The Good Wife's Horse Tale
by Beth Boswell Jacks
Recently, while mounted on a gentle horse named Eli, in the company of hubby G-Man and two others, I journeyed through the silk of new fallen snow in the Smoky Mountains. Granted, I not so much rode the horse as was conveyed, but the fact remains: I did it.
We were at Blackberry Farm in the Smokies for a short winter vacation, and my horseman hubby G-Man was determined we were going on a trail ride. His motto is akin to that of Daniel Boone: "All you need for happiness is a good horse and a good wife."
He's got both, by darn.
Shivering in 30 degree temperature, this good wife waddled to the stables wrapped in swaddling clothes -- long johns, turtleneck, wool sweater, thick socks, jeans, boots and gloves, G-Man's extra poofy jacket, and hat with black fur all around my face.
Our guide, a cute cowboy named Jim who once trained elephants (How appropriate, I thought, as I adjusted a couple of my layers) met us at the door. The horses, already saddled, waited in an orderly line, nose to rump, inside the barn.
Truly, I'm one who can differentiate the front end of a horse from the rear, but that's about it. Tough John Wayne once said that "courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyways." Unfortunately, scared to death didn't near 'bout describe my equestrian misgivings.
"Come on in," said Jim. "Get out of the cold."
Good idea, I thought. Maybe we can heat up some cocoa and tell stories. No sense subjecting the horses to this snowy ordeal. No sense at all.
But who"s got sense? Especially not Jim and G-Man and the other guy who showed up to ride with us. (He was trying to conquer his fear, he said, since he'd recently been bucked by a steed in San Antonio. He proudly showed me the 48 stitches in his right jaw.) Say what?
"Beth," said Jim, "Eli there is your horse."
Eli turned to look at my black furred head. He snorted.
"Don’t mind him," Jim said, "he’s looking at your hat. He thinks you’re a bear."
I just said OH. But my mind was racing faster than my conversational skills. How could I abort this folly? I could feign a headache -- that usually worked. Or I could claim I was nauseated, which I was truly close to being. Or I could stand my ground and say to G-Man, "Look, sweets. Over there's your good horse. You don't need a good wife at the moment. I'm outta here."
But I didn't. And the snow continued to fall -- a heavenly, paradisal vision.
We mounted (OK, OK, I had to use steps) and headed out. We had just lost sight of the barn when we came to a roaring creek. No exaggeration. Icy cold and roaring.
"Follow me," Jim hollered. Shutting my eyes, I grabbed the horn thingy on the saddle. Into the creek we went, into the turbulent waters. Eli slipped and slid on the rocks, but we made it across, and I felt exhilaration only a conqueror, or perhaps a survivor, could feel.
Our ride continued into the mountains, some trails slanting at a precarious 50 degrees or worse. We slogged upward and then down again through muddy clay and slippery leaves. Fallen tree branches, drifts of snow, stones and roots hindered our progress. The horses stumbled but never fell.
“Hey,” Jim called to me as Eli paused to nibble tender green fir shoots, "Look waaay down there at those rhododendron bushes, wouldja? They'll bloom like crazy long 'bout July."
I peeped. The drop-off was dizzying.
"Man," sighed G-Man, astride his feistier horse, Dancer, "the mountains are gorgeous, aren’t they?"
I looked at him through my fogged glasses, wiped my nose, and murmured, "Yeah, gorgeous." And I meant it.
Two hours later, with aching boo-tay and frozen toes, I slid off Eli in the shelter of the barn. Silently I thanked God for delivering me safe and sound, for helping me make a dent in my paralyzing, cautious nature, and for giving me an opportunity to ride this patient horse, viewing spectacular mountain vistas cloaked in lacy blankets of snow.
It's been said one can get in a car and see what man has made
. . . or one can get on a horse and see what God has made.
This good wife can vouch for that.
Getting My Get-Up-And-Go To Go With My Get-Up
Trail rides, Cantles and Beans
Beth Boswell Jacks, editor of USADEEPSOUTH.COM, is an author and newspaper columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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