It’s great to be a little girl, isn’t it? Pink dresses, dolls, stuffed animals, kittens, babies, horses, unicorns, and rainbows. Le sigh.
Before you start to pelt me with politically incorrect stereotypes, let me assure you that I grew up on a sheep ranch where I was not allowed to play princess games. There was work to be done. Usually my work consisted of following my grandfather around the ranch with his sheep dog while he mended fences and listened to me chatter.
One question he probably wished I’d forget was: Can I have a horse? Having been born at the turn of the century, my grandfather wanted nothing to do with horses or mules or cattle. My mother wasn’t very athletic and my father was out of the picture. I had no one sympathetic to my dreams. But I wouldn’t give up. Finally, at age 15, I saved up enough money to buy a horse and someone in the household gave in.
Misty was a seven year-old red roan appaloosa mare. She was my dream horse and gentle as a kitten when I was in the stall with her, in the pasture with her, grooming her, washing her, or saddling her up. But something happened when I got in the saddle. Misty wanted to run.
The cowboys in the neighborhood told me I had soft hands and good legs – which means I had a light touch on the reins and knew how to control a horse with my heels. They never said anything about my seat – which refers to how much air goes between your booty and the western saddle when horses go fast. My seat wasn’t good (I got a lot of air). I learned early that sharp turns on Misty meant she went one way and I went another.
So Misty and I tried compromise. We galloped up hills and galloped around the corral. But we always walked down the hill and we almost always walked the flat stretches, no matter how much she tossed her head or pulled on the reins. Because once Misty started her race, she didn’t want to stop.
Then one day after Misty should have been winded from racing up a hill through a vineyard owned by a friendly neighbor, disaster struck. While I was praising her just like I did Shep, my grandfather’s faithful sheep dog, she took the bit in her mouth and tossed her head. Her neck hit my nose. Blood spattered everywhere. She shook her head once and realized as I did (in horror!) that she’d broken the chin strap and I had no control.
She whinnied. It was a happy sound. A carefree sound.
If you were a horse.
To me, it sounded more like brouhahahaha! Misty spun and headed back downhill between the shiny green grapevines at a full gallop. I knew she was headed back home.
But I also knew there was a barbed wire fence at the bottom of the hill and we’d have to make a hard left. And my teenage brain that should have been having a love affair with stuck up boys on the football team was calculating the odds of me falling on that rusted barbed wire fence.
I’m not one for daredevil acts. I don’t bungee jump. I don’t even cannonball into swimming pools. But that day, I leapt out of the saddle and tumbled about twenty feet in clay soil to the bottom of the hill. Took me a couple of minutes to catch my breath, wipe my tears, and get to my feet.
She was waiting for me back at the door to her stall, ears perked up and ready to be brushed and loved and cooed over by her adoring girl. Misty taught me a lot about the needs of young, energetic animals.
She gave me the determination to stick with things I love no matter how scarred I get. And the need for more than a firm hand. (You need a good seat! Or if you’re a writer, a strong understanding of craft.) When I was eighteen, I sold my beloved Misty to a professional barrel racer so I could buy a car for college. But Misty always had a place in my heart, and I’m convinced she won many, many events.
I finally found the right story to put Misty in. I named her Sugar Lips. Readers of my Harmony Valley series first met her in One Perfect Year where she was a loving, if testy, mom-to-be. Misty, aka Sugar Lips, is back in Time for Love this August. And this time a horse whisperer has been brought in. I could have used a horse whisperer when I was fifteen.
P.S. I tried to find pictures of Misty and me during a recent visit with my mom. Mom’s response when I asked, “I didn’t keep any pictures of that she-devil!” I never considered the worry I put my mom through. Sorry, Ma! Be careful, all you little girls. Dreams aren’t always unicorns and cotton candy and sunshine.
Did you ever have a pet or animal that was a bit too much for your skill? I’d love to hear about it. One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of One Perfect Year.
Readers of the Pink Heart Society blog will be sent a FREE sweet, romantic comedy novella (You’ve Gotta Kiss a Lotta Frogs) by signing up for Melinda’s book release email newsletter. (Note: you must close the loop on sign-up by confirming you are a living, breathing reader via email.) Link: http://www.melindacurtis.net/join-melinda-s-mailing-list
Melinda’s latest release is Time for Love, a touching, sweet romance that features a small town with a barnful of horses, quirky characters, a single mom and a horse whisperer (book 5 in her Harlequin Heartwarming Harmony Valley series):
As a kid from a shattered family, Kathy Harris couldn't wait to get out of Harmony Valley. Yet here she is, back home, determined to rebuild her life and regain her young son's trust. But she doesn't expect to work miracles—unlike Dylan O'Brien, the enigmatic cowboy rumored to be a healer of misfit horses.
As they work to save an injured colt, Kathy starts to believe in a future with Dylan that she never thought possible. But one of Kathy's new rules is no more secrets…and Dylan has a big one. One that could destroy the life he and Kathy are building together.