To listen to this post, please click here: Swordfight with a Horse
While all my posts won’t be about my recent wilderness trip, I do want to share the following—
In the campfire photo above, my younger brother Jim encourages the remarkable young Domenic Lewis to read us a story from “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?” a collection of funny essays by sportsman Patrick McManus.
Nephew of my nephew Don, fourteen-year old Domenic is quite a sport himself, as you’ll see at Hour Ten of our eleven-hour horseback ride into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
The ride was the part of the trip I’d most grimly anticipated. Warnings had been issued: we’d likely ride all day with no break, we were bound to be saddle sore. Steep mountainside drop-offs can be scary– we might need to dismount and walk our horses. Saddlebags had to be light. I worried that my one measly bottle of water would not suffice for a whole day in the sun and you don’t want to be around a dehydrated, overheated Irene. Just mention noon on a sand dune to John.
As it happened, though, our guide gave us three breaks. Thanks to Don’s water filter, we drank our fill of cold, sparkling stream water. My preparatory stretches, padded bike shorts and chamois cream kept me pretty comfortable and we rode through immensely varied and beautiful terrain: dense moist forest, lyrical passages of wildflowers, a stunning field of creamy-plumed beargrass. Shimmering lakes, a hefty wedge of glacier, vivid young pines reclaiming burnt land–it was a pleasure riding Sugar, my agreeable horse, over such scenic, well-maintained trails.
But one spot during Hour Ten called for tough equestrian choreography. The horses had to make a short steep rocky ascent, immediately and arrhythmically step over a large fallen tree and then instantly pivot into a sharp rocky descent. Most made it smoothly, but Domenic’s horse spooked, left the trail, and headed for a standing dead pine. One branch caught under the chin strap of Domenic’s river hat, tearing it off, but he kept his head, stayed in the saddle, grabbed his hat and managed to guide the horse back onto the trail. We proceeded.
Not long afterwards, he said, “I think I’m bleeding.” I was riding just ahead of him, and Don called, “See if he’s okay, will you, Irene?”
I turned in my saddle and froze. There, jutting three inches out of his left temple–“Domenic! You have a stick sticking out of your head!” Whereupon he screamed.
We halted. Don leapt down, helped Domenic dismount and carefully pulled out the sharp dart of white wood. We were all shaken, no one more than Domenic, but when it appeared all would be well, Jim patted him on the back. “Now you have a story.” A beautiful way, I thought, to mark such a moment in a young life.
I marked it later in my own way. When we got to camp, I dug out my little sewing kit, and sewed the chinstrap back onto his hat. Finding a bit of red thread, I embroidered a tiny red star inside the brim, just at the spot of his injury.
By day’s end a smiling Domenic had come up with his take: “I was in a swordfight with a horse, and I lost.” Which, of course, he didn’t.
Publication News: While not publication as such, I supplied some narration for “Reel Herstory: The Real Story of Reel Women” a documentary on the remarkable history of female filmmakers, hosted by Jodie Foster. It’s a pleasure to see writer/filmmaker Ally Acker get well-deserved recognition on FilmDoo, an international blog dedicated to indie and international film discovery. Look for it this fall at a film festival near you!