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Flashback - Livin' the Good Life

Dec. 14th, 2008

08:27 am - Flashback

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Last night, as I dressed for our gig at Pappy and Harriet's, I pulled on my comfortable boots, adjusted my favorite hat, and hurried out to the waiting car. We were late. But, as my boots made that quick, familiar ca-lunk, ca-lunk sound as I walked across our wooden deck I remember smiling to myself. I love the sound that boots make on wooden surfaces! It makes me feel like a kid again. It reminds me of the long days I put in wearing cowboy boots as a riding stable manager/trailride leader back when I was 19 in Topanga Canyon, CA. I worked there for three years. It was intense, back-breaking work. I got there at 7:00 AM, six days a week, and saddled 20 horses. I took phone reservations for trail rides while I was graining, grooming, and saddling the horses. At 9:00 I was ready to go on my first ride of the day. When the riders arrived, I had to evaluate their riding experience and pick appropriate horses for them. Tiny kids always got Blaze. Experienced riders got Apache. Very large people inevitably got Caesar. I reserved my favorite horses for myself. Sometimes I rode bareback, just for variety, but mostly I rode Western. I carefully led my groups up along the mountainside of Topanga Canyon, making sure that they were treating their horses properly as we rode along. We usually walked, but I always included at least one gallop to give everyone a thrill and several stretches of teeth-jarring trots to tire them out and make them feel like they got their money's worth by the time we got back to the stables. The last ride went out at 4:00 PM. At 5:00 I was unsaddling, and I was usually home by 6:00. I can tell you that I was worn out by the end of the day! But, it was a satisfying kind of feeling. And though the pay was ridiculously low, I kept going back day after day because I was fullfilling a childhood dream. As a kid, all I thought about was horses. I drew horses. I read horse stories. I wrote horse stories. I collected horse figurines. And most of all, I "played horses". I ran around every day pretending like I was either riding a horse or, more likely, that I WAS a horse. I had a stick horse named "Morning Star" that had a white, soft plastic head.(Was there plastic back then? It sure looked like plastic.) I loved that horse! It was a treasured posession. To me, it was real. I saw it as a living horse with a personality that I had daily adventures with. I rode it all over the hills in our neighborhood. When it finally cracked and the stuffing started coming out, I switched to riding a purely imaginary horse. So, you can understand how, when I was older, getting to ride real horses all day (and even getting paid to do it) was a dream come true for me.
Here is a picture of me at the stables. Note how thin I was. I can assure you there was not one ounce of fat on my body in those days! (sorry the picture is so dark)
Darlene stable 1

I was always a slender kid. In the sixth grade, I remember the school nurse sending notes home to my mother saying I was "underweight". (But, that was during my parent's divorce and, not coincidentally, when I lost my perfect eyesight. In retrospect, it was all related.) In the fifties and sixties, girls only wore dresses, or skirts and blouses, to school. I tried wearing skirts, but they always fell down. I remember having to run along holding on to my skirt band, as I had no waist to keep it up. At that point, I switched to dresses only. At home, I'd promptly change into my playclothes and run outside for a quick gallop.