Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Last Trail Ride

Betty, cousin Janet, Ramona

Queenie was the horse of my childhood. We had another pony before her which I don't remember, but do remember hearing the stories of how it used to drag my older brother off its back by going under a low limb when he was little.
Queenie wasn't our horse, she belonged to our landlord. I remember when our parents told us he was taking her back. She was getting pretty old and slow. He said a farmer north of town wanted a docile pony for his six-year-old twin sons to ride. (Morris and Mark Boswell, I believe.) Hade came to get her on June 19, 1957. It was hard to see our faithful old horse taken away.

But about six weeks later, July 29, Hade brought us a new horse. Her name was Josephine and she was much taller. Queenie was part Shetland - Josephine seemed a giant by comparison. I don't have a picture of her but I found one online that is similar to how I remember her looking. She was a very pretty pinto. By the time we got her I was beginning to lose interest in horse back riding. I never rode her much and I don't think Betty did either. The days of threshing oats were a thing of the past - no more 'water girls' riding out with fresh cold water for members of the threshing crew. If I remember right, we only had her a couple years. We weren't riding her enough so Hade took her back.

Somewhere there is a picture of me going on a trail ride down in Kentucky. Bud likes to tell how I refused to ride the horse they wanted me to ride because I deemed it "ugly". They kept insisting it was the right horse for me, so I said I'd just have my money back and not ride. So they let me ride the 'pretty' brown horse I wanted.
My last trail ride was at Wildwood Hills Ranch near St. Charles, Iowa in the autumn of 2005. I was attending a weekend retreat of Tending Your Inner Garden, a women's group for personal growth and spirituality I had joined. The picture above shows the bunkhouse I was in. It was a perfect autumn weekend, both the weather and program scheduling.

We had choices of activities during our free time. It had been a long time since I was on a horse, but I'd never lost my love of riding - I chose a trail ride - and this time I didn't have to pout or threaten to get the horse I wanted. I wasn't crazy about having to wear a hard hat though.
The trail ride was a lot longer than I anticipated - about two hours. We wandered up into the wooded hills, across a big meadow and along a ridge before we started back to the corral. My arthritic knees and hips began screaming before the first hour was over but there was nothing I could do but keep riding. I didn't want to be seen as a wimp.

End of the Trail is a famous sculpture by James Earl Fraser. He completed it in time for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The original now stands in the entryway of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Fraser's image of the lone figure and his weary horse can be found in numerous paintings and sculptures. When I bought a sign at the Iowa State Fair for our farmstead, I had many choices, but this one seemed the most significant - the last trail ride to the end of the trail.

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