I learned almost everything I know about horses by watching, Mr. Ed. So, it is not really a big surprise that some of my facts are not completely factual. As a matter of fact, about a dozen years ago, I called up an old neighbor. "Hi," I said. "Hi," he says back. "Do you by any chance have the phone number of the new people who moved into your old house?" "I don't," he says. "Why?" "Well, I am afraid that their horse is dead." "Really?" "Yeah, he's laying down out in the field." "Maybe he is asleep." "No. Horses sleep standing up." "Who told you that?" "Mr. Ed always slept standing up." It turns out that horses can also lay down. About a dozen years before that embarrassing little phone call, I was thirty something and Sven and I were up north, staying in a cabin with two other couples. That is when we were asked if we wanted to ride some horses. "Yeah!" I said. "Not me," says Sven. "Why not?" "Because horseback riding looks like it hurts," he answers. What is it with men and their junk? "Sven, if it hurt, there never would have been a single cowboy." "Well, I'm not taking any chances." The other two guys mumbled something like, "Naaaah, thanks." So, Dana, the girl that I'd just met for the very first time and liked, even though she had an irritating flaw, in that she was drop, dead, gorgeous and she made all women around her disappear into the drywall, called a place up and made arrangements for the next day. I woke up the following morning with butterflies fluttering. We drank coffee and had scrambled eggs and sausage on that September morning, seated around a formica kitchen table, in a tiny cabin, in the woods. The air was dry. The leaves were just beginning to change. The sky was bright and blue. It was the kind of day that you have no idea that you will not live forever. The bees are drunk on these very kind of days. We three hopped into a drab, grey. boat-like car and headed down the driveway. Dana was at the wheel. Pat was riding shot gun. And I was sitting in the large back seat. "I sure hope they'll let us run our horses," says Dana. My eyes popped wide open. "Yeah, me too," said Pat. "What about you Millie?" Dana turns her head of golden waves toward me. "Should we see if we can run the horses?" "Well, um, remember, I have never been on a horse before." The two in the front seat looked at each other. Then Dana says, "Oh, it's real easy, Millie. You just tug on the reins this way for left, this way for right and you pull back on them to stop." Then Pat's freckled face, turns around and she says, "Really, it's that easy, Mill. This way for left. This way for right. And this way to stop." Now, here is an important little fact about Millie Noe. Millie Noe sucks at directions. She never hears them in their entirety. She never sees all of them written on a page. Sometimes she doesn't hear or see them at all. "You must have selective reading," her boss said to her one day. That was not a good day for Millie Noe. And there was that time Sven said, "You know Millie, you really should rinse out a new thermos before using it." "What makes you think I didn't rinse it out?" I snapped. "Well, the directions that said, rinse before using, landed in my bowl of soup." "Oh." And then there was that other time that I bought a new toaster oven and it caught on fire. "Millie!" yelled Sven. "What?" "That thing is on fire!" "Oh, crap." I pulled out the flaming directions that said, remove directions before using, and I threw them into the sink and turned on the water. Dana spun the wheel to the left and then we drove down a long, dirt, driveway with a hump of grass, running down the middle. And then we pulled up and stopped in front of a barn.
The Marlboro Man came out to greet us.
Holy fucking A."Howdy," he says. "A group went out about an hour ago." He strikes a match. "They should be back pretty soon." Dana said, "Will they let us run the horses?" That cowboy smiles, real big at Dana. Shocking. "Well, I suppose I could take you gals out on the trail, if you don't wanna wait for them. Do you all like to ride?" "Um, I never have ridden," I squeaked. For the love of God, shoot me. "Well then," he says. "I'll set you up with Jack. He's real gentle. C'mon." And we follow him like little puppy dogs into the barn. "Can we ride bare back?" asks Pam. BAREBACK? Did she say bareback? My eyes popped right out of my head and they were laying on the ground. I picked them up and stuck them back in before anyone noticed. Again, a smile appears across the chisled face of Matt Dillon. "Sure, if you like," he said. Then he turns to me and says, "I'll get a saddle for you." Well, guess what? Horses are really tall. And guess what else? Millie Noe is really afraid of heights. Son of a bitch. After I am finally loaded up there, on top of that ten story horse, after several failed attempts and the handsome cowboy pushing on my derriere and then me almost going over the other side of Jack, my feet were secured into things that I'd only seen at my gynecologist. I was hanging onto a shoe horn on the saddle and given some reins and he says, "Okay, now, pull this way for left. Pull this way for right. And pull back to stop." We started out. Let me rephrase that. They started out. Jack, my super, duper, gentle horse, was busy eating grass. "Hey!" I yelled ahead to my departing friends. "How do I make him go?" "Don't worry," says Mr. Cowboy. "He'll follow us. When he is ready." So, I watched them all disappear on the path and into the woods. "Jack. Yoo hoo, little fella. Horsie. Hey, they are leaving. Yoo hoo, Jack, they are leaving. Horsie. Jack. They are gone." Jack looks up and he sees that I am correct and he takes off on a gallop. "Oh my God!" I was hanging on for dear life to that shoe horn and bouncing all over the ever loving place. "Here she comes," I hear Pat tell the Marlboro man who was in the lead and Dana behind him. As soon as Jack and I catch up to them, Jack stops, hangs his head down and starts to eat grass again. And that was our pattern. "Jack. Hey Jackie. They are gone again. Horsie. Hey, Jack, yoo hoo, we've gots to go." He would look up and by God, I would have been right again. And that son of a bitch would take off, like a bat out of hell, with me hanging on for dear life and bouncing up and down and back and forth. "She's coming," I would hear Pat report. And then Jack would stop to graze. Finally, Jack seemed to have his fill of grass. And then it was very pleasant in the woods, on that path, with fall in the air and Millie Noe debuting as a cowgirl, waving to the crowd of nobodys on the left and the crowd of nobodys on the right and basking in the glorious September sun streaming in through the leaves. And then, I suppose because it was all going so well, Jack decided it was time to ruin everything. He stops suddenly and begins to chew on the grass again. "Horsie, there they go. Jack. Horsie. Jack. Yoo hoo. Hey, they are way up there now. Jack, buddy old pal, come on, they have been gone for like five minutes. Are you even listening to me?" He just keeps on a chewing. "Listen here you Jack Ass," I say. They are really gone this time." I give him a tiny kick on his side, mimicking Dana. And then, I heard a cowboy whistle from a long, long, way away. Like, way far away. And then Jack fucking takes off. But you know what? Jack saw no reason to stay on that windy path, when he could just go straight through the woods at one hundred miles an hour and end up in the same place they were headed, in half the time. And for your information, he didn't give a shit which way I pulled on those reins. My eyes were about as wide as Mr. McGoo's eyes when they are closed. Branches were snapping me all over, like my brother was after me with an endless supply of rolled kitchen towels. My ass was up and my ass was down, up and down up and up and down. I held onto that shoe horn for my life and ducked behind his flying mane for shelter. "Hang on with your knees, Millie!" I hear Pat's faint voice in the distance. I open my eyes just a slit. What did she say? I wondered. Hang on with your knees!" she yells again. I suppose I missed that part of the instructions. Jack and I catch up to the others and then the cowboy says, "Well, it's open prairie from here on out girls. So now it is time to run." NOW IT IS TIME TO RUN? For the last ten minutes of the ride, I held on with my knees, my heart and my soul. Monday morning at 7:00 A.M, I was back to work. I dropped my number two pencil and watched it roll just under Bertha, the big roller shade machine. I stood there looking at it. "What's the matter?" says the group leader. "My pencil fell down there." "So?" "Will you get it?" "What the fuck, Millie?" "You see, I went horseback riding on Saturday and I didn't know I was supposed to hang on with my knees." She throws her head back and lets out her famous cackle. "Oh, my God, Millie. Everybody knows that." She picks up my pencil, hands it to me and walks away, shaking her head and laughing all the way. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.......her laughter finally fades as she rounds the corner. What the hell are you laughing at?