Thursday, February 18, 2010

Git Up

This is the barn where I ride.1999 was a pretty bad year for me. Thanksgiving was spent at a casino…this was my father-in-law’s attempt to keep the holiday from forever being marred by the death of my husband. Christmas came and went. No decorations went up that year. No holiday cheer, no festive foods. The holidays came, but were not celebrated.
The morning after the funeral, I found myself sitting alone in my house, looking at all the food that had been brought in. The smell of funeral flowers permeated the rooms. That sickly sweet smell… The silence was deafening. It had been a year of hearing much too much. Words that encourage. Words that express fear. Words that needed research. Words that ended up empty.
Everywhere I looked, something needed my attention. The kitchen was a mess, rooms were filled with flowers, the floors needed to be swept, papers thrown away, food put up, thank you notes needed to be written, phone messages should be returned, bills needed to be addressed, insurance papers to go thru…the list seemed never ending and I couldn’t move. I just sat there, in the silence thinking… Where do I start? When do I start? What should I do?
It was gray and chilly outside. Really gloomy… Enough! I can’t take any more! How much lower can I go? I’ve got to get out of here, if just for a little while. I’ve got to breathe some fresh air!
I headed for my room and got dressed in some warm clothes. Heavy socks, shirt, sweater over the shirt and breeches. Headed for the garage, found my riding boots, fingerless gloves and jacket, hopped into the car and took off for the barn. Now this might sound strange to some, but for me, this was therapy.
The barn is a large riding facility located thirty minutes from my house. Do you know what the smell of arena dirt can do for the soul? The sounds of the horses…the smell of the horses?
It had been awhile since I had ridden. We found out that he had cancer in February and spent the rest of the year battling this horrible disease. I did compete in October at the American Royal…he had wanted this, but that was simply a half hearted attempt for something normal in our life and ended on a sour note.
Well, I got to the barn and pulled Gus out of his stall. Brushed him, combed out his tail and picked his hoofs. Saddled him up and headed for the arena. The girls…my dear friends, cheered as I entered. My friends were so welcoming, and so glad to see me out. It felt good. I wasn’t thinking about “it”, I was focused on being at the barn.
My trainer…gosh, where do I start about her? She’s a tough gal, smokes like a chimney, drinks mountain dew from the minute she wakes up until she sleeps (when she sleeps), cusses like a sailor, drives an 18 wheeler when hauling the horses and times herself when changing a flat. I’ve seen her back down a horse that is acting up, administer meds to a sick horse, throw hay, mend fences and clean stalls. You get the picture… She’s not the nicest of people, and I say this lovingly. She’s tough as nails on the outside and a heart of gold on the inside. Around her, I answer to Dammit. She hollers, “Dammit Lynn” when I’m riding and even when I’m competing. I hear nothing while showing, except her voice… I hear her instructions loud and clear…(you should hear me mimic her, I’ve got it down perfectly) In competition, she tells me to lower his head, pick him up, he’s leaning into the turns, slow his stride and so forth. Kind of like this: Dammit Lynn, slow him down. I do what she says and I win…easy as that! Well maybe not all that easy.
As I said, I hadn’t really ridden much that year, so my legs were weak. I hopped up on him and walked him around. Gosh that felt good. Gus was highly trained. A cluck told him to trot, a kiss meant to canter, right heel and a kiss told him to canter, left lead. I’d turn my head and he would feel it and know which direction we were turning. To lower his head, I’d lightly rake him with my spurs or with my pinky finger, I’d feather his reins. We competed in equitation and horsemanship, which requires these skills. Anyway…I hadn’t ridden, but my trainer had kept him in tip top condition. Gus could stop on a dime, turn a 180 or whatever and canter off with no movement of reins. This is what we did. So here’s this horse, in tip top condition, and me with no leg. After warming him up, I dropped my stirrups…I’m feeling good! After awhile, we trotted, then I kissed him up into a canter…ooooh my gosh, the feel, the coolness hitting my face, then I said, “Whoa!” Gus stopped…I came off like a torpedo. I burrowed, face first thru the arena dirt and laid there. My trainer (bless her heart) didn’t move. She calmly flipped her cigarette butt and hollered, “Dammit Lynn, are you dead?” Weakly, I replied, “No.” Her response was, “well git up and take care of your gd horse”
No sympathy, no feeling sorry that my husband had just died, no rushing to my side, no help…just git up and take care of your gd horse. Real words of wisdom…git up and take care of things and that’s what I did. Later, after we all laughed and I headed home, the words hit me again…git up and do what needs to be done.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Words of wisdom can come from the most surprising sources! A beautiful story of sorrow and resilience.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wonderful story told with pain, hope and humor.
“Dammit Lynn, are you dead?” is priceless. Sometimes tough love is what it takes to shake us into the "now". I am so glad you had her and Gus.

Kittie Howard said...

I saw sentences pulled from this blog on Jack's blog and thought, what's going on?? I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Perhaps both. Cry for the pain you suffered, the long hurt. Laugh for "Dammit Lynn, are you dead?" You are so blessed to have Lynn. And I am blessed that you shared your story because you're an inspiration! Happy Riding!!

They call him James Ure said...

Great post!! I'm a HUGE RMNP fan!! I grew up walking and hiking its trails. As well as backpacking deep into other forests near by. Are you in Colorado? I'm lucky enough to live right at the foot of the park--I live less than an hour away.

turquoisemoon said...

Oooh too jealous. No, I live near KC, but have been going to RMNP, several times a year, since the 70's. Think I've hiked every trail on the east side and some several times. I've hiked several of the trails on the west side, but still have many left for the future. Fall is my favorite time of year and plan on going there again this year. My husband used to be my hiking buddy, but since he's passed, my sister and brother go with me. We have lots of fun! I must admit that I did scatter my husband's ashes in Colorado...he wanted that & it gives me a reason to visit often...