unattended in the field with a busy road between him and home brought me around like a slap.
I sat upright as my brother walked toward me, asking if I was okay. I saw Cherokee standing and looking at me. Instead of remaining as calm as my two cohorts, I went from semi-conscious to hysterical in two seconds flat. I screamed at my brother to get my horse before he took off and got hit crossing the busy road. Keith turned and ran toward Cherokee. And the rodeo began again, with my horse running and bucking through the field with the flying saucer bouncing and becoming airborne behind him.
I gathered myself up and headed for home, afraid of what I might find when I reached the road. Keith came back to assure me that Cherokee had made it home safely. Concerned for my horse, I’d forgotten about the pain in my face until my brother took one look at me and advised me to clean off my face with the snow. My cheek felt as if it had somehow managed to get pushed halfway past my right eye. My nose and mouth were bleeding and my lip was stiff.
I can only imagine the terror my mother must have felt when she saw my horse gallop through the yard without a rider. I’m proud to report that she removed his tack and put him in the barn before leaving the house to check on us. A quick trip to the emergency room proved nothing was broken and no stitches were needed.
I went to school the next day with two black eyes, a swollen nose and a fat lip. That might have bothered some teenage girls, but not me. Big sunglasses were in style and they covered up my black eyes. Besides, I was not a frilly, homecoming queen kind of girl. I liked to compare myself to Calamity Jane–not the real one who was actually a drunk and a prostitute, but the pretty one that Doris Day played in the movie. You know, the one who cleaned up really well, turned into a beautiful woman, got to marry handsome Wild Bill Hickok and sang “Secret Love” while riding a black horse. I probably owned as many dresses as Calamity Jane–the real one.
This wasn’t the first black eye I wore to high school. I got one from my lack of experience, i.e., you don’t put your head between a horse’s front legs and tickle him with a razor in an effort to remove bot eggs. At least two other black eyes were due to my unfortunate adolescent clumsiness. I’m very surprised my classmates didn’t come up with a caption below my yearbook picture: “Most Likely to Have a Black Eye.”
I rode through that field a lot before and after the flying saucer incident. It was the safest way to some unpaved back roads, to my best friend’s home and to some nice trails that ran along the river. I know that when Cherokee made it safely to the barn he was no longer dragging a flying saucer, but during all of my travels through that field, I never did see it again. Like most flying saucers you hear about, it simply disappeared.
Read more of Kristie’s exploits: