Another memoir-snippet from The Adventures of Wild Dog.
I woke up one Sunday morning, early, as if still in a dream. Groggy, I thought I heard voices.
Then just one voice. It was soft, barely a whisper
"It's a beautiful day," the voice repeated over and over, kneeling at the head of the bed. "Take Peggy Diane to the country."
I can take a hint. I took Peggy Diane to the country. Boy, howdy, did I ever.
We drove the long route west on the Sunset Highway to a 650-acre resort beyond Yamhill, beyond even Dilley. Fifty-three miles from the heart of downtown Portland, Oregon, lies the Flying "M" Ranch, a place to get away from it all.
Things look different here. The log walls of the lodge are gaily festooned with the hides, horns and heads of a variety of game.
Bison, bear, bobcat, beaver, boar and a bunch of other animals - whose identity begins with other letters of the alphabet - gave their lives to make a decorative statement.
Axes and horseshoes serve as door handles to the Bucks and Does facilities.
Out back a stream burbles by. On the front porch an aged, sleeping Border collie waits for scraps outside the kitchen door.
Across the parking lot is the landing strip, nothing more than a dirt path down the middle of a 2,200-foot-long green pasture. Small planes actually use it.
Separated from the air field by the main road are the horses. People actually ride them. People like Peggy Diane.
"Oh, look! Let's go riding!"
She grabbed my arm and tugged me toward...THE BARN.
"No, thanks, no. Thank you, but, no, thank you. No."
"Oh, we never do what I want to do."
This from the woman who has controlled my every move for years.
Well, most moves.
"If God had wanted us to ride horses, She wouldn't have given us automobiles. Or bicycles. Of roller skates. Or..." I intoned. "No. This is my final word on the subject."
I do not speak without some experience. You see, I have been on a horse before. I'd been on a horse before. Some thoughtful adult had put me in the saddle when I was about three years old. It seemed like a long way to the ground. I took one look down and started to cry.
I was determined not to shed a tear this time. And I was holding up pretty well, too, until I read the waiver.
The following is the complete, verbatim, actual, real, no fooling text.
"I, the undersigned, recognize the dangers inherent with horseback riding. I am assuming the hazard of this risk upon myself since I wish to ride horses. I realize I am subject to injury from this activity and that no form of preplanning can remove all of the danger that I am exposing myself to. I have been offered a protective riding helmet, which could have prevented permanent brain damage in the event of an accident. Against the advice of stable operator, the wrangler guide, and the insurance company, I am refusing this critical safety precaution."
Don't know about you, but that kinda makes me want to mount right up.
I signed, and then imagined what scene might ensue. Peggy Diane would climb on some nag and beam a look mixed of adventure and joy.
"What's this pretty horse's name?," she'd ask.
"Buttercup, ma'm," the cowpoke would replay.
Meanwhile, I would be staring at the horse, who'd been shipped here on work release from a prison farm. Trigger on steroids. He'd flare his nostrils. I'd flare mine.
"And what's this big fella's handle?", I would inquire.
And, of course, I wouldn't be able to get Peggy Diane to switch.
Now, here's what really happened. Richard, the wrangler, took one look at Peggy's jeans (which she had to lie down on her back to zip up) and her cowboy boots and he put her on Thunder.
He took one look at me in my cargo shorts and Nike Lava Domes and he put me on Bob.
"Bob? That's it? Bob? You sure it isn't something like Bad Bob, or even Big Bob?"
"Nope," the laconic horseman said. "Just 'Bob.'"
So, Richard rode point, Thunder followed single-file, and Bob and I trailed behind.
Then we left the corral and heads into... THE WOODS.
I kept waiting for a snake to bare his fangs, rattle his rattles, causing BOB to bolt, flinging me to the rocks where my head would smash like a prop in Gallagher's comedy routine.
No such luck.
I sat on that horse for an entire hour. Could have been all day. Seemed like it. I didn't dare release my deathgrip to check my watch.
"Good, Bob. Watch your step, Bob. Not so fast, Bob. Careful there, Bob. Look out for that branch, Bob. You're a credit to your race, Bob."
I wasn't riding so much as being carried. Bob knows who's in charge...and it's not me.
Meanwhile, I couldn't help noticing that Bob and I share some basic personality traits. He's never seen a patch of grass he didn't want to sample, or a watering hole he didn't want to visit, or a good-looking mare he didn't want to... whinny at.
Just when I could sense a bond forming between man and beast, we found ourselves back at the corral. I dismounted. There was a great sigh of relief.
It was Bob.
If you ever go riding at the Flying "M" Ranch, you know who to ask for.