Walking by George’s Lake was always different. How high was the water, what color? Were there dead fish in the spillway? Was the seaweed growth expanding out of the water like an alien? Then there was the soft lime green colored sea foam floating around. It looked beautiful but too gooey to touch.
Once old enough and long legged enough to jump across the spillway, why would anyone walk around it? Why would you ever walk when you could run and feel the wind in your hair?
Startled by the scraping sound of a car bottoming out, I turned. An old beat up, unfamiliar station wagon stopped beside me.
Boys, mostly boys, dark haired and swarthy complexioned, mysterious looking boys peered at me. They were not blonde like my brothers or brown haired like most of the neighborhood.
“Oh, Father Micheals, how are you?” I asked, exhaling a big one as I spied a familiar face.
“Good Jeanne, would you like to go horseback riding?” Father said directly.
Startled again, a “yes” came out of me. Who said that? Before I could back out, Father said, “Go ask your mother and meet me back here in an hour.”
“Okay,” the voice said.
As Father pulled away, I was back alive, running home. “City kids, they must be city kids,” I muttered to myself, “Father was transferred to Carson.”
“Ma, I feel funny in this tummy top, you know with a priest and all.”
“Nonsense, its fine, wear it.”
Later, packed into the car, my neck and shoulders were tensed ready to spring to action to protect myself. My elbows tucked back at my sides, What if someone touched my bare midriff? All my energy was in creating a wall around me, why couldn’t I have a shirt on?
At the stables, a gigantic brown horse was brought to me. Once on, I grinned; being so high tickled me. The fur was coarse and flat, not fluffy. It was not like silk unless your silk was burnt, melted and hardened again.
We clopped along, the horse and I bouncing out of sync, changing perspective with every step. Spindly Sumac branches whipped me, Were they poison Sumac? Too late!
Horses before and after me, I was alone in the world of my horse. Daring not to squirm, elbows in to get a better grip, I felt prickles of coarse horse tail flicking my calves. The horse smelled warm and ‘horsy’. He didn’t smell like dog or cat. He smelled more like deer.
We broke into a clearing: my horse joined the others ahead galloping. Oh my, wind blowing in my hair, blowing my eyes to slits. Laughing out loud, our bouncing meshed — the horse and I were one!
The horse slowed before I said my reluctant “Whoa” and pulled on the reins.
Clinging to the saddle, belly to belly I slid my reluctant legs to the strangely still ground. Why would you run when you could ride?