A case of (un)fortunate nostalgia
by, 12-24-2011 at 11:23 PM (781 Views)
I've been dreaming of Cherokee Park a lot lately, and I'm not sure why. I do miss it terribly, and the other night as I was falling asleep I had this flashback out of the blue of a Sunday morning gathering the herd off Goat Mountain. It is one of my more treasured memories with my beloved pony.
The dust from the brushing still hovers about the lean-to barn as I heave Hurcules, my saddle, down the stairs and towards my horse. He eyeballs me- not nervously, but knowing what is about to come. Tossing the bridle on the one dry spot on the ground, I chase him around the hitching post. Itís our morning ritual. I donít have the time or inclination to train him to stand, so Iíll just let him snub himself up so tight heís got nowhere to go.
He sighs heavily as he realizes heís fallen for it again. Cocking a hip, he lets me toss the saddle up and cinch down lightly. I dodge the expected pre-breakfast headbutt as I go to bridle him up. Heís always cranky when I donít let him eat before riding the mountain.
Dropping the halter, I grab his mane as he attempts to run for it. Grudgingly he takes the bit and stands while I finish cinching down. Iíve got my hand on the horn when he heads for the gate, now more than ready to go. Swinging up I just shake my head and settle back into the seat.
Throwing the gate wide, I let him trot alongside the river, keeping his gait just short of uncomfortable. Steering him into the water, I pull my feet free and set them on the swells on either side of the horn, not wanting to deal with soaking wet boots right out of the corral. Pausing for just a second to dip into my Copenhagen, he pulls on the bit, anxious to get moving. The sun is still hiding somewhere over behind Turkey Roost, casting a hint of pink into the otherwise clear sky. A few more brave stars peek down through the coming dawn, but they too are considering retiring for the day.
I let Pinto have his head for a few yards down the trail before turning him up the shallow side of Goat Mountain. Despite his harsh breathing, every time I ask him to slow down, he throws his head and prances about on the slope like a retard.
ďFine,Ē I mutter, picking our route but not asking him to slow any. The rest of the herd hears us coming and knows itís time to head in for the week. Good old Scooter keeps close to Duckyís shoulder as she trots towards the corral. Blind as he is, heíd never find anything without her.
A slight breeze sends me ducking back down into my vest. The pre-sunup damp right along the river is enough to give a good chill.
Back and forth along the ridge we go, slowly climbing higher above the ranch, pushing horses and getting ever closer to the peak of the mountain. For a moment, I stop and turn to look at the sunrise. The sunís white hot brow is peeking up over Turkey Roost, casting its tender rays of light across the Cherokee Park valley. Running my eyes over the country I lost my heart to made me smile. The hills that were so familiar yet full of nooks and crannies of mystery called to me. The farther away I went in the world, the louder they got.
Lukeís place was still in the shadow, but I can now see that Larsí hay meadows are getting close to ripe. And thereís Odie, right in the middle of them munching away on the maturing grass seeds. Making a mental note to go bring him in later, I turned back to my task. Down around the back of the mountain I trotted, making sure Dice and Scar werenít hiding in the little bowl they loved so much.
Whistling now as the herd slowly moves down the mountain, I pressured them as much as I dared. One misstep on this slope and it was a long tumble to the river a hundred feet below. Pinto throws his head in annoyance, telling me he doesnít appreciate the slow pace. He begins dancing on the loose gravel and pebbles as I wait for Shaw to plod down the steep trail, picking her way carefully to the bottom.
I wait until sheís safely in the river before I allow Pinto to follow. I tuck my legs up against the swells and lay back on his butt as he flies down the Vertical Seat Trail, hops the switchback and finally splashes into the river. One glance at the very intimidating hill weíd just conquered yet again, and I let him pick his way through the crowd of horses to his post, where I give him his breakfast and he headbutts me- just for good measure.