Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mort, Summer and Sixteen

“Terrible!”
“Terrible Tyrant!” I shouted.
“Terrible Tyrant Tumba!” My friend Karen joined in at the top of her lungs.
“Terrible Tyrant Tumba trots!”
Mort lengthened his stride even further and I leaned back, arms flopping, legs swinging, barely balanced as we trotted down the narrow trail in Palmer Park.
“Terrible Tyrant Tumba trots and tramples tiny toddling tots!”
Karen and I screamed our laughter to the trees.
“Now do Bonnie!” Karen yelled.
We were playing one of our favorite games and trotting the long loop, the trail that wrapped the perimeter of the park. We had miles of rocky climbs, broad open fields and twisty trails weaving their way through the pines.
Our horses were mighty war elephants, Mort a.k.a. Tumba the Terrible and Karen’s mare Bonnie, otherwise known as Big Bertha.
The only rules were, as big an extend trot as we could get, no hands, no legs and no breaking gait. Of course we were bareback.
“Big!”
“Big Bonny!”
“Big Bonny Bertha Butt!”
“Big Bonny Bertha Butt’s Belly Bump Bruise!”
We called our silly poems War Chants and shouted them out in sync with the rhythm of the horses’ strong trot.
“Whoop whoop!” Karen yelled and we swept past a dude string of hot dusty riders and plodding horses.
We smiled and flashed some leg at the bored trail guide, when he winked and raised his hat we shrieked and set our bare heels into Mort and Bonny’s sides.
Our war chants forgotten we raced the rest of the way into the stables, Mort easily out-running pleasure-bred Bonny.
We sat in the shade by the arena, waiting for the horses to cool off enough to get a drink. Our dogs lay sprawled in the dust with no energy left for anything but grinning up at us like a couple of idiots.
I flipped one leg over Mort’s withers and sat on him sideways. I picked at the horse hair sweat stuck to my leg and wiped it off on my cut-offs.
“Do you think we should go?” Karen asked.
“I don’t, know. Mom says it’s weird the way the nuns ship us off to the Air Force Academy dances. It’s like they’re trying to marry us off as soon as we’re out of high school,” I answered.
“I suppose,” Karen said.
We sat in silence, pondering our eternal dateless state.
“I don’t know any other way we can meet boys,” Karen tried again.
“Our parents didn’t shove us into an all girls school so we could meet boys,” I answered.
“Since when did you care what they want?” Karen gave an exasperated shake of her head, “You’re just chicken.”
I thrummed my heels against Mort’s side and he raised his head. He stepped around a bit, threatening to go. I stroked his neck in apology and flipped my leg back over, just in case.
“I’ll just go up with Lisa if you don’t want to go.” Karen said.
She’d thrown out the glove.
“Fine, I’ll go. God I hate this.”
“Cadets aren’t so bad, I mean they have cars.”
“They don’t have horses, you mutant,” I reached over and shoved her.
We left the deep shade of the scrub oaks and walked the horse over to the water fountain in front of the restrooms.
I slid down and turned the handle on the drinking fountain.
Mort daintily slurped his fill. Bonnie came and drank deep and the dogs stood on their hind legs to lap at the overflow.
I gathered my reins and a handful of mane and got ready to vault up. As soon as I was airborne Mort ducked his head, I flew over his neck and splatted flat in the grass.
I lay on my back with the wind knocked out of me. Mort stood over me and dribbled his backwash on my head and neck. My good dog Jud snuffled my face, his deep brown eyes crinkled at the joke.
I rolled from side to side in the long wet grass, holding my sides and laughing.

26 comments:

Laura Crum said...

OK--Did Mort have a super smooth trot and a nice flat back? I mean there are a few horses that in my youth, I might have been able to long trot bareback on, but there were some (with the razor like backbone and the jarring trot) that it would have been just plain impossible. So either you are so way tougher than I was, or Mort had the previously mentioned very desirable characterisics for a bareback horse. The horse I rode in my teens, Ramona, had the flat back and the smooth trot, and I could trot her bareback anywhere, but I must admit, I preferred the lope. You guys were tough.

gtyyup said...

Oh my...the days when that was all we had to worry about. Thanks for the story...brings many memories of summers past~~

chamoiswillow said...

Great story, wish I had one like it!

KD said...

Sixteen ws probably the last time I could swing up onto my horse bareback. I LOVE Mort stories !!

mugwump said...

laura-Mort had the best trot ever...he had withers though, so I had to be aware. He could trot as fast as my friends horses loped and he never ran off at the trot. Karen paid heavily though, Bonnie truly moved like an elephant.
gttyup-

KD said...

My cousin and I were usually too lazy to saddle up and rode barefoot to boot. Your comment of picking the hair off your legs brought back vivid memories of riding to the local Minute Market and trying to wipe some of the dirt and hair off before we walked inside the store.

Sydney said...

I love mort stories but you left us with an other cliffhanger D:

Deered said...

I've been away and only catching up on the last couple of postings. This relates to the previous ones comments.
Jonas - Here is what I know about bolters. My sister could and would ride anything, and at age 12 or 13 she was working a pony with a few problems for someone who had broken their arm playing another sport. (this started after she sorted out a few "once good but now really, really bad ponies" that had been let away with murder by other riders) This was the only horse I have seen scare her - it was a bolter, and had also been spoilt. She knew it was more than she could safely handle - so recommended it was sent to an adult professional who we knew was very good at fixing other peoples stuff ups - where it bolted in the yard/round pen and broke its neck running into the fence posts. Luckily it was not under saddle at the time.

autumnblaze said...

1) Like chamoiswillow I wish I had stories like that.

2) My brother went to the USAFA. He met his now wife at a debutant (sp?) dance. Of course he's much your junior but that amuses me.

I've always been too chicken to canter bareback. I've gotten okay at trotting and my boys trot is pretty jarring, but his back is flat and comfy. I'd like to try the canter... everyone says it's easier. I'm still unsure if I believe it, though it of course makes sense.

Redsmom said...

You surly made a friend and partner of Mort. A great read tht left a feeling of carefree summers of horsie girlhood. Thanks!

chamoiswillow said...

autumnblaze, A bareback canter is by far easier than a trot. I learned that on my really bouncy-trotting arab!

Half Dozen Farm said...

The perfect story for a perfect summer day right before the 4th of July!

Scamp said...

I loved this story! It brought back memories of our bareback riding to the old airport and taking the horses swimming in the pits. The horse I rode, the sainted Jetty, would stand in the water while we swam underneath him, or I would ride him through the water and one of my friends would hang onto his tail for the ride.

Sometimes I marvel that I ever reached adulthood...

badges blues N jazz said...

OHOH.. BOYS??? cant wait to hear how that went! lol

autumnblaze said...

chamoiswillow - I can easily undersatnd why it is... I'm just being chicken. :) I will do it in the next few months. I'm dealing also with a bouncy arab trot...

kel said...

o.k. mugwump... we used to long trot or have trotting races bareback and the only way was to lean back as far as you could and balance basically on your tail bone with your feet/legs pushed forward up around the shoulder - loose and free flopping.. that is the visual I get of you and Mort -am I right?

I did that in an egg and spoon race with our last BO a couple of years ago (mind you I am 48) and he said that at a trot I couldn't beat him because he posts and I don't... damn did he make fun of me for my "style" but I WON....

I think you can ride any trot if you balance back on your tail bone and stay loose. Not pretty, but effective.

mugwump said...

gttyup- I got cut off there. I think those years are the easiest to remember because they were so exciting. Crazy riding combined with raging hormones are hard to beat.

kd-I always liked the black sweaty outline on my legs.Nothing like looking like you peed yourself when you were trying to convince the 7 11 guy you were old enough to buy cigarettes.

autumnblaze-I swear those nuns would have auctioned us off to the cadets if they could have.
Scamp, swam under them? It's a good thing we didn't know each other as teens. We would be dead.

Kel - exactly. You can sit anything that way.

autumnblaze said...

OT - Mugs, made GREAT progress with the 'whoa'. I can practically whisper it and he stops at any gait in the arena.

mugwump said...

autumnblaze-Ain't life grand when you really have a whoa?

autumnblaze said...

mugs - Yes! I also figured out (thanks to my last lesson) some other stuff I am doing that didn't help. Once I get him settled in his new barn we have plenty to work on... or I do, he just has to tolerate me trying to learn to stay out of his way.

Akasha said...

Loving this! :)

Shanster said...

Such a slice of summer in your post... loved it! Thank-you!!

Sezz said...

*slowly shivering to death on cold wintery Australia*

Great post Mugs, bring on summer in my neck of the woods! It's been so cold and dark for so long that I am seriously contemplating riding on trails I know well in the dark after work. Oh for an indoor arena with lights!

Helen said...

I was never as brave as Mugwump but I did clock up long hours riding around bareback and just being random. It makes me sad that my daughter has only experienced lessons in the arena plus supervised trail rides from trail riding businesses. She doesn't mind this at all, because she's never experienced the pottering we did, but it's kind of sad to me.

Becky said...

Beautiful. It made me really nostalgic, although I didn't do half the stuff on my saintly mare that you did on Mort. I grew up in the city, and I used to do bareback races on the residential pony trails that dead-end into busy, busy Goldenwest Ave in southern California. You HAD to be able to stop, or you ran the risk of running out into 8 lanes of traffic. In retrospect, If I ever catch my kid(s) doing anything like that, I'll KILL them. For me, the dirty butt was a badge of pride, after having waited for so long to have a horse to ride.

HorseOfCourse said...

Wonderful story Mugs.
I am so impressed that you remember so much, and how well you manage to describe how it felt at that age.

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