All the King's Horses


1. Sometimes You've Just Gotta Ride

     I remember that morning like it was yesterday. Pieces of it are still foggy, thanks to a blue roan stallion named Twisted. I was nine years old and thought I was bullet-proof, but I wasn't Twisted-proof. Twisted belonged to a cowboy that worked on my family's ranch. The cowboy had purchased the stallion from the Wild Horse and Burrow Adoption. They said Twisted was rounded up somewhere in Wyoming.

     Twisted was the rankest horse I've ever laid eyes on. He probably could've given those Canadian NFR broncs a run for their money. The big Canadian broncs are the best of the best. They're tall and stout with shaggy manes and forelocks and feathers around their hooves. They call them the "eliminators." They sit quietly in the chute while the cowboy is getting ready. Right before the gate opens and they come exploding into the arena, they close their eyes in a peaceful-looking way.

     That's exactly what Twisted did that April morning. I'd heard the cowboys talk about how he could buck. Cowboys that had been training horses for years couldn't stay on for more than a few seconds. He didn't look too intimidating. He was an average height for a mustang and had a stocky build. He looked like another ranch horse, which is probably what the cowboy was thinking when he bought Twisted. I can just imagine the surprise the cowboy got the first time he got on him and figured out that Twisted bucked like a bat out of hell.

     I woke up early that Sunday morning. The sun was just beginning to paint the Oklahoma sky when I slipped my boots on. My dad was already outside feeding our cattle, and my mom was in the kitchen cooking breakfast and telling my brothers to get ready for church. I said good morning and walked out the door. I was heading to the barn to do my chores when I saw Twisted grazing quietly in his little pasture. I remember thinking, He looks harmless. He's even let me pet him before. Why can't anybody ride him?

     I bet I could...

     I waked toward the blue roan confidently. He neighed when he saw me. I usually brought him a treat from the barn every morning, but I had forgotten on account of my idea. I thought I would just hop on his back, make a lap or two around the small pasture, and then continue on with my chores. To this very day, I still think Twisted read my mind. I crawled under the barb wire fence. I stood up and talked to the horse in a quiet, soothing voice.

     "You're such a pretty boy, but you know that already, don't you? All the cowboys say the same. They also say you're pretty tough. You had to be to survive out in the wild, didn't you? I'm not gonna hurt you. I just wanna take a little ride before church..."

     I grabbed a handful of mane, jumped, and threw my right leg over his back. We just sat there for a moment in the early morning sunshine.

     "See? That wasn't so bad, was it? Now c'mon, let's ride-" I nudged him with the heels of my boots.

     The next thing I remember is waking up to the worried faces of my parents and Jim, the cowboy that owned Twisted. They were asking me all sorts of silly questions- "Can you move your feet, sweetie? How many fingers am I holding up?" I just looked down at my hand. I still had a fistful of Twisted's mane clutched in my fingers. My left shoulder was throbbing.

     My mom insisted on taking me to the emergency room. No bones had been broken, but I did have a mild concussion. I later learned that I had actually stayed on the stallion for a few jumps. Jim and the other cowboys that had witnessed my wild ride said that it was most impressive and that I had a Texas-sized smile on my face the whole time.

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