Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nice horsey. Wheeze. Cough. Gasp!

In my childhood dreams, I was Roy riding Trigger while Dale Evans cheered us on. I had a serious crush on Trigger and Dale.
My cowboying experience is limited.

As a kid, I yearned to ride the range with Roy Rogers and John Wayne. My favorite shows were all westerns: Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, Bonanza, The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, Sugarfoot, Have Gun Will Travel, Maverick, and so on. I galloped through my dreams on Trigger or Silver or any number of TV horses.

In reality, I couldn't get anywhere near a horse without heavy wheezing and gasping for breath. I had asthma, and horses and hay and tree pollen and weeds and cats were the enemy. That ruled out any horseback riding, or even horseback viewing from a close proximity. Petting zoos were out of the question.

It was tough on a kid of the West.

I was 27 and living in Florida the first time I rode a horse. My asthma had abated, and a nice young woman named Chris had asked me to accompany her on a horseback ride. This nice young woman had owned a horse at one time, and had been riding since she was a kid. I asked her if she would help me pick out a very docile horse, the kind of horse which would be nice to a newbie. "What's the fun in that?" she said with a smile.

At the stables, she selected a steed with spirit, and then found an old nag for me. We rode along together for awhile, and then she asked if I minded if she galloped ahead. She took off, horse hooves pounding the ground, disappearing into the Central Florida forest. My horse and I galumphed along. Eventually we rounded a bend to find Chris standing in the trail next to her horse. Chris has sand and twigs in her hair. The horse had an innocent look on his face.

"He threw me," Chris said. She held up her right hand. "And he stomped on my hand."

I regarded her nice hand. "Is it broken."

She flexed it. "No. I'm glad the ground's sandy."

I patted my horse, urged her to not get any bad ideas from her colleague. Chris got up on her horse and we rode together for the rest of the afternoon. It was a warm January day, the kind of days tourists flock to Florida for. We rode into the sunset and later got married, moved back to the West and had kids, only occasionally taking time for horseback riding. I must admit that I have successfully ridden horses a half-dozen times.

I'm no cowboy.

But I just published a story entitled "Cowboy Stories." It's part of a new anthology from Colorado's Western Press, "Manifest West." It features poetry, essays and short stories about contemporary cowboys. My fictional cowboy is an urban variety, but has little to do with John Travolta or saloon line dancing. He's just an old cowboy who hangs around a Cheyenne downtown dive bar and tells stories. He has lots of stories. It was seem as if he's too old to have adventures, but he's not. He gets mixed up with some animal rights advocates and some coasters making a film about the New West. Hijinks ensue.

Read the story to find out what happens. Keep posted as to publication dates by going to Western Press at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison.

Hi-yo Silver! Away!

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