I think my love affair with horses began when I was in the womb.
While pregnant with my brother and me, Mama rode my oldest brother’s horse, Joe. She wasn’t a big horsewoman or had dreams of being a cowgirl, she just loved Joe.
Grandma (her mother) was a different story. Grandma loved horses and rode every chance she got. I remember her telling me that Great Grandma always insisted she be a lady and ride side-saddle. When Grandma rode into town for the mail, she’d ride from home side-saddle but when out of sight of the house, she’d dismount, take the saddle off, hide it in the bushes, then ride bareback into the post office. Of course she’d saddle up again before reaching home.
My Uncle Jimmy (Daddy’s brother) was a horse trainer. His horse was a huge American Saddle bred named Beauty.
So you see, horses are in my genes.
|Uncle Jimmy & Beauty|
As a child, I was obsessed with horses. Drove Mama and Daddy crazy. More than once the neighbors would telephone Daddy and laugh. “Elmer, that daughter of yours is riding my horses again.” The solution to my catching and riding the neighbor’s horses was simple: Let me have one of my own!
Grandma understood my horse infatuation and made sure I would have the money to buy my magnificent steed one day by bequeathing me two, $100. Savings bonds.
I was thirteen when Daddy gave in and let me buy a sorrell gelding named King. Daddy called King a million dollar horse because I wouldn’t have taken a million dollars for him.
Of course, I wanted to ride Million Dollar King in the biggest, bestest rodeo parade of all: The Rodeo of the Ozarks.
I remember the summer of 1965 as one of my greatest. Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Clayton (the other horse trainer in the family) came all the way from Marysville, Kansas to spend Fourth of July with us and see me ride in the parade.
We went to the rodeo all four nights.
That year the main attraction was a genuine Indian Princess and her white horse. The Princess, complete with a huge headdress of feathers, would walk to the far end of the arena. Her wild horse would run from his end to meet her and she’d leap onto his back and ride without using a bridle or a saddle. The high point of her act was when she jumped her pure-white stallion over a red convertible parked in the middle of the arena. Wow! The sight of his snowy mane and tail flowing in the wind when that horse flew over that car gave me chill bumps. Dreamed about it for months.
The Rodeo of the Ozarks parade started at the rodeo grounds in Springdale and went straight down Emma Street. I was decked out in my long sleeve Northwest Arkansas Riding Club shirt, jeans, and cowboy hat. Never mind that is was hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk, I was just too cool looking to worry about the heat.
King strutted his best.
Red silky neck arched. Flaxen flowing tail held high. That million dollar gelding pranced and danced all the way down Emma and would’ve passed everyone and every horse if not for the tight rein I had on him.
My life long dream was over in an hour.
Loading King into the trailer, getting him to the rodeo grounds, loading him back, and getting him home took longer.
Poor Daddy. He had to do everything but ride the horse for me.
He did so without complaining.
Because that’s what daddies of cowgirls do.
That night my uncles, my brother and me, Mama and Daddy ate homemade peach ice-cream on the porch. The full moon lit the sky, the stars glowed like diamond points, the whippoorwills called, and the night creatures sang their best medleys.
It just doesn’t get any better than that.
King got apples and carrots for a midnight snack for being such a champ.
I’ve gone back to the Rodeo since then but it was never the same as that great summer of 1965.
However, no matter the year, you can bet that somewhere in those bleachers, a little girl breaks out into a sweat when the rodeo queen gallops past.
And dreams of the day when daddy takes his million dollar daughter and her million dollar horse to the rodeo parade.
|A young Dixie Dandelion and King|