Friday, December 4, 2009

Girl Scouts

It was girl scout day and I was dreading it. Moping the entire way to the meeting in our red station wagon with the fake wood paneling. What are we going to do today, pretend we are Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, and practice field dressing fake wounds on the neighbor's Corgi incase of a communist attack?
Finally we arrived at the girl scout leader's home. Mom let me out of the 65 foot station wagon and I trudged to the front door where I was enthusiastically invited in by the leader. "Well hello there Meredith. We have a wonderful evening planned. Why don't you go on downstairs and help yourself to a cookie and some kool-aid? It's raspberry red, my favorite." The entire time she was talking, she was winking at me. I thought she had a twitch, but had never noticed it before. I think she thought I looked amazing in puke green and was trying to let me know without saying so in front of the other girls. Later I realized she was trying to make me feel more comfortable. She could see the repulsion I felt because I was a girl scout. I definitely did not blend with the other giggling, sewing loving, boy crazy freaks.
I did not know that this evening would change my life. Instead of field dressing fake wounds or whipping out the Singer sewing machine, we all sat on the floor and listened as the leader talked about a horseback riding trip planned for the following weekend. All we needed to do was have a waiver signed by our parents and come prepared with a sack lunch and we'd be off on our adventure in a big ol' green-van. I could not believe it. Something fun and adventurous to look forward to. Finally it was time to go home. I flew out of the house with my waiver blowing in the wind. I hopped into the wagon and immediately started talking about the trip. "Slow down" my mom said. "What are you talking about?". "The girl scouts are going on a horseback riding trip next weekend and all I need is this waiver signed and a sack lunch. Can I go pppplleaaaseee!". My weary mother looked at me and nodded yes. I was so excited. I could see it now. Mounted on a majestic stead. His coat gleaming in the sun. He would be a regal beast. I would be sitting English style on my horse named King. No cowboy boots for me. I'd ask my parents to buy me a pair of jodhpurs, boots; a shirt with some form of tie; equestrian helmet and jacket. I'm sure they would agree as they would want me to look my best and possibly be discovered by the Varsity Equestrian Steering Committee. King and I would become as one, completing the Piaffe: trotting in place, Pirouette: turning in place while at a cantar, Half Pass: King moving diagonally, moving frontwards and sideways at the same time at a trot and finally the Flying Lead Changes: this would look like King was skipping.
All the other girl scouts and barnyard workers and horse pooper scoopers would stand there with their mouths hanging open. Looks of disbelief as I sat upon my Nobel King, lovingly patting him, and producing a carrot out of my sack lunch. "Well-done boy,” I would whisper in his ear as he swatted flies with his tail. He would shake his head up and down letting me know we belonged together. Never before or again would those freaky girl scouts look at me and then huddle together and giggle.
"All right girls, line up!" yelled the leader. Suddenly I realized I was standing there in my jeans, tee-shirt proclaiming "keep America beautiful, stay off the streets,” and my ratty ol' tennis shoes. I wasn't sitting on King, I was waiting for my turn to get a horse. "Who has never ridden a horse?" barked the rancher in his smoker's voice. Should I raise my hand? No one else was raising their hand. Before I could stop myself, my hand shot up into the air. All eyes turned to me. I could feel my cheeks blazing with embarrassment. "Okay little lady, this here is Sweetie, she is the most gentle of our horses. All you have to do is get on and she will follow the others down the trail.” I looked at Sweetie. She looked at me. She seemed okay, she didn't growl or anything. I could handle this. Problem, how do I get my feet into the stirrups? I was kicking my leg up so high I felt like I dislocated my hip, but try as I might, I could not get my feet in the stirrups. "Good grief" I heard the crusty rancher mutter under his breath. He came up to me and basically threw me on the back of Sweetie. I gave him an impish grin and secretly wished I could go home. This wasn't turning out to be the experience I had hoped for.
"Okay, lets go,” said the rancher giving the lead horse a swat on the butt. All the horses started off in a single file. I was at the end. "This isn't so bad" I thought. Sweetie was just ambling along until she decided she wanted to turn around and head back to the barn. "Sweetie" I yelled "you're going the wrong way!.” I gave her reigns a tug. "Whoa Sweetie!". No response. "Stop!" I yelled. Nothing. She was determined that she was heading back from whence we came and there was nothing I could do about it. Of course the other riders never knew my horse had fallen out of line. I decided I would give Sweetie a kick in the side. I heard that would get a horse's attention. Of course Sweetie, the most gentle horse, got really pissed being kicked and took off at full speed. "Stop Sweetie, whoa, slow down!", pulling reigns to beat the band. Nothing, she was on a quest. Sweetie bypassed the barn running full speed. By this time I had my arms wrapped around her neck screaming bloody murder. Tears were flowing. She was flying through the woods. I could tell she was trying to knock me off because she was running so close to trees I had to pull my legs out of the stirrups to avoid becoming an amputee. There I was, arms wrapped around her neck, legs flying behind me, crying for my mother, hitting the horse, praying to God, ducking my head to avoid a large tree limb and certain death. Sweetie was jumping logs and hauling ass. I hated her. If she was the most gentle horse at the ranch, I would hate to see the worst of the bunch. I could smell fear coming from my pores. I think Sweetie could too. She was out of control. I prayed for a hunter to be up ahead who did not believe in killing animals, but would make an exception just this one time. He would hear my screams in the distance and run toward my voice. There he would see my run away horse and save me by shooting Sweetie with a tranquilizer dart. No such luck!
Sweetie was running next to a fence on the right-hand side of the woods. I could hear traffic on the other side. I had no idea where we were. It seemed like we had been running for hours. I was lost and would probably end up in the woods living off berries and roots for the rest of my life, providing of course that Sweetie would ever decided to stop running.
"Oh my God!" Sweetie was jumping over the fence. We were running down the hill toward traffic. Certain death! Sweetie and I would be crushed by an 18 wheeler. I could hear my parents telling the Girl Scout Leader that I never had a chance to eat my sack lunch. I buried my face into Sweeties neck and braced for the worst. "God, please don't let this hurt, take me quickly. P.S. I'm sorry for all the things I've done, like changing the grades on my report card and tying my sister up and putting her in the closet."
Screeching tires. Quiet. Was I in Heaven? No movement. I looked up from Sweetie's neck and she was sitting in the middle of the interstate. I guess she finally ran out of steam. I looked behind me to see a man laughing in his car. People were just staring and pointing. No one offered any help. I just sat there on the gentle horse as she rested in the middle of the road.
I couldn't take it any longer. I disembarked the foul beast. I prayed an 18 wheeler would come and mow down Sweetie. I walked up the hill back toward the woods, legs wobbling, hands shaking, pale and weak. I followed the trail back the way we came. Walking, walking, would I ever get back to the barn? Finally in the distance I could see the barn up ahead and then I was running with all I had. Finally, I did it. I felt terrific. I knew I would not have to live in the woods. I was a survivor. Made of steel. No horse could take me out. As I finally reached the barn, the first thing I noticed was that the entire troop was already there. They all had hands on their hips, lips curled in disgust. "Where have you been?", asked the leader. "We have been waiting here for an hour! Why did you decide to get out of line and go on your own? Do you know you could have gotten lost or injured?". "And why on earth is Sweetie here and you weren't on her?" "Excuse me?” I said. "What do you mean Sweetie is here? She took off on her own, tried to kill me on the trail and then hopped the fence and ran out onto the highway, sitting down in the middle of the road. I finally had to get off of her and come back on my own!" I could hear the hysterics in my voice.
Glances all around as if I needed electrical shock therapy. "Little lady, that's impossible. Sweetie is the most gentle horse in the stable, she would never do a thing like that" said the raspy voiced rancher. I just stood there. "Get in the van girls," said the leader. As I trudged back to the van I gave a quick look back. There she was happily eating her hay. She looked back at me and gave me a toothy horse grin.
I quit girl scouts the next day.

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