It’s official. Nearly ten years has passed since I was dragged out of Chicago kicking and screaming ‘Da Bears’, ‘Da Bulls’, legs tangled dancing the BlackHawk jig. As a last ditch effort, I begged the doctors at Northwestern Medical to give me a super duper relocation booster shot to numb the reality that I was moving to Tulsa, OK. (No, they don’t really have a relocation shot, but in my mind it helped to imagine they did.) I fought long and hard, my dear windy city friends, but in the end I couldn’t help but give in to the Oklahoma Standard. The locals in Tulsa, in particular, I feel fortunate to call friends. Not only did I learn to shoot and fish, this past August I even asked to vacation at a horse ranch. Yes sir-ee. You read it right. Big city girl on a ranch. In rural Wyoming, sixty miles west of Cody in a town called Shell, population thirty-eight. Not thirty-eight thousand or even thirty-eight hundred, two less than forty, no more residents than a couple of grade school classes.
Each day the agenda was the same. Six hours on the back of a stallion named Comanche, trudging through craggy sage brush hills, a woman, a horse (and sunscreen of course) only a turkey sandwich and jerky in my pack. Nirvana right? Now at the risk of ruining a idyllic visual, I feel I must come clean. I recall the relationship between Comanche and me not always so pristine, in fact, it started a tad bit rocky.
In the barn, wrangler Tom walks towards me, weathered fringe chaps strapped around his blue jean clad legs and introduces me to my four-legged ride, a chestnut stallion marked with a stripe of white war paint head to nose tip. As coached, I approach slowly from his rear, gloved hand gently dragging along his muscular frame, careful not to make any sudden movements, while softly whispering his name. I latch onto his bridle, look deep into his chocolate marbled eyes and see glints of the warrior spirit I sometimes sense bubbling inside of me. As he playfully nudges my shoulder with his long rounded snout, two damp nostrils graze against my chin. How wonderful. My heart swells. An instant kinship. Comanche and me. Quite possibly a perfect match.
After that stellar introduction what could possibly go wrong? In the spirit of full disclosure, I must continue. “Um-ah,” A phrase wrangler Tom stutters nearly every time he opens his mouth to speak. “Ms. Chappel, um-ah, unless you want Comanche to ride you, I wouldn’t, um-ah, let him get all cosy and cuddly.”
That’s right. I hang my Stetson-brimmed head. Manipulated by a horse. Typical. All of a sudden, I laugh. My bleeding heart shrinks, back to a practical size, beating strong and tough. Confidently, I take two steps back, establishing an appropriate amount of human and horse space. Dig my heels firmly into the dirt and purposely speak in a stern tone, letting him know who’s in charge. “Oh, I understand, you mistook my kindness for weakness,” I stride assertively to his saddle, hooking one boot in the toe strap. Grab a hand full of his mane and after two quick bounces I pulled myself up on his back. Comfortably seated I lean forward and blow into his perked ear. “And keep your double-cheeked cuddle fuzzies to yourself.” Comanche’s neck whirls, he neighs, stomps his hoofs like a pouting child. I dig my heels into his sides and after two quick taps he moves obediently ahead.
The sunken sun’s rays spray from the horizon soaking the sky with swirls of rosy apricot sorbet. A woman, her horse, miles of winding hills…”
E.L. Chappel author of Risk/Spirit Dance
No longer needing to be picked
aka The Glamorous Wife