My father, who exited my life about nine months after I made my appearance on the world stage, wanted to name me Grace after his mother. My mother wanted to name be Elizabeth after one of her sisters. My mother won. I drew the name Elizabeth Ann, instead of Grace Elizabeth. (I could have been named after my maternal grandmother. It would have been difficult growing up as a Delia, although today I’d be happy with such a cool, unusual name.)
So, Mom didn’t name me Grace, which is a good thing. I was the least graceful child you’ll ever meet. I tripped over my own feet. I tripped over the flowers in the carpet, even when we didn’t have a floral carpet. I mostly fell up the stairs. That’s right. I tripped going up, not down. Why not down? Because I almost always held the handrail walking downstairs. I still do. And I still trip going up. One of my friends says it’s because in my natal chart, Pisces rules my feet. What the heck would a fish know about feet??
Mom tried her best to make me more graceful. She gave me dancing lessons. Tap first, until one teacher gently suggested she save her money. Ballet next, with similar results. Only this time, the ballet teacher plain old kicked me out of her class. I was impossible. Forget about yearning to get up on my toes. Heck, I’d have been happy to complete a plie without looking like a grasshopper.
Modeling followed. I was reasonably decent at modeling. I learned how to walk with a book on my head, how to turn, how to smile, how to feel like an idiot on a catwalk.
Mom was about to give up when I asked for riding lessons. Horseback riding lessons. I’d begun riding when I was five and my family had a burro. I rode a lot of horses by the time I was eight. I loved it. On a horse was the only way I felt free. The horse was the graceful one. All I had to do was stay on her back. I took English and Western lessons, fell in love with Western first, and actually became–drum roll please–a barrel racer in high school. I had a Quarter Horse who was a natural on barrels. Again, about all I had to do was point her to the starting line and not fall off. We took a ton of ribbons. Actually, the horse won a ton of ribbons. I didn’t have to do much to win. Except stay on her back.
That brings me to why I quit riding and why I’m using a Facebook meme as the featured image on this post. I never really got hurt with my horses until one time. Oh sure, I broke most of my toes one time on another. 1000 pounds landing on the toe of a boot leaves a distinct impression on the toes inside. Or maybe that should be indentation. Now, my horses were all barefoot animals. None wore iron shoes, not even the barrel racer, but even she could do some damage when she inadvertently stepped on me.
So, how did I end up with a horse looking down at me? My husband, who didn’t know me at the time, would call it “operator error.” I put this gentle mare in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here’s how it played out.
I had a date on Thanksgiving weekend. A blizzard was forecast for the area. The cattle were in the upper pasture without enough water to let them ride out the storm. My cousins were out of town, so I grabbed the mare, put a hackamore on her and led her to the edge of the road. I wanted to take a shortcut up to the high pasture. I grabbed a handful of mane and leaped toward her back, a mount I’d done about a thousand times. On this thousand and first time, I didn’t hear the pickup truck with no muffler coming around the bend. I clearly remember the driver honking his horn (we were at the edge the road at the mouth of the lane that led to the barn) and yelling “Hi Ho, Silver.” I clearly remember also thinking he was a a jerk by my mare was a bright bay, not a white stallion. No way was she “Silver” of Lone Ranger fame.
Be that as it may, she did what the driver expected. She reared up and dumped me on asphalt. On my back. I don’t know how long I lay there, but I do know the idiot didn’t stop to see if I was hurt. I don’t remember anything until I regained consciousness to find a horse muzzle blowing gently in my face. I tried to stand. I couldn’t. This mare was trained to freeze if a rider fell off. She wasn’t trained to move away. She was standing on my pigtails. It took the longest time to convince her that it was all right for her to move.
The long and short of it was, she moved. I led her to the gate and mounted. I opened gates in the upper pasture and convinced the cattle they needed to move lower. They did. I locked the gates behind them. made sure the bathtub with the heater was working and filled with water, brushed the mare and called my mom to pick me up. I’d stiffened up and didn’t feel like walking the mile and a half home. And it was beginning to snow.
I didn’t tell Mom I’d fallen off. I mean, Zandy was the best mare, and I’d done something incredibly stupid. I’d put her in danger.
I ‘fessed up to Mom about the fall two days later when I couldn’t get out of bed. She helped me to the car and took me to the emergency room. You guessed it. I kinda hurt myself. Major crack in the hip bone. Broken knee with torn ligaments and tendons. And three broken vertebrae in my lower back. She read me the riot act. The doctor read me the riot act about not coming to the hospital immediately.
And, what about the date, you ask? He cancelled with flu.
So glad I wasn’t named Grace. It wouldn’t have fit.
Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’m really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.