I wrote here, last October, about an utterly mental pinto filly who was instrumental in saving my sanity when I was a child, and I've been thinking about her ever since. She was the horse of my fearlessness, the horse I rode in that bliss of ignorance that I mention in my header. Because she's lost to childhood memories and treasure boxes long since discarded, I have no pictures. This one will have to do. Never mind the lack of reins. They rarely helped.
I cannot believe I don't remember her name. That's part of the reason I've been thinking about her, hoping that reliving some of our rides will help me recover her name from the depths. The other part of thinking about her is recalling the wrecks we survived, the amazing, helmetless, catastrophic, terrifying, scream-worthy, funny wrecks. And when I say funny, I'm thinking of the gargling-with-shaved-glass kind of funny.
One of the more spectacular wrecks happened in front of my mother. She had readily offloaded 13-year-old me to the filly with few questions other than whether I had permission to ride her. A part-time basement dog groomer, my mother offered me a rare moment of warmth the day she buzzed the pinto filly's whiskers away with an old set of Oster clippers. I clung to hopes of us bonding through the filly.
Until one high-summer afternoon. That hot, dry Saturday, I walked a mile to the farm where the crazy pinto filly lived, bridled her and clambered aboard her jigging back. There was an abandoned quarry on the other side of a woods nearby where I sometimes took her swimming. I'd ride her right into the water. Often I had no choice because she'd be bolting. This day, I thought I'd stop by our house on the way to the quarry. I was proud of myself when I was riding the filly and wanted my mother to be proud of me too.
The filly jigged alongside the country road. I remember the cicadas sawing through the dusty silence. I'd have to cross the blacktop to enter our driveway, just coming visible over a rise in the road. I heard a car approaching, but it meant nothing to me. This was in the 70s, a mythic time when drivers slowed to a crawl or even stopped to let riders pass.
I was crossing to the house, in front of a patiently waiting station wagon, when the crazy pinto filly lost her senses. That swimming horse spotted a puddle in the middle of the road, some oil or antifreeze glinting in a divot. She reared high. I slipped forward onto her neck, glued lizard-like in place, aware of the occupants of the station wagon watching rapt as the filly came back down to earth. I urged her forward, and up she went again. At the periphery of my vision, a heavy shadow lumbered toward us. The crazy pinto filly stretched high toward the sun, too high, like that moment at the top of the swing when the chains go loose. I felt air between me and her, but I stuck there. We teetered in the vertical and then, in an instant, fell backwards.
I remember the long arc down and I remember my mother heaving across the lawn, tailed by several yapping Cocker Spaniels. I remember the chrome bumper of the station wagon as I fell past it to the blacktop. I came to rest there in the road pinched under the withers of the crazy pinto filly. She balanced unevenly atop my sternum for a second or two, long enough for my mother to bellow, "You get out from under that horse right now!"
Like it was a choice I made. The thing is, that was hysterically funny to me, but I couldn't actually laugh while pinned under an 800-pound horse. I discovered that your head kind of explodes when you have to eat a deep laugh. It wasn't until the crazy pinto filly had scrambled to her feet that I was able to let it out, pulling myself up alongside her in the summer heat; then laugh, I did, standing in the shadow of my mother who had decided just then that horses and me were all wrong together.
Those poor people in the station wagon. And then we went swimming, the crazy pinto filly and me.
This really happened, so I don't have to imagine it, but even so, I can't imagine that I was once that unafraid.