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Liberty with the kid: Part "Almost done"

Jennifer and I are leave the vet-check area with both our heads hung low 
showing our disappointment.  Sandy appears out of the crowd with her horse 
and asks me what's wrong.  I tell her, and she says, "Don't worry about it.  
If it's OK with you Jennifer can go with me; I'll sponsor her for you in the 
25."  Jenny's eyes light up and I agree instantly.  And I promise to crew for 
all of the people riding with Sandy.  We set up a meeting place and time for 
the next day and then Jen and I go back to our campsite with Dance Line and 
Rebel, both of us feeling a lot better.  As we walk on I start thinking that 
I just met this woman this weekend.  For her to offer to give up so much of 
her time and take on such a responsibility, for someone she hardly knows, is 
an act that shows true heart and real kindness.  From this moment on she will 
be known, to me, as Saint Sandra.

Randy and I play doctor on Dance Line, give him some meds and this white 
creamy stuff Randy's got to take down leg swelling.  Dance isn't limping or 
anything so I just feed him and Rebel and go grab a beer.  I'm depressed as 
Hell, but glad that Jen can go, even though I was supposed to go with her on 
her first ride.  After another beer, the depression is kicking in even worse 
and I'm worried I might not be too much fun to be around tonight.  I talk 
Randy into going to dinner with me, his wife, Kay, still hasn't shown up yet. 
They have a restaurant here that you can walk to, run by some retired 
military folks, and I've heard the food is terrific. Bernie's off doing that 
farrier thing or flirting with some lady, not sure which.  Sometimes he's 
able to do both at once.  

The food was great and we get a pitcher of beer.  We had some schnitzel that 
was to die for.  The waitress had this Tennessee Volunteer T-shirt on and she 
and I got into a discussion comparing Gators and Vols.  I should have waited 
until our food was served before starting this talk with her, cause Randy and 
I were there a long time waiting for our schnitzel.  In fact we even missed 
the pre-ride briefing, but I sent Jennifer over to take notes.  When she came 
back to the restaurant, Randy and I were still waiting for our food.  Jen 
gave us a complete description of what had been discussed at the meeting.  I 
just wanted to know the starting place and time and the length of the holds, 
but Jen had much more information.  She's a pistol, and was very exctited.  
She, also, threw in how sorry she was that Dance and I  weren't going along.

Our food finally showed up, Bernie joined us, and another pitcher followed.  
The Tennessee fan was smiling at us when she served the second pitcher and I 
was worried she wanted to get me drunk so she could kick some Gator butt out 
in the parking lot later.  She was rather a large, young woman and her arms 
looked kinda big, from carrying all that food and beer.  When she told us her 
friends called her Big Bertha (no name tags at this place) Randy cracked up, 
but I was too afraid to laugh in front of her.  She had joked earlier that 
she used to wrestle gators and then, if they were male, she neutered them 
Lorena Bobbit style.  Bertha was looking at me while she told this gator tale 
and had a gleam in her eye that said she thought she could probably take me.  
After our waitress walked away from our table, Bernie looked at me and said, 
"That girl wants a piece of you, and it's not for sex."  Haha.  I decided 
that I would be more careful in the future when I wore my Gator cap out of 

I found Jennifer and she accompanied me back to our tent.  I persuaded her to 
get ready for bed since we had to get up early tomorrow.  I knew she was 
nervous, but as soon as her head hit the pillow, out she went.  I bought out 
a smoke, was about to light it, then remembering Jen's sensitive nose while 
driving in the diesel, I left the tent and smoked it outside.  It was a 
clear, beautiful night, and even though I wasn't riding tomorrow, I was still 
enjoying the scenery, the sounds, and, of course, all the horses.  Last 
December, at my first ride, I had thought that I hated camping out, mainly 
cause I froze my butt off that night and slept in my horse trailer.  Tonite, 
I decided I was wrong about that and had come around full circle, loving this 
moment of serenity.  

You can hear the horses chewing on their hay, a constant sound that lasts 
throughout the night and into the predawn morning.  Some of the horses are so 
relaxed they lie down and actually sleep.  I swear I can hear a couple 
snoring.  My guys eat and kinda sleep standing up.  I think they know they 
need their rest cause tomorrow will be a busy day for all of them.  All, 
except for Dance Line.

Since my tent is right next to the two trailer connection Bernie & Randy have 
made I see that Kay has finally arrived.  I walk over and watch the two hug 
each other.  Randy was getting worried that she might not find this place 
(it's not easy) and you can see the relief on his face now that she's here.  
I'm not sure how long these two have been married, but you can tell they 
still totally adore one another.   Kay's excited and tells me she plans on 
trying to stay with this rider she knows who usually wins the 25's.  Her Arab 
is tiny, but so is Kay.  Man, I wish I was going on this one.  I'd love to 
see if Jen and I could stay with her.  Kay tells me how sorry she is my horse 
isn't going and gives me a comforting hug.  It's a Southern thing, and I 
don't think my wife would have minded.  Randy looks on, with a smile, and I'm 
thinking you just don't find friends like these two in your life very often.  

I have a beer with the gang, Bernie shows up flying solo, and then I hit my 
tent.  I try to sleep, but end up just tossing and turning, worrying about 
Jennifer and hurt that I won't be with her on her first ride.  I go out and 
feed the horses, for something to do, and check on Rebel's tack.  I know that 
the hundred milers (they are the first to start their race) will soon be 
saddling and warming up their horses.  I plan on watching the start to see if 
I can spot OLE Val.  Even in the dark, I'm hoping to see her.  

I'm half asleep and Jennifer's rocking me saying, "Get up Dad, get up."  I 
look at my watch and realize I've missed the start of the hundred milers.  
Valerie has eluded me again.  Jennifer tells me that it's a good thing my 
snoring woke her up, otherwise we might have missed the start.  The 50's are 
warming up and my two horses are both going crazy.  Dance is prancing around, 
nothing wrong with his legs this morning.  "Now, why couldn't you do that 
yesterday, Dance?"

I take Rebel out of the electric corral and start saddling.  He's jumpy and 
Jennifer notices this right away.  I tell her I'll warm him up for you.  She 
looks at Rebel, acting a bit over anxious, and says,  "No problem, Pops."  I 
ask her to stay with Dance, knowing that he's gonna act real crazy when I 
ride off with Rebel.  I start to get on the saddle with Rebel and he starts 
bucking.  I get down, yell at the horse, then decide Jen doesn't need to see 
this.  So I walk him out of the campsite and mount him out of Jen's view.  
He's a little calmer, but he definitely wants to go back to Dance Line.  I'm 
on the trail that is across the small lake from our campsite.  Jen and Dance 
are both watching us.  I yell at Jen to take her helmet and meet me and Rebel 
at another spot in ridecamp close to Sandy's trailer.  I don't want to take 
Rebel back close to Dance Line again; Dance is just going crazy and I'm 
amazed he doesn't just walk over the fence I have set up (it wouldn't even 
require much of a jump for his long legs).

She yells out OK and I keep going down the trail with Rebel.  He is full of 
himself and I'm glad that I'm doing this for my girl and her horse.  I need 
to get involved as much as I can and this is helping.  Jen's a great rider 
but even Rebel can be a handful at these rides, and without another horse and 
rider accompanying you it's even more dangerous. 

Jennifer is waiting for me by Sandy's trailer.  Sandy is saddling up and says 
Hi to me.  I tell her how grateful I am and what a Saint she is.  She smiles 
and says it's nothing, really, she enjoys Jennifer's company.  Rebel is all 
warmed up and ready to go.  I get off and help Jennifer get on him.  And off 
they go.  They meet with another group of women and junior riders and join 
the other 25 milers.  In a couple minutes all of the riders, almost 75 total, 
take off.  A tear comes down my cheek as I watch Jennifer, the love of my 
life, disappear in the herd, with an expression on her face that expresses 
total happiness, complete bliss.  I find myself wondering if I'm looking at 
Val's replacement, ten years or so from now.

I go back to the camp and watch Dance Line prance.  He looks like a stallion 
who thinks he's going to get lucky soon, instead of the gelding he is.  And I 
swear there is nothing wrong with that leg.  And, suddenly, I get a great 
idea.  I put a lead rope on his halter and take him over to the vet check 
area.  Some of the hundred milers are already coming in after their first 15 
mile loop.  I bump into someone I know and ask him  if Valerie's in line 
here.  He tells me, "You just missed her, she left two minutes ago."    I 
spot one of the vets who had looked at Dance the night before and ask him to 
watch me trot out.  He watches, says the horse looks great, but he can't let 
me back into the race.  They never gave me my vet card back and it looks like 
the won't now.  He says it could be a serious problem and won't approve my 
ride.  GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.  Well, it was worth the try.

I have problems with anyone in authority and it's something I've had to deal 
with all my life.  Twenty years in the military didn't help much, but it did 
teach me to control my, sometimes, outrageous behavior when confronted with 
authority figures.  I'm kinda like the Woody Allen character in "Annie Hall," 
who when pulled over and being handed a ticket for reckless driving, rambles 
on to the cop, "It's not your fault, I just can't handle authority types such 
as yourself. It's me, not you so please don't take this personally."  At the 
same time he proceeds to rip up the ticket and throw the pieces in the air in 
front of the officer.

I know that Dance could probably do this 25  mile run with no problem, but if 
anything were to happen to him seriously I'd have to shoot myself for being 
such a reckless owner of horses.  So, I accept the decision, don't rip up the 
ticket, and put Dance into his portable corral.  I go over to my neighbor's 
campsite and watch Randy doing all kinds of things for Kay and her horse.  
He's hauling buckets, taking hay, sponges and all kinds of things over to the 
vet-check area, getting ready for Kay's first vet in after the first 15 mile 
loop.  You'd think he was crewing for ten horses with all the stuff he's 

This gives me the idea that I'd better do the same if I want to keep my 
promise of crewing for Saint Sandra, Jennifer, and anyone else riding with 
them who might want my help.   Besides, I need to keep busy since I'm not in 
the hunt (man do I want to be out there).  So I grab hay, buckets, sponges, 
and all kinds of horsey things and haul it over to the vet check area.  As I 
approach the check I'm amazed at how much stuff is here.  There has to be 
close to 200 riders in this run, and I'm not one of them.  Our sport has hit 
the big time here.

NOTE:::::  OK, I promise to FINISH this in the next installment.  I'd better 
hurry cause I'm leaving for my next ride in a couple weeks.  Oh, btw (by the 
way, for you non computer nerds) I have a new horse, on lease.  And you won't 
believe the breed!!!!!  Watch out Angie, I'm gonna catch you with this one.  


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