Helen Keller once said, “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Those of us who choose to live an adventurous life, particularly on farms and ranches do so with the realization that it is risky. And with any activity, the riskier it is, the greater the potential for fun and enjoyment. Riding horses can be dangerous, but also exhilarating — splashing through creeks, trekking up rocky cliffs and galloping over plowed fields — feeling the sun on your back and the wind in your hair.
I met one of my best friends, Melinda on a trail ride, and she’s introduced me to some other fine folks that share an enthusiasm for outdoor living. One of them named John is a real hero to us. Here’s his story.
Melinda and two of her children were riding with John on a week long trail that would end up in Austin, Texas. There were dozens of wagons and riders. They took different routes each day, and covered 10 or more miles before camping each night. They always rode by elementary schools and gave local children rides in wagons.
On one of these occasions, John didn’t ride his horse the last day because it had developed some saddle sores. Instead of missing the ride, John borrowed a horse. Melinda’s daughter Briana was about 10 at the time and was riding her Arabian, P.J. After lunch P.J. started acting up and Briana couldn’t control him. She switched horses with her brother Jay. After a while, P.J. became more unruly. He was laying his ears backs, prancing and straining hard against the reins. John and Melinda had ridden on up the trail and were now several hundred feet ahead of them.
Jay rode up next to his mom and John and asked for help. John volunteered to pony P.J., and Jay walked alongside trying to keep up as best he could. John was having a hard time controlling P.J. and his horse was getting unnerved. Jay asked if he could just lead P.J. instead of John ponying him to a horse that he was unfamiliar with. “No, I can do it,” John insisted. He radioed to some of the folks at the front of the line that he was having trouble and might need help. But being the tough determined kind of guy that he is, John kept wrestling with the horse, trying to make him behave until they made it back to camp.
Suddenly, in one horrible instant, his horse got enough of P.J. He reared up so high and so fast that he lost his footing and fell over backwards, pinning John underneath him. The horse scrambled back to his feet and galloped away with his source of aggravation still tied to his saddle. Melinda wheeled around and jumped off to help her friend.
John was sitting up, so at first she thought he was all right. But he was not. He started screaming in agony and pounding his legs that were splayed out in front of him. Apparently the folks on the other end of the radio heard the commotion and came running to the rescue. Someone called for an ambulance that arrived within a few minutes. John was rushed to the hospital where he learned that his back was broken. He would never walk again.
When Melinda and her family arrived at the hospital that night, they were amazed when they heard John laughing and talking before they reached his room. When Jay walked in and saw his longtime family friend in that bed, he was shocked. John took his hand and said, “Learn from my mistake, Jay. Part of the reason this happened is because I wouldn’t take your help. Always take help from a friend when it’s offered.”
After lots of surgeries and physical therapy, John is finally able to do what he loves best — riding. He had a special saddle outfitted for him. His body has atrophied after years in a wheelchair, so he’s light enough to be lifted into the saddle by a couple of buddies. But despite all the suffering, I think he’d agree with the daring pilot Amelia Earhart who once said, “Adventure is always worth it.” ❖
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
~ Helen Keller