Into every life a little rain must fall…
And after 15 months on the trail (and over 20 months riding Jesse James) I’ve taken a fall.
Gryph returned to California on the 2nd (a week ago) and I continued on with a herd of three. The first half hour out was a bit of a mess as the ponies and I sorted out how this was gonig to work. I had two lead ropes in my hand, a packed mare at the end of each one and none of us had a clear idea of where the lines (or the ponies) should be. Adding to this, we were heading out a long gravel driveway and none of the ponies wanted to walk on the rocks. Nobody fussed much and gradually we came to a working arrangement: Sea on Jesse with the reins in her left hand and two leads in her right. The shorter rope is attached to Finehorn (walking next to Mr. James) and the longer rope between them leading back to Luna Jack – who walks with her nose between their hips. It’s compact and simple and Fast! The big surprise with the new arrangement is that we’ve picked up the pace by at least 1/2 a mile per hour since Finehorn (who tends to dawdle) isn’t about to lose ground to Luna Jack and she marches right along, encouraging Jesse James to keep a brisk pace since he’s supposed to be the leader. Brilliant!
Day one the weather was cold and I had no leads on a place to stop for the night. The best advice I’d gotten was to ride into the town of Blue which had one store, a “beer joint” as it was described to me, that had a hitching rail out front. I was to ride up to the store, tie up to the hitching rail and ask about a place to stay. That sounded suitably Texan for my tastes but as I rode into Blue a door opened and a young woman walked out, saw me, walked back in and closed the door, opened the door again and waved. I waved back. She disappeared. Before I’d passed the house the door opened again, two people this time and I waved again and started across the lawn calling out “Hello!” I was invited in for a cup of tea while the ponies grazed in the front yard. A cup of tea led to a sandwich. By this time I could feel my fingers and toes again and we were discussing pony accommodations. I unpacked the ponies into the garage, tethered Jesse and Finehorn, left a rope on Luna (who hasn’t been trained to tether yet) and left her free to graze, reasoning that she wouldn’t stray far from the other two (especially since there was such good graze around the house). The next time I looked out the window my ever curious baby was standing by the edge of the road – and three cars had stopped. Oops! My bad. We procured a bale of hay from a helpful neighbor and Luna spent the night in a pen formerly inhabited by an Ostrich.
The next day the ponies behaved admirably considering that we were riding through alternating rain and sleet. brrrrrrr! We were heading towards Lexington where we’d been offered accommodations by a couple who trains polo ponies and recently bought Herk’s Store. Only a 10 mile day – but once again by the time I arrived at my destination I’d lost feeling in a few of my extremities, even though we’d made excellent time! I’m starting to really appreciate how spoiled I’ve been with the lovely weather on most of the Journey thus far. I was up late that night, enjoying getting to know my hosts, listening to new music, gorging myself on broccoli and waterproofing my new Duster. (If Gryph was still along we’d match! ;-)) Breakfast at Herk’s at The Table of Information and then back to tack up the ponies for another short day’s ride to a pre-arranged destination. En route I stopped at Herk’s again, for a truly transcendent cheeseburger on a fresh jalapeno bun – and learned that what I’d been told about Lexington, TX was true – EVERYBODY I passed on the road waved. Every Single Person – amazing!
By Sunday I was feeling fairly confident leading two pack ponies, the weather was glorious, we found perfect back roads and I wasn’t particularly concerned that I had no plan for a place to stop for the night. We were riding beside pastures and post oaks and the graze in the bar ditches had plenty of green patches which delighted the ponies. It was day 5 in a row for the ponies and somewhere in here we’d need to take a rest day but they still felt fresh from our 2 1/2 week break over the holidays and since heavy rains and flooding were predicted for Tuesday I wanted to make as much progress as possible before that broke. In the afternoon a car passed me, then a few minutes later came back by – a woman leaned out “Are you lost?” This was S, who invited me back to her place, warning me that she smoked cigarettes and drank beer and that her place didn’t smell very good since she’d had a fire on Christmas day when she’d poured gasoline in the fireplace thinking it was Diesel. When she warned me that all her linens had been picked up to be dry-cleaned to get the fire smell out I assured her that I had my own bedroll. It was a good night (and a great stew) except for her chihuahua, named Medicare, who took an instant dislike to me and didn’t stop barking at me the whole time – even the next morning when coffee was ready before 6am.
That night led to arrangements for Monday night and I had general directions and T’s ‘phone number (who’d called ahead for me) and it was shaping up into another lovely day. A sand road (the ponies were loving that) and good graze and even better weather. We were making excellent time and I called T at 1:15pm saying we were on the home stretch. He said that we were within a mile and 1/2 and offered to come out and lead us in but since that distance would still take us a half hour I declined. The ponies saw some particularly lush grass along the road so I decided to let them stop for one last graze. We were all relaxed, ponies grazing, Rhydr enjoying the scenery, no traffic on the road, nothing out of the ordinary when suddenly Luna Jack threw up her head and bolted past Jesse on his left. Since her rope was in my right hand it caught him from behind and suddenly all three ponies were at a full gallop. My reins had been at full length to let Mr. James graze – I was caught totally off guard and off balance and within 3 strides, down I went. I landed hard on my right hip and hit the right side of my head – watching my herd running full tilt over the hill and across the road, gear flying off as they went.
At first I didn’t even realize I was hurt. I grabbed my cell ‘phone out of the pocket of my new (to me) duster and called T, telling him what had just happened and asking him to try and intercept from that end and then started after them, gathering gear off the road as I went. A man stopped and asked if he could help. He’d seen the ponies head down a dead end dirt road so at least they were off the highway. We’d put a few bags into his vehicle when T arrived in his truck. Transfer of gear and thank you and good-bye to the man who’d stopped to help. We found Jesse and Finehorn together up the side road and caught them, unsaddling Finehorn since the saddle was more under her than on top of her by that point. Luna Jack emerged from the woods behind us looking more than a little freaked out, the new Wizard’s cloak a bit the worse for wear but both of the main pack bags still aboard and intact. I led Jesse and Finehorn up the road as she tentatively approached us and got the rest of the gear off of the ponies and into the truck with T’s help. They were all a little wide-eyed and I was starting to realize that I was pretty banged up.
Things get a little hazy in memory, but soon T was leading Luna up the road towards the pasture and I was following with Jesse and Finehorn, hanging onto Finehorn’s abundant mane to steady myself and breathing through the pain of each step. Then I simply couldn’t walk any more. I told T I needed to stop and leaned on Jesse’s whithers, trying to catch my breath but it was no good. My body was done walking. T called his mom to come with the truck and I lowered myself down to the grass on the side of the road. The ponies grazed around me as we waited. When the truck arrived I grabbed hold of Finehorn’s mane and she literally dragged me up to my feet and over to the truck. Mighty Pony – every step slow and careful. We were maybe 1/4 mile from the driveway at that point and T brought the ponies the rest of the way in and got them settled in the pasture. I had to borrow a cane from my hostess to get out of the truck.
It wasn’t a comfortable night, but T had brought me a walker so I could get myself to the loo and H, my hostess, was gracious and did her best to take care of me. She wasn’t accustomed to letting strangers into her home (living alone at 83) so this was a stretch for her and I so much appreciated her hospitality. The next day the rain had started in earnest by the time L&N arrived with a trailer to transport the ponies and me to their place in Montgomery. By the time I got out of the truck 2 hours later I was pretty incompetent. I barely got into the house with the help of L’s arm and a cane and they got me to a bed by putting me in an office chair and wheeling it through the house. By this morning I was able to use the cane in a fairly conventional manner and even make it to the breakfast table under my own steam so I’m improving rapidly! Thank you to everybody who is praying and sending healing energy my way. This has been a pretty scary (and sore) few days.
Years ago my mom’s cat got hit by a car but she lived through it – barely. She dragged herself to a soft place in the laundry room and laid there for days, sleeping a lot and eating very little. After awhile she started to move around again and soon she was back to her usual obnoxious self. I’ve decided that what worked for Sarah cat will probably work for me as well. Today I’m feeling all over stiff and sore and it’s obvious that my body just wants to rest. The ponies are out grazing in the pouring rain (there’s a barn that they can go into but the Free Range Rodeo ponies are too tough for that!)
I’ll try and write more soon – and get some photos up. I’m incredibly grateful that the ponies and I are all in one piece. I haven’t gone through all the gear yet, but nothing seems to be terribly damaged. I’m grateful that this accident was just that, an accident. There were no vehicles on the road and this was nobody’s fault. I learned later that a man was hunting wild pigs a 1/2 mile up the road and Luna is terrified of pigs, so maybe that has something to do with why she spooked? Maybe I’ll decide to dismount when we stop to graze in the future, but probably not. I’m in awe of the way people have reached out to me at this difficult moment in the Journey – especially the Polocrosse crowd I was first introduced to back in Cedar Park and who have done so much to make the past week a good one – caring for the ponies and I like we’re part of their community. Blessings on your all!