“I... just don't know,” said Marcus, as I held out the reins to his new horse. “They're cool and everything, but looking at it now... I just don't know.”
“Everything was cool to you until it's sitting there in front of you,” I told him. “Grab the reins, I'll help you up. Then we'll see if you ‘know’ or not.”
“What if he throws me off?”
“Then you’ll get back up.”
“It's not that simple, you know. I could break something or worse.”
Even he knew he was making excuses. “Load of crap. At 11 years old you won't break anything. We both know I didn't raise a coward.”
Marcus was only seven when his mother left me for someone who preferred a Ford Mustang to a real horse (disgusting, if you ask me).She and I have been sharing custody, but somehow I'm always made out to be the villain. He seems to like her more than he likes me.
“Alright, now you're getting too comfortable.” Now simmering with a sort of restlessness to prove me wrong, he mounted up all by himself. The horse nickered.
“It's okay, boy,” I reassured the beast. “He's only five four and counting.”
“Five six, actually.” He grimaced. “Let's go Dad, the stirrups are fixed up.”
“I've been surrounded by these beautiful creatures since before I could remember. I once felt the same way my son now feels, but that was before I felt the roar of the wind blowing through my ears as I rode at full gallop.My parents had opened my eyes as to what beauty this Earth gives us, and I dreamed of the day I'd have a child to pass such wisdom to.
We settled into an easy canter. I took the lead as there was a sudden drop in temperature. Leaves fell around us, and the glare of the sunset lit up the 40 acres of autumn hillside we had all to ourselves. We had a calm ride on the White Trail for a half hour before I heard a loud yell, and a thump. My heart DROPPED.
I turned around to see my son on the ground. “What happened, man? You good?”
“Damn horses,” he said, wincing in pain. “Think I hurt myself.”
“LANGUAGE. You’d know if you broke something,” I told him. “Something just spooked him, get back up and we'll try again.”
“Language? Guess you really haven't figured out parenting yet.” Ouch.
“Do as I say, son. Not as I do.” My sad method of easing the tension.
“Exactly!” Now HE’S getting too comfortable.
“Okay, tough guy. He broke in? If not, let's mount back up. It's getting dark.”
“No,” he now stood firm. “I'm done.”
My heart couldn't find the line between sympathy for my son and anger at the ex-wife who had to make things this way. He HATED me, and I just wanted to show him the world. MY world. “One day you'll understand, son, that this was about more than the horses,” I told him.
I knew he was already eleven, and there was a lot he needed to learn, but this day helps me realize something; I wasn't perfect either, and never would be for him. When one falls off their high horse, it becomes a task of extreme vigor to mount back up. Not knowing if Marcus even wanted to be with me that day, I gave him a tight hug knowing we both had a lot to figure out.