A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
Crazy was already a little . . . well . . . crazy when my brother, Bud, bought him. That's part of what Bud liked about the Arabian stallion. Crazy was a little wild. Spirited. Feisty.
In other words, Crazy was just like Bud.
With this significant difference: Bud liked me. Even though he was 15 years older than I was, we had a special relationship. I was too young to appreciate the grief he caused my parents with his wild teenage stunts. All I knew was he was my hero, my own personal James Dean, and I think Bud sort of liked being somebody's hero. That special bond extended into our adult years.
Crazy seemed to sense that. And since he adored Bud – something about kindred spirits, you know? – that could only mean one thing: I had to be taken out.
The horse waited for the perfect moment to make his move. It came one afternoon when I was about 21 and was visiting Bud and his family at their home in the country. I had finally worked up the courage to take Crazy out for a ride by myself, and things were going pretty well – until Crazy bolted. He reared onto his hind legs, and then broke into a full gallop. All I could do was clench my knees against his heaving ribs and hang on to the saddle horn for dear life.
Crazy made several quick moves and turns, like he was trying to shake me off. I clung to him, more out of fear than horsemanship. He veered sharply toward a six-foot wooden fence, and charged it like an enraged bull bearing down on a matador's red cape. I was sure he was going to jump the fence, and I braced myself for the attempt. Before I knew it I was hurtling through the air – alone. Crazy had come to a sudden sideways stop just short of the fence, as if he were throwing me at the fence. It was a clear case of attempted horsey homicide.
Thankfully, I survived the fall with only a few scrapes and bruises. I'm sure it made Crazy . . . well . . . crazy to see Bud rushing to my side, brushing me off and helping me to my feet. Then my brother walked over to the horse, checked the saddle to make sure everything was still cinched up tight and held out the reins to me. "Here," he said, "I'll help you get back on."
I looked at my brother incredulously. "You've got to be kidding," I said. "That horse is crazy. He tried to kill me. There's no way I'm getting back on him."
Bud smiled that thin, firm smile of his. "You have to," he said. "You've got to show him who's boss. You have to let him know that you're not afraid."
"But I AM afraid," I said. "And he can be boss – I don't care."
"I know," Bud said. "I understand. But you've got to get back on right now. Come on."
I knew that look on my brother's face. There was no point in arguing. So I pulled myself up into the saddle again for the short ride back to the barn. Crazy was on his best behavior – I think Bud whispered something into his ear about a glue factory – and by the time I slid off his back I was feeling a little better about myself, and a lot less fearful.
It wasn't until years later that I understood that bud wasn't really trying to teach Crazy anything by putting me back up in the saddle. It was for me. He knew that if I didn't get back on the horse immediately, the fear would compound, and I might never climb into a saddle again. So he made me face my fear right then, while I was still numb and hurting, as a way of conquering it.
Which tells me that Bud would have approved of the way America has dealt with what has happened recently in our country. We were maliciously attacked. We were hurt. We were dazed for a little while. But we're back in the saddle again.
Craziness not withstanding.
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.