By Russell Hartz
After watching a cowboy movie with three of my buddies I mentioned that I used to live out West and I wished there was a stable around because I missed horseback riding.
Al said, “My grandpa lives on a farm and he has a horse.”
About a week later, Al said, “Grandpa told me that he still has his saddle and you’d be welcome to come out and ride Ole Paint anytime.”
Al made the arrangements and the following Saturday we all piled into his jalopy and drove out to the farm. Grandpa met us with a hearty welcome. He took us out to the pasture where the horse was grazing. Ole Paint looked really tame to me, just old and tired.
He looked like someone had thrown blotches of white paint all over a black horse. He totally ignored us while Grandpa put the saddle on him.
It was an English saddle, not much more than an overgrown pancake with stirrups. It had no horn on the front and no back support.
I put my foot in the stirrup and swung up onto the saddle.
Grandpa handed me the reins. I gently flipped them. Nothing. I flipped them again and called out, “Heaah!” Still nothing. I squeezed my knees into his side, snapped the reins and called out “Heaah!” again, louder this time.
Ole Paint reared up twice, whinnying. Taken by surprise, I almost slid off the saddle. But my reflexes quickly pushed my feet back and the stirrups stopped my slide.
Running at full gallop all the way to the end of the pasture, Ole Paint stopped at the fence, reared up again, turned and ran back to the other end. His only response to the reins was to buck violently. I was just barely hanging on,
At full gallop he tried to scrape me off against the side of a tree. I moved my left leg back and up, stirrup and all, to the top of his rump. His side scraped the trunk of the tree as we passed.
Making a wide turn he came back to try it on the other side. I used the same maneuver.
He chose another tree with a large horizontal branch growing on one side about two feet higher than his back, planning to knock me off against that branch.
I removed my feet from the stirrups, laid back across his rump and lifted my feet up alongside his neck. As he galloped under the limb, I reached up with both hands and took hold of it. He slid out from under me and I dropped safely to the ground.
Grandpa apologetically explained that Ole Paint had never behaved like this before, but he hasn’t been ridden for 10 years.
Ole Paint came over and stood quietly beside us.
I didn’t let on how scared I was. I had been hanging on for dear life.
That’s how I got the nickname “Cowboy.”
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