I had a true passion.
And it was a one-way street.
When I slipped from the womb, all that kept me from climbing on the back of a horse was my lack of mobility. And a horse, of course. Due to a few quality blows to the head, I have few memories of the Mesozoic-like period of my life, but the era is vaguely reproducible from a drizzle of curling black and whites and fading Polaroids of me sitting on anything that resembled an equine, along with the myriad of family complaints at any gathering of my stubbornness in this respect.
The tales are enhanced by the one where I spent my entire two’s aboard my Bronco Billy in my Cowboy Dan outfit. I don’t know if it was technically “Dan’s” attire but his was the name I equated with cowboy greatness. It continues that I was supposedly stripped of my costume only while I slept but I’m sure I was coerced into dropping the facade for a bath now and then. Even the meekest of parents can convince an unsuspecting mind that tasks more important than living the dream are, well, hygienically necessary.
A few years later, I fought tooth and nail to sit in front when Babe (literally the old gray mare) was brought up for a quaint picture of our three tiny asses, small enough to squeeze into a saddle like a trio of Irish twins, for a Christmas card. Also, I recall stewing in raging jealousy when my mom would ride Babe to the bus stop to pick up my sister while she left me at home.
My point is, I had a true passion. And it was a one-way street.
So during my tenth or eleventh year, when my dad came home one summer scorcher to tell me he’d delivered diesel to a family up The Hollow who’d invited me to ride, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know who they were.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t know where they lived.
It didn’t matter that my option was to hike a few miles up the hot, dusty, gravel to get there.
Or that I’d do it alone.
Or that I had neither compass nor map, or that a GPS or cell phone had yet to be conceived.
Or that I was the size of a stray dog—unkempt at that.
It didn’t even matter that I didn’t know how to ride. That was all secondary. Had someone mentioned to me that death was the possible consequence of a novice playing a real game of chance, it wouldn’t have registered. All that mattered was, I would be aboard. In each moment, every moment of my brief life, it was all I longed for.
It also didn’t occur to me that this bunch of yahoos who tossed me up on the bare back of a green broke pony and said, “Hang on,” might have hoped that I couldn’t. But the technicalities flew by as quickly as the Iowa countryside when my pony took off after that slipshod posse in a single file flurry of blur. I had no strategy except to feel the animal beneath me explode with primal horsepower.
I don’t know what the stimulus was to stop except maybe their eagerness for a good laugh. All I heard was, “Are you still with us?”
Does a bear shit in the woods? I would have endured unthinkable harshness if only to be permanently fused to the back of a horse.
The stubbornness with which I held fast to that conviction is still revered. Then somehow I lost sight of who I was.
So at the age of 44, I quit my day job and embarked on the most difficult path I could have chosen—writing. But with this journey, I drank from the same well of obduracy that drew reverence so long ago. From my experience, I can attest that if you’re lost, there’s a journey to be found.
And it starts within.
DISCOVERING WHO YOU ARE
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