On the day we rode the horses, the sky was an overcast gray, threatening rain. Our two past days of eighty degree temps had cooled down to sixty. It was our third day of a week’s vacation at the California Beach Resort. We had filled the first two days with moped riding, a hot air balloon tour, and a five hour boat cruise, all underneath sunny blue skies. We feasted on the buffet breakfasts of pancakes, omelets, and varieties of pastries and fruit, and washed it all down with fruit juices and flavored coffees. We were on a vacation high and wanted to see and do everything.
By day three I had gained ten pounds and wasn’t motivated to do much but lay by the indoor pool, read, sleep, and drink alcohol. But Sharon insisted we go horse-back riding that morning, even with the threat of rain. We got up at seven A.M., showered, and had breakfast. I reluctantly agreed to go riding, and we made our way to the ranch in the back of a tour van, even though we were the only passengers. Dan, our driver, looked like he was half asleep when we met him at the van pick up, but the ranch was only twenty minutes away from the resort so we figured it was safe enough.
“Really going riding…in this?” He looked up through his windshield.
“Yes. Really. ” Sharon said, annoyed.
“O.k.” He shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and started the van. We got in, moved to the back and settled in. The ride was quiet with Sharon burying her head in my shoulder and leaning against me. She quickly fell asleep and gently snored as I looked out the window and watched a few raindrops slide down the glass pane. What was I doing? I didn’t want to ride, I wanted the pool…drinks…alcohol…a warm Jacuzzi. I didn’t want rain or muddy horse trails to slip on and break my neck. “Great,” I said out loud.
“Mmm. Yes, it will be.” Sharon said half-asleep. She didn’t open her eyes. She cuddled closer to me and went back to snoring.
We got to the ranch, which looked closed. Dan pulled up in front of the entrance and we got out.
“I’ll be back in a few hours. Enjoy your ride,” he said, trying not to smile too much. He pulled away, and we heard him laughing.
“Tool.” Sharon said.
We walked up to the door, I knocked and we waited. A man in his late sixties-early seventies slowly opened the door. He was dressed in blue overalls, a striped red wool shirt, cowboy hat, and brown leather boots. He extended a warm hand and welcomed us in. His grip was strong and his smile genuine.
“Name’s Ned…what can I do you for?”
“We’d like to go for a short horseback ride,” I said.
“Hmm. You saw that sky, right?” He said, shaking his head.
“Yes,” I said, feeling deflated. “You’re right…we shouldn’t go. Let’s go, Sharon. This was a bad idea.”
Before she could say a word, Ned said, “Now…now, wait a second. If the lady wants to ride, you should ride. I just need you to sign a waiver of rights, not holding the ranch responsible if anything bad happens to you. You ride at your own risk.”
“O.k., we’ll sign,” Sharon quickly said. She grabbed the papers and Ned handed her a pen.
She scribbled her signature and handed the papers and pen to me.
“You sure?” I asked. She just looked at me with those wide blue eyes. I signed.
I have to admit that the ride was pleasant. To be honest, it was more than pleasant. The horses were well built, calm and steady. They were used to riders and remained still as we saddled up. I’d only ridden twice before, so I was shaky getting up on the saddle. It didn’t seem to bother my horse and it stood perfectly still as I climbed into the saddle.
We rode for about two hours. The raindrops didn’t stop; in fact it drizzled harder. But in the cool drizzle, there was freedom. Sharon laughed as the drops slid down her face and she licked at them as her horse led the way down the muddy path. I slid back and forth on my saddle until I figured out how to balance my butt. My fear of falling quieted down as my horse slowly made its way up and down the muddy trails. A few times he slipped but quickly regained balance. I started to enjoy those slips. They put just enough scare in the ride to make it interesting. I even laughed at the last few. I didn’t fall, and didn’t break my neck. The drizzle stopped and the sun even peeked out for a half hour. We rode up and down the trails admiring the wide space and mountains. At one point we stopped at a stream and the horses drank. I felt a calm come over me as I sat there and I closed my eyes. It was only for a minute or two, but I was one with all of it; horse, mountain, stream and sky. It was one of the most peaceful feelings I’ve ever experienced. When they finished drinking, our steeds resumed the trail and we rode in silence just taking it all in.
When we got back to the ranch, there was a small table for two set up by a lit fireplace.
“Oh, Rick,” Sharon said. Her eyes reflected the fireplace light and her eyes filled with happy tears.
“It’s really pretty,” I said. We sat down and felt a peace settle over us. Sharon looked radiant and very happy.
The table had a white and red checkered table cloth and Ned had a lunch of two barbecued steaks and chicken wings waiting for us. There was potato salad, twice baked potatoes, a fresh green salad, and hot rolls with melted butter. There was a big pitcher of cold lemonade to wash it all down.
“There you are, “Ned said. He pointed to the table of food.
“Come, sit, eat and enjoy.”
“This is awesome,” I said. “Thank you.”
“And when you had your fill, there is pecan pie and apple cobbler with soft served vanilla ice cream to top it all off.”
“Oh my,” was all Sharon could say.
“Well…enjoy it!” Ned said. He left and disappeared to another room.
We sat and ate and recounted our ride. The food was delicious and as rich and full as the time we spent with each other. The small silences were comfortable, and we were just happy to be with each other.
When we asked for the check, Ned said it was all “complimentary.”
“Gotta give you two props for doing the ride. Didn’t think you had it in you,” he said and laughed.
Sharon beamed and I felt proud of myself. Yeah…we did deserve props.
“So, how was the ride?” Dan asked as he opened the van doors and we got in.
“It was great,” I said. “Really great.”
“Good for you,” he said. It sounded like he meant it. We relayed the highlights of our ride as he drove. He didn’t say much, just shook his head and we could see his smile in the rear view.
“Sounds like a great trip,” he said, as we pulled up to the resort.
“It was,” we said.
“Well…have a good rest of your day. Enjoy the rest of your stay.” We shook hands and waved good-bye.
“We will,” I said.
“Not too much of a tool,” Sharon said as he drove away.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Joseph Trance.
Published on e-Stories.org on 08/09/2014.