Bad decisions make good stories

If you had to describe yourself to someone else, how would you do it? Would you describe your looks, your heritage, your political leanings? Or would you strive more to describe who you are inside your skin, what makes you tick? Sometimes it’s hard to describe our true feelings and initiatives, to put those amorphous ideas into concrete words. But sometimes you hear something that just clicks. After all, cliches are frequently used for a reason, and the word even comes from a French verb meaning “to click.” Some people naturally “work smarter, not harder.” Some people “dress for the job they want” and actually get the job. Then there are people like me. People for whom “bad decisions make good stories.”

My life seems to be liberally peppered with “someday I’m going to look back on this and laugh” moments. I seem to have gotten lots of practice. One memorable bad decision occurred smack in the middle of another bad decision. At the time, I was married to a Border Patrol Agent (the first bad decision) and living in south Texas. Come to think of it, bad decisions tend to occur in simultaneous multiples for me. Go figure.

Our landlord there was a really sweet older gentleman who also happened to be a rancher. He encouraged me to take part in the team penning events he and his wife hosted several times a month. While he was always gracious enough to let me borrow one of their horses, I soon wanted a horse of my own.

Mind you, he and his amigos gave me some leads on really good horses. The problem was that they were quite a bit out of my price range. One day, I heard of a green broke bay gelding that fit the price criteria, and the owner was willing to let me try him out for a weekend.

I could hardly believe my good luck. The gelding was a sweetheart, docile as the day is long, even letting me ride him bareback up and down the country road. Dusty, as I started to call him, didn’t seem like he was overly speedy, but I thought he and I might just make a good keeper pair for penning. I couldn’t sign the bill of sale fast enough.

Now that he was mine, all mine, I could start living the horsey dream. Quick as a wink, it seemed, he started putting on weight and whinnying for me at dinnertime. I couldn’t wait for the next weekend when my landlady was hosting a trail ride. At last, a ride on my own horse!

As we set out, I noticed that ol’ Dusty was feeling his oats. He was pretty snorty, a far cry from the angel I had ridden just a week earlier. This Dusty danced and pranced like a prima ballerina. Soon, it came time to hop across a narrow ditch. All of the other horses stepped calmly across. Then it was our turn.

We sidled up to the ditch, with much blowing on Dusty’s part. Suddenly, he LEAPT across, almost leaving me behind. He was so proud of himself that he kept right on bucking in happiness until my last finger released the saddle horn, and I flew through the air, landing on my neck. Miraculously, I got up, brushed myself off, hauled myself back into the saddle (muttering under my breath), and finished the trail ride, wary of every flinch along the way.

The next weekend was a team penning event, and I borrowed a saddle with a flank cinch. I must have gotten distracted because I forgot to check whether it was connected to the main cinch. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.) Soon, it was our team’s turn. This time, I was ready. Or so I thought. I crouched forward in the saddle, put heels to him, and he sprang forward, right on cue. We took two glorious strides before that flank cinch slipped. I really can’t blame him for what happened next. That little bay horse executed a MOAB. Yes, a Mother Of All Bucks. Witnesses say I achieved some pretty impressive hang time before landing flat on my back in the arena dirt.

There I lay, gasping, as my friends ran out to check on me. Michael got there first, and kept insisting that I had to get up, I had to get back in the saddle. My brain kept saying “I know,” but all my lungs and mouth could agree on was “no.” Eventually, I managed to sit up and indeed get back in that saddle, now with an attached cinch.

I found out later that the horse trader I bought him from was known for starving horses before sale, so they’d be sluggish and docile. Truly, that whole series of bad decisions has led to some great stories, and great learning experiences. And I can finally look back on it and laugh. May this year hold more laughter and fewer bad decisions, for all of us!

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