Thursday, April 7, 2011
Trail Tales I (The Original Adventure)
You know it's going to be a pip of a trail ride when you have to use the four wheel drive just to get to the parking lot, let alone through it. We growled up the hill, tires trying to grip, engine roaring at full volume. Once we parked in the swamp, um, parking area, I mean, we unloaded the horses. The horses did not want to unload at all. Either they just hate to back up, or they had a premonition of how this ride was going to turn out and they wanted no part of it.
We put their finery on them, tightened cinches, and loaded the saddle bags with only the absolute necessities – lots of water, cookies, and toilet paper. Hey, if I have to go in the woods, I am NOT using leaves. The last time I tried that, I mistakenly used poison ivy leaves. Unpleasant business, that. But I digress.
We load up, my posse and me. My 67 year old mother used a step ladder to climb on leggy Diva, 12 year old Maggie daintily mounted her paint, Moonshine, and 8 year old Ainsley clambered her way up on her one-eyed pony, Jane. As for me, I was still trying to convince my posterchild-for-Ritalin Blitz to stand still. I was getting dizzy from the circles he was spinning.
Finally mounted, we headed down the nearest trail. That was a mistake, seeing as how it promptly dropped off into an abyss. Blitz, in the lead, took one look, and back pedaled as fast as his paws could take him. He even shook his head in denial like “Heck, NO! You're nuts, woman!” Everyone came up and looked, and my mother emphatically stated that there was no way on God's green earth she was going to go down that. I was willing to give it a shot, but I was out-voted, and we turned around to find another trail.
This one went through a river, so at least it wasn't boring. Okay, so it was a creek, but lets call it a river so it sounds better, okay? Blitz deigned to go through water for me (probably because he'd already seen the the choice behind Door Number 1), just this once, but behind me I heard loud splashing and turned just in time to get a face full of ice cold river water. Moonshine does love the water and likes to play by lifting her front leg up as high as she can and slapping the surface repeatedly. The whole point here was for the horses to go through the water, and the humans to stay dry, but she's more of a “good for the goose, good for the gander” kind of horse. We made it through without her laying down to roll in it, at least. Yes, she has done that.
Next we go riding along the banks of this beautiful river, enjoying the crisp, clear weather. This is the life. Nothing is better than riding horses with the people you love, and doing in it the gorgeous backwoods of Mississippi. This is God's country, and he made it just for us. I feel close to God when I'm riding through his creation, especially in my home state. I love the sand creeks with ribbons of water, the stately pines, the sky that's bluer than anywhere else...I even love the mud.
And that's good, because we were fixing to see a lot of it! We followed the trail away from the river, and hit mud. Not just a little mud, now, because it's January in the Homochitto Forest, and January means rains similar to those Noah might have experienced. This is real mud. Suck your shoes off kind of mud. Blitz is now in his element. He goes to his knees in mud, and bounds out in a single leap, then bolts forward to build some momentum for the rest of the primordial ooze. We take off, both deliriously happy, me clinging to his neck lest I slide right off the back, him galloping through sucking, slurping mire, then bounding up the root marked trail to the top of the ravine. We twist to the left, then to the right, he slams my knee into a tree. It's exhilarating! Behind me I could hear blood curdling screams from various members of my family. I chose to believe they were happy screams, but evidently not all people or horses like to run through the slough. Go figure.
I waited at the top of the hill for my first follower, Maggie. She gave me a dirty look and said she wanted a normal mother. Moonshine, who is a paint with white legs, is now covered with black slime up to her chest. She's breathing hard, but personally I felt like she looked happy and excited. Maggie assured me this wasn't the case and they could have died. Then came my mother. The look she gave me has no words to give it justice. She may have made some comment about me being just like my father, but at least she had been able to divorce him. I'm sure she was joking. Finally, up came Ainsley on little Jane. We call them Ainie and Janie, and they are quite the pair. Ainie is laughing and yells, “let's do that again!” I do love that child of my heart.
So continues the ride. Mud, the occasional dry spot, more mud, muttering from my mother about how she should have know better than to go anywhere with me. She knew – she just knew – this ride was a bad idea. Maggie was still glaring and warning me that she better not get any ticks in these stupid woods. She didn't want to get lyme disease and die. And she didn't want to see any bears either.
Ainsley perked right up and looked around. “Bears? There's bears here? Where? I wanna see one!”
“Probably not any bears,” I tell her, “but maybe some panthers or bob cats.”
“Yay!” she shouts as her sister screams in horror.
After way too short of a time, we came to a small dirt road. My mother breaks into the Hallelujah Chorus, assured that we can now find our way back to civilization. Maggie follows her cue, and Ainsley and I pout. After arguing over which way to turn (I vote left and Mama votes right), we turn left and almost immediately – not even a whole mile – come to our first sign. It reads “160A Timberlane”. Well, an address is civilization, so I guess we're almost back to the truck and trailer. I'm still mentally pouting, but try to put on a happy face for everyone else's sake because that's just the kind of self-sacrificing person I am. We followed the road another mile or so and came to a dead end. There 's a trailer there, inside a gate, on which has a sign that that states, “Private Property, Do Not Enter.” Another sign boasts, “Trespassers will be shot.” That's like waving a red flag in front of bull to me. I enter. If they want to be rude, I can be ruder.
Maggie is wringing her hands and planning my funeral, begging me to come out. I assure her the people that live her probably don't mean they'll shoot me literally. They were probably just kidding around and were really cheerful people in person. Alas, no one is home, so I don't get directions. I also don't get shot, which I guess is good. We turn around and head back the way we came. I tried to convince my mother that any one of the trails that branch off the road would surely take us back to the trailer, but she's lost all faith in my navigational abilities. She made some rude comments about me having the sense of direction of a gnat.
We pass our original trail, and I beg her to turn down it. Riding on the road is boring. I could ride on the road without hauling my horses 70 miles to do it. I want to go through the woods, dadnabbit! My mother refuses to “go back into that hellhole of mud” and keeps going.
“It ain't the right way, Mama!” I shout after her. She waves her hand in dismissal. Her mama didn't raise her right. Southern ladies are supposed to have manners.
We rode forever, Mama and Maggie in front, positive they'll see my black four wheel drive Dodge and white-with-a-touch-of-rust stock trailer any moment now. An hour later, we pass 160B Timberlane Road. Goodness, with this kind of space between neighbors, you'd think they could have their own numbers and not have to share, but what do I know? We kept trudging. Blitz must have been bored, because I swear I could hear him snoring as he walked. His head was practically on the ground and his ears flopped to the side. Even Jane had her one eye drooped almost shut, with only a slit of eyeball visible. Diva and Moonshine - idiots – had their ears perked up and nostrils flaring, just knowing the rig was only over the next rise. They share their riders' delusions.
Finally, we stop. It's been hours, it'll be dark soon, and we haven't seen any sign of civilization since 160B Timberlane, which we passed 3 hours ago. The horses go on strike and refuse to move one more step. Even the delusional Diva and Moonshine, stupid as they are, know that we're riding further from the trailer, not closer.
And to top this off, my mother looks at me and bluntly states, “This is all your fault.”
Me?! What did I do? I told her to take the trail! Didn't I? It's not my fault she never listens to reason. She adds insult to injury, adding, “You are just like your father.” I know she means to insult me because she thinks my father, whom she divorced over 30 years ago, is the spawn of Satan. He's been dead for 5 years, but that doesn't seem to be enough to pay for her grievance. Talk about holding a grudge, huh?
Maggie joins with Mama in mutiny, slides off her horse and whining about needing to go potty. I pointed to a tree and told her to have at it. This offended her. She's a lady! Ladies don't pee in the woods! Whatever. I grab the toilet paper and head to the aforementioned tree, followed by Ainsley, who for the first time in her life, managed to not wet the entire backside of her britches when she had to make use of God's facilities. If only I had been so lucky.
I finally conceded defeat. It'll be dark soon, temperatures will drop to freezing, and it's supposed to rain. I drag the cell phone out. With one tiny bar of signal, I call my husband, who is in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico on an oil rig. I explained the situation and, after he stopped laughing and saying impolite things like, “I should have known you'd do something like this”, he looked up the Homochitto National Forest on Google Maps. I explain where we parked and the addresses we passed, and he did his best to try to find us, but to no avail. Google doesn't include one lane dirt roads on their maps. I tell him thanks for nothing and hang up.
I try to convince my mother to backtrack, but stubborn she remains. She tells me to call the sheriff.
“I don't have the number.” Really I just didn't want to admit defeat.
“Do you know how to dial information?” I sense sarcasm. Maggie nods in agreement with Mama. Traitor. I went through a lot of pain to have that child. The least she could do is take my side.
So I called the sheriff's office. “Hi,” I say when the dispatcher answers. “We're riding horses in the Homochitto and - ” She starts laughing. “Let me guess,” she chortles, trying hard to breath, talk, and laugh at the same time, “you're lost in the woods?” I guess I'm not the first one, judging by that attitude. She gets serious. “Call 911.”
“911!” I yelp. “Nobody's dying here. This isn't an emergency. Can't you just tell me where we are?” I went through my spiel again about 160A and 160B Timberlane. She explains that she can locate me through my cell phone if I call 911, and that the call will come to the sheriff's office anyway. It's a very small town, I guess.
So I call 911, embarrassed as all get out. Only wimps call 911 for being lost. The same person answers. I re-introduce myself and this time hear laughter and “is that her?” in the background. She assures me they're sending someone and he'll “be there in just a sec”.
Thirty minutes later, a shiny white Ford Explorer pulls up and the deputy sticks his head out the window. “Y'all wouldn't happen to be lost, now, would ya?” I was tempted to get smart and say that no, we always love to hang around in the middle of nowhere right before dark, but I suppressed the desire when my mother practically tackled him and begged him to save her because her insane daughter (she meant me) had tried – again - to kill her with another one of her hair-brained schemes.
I was elected to ride with him to get my truck, and come back and pick everyone else up. Since it was eight miles by road (and we were going the right way, if we didn't mind a very long trek) it took a while, so we talked abut the latest in forensic technology. He's an expert because it's his job, and I'm an expert because I watch CSI. While in the car, he radioed to dispatch that he had a middle aged (excuse me!?) caucasian female in the vehicle. Why not just come out and and say “old white chick”?
Anyway, to make a long story short, I picked everyone up and we headed home. The horses leaped into the trailer with more enthusiasm than I've ever seen them load, my mother crawled grumpily into my truck, the girls got in the back seat, both irritated but for different reasons.
“I want to be home NOW and take a long hot bath.” That was Maggie.
And then there's Ainsley's irritation. “I don't know why we couldn't have ridden longer.” That's my kind of kid.
It wasn't until after we got home and I posted my exciting day on Facebook that someone mentioned that their phone had gps to use for situations like that. Well, ain't that just my luck? I have gps on my Blackberry too.