Last night I went on a ride with Pops to gather the cows. We were in a hurry because every day it gets darker a little earlier. It was 6:30. It gets dark at 7:30…or something like that.
But that’s not the point.
The point is, I have never been able to keep up with Pops on a horse, and I’m afraid no matter how much help I think I am, I’m quite certain he would be better off without me.
I mean, I could be riding a race horse. You know, one of those fast buggers that wins the races race horses win. It could have countless trophies, made jockeys famous and fans from around the world could be chanting his name. And that horse would take one look at me and decide that running isn’t his thing today.
And neither is trotting for that matter.
Not until we’re pointing toward the barn anyway.
Or cutting a path through the thick trees. Yeah, in the trees he’d find his pace.
But Pops. Pops could ride a horse that was half-way to the light at the end of the tunnel and that horse would turn right around to give him his last breath.
So this is what I deal with when we’re in a hurry–kicking and pushing and working to find a pace on a lazy horse to keep up with Pops as he heads toward the trees, providing me with directions that I cannot hear because he is facing the hills and I am three horse lengths behind him.
I yell “What?”
And he says something about following a cow through the trail in the trees.
So I do.
Only there isn’t a trail.
So me and my suddenly-lightening-fast horse make one through the brush so thick that I lose sight of the cow I’m supposed to be following (and all forms of life and light for that matter).
I hear Pops hollering from what seems like twenty miles away and wonder how he got that far in what I’m certain has only been thirty seconds (I’m not sure though because I lose all sense of time as soon as I get into the trees, you know, because I’m focusing on trying to not die a horrible, mangled death now that my horse has found his first wind…)
“Jessss!!!” Pops’ voice echoes through the trees. “Wheeereee youuuuu attt?”
“Uhhhh…” I spit the leaves from my mouth. “Just, uh, cutting a trail here…”
…and bringing with me some souvenirs from the experience–sticks in my shirt, leaves down my pants, acorns in my pockets and twigs jammed nicely in the puffs of my ponytail as I emerge on the other side of the brush alone and searching for any sign of the cow I was supposed to keep an eye on.
Ah, nevermind, looks like Pops has her through the gate.
I kick my horse to catch up while I work on ridding myself of the vegetation I acquired on my “Blair Witch” journey through the coulee.
I catch up just in time to follow him to the top of a hill, down through another coulee, along the road and into the barnyard where we load up the horses and I wait to make sure Pops’ tractor starts so he can get home and get a bale of hay.
It does not start.
(Good thing I have patience, you know?)
So I drive him and the horses home.
Because I have precious cargo.
And because apparently I like to torture this man who is trying to beat the sun.
And the other man in my life who was still at work when I got in from “helping” and decided to make him a casserole, only to be asked, three bites into his meal, what I put in this thing.
To which I replied “cheese, noodles, hamburger…the regular…why?”
He gets up from his chair while pulling something from his mouth, looks and me and says:
“Because I just bit into a stick.”
If you need me I’ll be shopping for khakis and a house in the suburbs.