Through the Fence 4-26-10
The earth shifted on its axis last weekend. The Friendship Wagon Train’s spring trail-ride was held without me. The men who initiated this event 15 years ago rolled out the welcome mat each year for me and my children when we first moved here. Back in those days, I rode in a wagon and lugged a huge diaper bag, a couple of pacifiers and enough snacks to feed an army. My youngest daughter, Lena, rode my horse this year. She doesn’t have a lot of riding experience, and I was apprehensive about her riding without me, not that her daddy was incapable or unwilling to keep a watchful eye on her, which he did.
Lena’s always been rather skinny – taking after her great-grandmother. Because of that, her nickname, Bean, really suits her. She’s always been a scrappy little thing. When she was little, I’d try to help her when she struggled to perform difficult tasks. She’d look so comical, and after a while I’d say, “Let me help you, Lena.”
“No, mama,” she’d reply defiantly, “I’ll help me!”
When she was about 3, she’d refuse to let me carry her as we hiked rocky terrain. When she was 7, she watched curiously without flinching as the nurse inserted a large needle into her vein to draw blood at the doctor’s office. Later, I knew she was getting too big for spankings, which she seldom needed anyhow, when she’d grit her teeth and refuse to shed a single tear. Now at 13, she lifts weights, wrestles with her hulking 15-year-old brother, holds her own on the basketball court with bigger kids and can run several miles easily.
Last weekend, she popped out of bed the first time her daddy called her at 5:45 a.m. She slid into her jeans and boots and went to load my horse. My husband wasn’t too thrilled about the trail-ride this spring, not just because I wasn’t going, but because the weather forecast promised rain. Lena was undeterred. She and her brother got the horses saddled while my husband helped harness a mule for a friend he was riding with. A few sissies stayed back at camp eyeing the dark clouds, but at 8:30, the wagon master called “Wagons Ho!” and they were off.
Lena urged my Tennessee Walker into a swift but comfortable gait and headed toward the front of the line. Luckily there were a few others on gaited horses, so she didn’t completely leave the pack. They had barely covered a mile before it started sprinkling. No one offered to turn around and go back to camp.
The group plodded on, up and down bumpy trails following a revised route, shortened because of the dicey forecast. As the sprinkling persisted, those who were prepared pulled slickers and rain ponchos out of their saddle bags. Fearing that the water might ruin her precious new cell phone, she draped her light jacket in front of her on the saddle and tucked the phone underneath it. The April showers continued, so she trotted up to the buggy her dad was driving and handed the phone and wet jacket to him. It was a little cool that morning, but later, when her clothes were saturated, I’m sure it seemed very cold.
All the old timers offered her jackets, sweaters and slickers which she politely refused. She was enjoying the beautiful scenery of the bluebonnet clothed Texas Hill Country, the freedom of riding horseback, and the attention of so many chivalrous gentlemen. After a few hours, the soggy parade made it back to camp no worse for wear. Lena’s hair was dripping wet and her thin T-shirt clung to her narrow ribs. But she was smiling; proud she’d been dubbed “Tuffy” by some of her admirers on the ride.
I’ve always wondered what she’d be when she grew up. The other night as our family sat around the dinner table, each kid laid out their dreams for their future. With a complete “poker face,” Lena announced that she planned to join the Marines. Why am I not surprised?
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