Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Wild Horses (And All Old Men) Can't be Tamed

Here's my story for the Tuesday show...I will put up a link when it's archived for anyone who wants to listen to all the stories...

"Amy, you're not going to believe what I just read about." My husband Excy was standing in front of me in our kitchen, Western Horseman open in his well-worn hands. I dried my hands on a dishtowel and turned to listen. The excitement in his voice bounced around the room. "It's a new competition in Ft. Worth to promote mustangs called Extreme Mustang Makeover..."

I knew there was no way he was not going to be involved.

Excy loves doing anything “off the back of a horse.” And he’s really, really, good at it. So when we adopted wild mustangs to keep them out of the hands of a killer buyer, people kept asking, “Well, what does he do with them?” I kept replying, “He doesn’t do anything – he just lets them be.”
I jokingly called them moving statuary, until Excy told me it sounded disrespectful to the horses.

The competition pairs you with a wild horse. You pick it up, and have 90 days to tame and train the beast. Unfortunately, we could not use any already out in pasture.

Now, let me explain a bit of our complicated life. We don’t have much fun. Don’t get me wrong. We have fun, but it’s just the simple, everyday kind of fun. Once or twice a year, I’m in cancer treatment or off having surgery. So our life in the interim isn’t jetting off to Paris, or even motoring to Montana. Every big-ass decision we weigh is wedged between what medical drama is looming in the near-distance. So typically, this decision of his was fraught with drama from the get-go, and getting the horse was a logistical squeeze between another surgery and recovery.

Excy’s dad, nicknamed ‘Be,’ also a lover of ‘all things horse,’ made plans to fly from Santa Fe and ride with Excy to Fort Worth for the competition. I’d follow a day later with a girlfriend. Afterwards we’d put Be on a plane from Dallas. This would be a father-son bonding experience.

When Excy unloaded the big, beautiful, muscular horse, I named him Othello on the spot. Little did we realize how apt that was. To say this horse had trust issues is putting it mildly. You couldn’t get near him. His sole intent in life was to kill my husband. Which he nearly did, several times. Every few hours, I’d walk across the street and peer into the working corrals just to make sure Excy was still on his feet. They were two old, stubborn, warriors circling each other warily.

Finally, by living in the corral 24/7 (did I mention this was in the summer when the horse flies and mosquitoes and gnats were at their worst?), Excy was able to begin training. Time was coming down to the wire.

Be arrived the week we were to leave. Now’s the time to mention that Be, god-love him, is also ‘high-maintenance.’ At that time he was 88; deaf as a post, even with his hearing aids on. His wife had recently left him at age 90, explaining she “didn’t have much time left and wanted to enjoy life.”

Tuesday afternoon, Be discovers his wallet missing. After thorough searches of the house, guest room, his clothes, the truck, car, and the driveway, we realize Be’s lost wallet could be a very bad thing. In this post 9/11 world, there is no way Be can board a plane without an ID. Last he remembers, he had it at security in Albuquerque.

Here is what he had in his wallet: $400 cash, credit cards, driver’s license, several blank checks, his VA card, and his social security card. (Sigh). A thief’s bonanza.

A charge has been made on one card for gas. Be still doesn’t comprehend his wallet has been stolen. When things begin to get more complicated with money matters, I’m right there with Be, so Excy takes over, spending hours making rounds of calls – credit companies, the bank manager, social security offices, credit unions…between answering and re-answering and answering again Be’s interminable questions, waiting endlessly on hold, being transferred wrong, again and again trying to reach the right numbers, the right people…honestly, I marveled at his patience, and would have understood completely if he had a melt-down.

Now we had two precious days left, and dozens of chores to do before leaving. Instead we are suspended in this fresh hell, trying to calm Be down.

I start to worry we will be driving him home (maybe he can board a bus? No, we can’t do that, no knowing where he’d end up). A neighbor breaks into his house and looks for some ID to be sent Fed Ex so he can get a photo ID; he doesn’t have a valid passport. Because Excy has to leave early on Thursday, Be must now ride in my tiny car with Carol and me.

Thursday morning, Excy leaves with Othello in the trailer, Fed Ex delivers, and Carol arrives. She volunteers to take Be to the DMV so I can clean the house for the sitter. Be asks if he needs to take the materials from Fed Ex. It takes three hours to get his license. It had to be approved and apparently those people were in ‘meetings.’

To make room for a 6’4” man in the backseat of my car, an insulated chest, trashcan, and container holding wipes, paper towels, flashlights, and other items must be removed. Later down the road, as any of these things become necessary, Carol tells me whenever she travels, she has (insert) necessary item here. And I realize we have taken off without the folding chairs, ice chest, and other necessities for the exhibition.

Thirty minutes down the road, Be has to eat. Carol insists we grab fast food and eat in the car. I know what will happen next, but my Oxycontin has kicked in by then, and I just don’t care. Sure enough before we are out of the parking lot, Be has spilled a 2 quart cup of Coke on the floor, and says he’s sure glad the lid was on and it didn’t spill. I glance back to see his size-14 boots swimming in inches of brown liquid; I point this out. “That’s okay honey, it won’t ruin these boots.” I toss back a towel. In the next instant, the Coke Carol has set on the console spills on my new purse. Of course it does.

Hours later, we are in Fort Worth, trying to find the motel in the dark, with Be helpfully shouting nonsensical directions from the back seat as we maneuver through traffic.

Be’s room is on the second floor; there is no elevator. Carol drags his suitcase in and sets it up. It’s ‘wrong,’ so must be set up again. She collapses into her room and disappears for the night. I discover that every room but ours has a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker. I guess it’s because it’s a handicap room. Yeah, it makes that much sense to me, too. I also collapse for the night.

There is a reason I opted not to have children. The rest of the weekend reminds me of this. From Thursday through Sunday I see Excy maybe all of 15 minutes. The majority of the time is spent babysitting Be. Be asks us to phone him when he’d like to get up. We discover the room phone rings three times and kicks over to voice mail. Without his hearing aids he never hears it or the incessant knocking on his door. After arriving late to the cocktail reception at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame (he mumbled something about a plumbing problem), I’ve had just about all I can take.

Excy and the sponsors decide the best thing to do is scratch Othello from being shown. A local vet must write up a certificate for him after he’s adopted. All this guy needed to do was stand outside the stall, write down his freeze brand, and hand Excy the certificate. Even though Excy explained how dangerous Othello was, the vet goes into the stall and yanks his mouth open. So Othello did the only thing he could: kicked the crap out of him. Then he broke out of the stall and scattered spectators in the aisles until Excy wrestled him back inside.

Throughout the weekend until he managed to load Othello into the trailer that would carry him west, Excy continued juggling calls from Be’s banker, then running into the stands to ask Be if such-and-such a charge was legitimate. Finally, it was all over. The trip had been snake-bit from the start. But as we watched Be safely board the plane and he turned, saying with a smile how much fun he had, I thought back to Excy’s philosophy of dealing with the wild ones: he doesn’t do anything. He just let’s them be.


Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi There
All of life's little oddities concentrated into one weekend.. must have been a heck of a trip.. My favourite line is “That’s okay honey, it won’t ruin these boots.” hahaha... sort of sums it up!!!

Thanks for popping over... ciao x Julie

"Alone again.... naturally!" said...

Oh my lord! And even that doesn't quite cut it as a statement of exclamation! But I guess you kind of have to laugh a little after it was all said and done...just a little? I am so sorry to hear of your cancer and subsequent treatments. May you be blessed with recovery very soon.

I am very impressed that you rescued the wild ones and just "let them be"....what more could a wild horse want. It makes my heart glad that someone out there cares for animals as much as you two obviously do.

Did Be ever recover his wallet?

e said...

I love letting horses be. I miss being around them!

the walking man said...

Excellent story, well told. To bad you old man didn't get to put Othello through his paces but there will be anther year for that and coke, believe it or not will clean up from grandpa's boots.

Deborah said...

He just let’s them be...wonderful, and a great story.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, divorced at 90!!! Amazing story and though I am glad it was you instead of me--it did end well if you don't count the stolen wallet.
I have Tales from the South bookmarked. Will check for the podcast.

Linda Medrano said...

I felt the full range of emotions during this one. I felt on the edge of tears, I snorted coffee with laughing, and it was a wild ride! You are one amazing woman! I've had weekend like that and they make me long for a three month stay in rehab even if I don't drink or take drugs. Bo sounds "high maintenance" but he is funny after you get past the impossible part. Thanks for sharing! This was amazing!

ReformingGeek said...

You have the patience of a saint. I would have left "Be" on the side of the road.

Well, not really, but it would have been tempting.

Othello sounds like a cat my friend from college had.

Jayne Martin said...

Damn, you're a strong woman. "There's a reason why I never had children," too. I think after being Be's keeper, I would have flung myself in Othello's stall and begged him to finish me off.

Seriously -- a great story. As a horsewoman myself, I so admire your work with these amazing creatures. And oh yes -- those wild ones. :)

meleah rebeccah said...

You sure know how to write an amazing story that envokes so many emotions for the readers! Well done.

Judie said...

And I thought I had the summer from hell! You are one brave woman! Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. We moved to Tucson from Memphis, and we used to drive to Little Rock just to eat at Juanita's.

Sarah Laurence said...

What a story! Your life is a rollercoaster. Be and Othello (love the name!) are lucky to be taken for such a ride. I also like how you everything tied up with your final sentence. How exciting to read it on NPR. Best of luck with your surgery! It’s nice to connect with you.

Traci said...

Wonderful story, I'm so happy I got to hear you read it. I have so much respect for you when it comes to dealing with the "medical drama" I have been there at the hospital with Alex only for a month dealing with it and I feel daily like I got hit by a truck. Thank you for being so inspirational and reminding me that no matter what it's the everyday fun that matters, even if it is at the hospital.

marciamayo said...

Oh my God, I'm so glad I found you! What a story. The whole thing was simply wonderful but my favorite line was His wife had recently left him at age 90, explaining she “didn’t have much time left and wanted to enjoy life.”