Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Day at the Ranch

When I was ten years old, I wanted to be a cowboy. I even had my own cowboy hat.

So when my teacher announced that our forth grade class was taking a field trip to a ranch, I was in heaven! My maverick destiny had arrived, I reckoned.

At the ranch, we were each assigned a horse. My horse—named Joker—was taller than I had imagined, but it was a hoot 'n' a holler to ride at a relaxed trot.

But as the horses sped to a run, I was suddenly overwhelmed with panic.

So I jumped.

A ranch hand told me how dangerous it was to jump off a moving horse, and to please get back in the saddle. Holding back tears, I did.

But when my horse regained its fast gallop, my reflexes took over: crying, I jumped off again.

And once more.

After that, my classmates watched the ranch hand lead me and Joker back to the barn. There's an Old West saying: "Never walk when you can ride."

I walked.

Humiliated, I rejoined some classmates at the pier, where the next outdoor lesson seemed simple: row a boat.

I stepped on the side of the boat, it pushed away, and I fell in the water.

While I shivered by the campfire, I witnessed my third ranch-related trauma.

My schoolmate, Tim, was screaming while his runaway horse tore down a steep hill. A ranch hand was yelling for him to "Pull the reins! Pull the reins!"

Tim replied:

He survived, but our outdoor spirits had not. We barely cared when the ranch hands gave us unlabeled cans of orange soda.

I took a sip.

That orange soda tasted like bliss. It was so sweet, so reassuring, and so everything right where the field trip had gone wrong.

My day at the ranch was filled with vivid memories. But I'll always remember that orange pop most clearly.

After that field trip, I never wanted to be a cowboy again. As a grown-up now, I prefer the comforts and joys of the great indoors.

But what if I had stayed on that horse, or stepped into that boat, or if my schoolmate pulled the reins?

Things might have turned out very differently:

Howie "Howdy" Woo

UPDATE - Nov 13, 2009: Here is my class journal from when I was ten years old, describing that day at the ranch:


  1. I had a similar experience on a horse, but mine wouldn't budge, at all. As hard as I tried it still wouldn't move. The ranch hand had to tie a rope to the saddle and drag me with the horse along. How humiliating, at least a cool lake awaited upon my return.

  2. Um, it's 'reins' not 'reigns'.

    Guess you really weren't cut out to be a cowboy.

    Can I have some of that soda?

  3. Shibaguyz: Thank you for the bravo! I would bow, but I originally spelt "rein" as "reign". So I deserve tomatoes and lettuce instead :D

    PaisleyJade: Thanks! I'm happy to receive any love for my childhood trauma ;)

    Frizz: haha I can totally picture your experience with a reluctant horse. The ranch hand should have placed rollerskates under your horse instead ;)

    It's funny how our horse stories both ended with a dip in the lake! :D

    Kate: Thank you so much for telling me about my embarrassing spelling mistake! I fixed it just now, thanks to you! And yes, I would give you alllll my orange soda :D

    onewhirleddesign: Thanks! I'm not a great cowboy (or a great speller), but I'm happy to hear your kind words! :)

  4. Ahaha, it looks like you're being thrown from the horse.

    P.S. Orange soda FTW, it's the best!

  5. mochaxlight: From what I can remember, my 2nd & 3rd jumps were more like quick slides off the saddle :) As soon as I saw the horses ahead begin running, I was standing on solid ground so fast!

    I only remember Blinding Terror during the 1st jump though :D

  6. This is a GREAT story, Howie - sorry it was so traumatic!

    At least the first part was a hoot 'n' a holler ;)

    (lovechild on Rav)

  7. Jude: Thanks! It's therapeutic to turn traumatic events into blog posts :D

    And thanks so much for introducing me to the expression: "hoot 'n' a holler"! Because of your Texas insight, I sprinkled some cowboy lingo into this post :)

  8. Grape soda was MY drug of choice back then...LOVED this episode!Brings back memories. Yes, horses can be mean & contrary, especially ones named "Joker". Ask me how I know??

  9. I just went through your entire blog, and I want you to know that you are fantastic. I want to show your crocheting and drawings and stories to everyone!

  10. Miss Julep: Wow, did you have a dark encounter with a "Joker" horse too? With grape soda as fuel, I bet you could show any wild horse who's boss! :)

    Anonymous: Thanks so much for the kind words and for going through the whole blog! I hope the Orangekin said hello ;)

  11. I am impressed with your creativity, congratulations!!


  12. totally adorable!!! :) I love these little blasts from the past :)

  13. Nice Lima: Thanks for the creativity-encouragement! :)

    Crys :D: I'm happy you like these blasts from the past! It's fun to share these stories that have haunted me over the decades haha

    Yesterday, my mom told me she was surprised to read about my adventures at the ranch. When I was ten years old, she said, I only muttered to her: "I jumped off the horse." :D

    Oanhderbread: Thanks for lol-ing :)

  14. Raggy Rat: Unmarked soda contains extra carbonation, as you experienced! Satisfyin'! ;)

  15. I would like to say thank you. After having a horrible day at work this just made me laugh and feel better.

    I spent a week at a ranch for girl scouts. The best times were riding a horse for me. Other then that the tick infested cabins and showers we were in was scary.

  16. RainbowSweetStitch: I'm glad my ranch misadventures cheered you up!

    It's good to hear that you had fun riding a horse at camp. My niece spent this summer at a horse camp, and she was steering those jumping horses like a pro!

    Thanks! And I hope you never encounter tick infested cabins again :D

  17. I love this post! Illustrating your childhood experiences is such wonderful therapy, and the orange soda does sound like bliss at this situation!

  18. Molly Made: Thank you!!

    Congratulations on your shiny new shop!

    Sharona R: Yes, it's surprisingly therapeutic to draw these childhood experiences! Thanks, and I hope you dedicate your next orange soda to Joker the horse, wherever he may be ;)

  19. This is ace as always. From someone who has flown from the back of a horse a few times in my life I feel your pain! Thank goodness for orange pop!

    Best bit is your diary entry. I have some from that age too. It's amazing reading your younger self when you're older. Time travel does exist. :)


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