This series includes Crazy Pinto Filly Wrecks Part I and Part II, but I first wrote about her in Why Do I Ride?
The third epic wreck with the crazy pinto filly I think really was epic. It may have been the one responsible for, finally, the late dawning of reason in my 14-year-old mind. Maybe. I see now how, in its essence, it contained the raw ingredients that formed the fear cookies I'd find myself munching decades later. Those cookies. They taste uncommonly delicious when it's time for another round of whining, indulgent self-bashing, but in every other way they are terrible and offer no nutritional value whatsoever.
Our ride began as an afternoon meander under cloudy skies on one of those autumn days that calls ahead to the coming winter. The filly and I went out in tack, me slipping around in a cheap cardboard-leather English saddle that was still slick and stiff from too little use. There was a guy I had a crush on, and I hoped to intrigue him by riding imperiously (though nonchalantly) past the place where he hung out juking cars with his friends. They'd all gaze in awe as we cantered by, the crazy pinto filly and me, but him, he would fall in love. So it goes, anyway.
I had to ride a couple of miles along an abandoned railroad track to reach the tired, faintly hostile country tavern beside which the guys labored to transform junkers on blocks into late-night blacktop cruisers. To reach the tracks, I rode east from the barn and then turned south, crossing through a fall-thinning woods. Nuts cracked down from the shedding hickory trees, grenading off branches. The crazy pinto filly quickly wound up into her mindless seesaw jig.
As a kid, I always felt older in the fall, melodramatic and full of self-seriousness. Though it was harder to sit the filly's jig in a saddle, I managed to drift along, daydreaming myself to be a lot of things I wasn't. A person this older guy, who knew zip about my crush on him, would find irresistible, for example.
Just as I was settling the details of my fantasy, the filly bolted. There, at the edge of the woods, turning onto the old rail line, she lost her mind. Loco. I had scant seconds to jerk back to awareness and regain my seat. That the crazy pinto filly was a bolter wasn't news to me. We'd had those rides before. In her worst moments, she flung her head skyward and rocketed forward, blind for all practical purposes. One time in the summer I'd run her right into a lake to save us.
So we were off. We had a long way down the tracks. I remember estimating it and double-checking it from my poor man's two-point position. I was just standing in the stirrups. The filly was going really fast, a full-bore gallop, when she flipped her head straight up. I saw a rolling eye. The drum of her hoof beats seemed deafening. In that convergence of sight and sound, I realized she was out of control.
(The things we learn later. I'd not had riding lessons. Whatever I thought I knew about riding came from reading the novels of Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry. My bible was My Friend Flicka, in which I saw myself and the filly. Sometimes I was the boy, Ken, and sometimes I was Flicka, the terrified filly he adored.)
We flew down the track, me balanced rigid between the stirrups and the reins. I remember the searing wind and the filly's forelock twisting like a dervish in the air, right before my eyes, her head torqued so high. Thud-thud, thud-thud; the ground was just peeling away beneath us. I was hauling on her mouth, leaning back hard, but the crazy pinto filly was lost in her fear and so much stronger than me.
The thing is, there was a cable hanging where the tracks had once met the road, one of those long, low-slung wires displaying a rusted No-Trespassing sign. At some instant, I remembered it was there.
Up next: Chapter 2