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Girls & Horses

By Marc Jennings

Sometime during my high school career I made an interesting discovery. I’ll bet it was our junior year before it really sank into my head, that: “hey, there are a lot of girls that really like horses”. What is the significance of this, you might ask? Nothing, really, it’s just one of those random bits of information that help you navigate the world. Sometimes it might help in your relations with the fairer sex to know things like this.

At a time prior to acquiring this girl/horse insight, I had a double date planned for a particular weekend. You know, we spent a lot of time (sometimes the whole week) figuring out what we were going to do, and who we were going to do it with, during the upcoming weekend. In this instance, my good friend, Bruce Trowman, had come up with a plan. Don’t ask me where this plan came from, cause it was something I would never think of in a thousand years. So your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, Bruce approached me with the plan and I responded with something like, “yeah, let’s do it”. The plan was a double date on a Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon was definitely a non-traditional time to have a date with a girl. But, there was usually nothing going on at that time of the weekend, so it would give us a little more mileage out of our two precious days before Monday came around to depress us once again.

The thing was, the date was to go horseback riding, which seemed pretty weird to me. When I thought of a date it was going to a dance, going to a drive-in movie, going to a party; you know, the traditional stuff, where you had a chance to make out at some point. But, like I said, it was Sunday afternoon so, what the heck.

Bruce had a car and he was pretty proud of it. It was a 1960 Corvair. In the early 60’s Ford and Chevrolet had come out with two “compact” cars to take advantage of a new market segment created by the very popular VW beetle. Ford made the Falcon, and Chevy the Corvair. It was a good idea but the execution was terrible. Looking at the Falcon and Corvair, you could understand why American car companies would lose market share. The Corvair wasn’t too bad; they had some sporty models. But that’s not what Trowman had. His was a four-door automatic, for starters. It was a “plain-jane” stripped down model with no fancy hubcaps or chrome strips or SS letters on the back. Finally, it was white and kind of looked like an upside-down bathtub. But hey, it was a car, which beat the heck out of the “shoe leather express” that I was driving at the time.

Anyway, at the appointed time Bruce and I picked up the girls and went to a riding stable. I have no recollection whatsoever where this was. I had never been there before and would never go again. The girls were friends and I guess this is how Bruce and I ended up doubling. As soon as they got in the car it was obvious they were really looking forward to this horse-riding stuff, and I suspect they engineered the whole thing. Bruce and I were just the two stooges that supplied the transportation and money.

We got to the stables, parked and Bruce and I went into a building to pay for four people riding for—I guess an hour, I don’t really remember. But the girls went straight to the stable where the horses were kept. They had probably been there before and probably had their favorite horses they were picking out. When Bruce and I came out the girls were mounting up and we didn’t really have the time to listen to the horse guy explain what the rules were. We got on our horses and, of course, acted like we knew all about riding (this was always standard procedure on a date—that is, acting like you knew everything).

I had ridden horses and ponies before and didn’t care for it that much. The thing was you couldn’t trust those animals. If they sensed you were uneasy or afraid, they would typically do whatever they wanted: stand still, gallop, gallop under low tree branches. They seemed to instinctively know how to make you more uneasy than you were when you got on. It was worse with horses that were kept to rent out by the hour.

I don’t think Bruce had ridden before. He looked and acted ill at ease. And sure enough, we hadn’t been on those horses more than three minutes before Bruce’s horse started bucking and then took off like a bat out of hell. And it was like watching a movie; the horse was moving fast, but Bruce was in slow motion. He began to lose his hold on the horse. Then he kind of slid to the side in the saddle. The horse must have sensed the trouble Bruce was in and he went for broke. Bruce came completely out of the saddle and fell to the ground, but as in the movies, one foot was caught in the stirrup.

After all these years, I can’t swear I remember just exactly what cries of pain poor Bruce was making as the horse drug him along the ground and he bounced over the rocks and sticks in his path. But clearly, he was not having a good time. Mercifully, in less than a minute, Bruce’s foot was yanked out of the stirrup and his body came to rest in a cloud of dust, motionless.

I got to him as fast as I could and he was slowly able to get to his feet. The girls rode over, but Bruce didn’t pay much attention to them, which told me he was hurt. I let my horse go and helped Bruce back to the car. He got in and laid down in the front seat to see if he could recover.

Today, after such an incident we would go directly to the hospital or an immediate care facility to be checked out. But then, if you weren’t bleeding or didn’t have a compound fracture, you toughed it out. This was what Bruce did. The girls rode over and asked how Bruce was. I said I think he will be OK with a little time to recover. The girls rode off—I guess the minutes of our hour’s riding time were ticking by.

I stayed with Bruce but he didn’t seem to be bouncing back too rapidly. He was doing some moaning, but when I asked, he didn’t have any significant injuries like broken ribs or wrenched knee. I stayed with him a bit longer then finally figured I should go with the girls at least for a while during our date. So we rode around the place a bit, but I remained concerned about Bruce. What if I went back to the car and he was dead? I hoped I could find his keys. (Just kidding about the keys.)

We eventually brought the horses back and turned them in. Good riddance, as far as I was concerned. Bruce was, by then, sitting up and a bit more talkative, yet he definitely was not his usual good-natured self. He said he was OK to drive, and he did fine. We basically just dropped off the girls and said, goodbye. Nothing more out of the ordinary happened that day, and although I don’t remember distinctly, I believe Bruce was more or less OK when he dropped me off.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that Bruce’s horse mishap that day explains the strange things he has done since then. They might be entirely unrelated. But for me, from that day forward, if I ever met a girl that said anything about horses…….I made sure I didn’t take her out while doubling with Trowman.