This One Is Easy
I have a lot of good memories from my childhood – riding around the neighborhood on my blue Schwinn with the big white banana seat imagining all the empty lots around my house were filled with horses. I went so far as to pick my favorite horses from my collection of horse coffee-table books and assign them to “pastures.”
Some mornings I would ride my bike to each one and “feed” my imaginary herds. No wonder I’m a writer. #daydreamer #fantasyrancher
There were a pack of us kids in my neighborhood – lower income kids with parents who worked and left us alone a lot of the time, or didn’t work and just weren’t “present” for us. So we had a lot of freedom and, despite the notorious serial killer who stayed next door for a while and the black panther who was arrested at a bar up the hill after a shooting, we were allowed to around outside until it got dark most days.
We would go down to the beach a couple blocks away, along the catwalk by the creek that flowed into the sea and hid us from everyone, through alleyways picking blackberries and peeking into backyards, or play hide and go seek and hide in the underground garbage cans with lids on them – and we managed to survive!
But there is one magical place that I loved above all else.
We stumbled across this resort and pack station in the Sierras when I was about 8 years old. My step-dad liked to fly fish and my mom liked to read, so the cluster of little cabins surrounding a meadow on the Stanislaus River was an ideal spot for them.
Me? I loved the pack station. Two big, rustic corrals filled with horses and pack mules.
I would hang out there all day long and watch the horses. I’d watch the cowboys take the horses out in the morning, saddle them up for pack trips and day riders, sneak in to pet the horses as they stood waiting to go out on trail rides when I could, and run home with excitement after I got to hold a gate open during feeding time or maybe be offered a handful of grain to feed to my favorite horse that day.
Back then, (yes, I am officially old enough to use that term now,) my parents could rent a horse for me to ride – by myself, without a helmet – all day log. Usually this happened once while we were there.
When I was little I always had the same horse, Chubby, and he farted a lot, so we joked that he and I were the perfect match.
When I got older I got to ride this pretty paint, but I can not recall her name right now.
Laughing around the fire. Late nights at the saloon. Bloody Mary’s the next morning. [those last two were for my parents.] Trout for breakfast. Archie comic books for the long ride up. My toddler sister falling on the exposed hot water pipes and getting blistering burns on her bottom. Falling off a horse in the meadow. Getting to ride with random folks who trailered their own horses up. Coming up with my own children. Riding down the slick shale trail in the pouring rain. #goodtimes
We went to Kennedy Meadows every summer for my dad’s birthday from the time I was 8 until I left home. My parents and my sister kept the tradition alive after I was out of the house.
We scattered my mom’s ashes there, in the cold waters of the Stanislaus.