My own very small role in settling the Wild West.
Just north of Scottsdale, Arizona, sits the small town of Carefree - altitude 2,568 feet, population 3,876. At some point in yesteryear, I attended a conference in Carefree. Back then, if it was happening in Carefree, chances are the Carefree Inn was the engine that got it started.
On our conference schedule was a desert cookout. I thought this event would be a lot of fun - except for one thing. The expectation was that if you were going to attend, you would come by horseback. This was to be my first time riding a horse and to say I was a bit nervous would be a substantial understatement. I was terrified. I have since ridden both elephants and camels, but back then I was a raw rookie. I braced myself for what I suspected would be a massive stampede and almost certain death.
On the day of the cookout, I recall a large group of us assembled as wranglers began assigning us to our horses. In fact, the exact number of riders that day was 107. I have a mind that carries that kind of trivia around for years.
Experienced riders confidently climbed aboard and were in complete control. Their horses were motionless. I tried to slip - unnoticed - further and further to the back of the line. Finally, the moment of truth had arrived for me. With a big push of my bum by some scruffy wrangler, I was aboard. It took only a minute for my horse to become restless and to get out of line as he spotted some sort of desert plant he wanted to eat. I’m not sure, but I think it might have been grass. The wrangler came flying over and said Don’t let him eat that. I remember my response to this day. He eats what he wants to eat when he wants to eat it. I mean this is America, right? No wrangler was going to push me or my horse around.
Soon enough a line of 107 of us set out. I felt a rush of confidence come over me as it became immediately clear these horses make the same trip to the same cookout site probably four times a week, perhaps more. They could do this blindfolded. Or so I thought.
Suddenly, my horse took a sharp right turn and the two of us headed off in our own direction, separated from the group by an ever-increasing distance. This was very disconcerting for someone like me who is used to being in control. The horse was in control and was riding me more than I was riding him. For a few long minutes I envisioned myself as one of the only American immigrants illegally crossing the border INTO Mexico. In reality, we were far from the border, but the horse had a plan I was not made aware of - and my mind was racing through all kinds of scenarios.
Finally, we emerged from our desert exploration, came up over a small hill and - amazingly - arrived at the cookout. Of the 107 horses that had set out, we finished third. A total of 104 horses and riders that took the traditional route came in behind us. Losers all. That was truly one of the greatest moments of my life - a surprise podium finish on my first ride. How great is that?
The American West is big country where big people have accomplished big things. I may not qualify as a “big” person and, yes, my horse was a tad aged, but we accomplished great things that day. First and foremost, I rode him. That was an accomplishment in itself. We also developed a deep trust of each other - me that he would eventually get me where I needed to go, and him that I would not scream bloody murder when he went off trail.
The world needs more horses that blaze their own trails. What horse has ever made a difference by simply taking the well-worn path? My horse broke the mold. Good for him. To use a traditional southwestern term, it takes some chutzpah to walk a different trail. There are an infinite number of ways to get from Point A to Point B, and I am forever thankful to that horse for reminding me of this.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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