Reunion – Part IV: Intermission

For the first reunion, Cousin S handled logistics.  We rented two large cabins, in an area that was easily reached by probable attendees.  It was beautiful, but there wasn’t much to do there, other than visit together at the cabins.  And eat.

This time, we agreed that having some outdoor activity options would be nice – maybe rafting, hiking or horseback riding.  Since i volunteered to organize this one, i selected the cabins based on a nearby river run and riding stables.

Even with the events Friday night, and three hours sleep, i wanted to press on with the trail ride on Saturday afternoon.  BJ had been admitted to UT Med Center, DQ and her crew were there.  He was going to be fine – probably released in time for dinner. The rest of us couldn’t really do much to help, so there was no reason to cancel our plans.

i’d worked all arrangements for the ride by e-mail and phone.  Given the sporadic mobile phone service at the cabins, it was hard getting in touch with the owner of the stable.  Even so, by 11:00 am Saturday, i’d reached Larry, the stable owner – he knew how many horses to saddle, and told me when to show up.  He was absolutely delightful, and said he’d be happy to work a custom trail ride to meet our needs.

There would only be five riders.  Hurricane T, partner TK, Cousin L, Cousin S and me.  We piled into TK’s rental car – giving my poor Wienermobile a day off – and headed to the stables.

We arrived a few minutes early to find Landon, Larry’s son, getting our Tennessee Walkers into their leathers.  He apologized that his dad couldn’t be there to meet us.  “He’s been down sick all day with a stomach flu.  Sends his regards, and hopes y’all enjoy the ride today.”

Landon wanted to get a better idea of our riding experience to best match us up with the horses.  Cousin L – who harbours a self-described folly regarding the old television show “Bonanza” – went straight for the Pinto.  Although she hasn’t had much experience on horseback, there was no doubt that was going to be her ride.

Cousin S had not been on a horse for 45 years.  She was assigned to one of the steadiest mounts.  TK is an athlete, from a wealthy family. She had “Western” and “English” riding lessons as a child, and is pretty fearless.  She was given one of the more spirited horses.

When asked about her riding experience, my sister, Hurricane T, said “Didn’t we ride horses and shit in Girl Scouts?  I’ve done trail rides.  So yeah, I guess I’ve got experience.”  She got one of the older horses.

Before leaving, i asked Landon about filling out paperwork, paying, or signing liability forms.

Landon:  We could do that if you really want to, but most people don’t bother.  And y’all can pay when you get back.

We shook hands, and i climbed a stepladder to mount a gigantic horse!  And we were off…

Landon led us out of the hot sun, into the cool shade of the trees.  i rode ‘sweep’.  Having been the organizer of the reunion, i felt responsible for safety.  Mostly, i was worried about my 65-year-old Cousin S, who looked pretty unsteady on top of that big damn horse.

By the time we were 30 minutes onto the trail, i started to relax.  Well… Not exactly “relax”. The pucker factor was down.  i was operating on three hours sleep.  But my horse was pretty laid back and had walked the trails a hundred times.  It didn’t require a lot of concentration…

Watching Hurricane T riding in front of me.  Enjoying herself.  Relaxed.  Hearing TK whooping and hollering ahead of her as we got to a stream crossing.  Smiles from Cousins S and L as we stopped at the halfway point to rest our horses. Landon checked our gear to make sure no one was going to slide off on the uphill trail ahead of us.

Halfway through the weekend.  We were out playing.  Not the same sort of play we’d done as children, but playing nonetheless.

For Cousin S?  A chance to try a new adventure!  i’d asked her if she wanted to shorten the ride from the planned two hours and she said “Absolutely not!”  For Cousin L?  Indulging her folly for a few hours.  For Hurricane T and TK?  Activity – they are pretty ‘kinetic’, and for them ‘doing’ is more comfortable than ‘being’.

For me?  i’d gained an appreciation for the way they do business in this part of the world.  Focus on customer service, even when dealing with a stomach bug.  A handshake for a contract.

And some much-needed equine respite care.

Horsing around

It was just over a year ago that my friend, JB, lost his 16-year-old son to suicide.  It has been an awful year for him and his family.  Initially, he found some comfort in writing, but for the past six months has become obsessed with contacting his dead son through a ‘medium’.  One who is paid to contact the dead.

My initial reaction was one of deep skepticism, tinted with rage at those who would exploit grief for profit.  But JB didn’t need to see that – so i’d listen to his tales of contact, and the latest messages he’d received.  Nodding my head, i’d say “This seems to comfort you.  You seem to be getting the answers you need.  How is your wife?  Your son?  Daughter?  Are you still writing?”

In November, he’d mentioned that his wife and he were not doing well, despite continued counseling.  Asked me if i could take her to lunch sometime, just to get her out of the house.

We met at the local market, which has a wonderful warehouse feel, and a diverse collection of restaurants.  Fabulous people-watching, too.  As DB and i talked, she mentioned that it’s just hard to get out of bed some days.  She’s trying, but there’s not much to look forward to…

i mentioned that i’d added horseback riding lessons to my winter plans, partially to have something to look forward to on cold Monday nights.  Her face lit up – “Oh, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do that!  My daughter would love it!”

With lots of encouragement from me, and more details on what is involved in the lessons, i told her i’d be happy to arrange for them to drop in!  She seemed interested, but a little reluctant.

With the holidays, then the anniversary of the death, it didn’t come up again until last week.  i’d dropped by JBs office to see how his golf trip to the west coast had gone.

“I felt good!  My game was way off, but it didn’t matter.  It felt good to do something ‘normal’ again.”

From there?  i nagged encouraged him to get back with his wife about the lessons.  Got him to laugh when i told him i was goin’ “Boot Camp Instructor” on his ass – that this was the time to start moving out on a little more ‘normal’.

On friday, his wife pinged me, and we arranged for them to join Studley and me for the Monday night lesson.

i could write a bunch of shit at this point, but this pretty much sums it up.

Oh, and i’m getting better.  My steed hasn’t dumped me lately…  The horse, either!

i spend a lot of time farting around – Studley and i have elevated this to an art form.  Selfish time, enjoying new pursuits without purpose or meaning.  It occurs to me that perhaps being “Ambassadors of Farting Around” might not be such a bad thing.

i smiled so much tonight that my face still hurts.