She was so black she looked like she was shining in the sun when she sweated. She stood five and a half feet tall to the shoulder which was more than half a foot taller than I was at 13 years old. Everyone loved her, she was the most gentle, fastest and best horse anyone could ride and he let me ride her. I had ridden many horses by then but none as special as her. Beauty belonged to Gramps and Gramps was just everyone’s favorite person. He always had a story to tell and if you were feeling a little down he would listen just as well and give you a little advice if he thought you needed it or would listen.
The trail ride started out at the beer joint by the bayou and would around back roads to lake Houston and then to Kickapoo creek before it was over on Sunday. Now, my memory finds it humorous that someone thought it would be a bright idea to get someone to let them use the local ice cream truck to follow along the route and hand out beer and soda’s to the riders while playing radio music along the way. The funniest thing I had ever seen and at the time the song “dead skunk in the middle of the road” must have been very popular because I heard it at least 10 times in one day and laughed each time.
My good friend Dianne was riding her own horse, Buckeye. She called him that because he was a cream color with a big dark brown circle around his right eye. Dianne was a very good rider and had been on a horse most of her life. I was not as lucky and just rode anyone’s horse that nobody else was riding. Even though Buckeye was a good horse, he was a little spirited and would try to “dance” around and walk sideways if he got nervous about the traffic or some other horse he didn’t like. Every horse has its own temperament and interesting name that sort of goes with either the horse or the owner. Billy had a big black stallion with a white patch on his side and he called him Blacky. Chick (Billy’s wife) had a blonde little horse that had a platinum mane and she called her Honey so, on and on it goes. At one point I was riding Honey because Billy got too drunk to ride and Blacky didn’t like anyone riding him that he didn’t know. Chick was tough and didn’t put up with either Blacky or Billy’s crap so, she made her husband get on the ice cream truck and let me ride Honey, I was so proud to be given a chance to ride her.
Everyone got settled into the park before dark and all the kids got to go swimming and run around acting like kids for a while. The adults who were still sober started making hot dogs and sandwiches for everyone while the horses and vehicles were getting taken care of. All the horses got to go to the lake for water and back in their trailers for the night. A person wouldn’t think that riding a horse all day would be very tiring but take it from me, your behind is wore out. Swimming and riding and running around pretty much ensures that all the kids are sleeping not too long after dark.
Adults keep partying way later than the kids are able and not quite as eager to jump up out of the tents in the morning. Loaded up and back on the road to the last stop, Kickapoo Creek. Ice cream truck playing Bill Bailey wont you please come home, passing out beers and the hot Texas sun pretty soon looking up the line of horses, there is one out of line and the rider was hanging on sideways already passed out. Gramps had one foot still in the stirrup and if it were not for Beauty being such a great horse he would have cracked his punkin on that road and that would have been it for him. Beauty was great, she just slowed down and took a few steps every once in a while till someone started yelling out “Get a rider, get a rider for Beauty” .. oh my gosh .. oh my gosh .. what are they going to do, next thing I know someone in a truck came around and got me off the back of the wagon and we were hell for leather up the line. What the heck, is going on. They got Gramps off the horse and asked him if I could ride her into camp, he looked over and smiled and said .. Hell yea that girl can ride her, she can do it.
Riding down the black top road on Beauty, oh my gosh that was amazing. She was so tall and proud and her backside just swayed like a porch swing. I don’t recall being more proud to ride any animal. Pretty soon, here comes Dianne and Buckeye sidling up on the outside of the line, she leaned over and said “want to have some fun”, well of course but you never knew what you were gonna get because she was as wild as all my cousins put together.
Whatch thinking? .. Well, she said .. when we get to the dirt road to Kickapoo .. I will race ya to the lake. Looking over at Buckeye, I knew Beauty could take him but, could I handle getting her to beat Dianne. Not to be outdone, I said hell yea and you are gonna get your ass beat, to which she laughed so hard I thought she was going to choke.
Fear set in as I saw the road come up and the line turning. She looked over at me and I nodded, she went left and I went right. Beauty must have know what was up because one slap of the reigns on her neck and she was flying aroung the slow horses on the side of the road and kicking up dirt. I looked over and didnt see Buckeye or any sign of Dianne so I stood up in the stirrups and popped Beauty on the side hard. Leaning forward she shot out of the line and we were off and racing.
On the dirt road both Buckeye and Beauty were kicking up dirt and everyone was screaming for us to stop before we killed ourself. My heart was racing and I could just hang on and try to breathe. I didnt know what to do so I just hung on and tried to remember to just lean in and hold the hell on. There is nothing else that makes a sound like a horse runing for everything it has on a dirt road, its like that is what they wait all their life to get a chance to do.
The road started curving to the left and the lake appeared in front of us and we both knew the only way to stop this was the lake. Pulling hard to the left Beauty decided to go for the lake about the time Buckey shot around us. She wasnt having any of that and took off anew after Dianne and Buckeye. We hit the lake about the same time and neither horse stopped until they were neck deep in the water and our asses were in the drink.
By the time we got the horses out of the lake, there was a crowd of people around and I was getting told to put Beauty up and find my parents fast because I was about to get killed. Even though I suffered greatly, Gramps said I did a hell of a job beating Buckeyes young self and the whipping was bound to have been worth it. Well, I am not sure if it was from the riding, the racing of the beathing but my butt and legs were black for weeks afterward and every time I sat down I still felt great about winning.