Home Current News News Archive Shop/Advertise Ridecamp Classified Events Learn/AERC
Endurance.Net Home Ridecamp Archives
[Archives Index]   [Date Index]   [Thread Index]   [Author Index]   [Subject Index]

[RC] Endurance, Carolina Style: Part Nine - Howard Bramhall

Abbie, the Ride manager of the upcoming endurance ride and, also, the head hauncho of Leatherwood Stables, happened to pull in right behind me.  The poor gal had been following me for the last few miles on that winding road.  "That thing is huge," she says, referring either to my motor home or my belly.  I gave her and another endurance rider, Debbie D., who, also, lives in the area (lucky gal) and boards her horse at Leatherwood, a tour of the sub.  First thing Deb looks at is inside the fridge, finding it loaded with beer.  She looks at me, shakes her head, probably wondering where all the food is, and says, "I know where to come when I run low."  haha.
Abbie told me I had the same stalls as last year and I knew exactly where they were.  I unload the horses and put them inside this large riding arena ring, located between the two barns, so they could run around a little, which they did.  I made sure they had some water, didn't worry about hay because there was plenty of good looking green grass inside the arena.  I removed my saddle, some tack, and a locker filled with endurance related junk from the horse trailer and put it all inside the barn tack room.  The barns here are first class, and, again, I didn't have to worry about a horse getting loose and running off in those mountains never to be seen again.  I'll sleep well tonight and looked forward to letting the running creek called Elk lull me to dreamland.  Since most of my dreams, lately, have been about Leatherwood I wondered what I would dream of tonight, with me actually there?
Paradise can get a bit chilly at night; close to freezing.  For some, this might not be their idea of heaven, but, for a Florida boy who is getting darn tired of sweating from the heat, which has arrived early this year (March) where I live, I found the brisk evenings quite stimulating.  I started wondering if there was any chance of snow.  I hadn't seen snow since the Air Force sent me to Korea, which was almost 15 years ago.  Ah, the military, it's not just an adventure, the experience can and will change your life, and, for me, it was starting to become just a memory.
My television, at Leatherwood, could only receive one station (those mountains blocked everything).  Oh man, I can see me going through some serious war withdrawal here.  The one station I could receive was a local PBS affiliate, came in very fuzzy, and they showed things like "Square Dancing," and live "Blue Grass" music.  From war to blue grass and square dancing, wow, Leatherwood really is in another dimension.  If you've never listened to blue grass, and I hadn't much till that night, it is a combination of "gospel" and "country," with fiddles and banjos being the primary instruments and is quite a unique American invention.  I opened some windows, went outside, and, with the TV still on, listened to the sounds of the blue grass music and the running of Elk Creek, simultaneously (I had parked my sub right on the banks of the creek, which, to me, looked like a raging river). 
I sat there that night, alone, and, even though I shouldn't tell ya'll this, I will (can't keep his mouth shut).  I started crying (what is wrong with me????).  You see, I have a nephew over there, he's in the war, a member of Special Forces.  He's the main reason why I'm so obsessed with it all, I don't know if he's alive or if he's not, and, here I was, sitting there by the banks of Elk Creek with a beer in my hand, enjoying America more than one should be allowed, and, there he was, the bravest man my family will ever produce, risking it all, for a cause I didn't clearly understand, for some folks who actually may not want or understand the freedom we are trying to give.  God Bless you SSgt Shannon Gallagher, if something happens to you over there my life will never ever be the same.  I tried not to even think of what it would do to his mom.
The next morning I hiked over to the barn (I think I might end up doing quite a bit of walking here), fed the horses, hung around talking to Abbie, saddled up America, and off we went.  Princess and War Cry put up a fuss, but, I do think they were getting used to this separation thing, finally.  I found it easier that I was leaving two horses, who could whine together, when I removed one.  Things are less traumatic when you have a buddy, who whines as loud as you do, and you can do it in stereo.
Abbie had told me the color of the loops, which had already been marked, yellow, blue and pink; the 50 milers would do the pink loop twice.  The yellow and pink overlapped each other initially, so, I decided we would try that one first.  And, right away, once you go past the tennis courts, the paved, very narrow road (more like a sidewalk) turns to dirt, and the climb begins.  The trail narrows, curves, switches back, and up and up and up we go.  America did not know what to make of all this.  Once he got the idea he tried to gallop the entire thing, as if going faster would make it all go away.  He even spooked a couple of times which scared the you know what out of me.
The angle of this climb was steeper than I had remembered.  Half way up our first climb, America was completely out of breath.  I stopped and waited, listening to him breathe harder than he has ever done before.  Oh my, I started thinking 50 miles here is completely out of the question and as soon as I get back I'm going to tell Abbie to put me in the 25.  These mountains are not for a Florida horse, even one who, normally, never seems to tire like America!  He was tired now and we hadn't even traveled one mile.
Note to those few of you who are still with me:  I'll be out of town for 4 days (guess what I'll be doing???) starting tomorrow, so, there will be a break here, which, I'm sure ya'll quite desperately need anyway.  Anyhooooo, I do promise to finish it all when I get back.  We're almost done, promise.