It is a sweltering day in Northern Minnesota.
I’m sprawled on a lawn chair, my head curled on the arm, resting away the day.
Cheryl, stretched out on the ground, utters one word, “Bar.”
My eyes ping open.
Cheryl saddles up her horses. I grab my wallet. And we hit the dusty, gravel roads.
Being my 2nd time on a horse and the 1st time ending with me being dragged down a rocky trail, I was a bit hesitant.
But I was on PEPPER. Sweet, desperately old Pepper.
And so we began our adventure…
Cheryl’s horse is KICKING AND BUCKING something fierce. I think, “Wow, I’m so lucky to have Pepper. Sweet Pepper…”
20 minutes later I’m bored. So I nudge Pepper. He is quick to trot but then right back to walk.
I’m annoyed. So I nudge harder. NOTHING!
I shake the reins. AND He shakes his mane of hair at me.
Finally I threaten—“If you don’t put a little Pep in your step Pepper you may find yourself quickly made into Pepperoni!”
I don’t even know what that threat means. But he picked up the pace, flicking me with his tail the whole way to the bar.
And that’s where we parked them. Literally, they have a spot to tie up your horses.
Cheryl and I filled the next hour with laughter and shots as the night fell and stars illuminated the black sky.
And as we left the bar and I hopped back on Pepperoni, I felt that illusive emotion—sheer joy.
There were no flashlights. Just the stars to lead us home. Now, I may have been a little sauced as I weaved Pepperoni from ditch to ditch but it was the open sky that truly caused the lack of directional control.
I was too busy looking up to look straight ahead.
And then it floated out of my mouth like a gust of air—
“Ohhhhh….give me land, lots of land over starry skies above… Don’t fence me in.”
And there I am, on a horse named Pepper, swerving from side to side, holding a beer, grinning from ear to ear, crooning Gene Autry to the sky.
“Just turn me loose. Let me straddle my own saddle underneath the Western sky. On my Cayuse, let me wander over yonder, until I see the mountains rise.”
What’s a Cayuse?
Anyway, driving home the next day I stopped for gas. I went to pay and realized I didn’t have my wallet. Shocked I looked at the attendant and I said, “I left my wallet on the back of a horse.”
I found some cash, paid my debt, climbed in my car and headed back to city life. A life I appreciated usually—but there, at that moment I was conflicted… maybe my heart was still with Pepper, on a path, to the sky.
Maybe, just maybe I wasn’t such the city girl I vehemently proclaimed to be. Oh boy.
And the most troubling question of all, how in the heck did I know all the words to that song?
**No animals were hurt in this story. Promise.