The Adventurer in Me
First of all, there is absolutely no adventurer in me, whatsoever. I do not have the thrill seeking genetic code in my DNA. I’m not a daredevil. I’m not a risk taker. I’m not even a free spirit. I’m a rules follower…plain and simple. I learned a long time ago, that I don’t like to be in trouble. And people who follow the rules, don’t get in trouble.
When I was in my last year of college, a friend of mine and I went to Las Vegas for a wild weekend – yeah right. If by wild you mean playing nickel slots and in bed by nine, then I was wild.
My friend tried to talk me into all kinds of thrill seeking excursions while we were going to be there. I did not want to go skydiving. I told her I’d stand on the ground and cheer for her. I really did not want to go bungee jumping. I told her I’d wait at the hotel and she could call me to let me know she was still alive. I also let her know that I was O negative…just in case. I didn’t want to balance on one leg on the edge of Hoover Dam holding a rattlesnake in one hand and a lit match in the other. Okay, so that wasn’t a suggestion but I’m convinced my friend would have done this. In a way, I did envy my girlfriend. She loved the adrenaline rush. She loved to feel like she conquered something. She liked the idea that she broke the laws of nature and laughed in their face. For me the laws of nature were laws…and I don’t break laws.
Finally she suggested we take a horse back riding excursion around the rim of a canyon to view the Nevada countryside. I liked horseback riding. While truthfully I would have been completely satisfied trotting around a closed ring on the end of a line held by a trained professional in the middle of the Nevada countryside, I caved. I could do this. I could ride a horse around the rim of a canyon. So long as no one was asking me to then base jump off that canyon while still on the horse. Again, had that been an option, I fully believe my friend would have done this also.
The first thing that always happens in horseback riding adventures is the assigning of people to their correct horse. The staff takes a few moments to size up people to animals. It would be dreamy to think these horse whisperers were matching you up to your animal based off your 27 levels of compatibility but let’s be honest…they are assessing your weight and trying to find the toughest, least likely to sue to put on the horse with the history of bucking its riders into the canyon below. These horses can be easily picked out because they are named accordingly. More than once I have been clinging for dear life onto “Bone Crusher” or “Satan’s Horse” only to look up through my sweat drenched bangs to see my friend frolicking in the meadow on “Wildflowers” or “Snowball”. I was always put on the crazy ones.
In fact, the last ride I had gone on in North Georgia was still cattle branded into my brain. I had taken my cousin, a 13 year-old girl who also happened to be the Associate Pastor’s daughter at my church and her homeschooled BFF on a mountain ride one beautiful Saturday in October. I mounted my animal confidently only to be told that “Hitler” hated all the other horses so I should stay away from them while riding. That should be easy on the trail ride, in a line with the other horses. This instruction was followed quickly by the staffer slapping my animal on the rear and telling me to have a great ride. I could have sworn I heard her laughing as I made, what I like to now call the mountain ascension of death.
At the very top of the mountain and to my horror, “Hitler” bit another horse, reared up and took off down the mountain with me hanging on for my life. Down the mountain, Hitler went. We passed other families having a fun family day. We passed people nuzzling “Buttercup” and “Little Lamb”. We passed the Associate Pastor’s kid and we passed her homeschooled BFF. Down we went, me and Hitler, the whole time, my mind was saying prayers, but my lips were screaming, and I do mean screaming every obscenity known to man. Did I mention I was an employee at the church? I spent the entire drive home trying to explain to the Associate Pastor’s daughter and her homeschooled BFF that I was cussing because I thought I was going to die and that, under the circumstances, I’m sure God understood.
So six months later, when a cowboy named Tex decided I had a sturdy enough build to ride “Hellhound”, I called a time out. Negotiations began. “Say Tex, let’s talk for one hot second. Got any shorter, kinder, gentler horses? Tex stared at me. I decided hand motions were in order. I sized up my desired mount by holding my hand at stomach level. Tex smirked. “Look, Tex, I don’t want an invigorating gallop, just a boring stroll on a short horse?” I am convinced it is not enough to specify just a gentle horse. Any horse can have a bad day. In the event of a bad day, I wanted a horse where I had a shorter fall. Of course, at that time, I did not consider that the height of the horse would not matter, if I fell over the rim of the canyon. At that time, I wanted short horse. I wanted a pony. Heck, I wanted a really big dog to be saddled up. What I got was Rose. Rose was gentle. She was docile. Goodness gracious, she was certainly short. I felt I had finally found my equine soul mate. Who cares that when I look back at the pictures, it looks like my friend is riding a Clydesdale and I’m riding a Great Dane.
So off we went on the ride to climb up out of the hole and onto the canyon. Now, number one – I had no idea we would be climbing on these animals. Number two – had I know this, the following still would never have occurred to me. My pony’s legs were half the size of every other horse’s legs on that trip. As the other riders were taking the rocky ascent like it was a street curb, Rose would stop in front of every step. She would stand there for a few seconds, staring at the task ahead of her, panting. Then she would grunt and will her front legs up on the step. She would stop, pant, grunt and hoist her back legs up the step.
The climb was clearly challenging to this animal. I suddenly felt very self–conscious about my weight. This trail ride was about as memorable as the time the doctor told me my ankle would heal slower than the average person because of my “sturdy” build or when the man at the passport office said I was the spitting image of Roseanne Barr. It was clear, Rose was not my soul mate. Real love means never making me feel heavy. My body mass was apparently stressing out a pack animal. Like all good love stories, ours was fading faster than my nickels in Vegas had. To make a long story short, I survived the canyon with everything but my self-esteem and self-confidence (but hey, those are kind of overrated to begin with), went back home and joined a gym.