Should have been a ‘cowgirl’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 18, 2010

Horses are big animals. At least that’s how I see them, and big for me equals scary. It’s one of those phobias that develops and then hangs on for dear life.

When I was a kid, I thought I wanted a horse – don’t most kids want a horse or at least a pony? On Saturdays, I watched the cowboys and cowgirls riding the range in the old westerns that populated television in the late 1950s.

With ease and grace, they hopped upon their faithful companions and galloped into adventure after adventure. How I longed to join them on the trail, riding off into the glorious sunset astride my trusty horse.

Alas, the closest I came to a horse was the stick version I pulled from a bush in the backyard. If you left the last few leaves on the end of a large green switch, it became a tail and an old piece of rope tied to the other end created the illusion of a horse’s head.

I’d ride for hours up and down, back and forth imagining myself crossing the dusty desert pursuing bad guys, making the world a better place while searching for a watering hole. If only I had a real horse, I’d replace fantasy with reality and become the cowgirl I knew was my destiny.

That fantasy stayed with me until one sunny afternoon when reality came to visit. Our neighbor, Mr. Tom, was a horse person. In fact, for years there was a hitching post at the curb in front of his house.

On this afternoon, he decided to ride his big, black horse right into our backyard. Now when you see something on television you don’t get a true picture of its dimensions. Suddenly, there was a living, breathing horse standing in front of me and that sucker was so much bigger than it looked when Dale Evans rode across the screen.

Mr. Tom invited me to climb on and gave me a boost into the saddle. I was maybe 8years old and a small 8 at that. From my perch on black beauty, the ground seemed awfully far away and when the creature started moving, I held on for dear life as I swayed from side to side.

At one point, I almost slid off, saved only by Mr. Tom pushing me back upright. When the ride ended and I touched solid ground, my dreams of horse ownership were gone. For the remainder of my childhood cowgirl days, I contented myself with switch horses and had no desire for anything other than that fantasy.

I recall my horse experience every time I talk to my friend Tricia about something she has going on with the Covington Cowgirls Drill Team. Unlike me, she and the other drill team members didn’t develop a horse phobia and became the cowgirls I once imaged myself to be.

Even better, this group uses their talent for riding and their love of horses to benefit others. With their trail rides, like the one coming up this Saturday, and their rodeo events, they give back to the community.

This weekend the money they raise goes to St. Judes Children’s Hospital. In the fall, another ride gives funds to special education classes in the county. And, they provide scholarships and donate to organizations like Opportunity House.

Come to think of it, they exemplify all I admired in those Western television heroes. They ride with grace and give something positive to the world. Now isn’t that exactly what Roy and Dale and the Lone Ranger did when they galloped into town, and what they encouraged all of us couch-bound cowboys and cowgirls to do in our own lives.

Yep, I’ve accepted the reality that I am not a cowgirl. I understand that I have an irrational phobia when it comes to horses.

But I’m surely grateful Tricia and the drill team gang keeps the dream alive for all of us would-be cowgirls.