It was a still, quiet time, around 7 on a March morning in the early 70s. We were a pair of barefoot, shorts-clad teenage girls, in love with our horses, out for adventure. I had sneaked out of my house, as I often had done, before my parents woke up to tell me what time I had to be home. It was a precious Saturday and no adult laws could interfere with our freedom. We'd ride allday andcome home just before dark with the excuse that, after all, you hadn't been awake when I left, so how could you have given me a curfew?
Our horses' hooves clip-clopped loudly on the asphalt street. Each step echoed and hung in the air like the humidity and heat.; They were so loud in the quiet morning, I thought we would wake everyone in the houses we passed.
My bare legs slid casually along Myster's side with each step that he took. I didn't have a saddle, so I was learning to ride the hard way -- bareback. As it turned out, had Myster been wearing a saddle that day, I might have lost him.
I was new to the horse-owning set. For about eight years, I had been asking for the same thing for Christmas. "I want a horse, " I'd plead. "If I can't have a horse, I don't want anything else for Christmas."
funny how, when you hope for something for so long, when your dream finally
does come true, it's not at all lilke you imagined.
My parents finally told me I could have a horse -- when I raised the money to buy one. It was 1970, and a good grade horse could be purchased for about $200.
Even I was amazed at how quickly a 12-year-old could raise money. Suddenly, my services were in demand eveyrwhere -- as a babysitter, to help clean houses, wash cars and mow lawns. Truthfully, I think my parents were counting on having a little more time to ponder the question of where to keep a horse in the city while I was busy fund-raising. But about three months later, by the time Christmas rolled around, I had my $200. That Christmas I got a red halter, a bridle, grooming equipment and a book on horse care that my mother lovingly inscribed, "To our almost horse owner."
We found a small stable just down the street from my junior high, about a mile from home. Perfect. I could walk to the stable every day after school. My father put a deposit down on a stall, (a month's rent -- a whopping $10) and our great horse search began.
Of course, I wanted to buy the first horse I saw, but we looked at quite a few before we settled on a seve-year-old, coal-black unregistered Tennessee Walking Horse gelding with the unimaginative name of Blackie.
It was a cold, drizzly February day when he was delivered. We sent his new red hatler along for him to wear on the trip, and the owners of the stable were to call when he arrived.
I was sprawled across my bed, re-reading The Black Stallion for probably the fiftieth time, when the call came. At my urging, my dad made the trip in record time.
When we drove up, there was my horse, rechristened Myster Ree, standing with his head hanging over the Dutch door, resplendent in his new red halter. It was just like a scene from a movie.
I fell off alot the first month. But I was undautned,and was excited about that March morning ride. Terry, my companion, kept her mare, Misty, in the stall next to Myster's. We didn't ride together often, probably because she was a few years older than I was and she was more interested in boys. But for whatever reason, boys were far from her mind that morning. She was taking me to an abandoned sand pit, a vast unofficial playground for area kids. It offered all the charms of a junkyard, plus piles and piles of sand to climb or ride on and ahuge built-in swimming and fishing hole, all with just the right atmosphere of danger. It was made to order for all kinds of adventure.
I had never been to the sand pits, but had heard about it from the other kids at the stable. One had even sworn he once saw a horse skeleton there.
The sand pits were everything they promised to be. Terry and I rode up and down the piles of sand, picking our way through old refrigerators, washing machines and stoves. We were making our way toward an area littered with 50-gallon drums that looked like a gravel parking lot, when Myster suddenly balked. I kicked him, but he just went "oomph" and didn't step forward. I kicked him harder. He stepped forward and sudenly I was on the ground. Myster hadn't dumped me again; he had disappeared underneath me into what I then, andnow, could only assume was quicksand. I scrambled off,still holding the reins, and struggled toward solid ground. Myster managed toturn around and was facingme as I stood, calf-deep, in the gritty, soupy, sucking stuff. He was buried up to his withers, and suddenly I realized how serious the situation was.
We were in the middle ofnowhere-- it would have taken Terry about 30 minutes riding hard to reach a phone -- and then who to call? Iknew who to call for a fire, but who do you call when the horse you had wanted for eight years looks as ifhe is going to drown in quicksand before your horrified eyes?
The whole episode could have taken five minutes or maybe it was an hour. Time was lost on us. All I knew was, my horse might die, and it was up to us to save him.
I started hauling on Myster's reins, trying tohelp him get his front legs on solid ground. At one point, his bridle slipped off, and I waded back in to put it on. He was struggling furiously now, and dismayed, I realized he was sinking further. I quit working toget him out and just tried to talk to him and get him to quiet down. He was up to his ears now and he had terror in his eyes and his nostrils really did look like The Black Stallion's.
He listened to me as I tried to calm him and myself. I couldn't believe this was happening and neigher could Terry. Quickand was something you found in Tarzan movies, not a place as civilized as Houston, Texas. We thought about trying to find some ropes to pull Myster out, but Terry was riding bareback, too, so Misty could be no help to us.
Miraculously, Myster calmed down and I noticed now he was floating in the quagmire. I could see his whole back; he was only buried to about the middle of his barrel. I waited while Myster caught his breath, and I caught mine, too.
Finally, I took a deep, but shaky breath, grabbed my horse's reins and pleaded, "Come on, Myster!" as I dug my heels into the sandy bank and pulled his head up. With a tremendous effort, he half reared, half lunged up out of his wet prison. His front feet came down on solid ground and with great effort, he hauled himself to safety.
He shook himself like a dog, and while Terry and I were crying huge gulping sighs of relief, he put his dead down and started snatching bites of grass, totally unconcerned with our hysterics.
Although Myster didn't have any permanent damage from his ordeal, he was covered with a chalky wet film, so Terry and I rode Misty home double. By the time we got here, Myster was dry and the strange stuff brushed right out.
I never told my parents what happened. And although Myster and I had many other adventures, we never went back to the sand pits.
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