Real Cowboy: The Horse of a Different Color

This is the second installment of a two-part story I wrote years ago about events from 1986. 

So there I was, waiting for my glasses to be repaired. Fortunately, these glasses had come with a ninety-day, no-questions-asked guarantee. Since I had picked them up last Friday and this was only Monday, I suppose I could have gotten by with a four-day guarantee.

A lot had happened since that happier day the previous week when I had waited in this room for my new glasses. It was the summer of 1986. I had just finished law school in Lubbock and had moved Nancy and the boys to Abilene. But I was spending week days in Lubbock attending the review course for the bar examination and driving to our new home in Abilene for the weekend.

The big test was only three weeks away. When class ended at noon on Friday, I turned my Ford Escort southward and cruised into the Key City about four. After a brief family reunion, I began studying again.

I hit the books again Saturday morning. About 11 a.m., the door bell rang. My sister-in-law, Mary, was standing at the door holding her youngest, Aaron. My niece, Angela, ran by as soon as I swung the door open. Brother-in-law Jim was out by the Suburban. The Chance family was passing through Abilene on their way to the farm with their two horses, Buster and Lady, in tow.

I strolled out to see if I could be of assistance with the horses. As you may recall, Buster and I were soulmates — at least as long as I stayed off his back.

I was wearing shorts, an old t-shirt, and my flip-flop sandals (you might call them “thongs,” but after that Monica Lewinsky thing, I’m a little uncomfortable telling anyone that I have worn thongs).

Buck Off makelessnoise via Compfight

Jim had opened the trailer door behind Lady. She was smaller than Buster and darker — in more ways than just the color of her coat. After Mary telling me that Lady was much more spirited than Buster, I silently pledged to never-ever even speak to the horse.

Jim had the front window of the trailer open when I walked up to greet him. I noticed he wasn’t overly-talkative as he began to crawl through the small opening.

“Joey,” he said calmly, “would you go shut the trailer door, please?”

How could I refuse such a polite request?

What Jim didn’t tell me was that Lady’s harness had come loose in the trailer and, being an intelligent horse in an extremely hot, closed-in space, had decided she might just want to leave the trailer.

I flip-flopped toward the back of the trailer (remember, I’m describing the sound of my sandals — at this point of my life I wasn’t carrying as much weight as I do now). Still at the side of the trailer, I grasped the door and started to swing it to the back. Since I was paying attention to the door, I didn’t notice that I was about to step off the curb.

I put my full weight down on my right foot at about the time I expected my sandal to hit the ground. Since the ground was actually about 5 inches lower, I lurched forward. My momentum sent the trailer door revolving quickly toward the rear entrance to the trailer.

Several events occurred in the next few milliseconds. I’ll try to reconstruct it as accurately as I can.

  1. After I fell off the curb and the door moved away from me rapidly, I almost lost my balance but remained in an upright, although crouched position.
  2. Lady, seeing the trailer door closing and sensing that her bid for freedom was being ripped away, reacted quickly, resolutely, and forcefully. Shifting her weight to her front legs and with the timing of a professional hockey player with an open shot at the goal, Lady connected with the trailer door with her back hooves.
  3. The door immediately reversed directions, hinges singing joyfully.
  4. I had just about regained my composure and was almost completely upright.
  5. The door had reached the maximum speed possible just inches before it hit me squarely in the face.
  6. The door came to an immediate stop upon hitting my face.
  7. Perceiving danger and no small amount of pain, I adapted a Jackie Chan move and began moving away from the trailer at approximately the same rate of speed that the door had been travelling.
  8. Jim got a good hold on Lady’s halter.
  9. I bounced across the driveway and came to rest within a few feet of where Mary stood with little Aaron on her hip.

“You okay, Joe?”

Even without my glasses, I could tell from the expression on her face that my agility had not impressed her.

“Sure. I’m fine. Never better.” Small pieces of my front tooth spiralled away in slow motion as I pulled myself to my feet.

Without regard to my personal safety, I went to see if I could help Jim control Lady.

“Everything’s okay here,” Jim said as he glanced toward me. “Maybe you should go inside and lie down.”

With the knowledge that my work was done, I retraced my steps, retrieved the pieces of my glasses, and retreated to the house.

In just a few minutes, the Chances and the horses were on their way.

I pushed back in the recliner with an ice pack in place. Nancy found my old pair of glasses. I tried to study. Nancy periodically called the house of the doctor who lived across the street. I tried to study.

We finally determined that the doctor was out of town. Nancy asked demurely, “How long after a head injury before you’ll know if you have amnesia?”

I no longer tried to study.

Three weeks later, with bonding material on my tooth, new glasses bridging my nose, and a calcium deposit forming on my forehead, I sat for the Texas state bar exam. Once more, I had triumphed over the four-legged beasts that had plagued my otherwise placid life.

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