I suppose you’d have to know my Uncle Noad. But then I suppose you’d have to know me too. And I suppose you’d also have to know my grandfather and my father since they were the ones who brought us together and nourished me and horses in so many ways.
Now, as a kid I wasn’t all that observant -- I didn’t make all that many connections or notice what all was going on. I mean, I noticed “the Sixties” and thought about the philosophical implications of various things but I didn’t notice that Lynn was Ruby’s daughter. As an adult I’ve heard tell that my Uncle Noad had, let us say, a volatile family life. I had no clue. What I knew about Noad was that he was my grandfather’s brother who everyone knew was especially good with horses and he loved me and I loved him.
I suppose you’d have to also know those mountains, know that you drive up Tom’s Creek from Coeburn, along the ridges and finally by Ervington High School to Nora. I once brought a flatland beau to Nora and he thought that was the top of the mountain. It is not. To go to Noad’s, you turned left at Nora and then right up the mountain and I always got the names of the various hollers mixed up, tomahawk or buffalo or something; I could always recognize it. You drove up that road until the pavement stopped. When one of his son’s had wanted to build a house, Noad had given him 1 acre of his land -- the furthest from his house, closest to the road acre. This always tickled me. (This might explain why I have 2000 feet of nearly impassible road to get to my house now.) Past his son’s house and the pavement was Noad’s land. You were at his house when you came to the end of the road.
Just before his house and above the road on the left side was a barn. On this day, this is where my father, his father, Noad and I met. It would have been sometime in 1980 or 1981 I think. I had grown up riding gated horses but by this time it had been years and years since I’d been on one. I’d taken to forward seat riding, hunters and jumpers and cross country, and also dressage, and had really never thought about saddle seat although heck, we never road in those flat saddles anyway but in western saddles. We never let the hooves overgrow for exaggerated action either. So on this day Noad brought his two saddle horses into this barn and he and I tacked them up in their western saddles. I was always up to ride anything, any style, anytime, and I that is still very much the way I am. We mounted and Noad led the way.
I don’t remember that I particularly knew that we were going to go riding, just that I’d been invited to go see Noad. I didn’t know where we’d go. I just went along. When we first picked up a slow rack I realized just how long it had been since I’d done this and it took me awhile to adjust -- to sit back, to let the motion flow through me. I’m sure we talked about stuff but at the same time I doubt we talked about anything; for Noad and for me, being together and being on the horses was enough, was everything we wanted and so we could easily just be. Eventually my body remembered how to sit into the horse and let it move on.
We reached the end of the trail and turned around. When we got back to the flattest, smoothest part of the trail, Noad started letting his horse out. Since he was nearing 80 years old at that time and I was about 20, he’d taken the horse with more training and I was on the slightly greener horse. I asked my horse to step out and he did. Noad and I were both grinning big time as we let them rack on, racing but not too seriously. When the trail narrowed again, we pulled them up and laughed out loud at how much fun that was to do and the horses blew and chomped and tossed their heads showing their high spirits too.
When we got back to the barn, there was my dad and my Dad-da (pronounced dadaw) waiting for us and matching our grins. We dismounted and led them back into the barns and Noad said to his brother, “You put that girl on your worst horse and she’ll still out ride you.” And my Dad-da’s blue eyes twinkled and my father’s hazel eyes did too and Noad and I untacked our horses in all our bow-legged glory.
It was perhaps my proudest moment ever.
It is what I want now.
Now, again. To relax into what I know and do best. To have opportunities appear from what appears to me to be out of the blue and to embrace them.
I will not be discouraged by the damning of faint praise (“you did well on the straight parts of the test”). I will not be discouraged by snipes (“no one is going to pay you to ride her”). I will not be discouraged by snide remarks (“I don’t know if she held her pinkie out right or not but she’s not committing suicide so she must have done ok”). I will simply not be discouraged.
I am so glad to be back at a barn, back with horses. I still cannot believe I did without them for twenty years. But yes, I want more. I want my life back, my whole life, without giving up the life I have now.
There. I’ve said it.