Back in the days

Back in the days when all the roads were dirt, when you rode your horse 4 miles to your buddy's after school, back when I was 11 or 12 and Joe Smolen's 1936 Chevrolet truck full of milk cans rattled by our house at 6:30am on its way to the railroad station, I rode a young filly named Dawn  to the end of Devil's lane to watch the construction of the Mass Pike after school.  It's about 2 miles.  About half way home going full tilt around the corner by Tuttle's chicken farm the damn cinch got loose and the saddle kind of slipped half way around her belly. 

It seemed like no matter how hard you pulled the straps, no matter how hard you slammed your knee into a horse's gut, it'd take a deep breath just as you tightened the cinch.  When they let it out, you could put a baseball between their belly and the girth.

I tried to get the saddle straight but couldn't manage it on a horse who knew she was about to dump me and was trying to set some kind of ¼ mile record to the barn.  By the time the saddle went all the way, I had pretty much abandoned the reins.  I had a desperate hold on her mane and I managed to get my arms around her neck, which worked well as long as I kept my knees bent so that she didn't step on my toes.  Because when she stepped on my toes, it really hurt like hell and made my grip slip.  Plus my arms were getting tired.  The first few times she stepped on my toes she removed my sneakers (added incentive to keep my feet up).  I was sure that if I fell, she would fall right on top of me (it would have been a mess) but when she stepped on my bare toes and my fingers slipped off the last remaining strands of mane, she managed to keep going without putting a hoof down on any vital parts.  The force of the back of my head hitting the road anesthetized me to the pain of her hooves hitting my shins and forearms.  I couldn't see, I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't hear anything but an overwhelming whistling in my ears. It continued, accompanied by a ferocious headache, long after I had stopped groveling and groaning in the dirt, long after I had managed to get on my feet and walk home spitting blood and sand in the road, crying and screaming curses at the horse and thinking I'd club her to death with a 2x4 when I got home.