Friday, March 1, 2013


My mom grew up on a farm and my daddy grew up on a ranch so the things that happen on these places were common events for me to participate in.  I remember watching as Grandpa Swapp de-horned the cows. I gathered eggs, fed animals, pitched hay, helped irrigate, weed and harvest.  And I wandered to my heart's content in the country and played in the irrigation ditch and caught polywogs and snails and worms and went fishing and slept outside under the stars covered in piles of Grandma's quilts.

One thing I never was allowed to do, though, was go when they slaughtered for the year. I am not sure why, other than I was always afraid that the de-horning and branding was hurting the animals and would cry for them.  Maybe Daddy just figured I was too tender hearted.  That's what I like to think anyway.

This story is about a time when I was around 8 years old.  Maybe I was younger but I know I wasn't older.  On this day my sister, brother and I went with my dad, his brothers and my Grandpa Hulsey to brand some calves.  It was an exciting day to get to go out to the ranch and do "big people" stuff.  And we got to take turns sitting on the horse while the actual branding was happening.

I can't remember everything, but I do know that the fire was hot.  Daddy and one of his brothers would separate a calf from the rest, rope it and then Daddy would get off of the horse while the calve's feet would be tied together. Then one of them would kneel on the neck and hold the calve's head still so Grandpa could use the branding iron to mark their heard.

Of course calve's would bawl but Daddy assured me that it was more because they were scared and nervous than because it hurt. He explained that it didn't go deep enough to hurt them.  But still I worried about them.

My Daddy's brand is a Y+  I love that brand.  He had it painted on his lunch box that sat on the kitchen counter as long as I can remember.  I would often go in there and trace it with my fingertips.  I can still see it in my mind's eye and love it because it means home and my Daddy.

Anyway, back on the ranch, it was my turn to sit on the horse.  But this time something happened.  I am to this day not sure what.  But what I remember is that Daddy had gotten off of the horse and they were tying the calf ready for the iron.  My brother walked in front of the horse and for some reason the horse spooked and reared up and started bucking.  

Now I was little and the saddle and horse were Daddy size and I started falling off. I tried to hold on, but didn't know what to do to calm the horse and with each buck I slid more to the left side of the horse. The side where the red, hot branding fire was.  And I was terrified.  I knew I was going to hit that fire and it was going to hurt.  Bad.

And then I fell. And I was in my Daddy's arms crying in fear. But I was safe because he caught me and saved me.

 I didn't want to get on the horse anymore that day because I was afraid of falling again, because I didn't know what to do if I did. But have I told you that I have a very wise Daddy? After they were all done branding and cleaned everything up and we were back at Grandpa's house, Daddy took me outside and got my back on that horse.  And I cried because I didn't want to and i was afraid.  But he made me do it.

And I survived.

Riding horses is still not my favorite thing to do.  I wish it was because I like doing it, I just don't like that irrational fear I have when I put my foot in the stirrup to mount the horse.  But when I get the chance I will do it- if there is someone I trust there to help me should I need it.

I was thinking about this the other day and then I started thinking about the trial I am having in my life right now.  I have been hurt and crushed and betrayed in the deepest manner possible by someone I thought loved me and would take care of me for the rest of eternity.  I am feeling lost and cast off and abandoned. And I will no longer be a wife.  And that scares me because that is who I am.  I know I am so much more than that, but that is my calling in life and why I was sent here and now I can no longer do it and I feel like I am falling.  And it is going to hurt. Bad. (actually it already does)

And I feel that someday I am going to have to get back up and try again.  And that scares me beyond reason because I have no idea how I can ever do that.  Because unlike riding horses, being a wife is my favorite thing to do and I like doing it.  I just no longer know how to do it.

And this time my Daddy can't rescue me and save me and make it alright. I have to do it by myself. Alone and scared and lonely.

Maybe I'll go visit my brother and take a ride. But only if he promises not to spook the horse this time.



Dad Mom said...

And the horse stepped in the branding fire.

Sandra said...

I knew that if you told the story it would have more accurate details and things that I left out or forgot. I had totally forgotten that the horse stepped in the fire.