Sunday, April 25, 2010

Standing tall in the stirrups

The year was 1959, and I was 11 years of age.

I had pulverised Jimmy Dyke in a bare knuckled duel, ringed by siblings and hangers-on in the dust and dark beside the red-rattler carriage that served as the kid's bedroom for the Dyke family. Whopping Jimmy hindered rather than helped. I was still the sharpest pencil in the box, and John Curran's favourite. Not that I was about to give all that up for mere popularity. I wanted to be liked, but on my terms. In those days, I had no idea what respect meant.

1959 got longer, but not better necessarily. Mum divvied up her garden plot near the top dam, and we three had an unspoken, yet gentlemanly, fight to the death over who had the greenest thumb. Barry won hands down. And I moved on.

Dad bought a horse in at the Denman sale-yards. No idea how much, but whatever it was, was too much. He was more a nag than a horse. A black nag called Tony. He didn't give a hoot if you liked him or not, you took him on his terms. Dad agreed to show me how to ride. I say show, because in those days Dad did not teach. He showed you once, and that was that.

I should have told by the snorting and stamping as I garthed him up. Hell, even his eyes were flashing 'danger'. It was only seconds, one on, one up, and one down. The gravel on the driveway was rough and dry and hurt like hell. And, being a tomboy, I was not quiet.

Dad was furious, and stalked him into the corner of the milking bails, and, grabbing the reins, swung himself over and barked at me to ‘get’ the creek gate. The wire grass was long and dun that year and as they creasted the rise and rounded the bend, I lost sight of them. I sat on the gate strainer and eventually they reappeared through the grasses, flat as a tack, ears back and slobbering into the wind.

He was a lather of foamy white. Dad got off and made me walk him round the house paddock until he calmed, then together we washed him clean. After this, and only after this, Dad led him to the trough where he took several long draughts.

Then Dad held the reins and insisted that I get back on. I continued to ride him, but the challenge had gone.

These are not the exact stirrups, but’ represent’ that event. I found them in a junk shop in a small country town a couple of years ago. However, hanging on the wall behind the bench is Dad’s branding iron – the genuine article. On a top book shelf, I also have Dad’s whip.


Joan Elizabeth said...

You tell this story extremely well. Something about the right mix of story, description and tension. And the photo is lovely too ... the light just right.

Even though I am a country girl I never rode a horse. However, in my early teens I did ride motor bikes and had my own car to drive around the next door paddock.

altadenahiker said...

Oh my, your dad knew horses. Including that water before the cool down would make him colic.

This photo is striking. Everything that lies ahead appears so promising.

Julie said...

Fascinating use of the word 'appears'.

I guess in this photo I am 12 to 13 years of age, and my younger brother about 11. Which would make my older brother about 16.

"Appears' is accurate.

Suzi Smith said...

Oh julie, i love the way you convey this memory... and i reckon you've still got the tomboy spirit! Now, i had a wild little pony that no one else would ride.... but that is for another time. Thankyou for drawing me in to your picture!

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