A Day in the Saddle

I first visited Texas in 1975, three years before we moved there. I stayed with Uncle Dave and Aunt Betty.
During my visit, they decided to go to Ft. Worth for her mother’s birthday. Betty’s brother Bill was a vet,
who had a ranch with some cattle and horses. She got him to take me horse back riding. How cool was this,
I would get to ride a Texas horse across the Texas Prairie.

On the second day in Ft. Worth, Bill arrives in his truck to take me to the ranch. I was ready, blue jeans
and my first and only cowboy shirt. We get to the ranch and there are two horses ready and waiting.
His sons had been there earlier and had left them almost ready to go. All we had to do was cinch the
saddles and hit the trail.

When I went to cinch mine it decided to suck wind. This is an old horse trick when it wants to make
things miserable for the rider.  I reared back and kicked him in the stomach. He blew the load of wind
and I cinched him him up. I told him, “Nice try horse, you lose.” I mounted the horse who for the purpose of this
story I will call “Silver.”  I don’t remember it’s name. The stirrups were a little low, but when I asked to adjust them,
Bill tells me no, that I should not need to have them higher. He was wrong.

I have ridden horses before this experience. All of the horses I had ridden were trained Western. Pull the reins
left or right, pull back to stop, loosen the reins to go. Texas, western, I made the assumption that Silver was trained this
way too. No such luck. I finally got the hang of guiding Silver down the trail, but since we were going straight, not much needed
to get him going. It was a nice gentle walk, so I used voice commands to get Silver to speed up. While he seemed to
understand English, he was not responding too well.

I asked Bill what was missing and he suggested I give Silver a lite kick. I gave the lightest kick I could muster and
Silver  took off like a bat out of hell. We did about 300 yards in 10 seconds flat. I hung on for dear life and finally did
what I had been taught, I pulled back on the reins. Silver went into Warp Mode. The Starship Enterprise would have had trouble keeping up. For those of you familiar with Star Trek, you know how they always showed the lights streaking to indicate Warp Speed. That’s how the cows looked to me as we flew past them.

Across the prairie we fly, I’m trying to move myself with the horse and I can’t because the stirrups are too low.
I had the reins in one hand and with the other I was alternating between holding onto the saddle and trying to keep my
glasses from flying off. There was a slight grade to the property and then a rise. Silver and I flew up that hill to the next
plateau. Lots more wide open land with a lake straight in front of me.

”Screw this,” I though, you’re not getting me all wet. I decided my only recourse was to jump. I got myself ready for the fall
off this Texas size horse. I knew I was going to get hurt. I threw down the reins and got ready to jump and Silver stops on a dime.
I thought, “What the hell, maybe broke him.” Bill finally rides up and says “Are you OK.?”  “Yes,” I mumbled.  “These horses aren’t trained western are they?”
“No. They’re trained opposite of Western.”
“Thanks for not telling me.”

I picked up the reins and turned Trigger around for home. Once I knew the controls, we had a fine time. I turned him right and left we counted all the cows, looked over the landscape, all with no issues. I did my best John Wayne imitation and horse and I finally
worked as a team. All was well, I was having fun!
Until we got about 500 feet from the barn……

Silver decided he had enough and picked up the pace. I dropped the reins down and said “Whoa!”
Silver huffed to a stop and I made him stand there a minute. Bill sits there laughing and says, “He’s hungry. Just hang on and let him go.” So Silver got his way and as we neared the barn. I almost got a leg full of corral fence. We put the tack away and rubbed down the horses. Then we fed them their evening grub. Bill noted how I did not have to be told how to do any of this. I let him know 4H had taught
me well.

We went back to the house for supper and the whole gang got to laugh at the story. Bill was sitting there and said, “I am so glad I didn’t
have to come back and tell you I killed him.” 

When we moved to Texas a few years later I got to ride a horse on Galveston Island. It was trained Western.

Top Films

In this season of awards, I was curious which films the American Film Institute thought were the best.
Here are their picks in 10 Geres.  http://www.afi.com/10top10/
Animation  –  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Romantic Comedy – City Lights
Western – The Searchers
Sports – Raging Bull
Mystery – Vertigo
Fantasy – The Wizard of Oz
Sci-Fi – 2001 a Space Odyssey
Gangster – The Godfather
Courtroom Drama – To Kill a Mockingbird
Epic – Lawrence of Arabia

Now here my picks for the same categories.

Animation  –  Dumbo!
Romantic Comedy – Yours, Mine and Ours
Western – The Searchers
Sports – Bang The Drum Slowly
Mystery – 10 Little Indians
Fantasy – The Wizard of Oz
Sci-Fi – 2001 a Space Odyssey
Gangster – The Godfather
Courtroom Drama – Inherit The Wind
Epic – The 10 Commandments
I add three categories
Comedy – Airplane!
Musicals – The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins
Mini-Series – Roots

The Christmas Trees

Every year at Christmas when I was young, we would spend some time at Grandma and Grandpa Sweitzer’s house, eating a huge holiday dinner, enjoying presents and seeing all the Cousins and Aunts and Uncles we had not seen all year. It was a house full of people, screaming kids and usually someone playing the old out of tune upright Player Piano with the player missing.

One of the things us kids always looked forward to was Grandpa’s Christmas tree. It was one of those horrible fake Aluminum trees, with a color wheel.To make it something special, Grandpa drilled a hole into the bottom of it’s wooden core and mounted it on top of an old record player that had one of those metal stems to hold multiple records. Then he set that player to slow and the tree would rotate. The whole thing got placed on his big wooden desk that sat in from of the picture window that faced the street. People from all over the neighborhood would stroll by, just to see Grandpa’s Spinning multi-colored Christmas Tree.

Grandpa decorated the tree with various things and those small candy canes. Us kids would make a game of snatching the candy from the spinning tree. This seems like silly entertainment now, but for 5 and 6 year olds in 1965, it helped pass the time and get us a Sugar Fix too.

Grandma’s contribution to the trees every year was to make a Gumdrop Tree. She used those really huge Gumdrops to make a colorful tree on a Styrofoam Cone base. she’d spend an hour sticking Gumdrops to the tree with toothpicks, so the kids could pick their favorite color and flavor from the tree. She would refill it, so there was always some available for a quick treat. Between the two trees, the kids could make it through what was usually a very long day.

Grandma Sweitzer Toast

When I was a youngster, I stayed at my grandparent’s house quite a bit. Dad and mom both worked, so they would drop me there and sometimes I would get picked up late in the day or sometimes I would spend the night. I had the front room by the attic stairs so I could look out to the traffic going by, or if I was bored, I would sneak up the attic stairs and spend time exploring. Their house was one of those huge old Victorians, four floors from basement to attic.

JACKSON

On the mornings when I spent the night, Grandpa would wake me and I would dash down to the small kitchen at the back of the house and join Grandma while she made breakfast. Usually it was simple stuff like Bacon and Eggs or sometimes Oatmeal, but always on the side was a stack of Grandma Sweitzer Toast. 

Grandma has one of those old all metal toasters. I don’t know what year she got it, but I would suspect somewhere in the 1940’s after WWII. By the time I came along in the 1960’s the poor thing was worn out. It was my job to sit and watch the toaster, to make sure it did not burn the toast. Many times, we would get to talking and laughing and I would forget the toaster until we smelled something burning. Out would pop two slices of burnt, very crispy toast. Grandma would put it on a plate and walk over to the sink. She’d stand there scraping off the burnt part and what was left was usually just a sliver of bread with crust. On this, she would slather a huge amount of fresh butter she got at the farmer’s market. By the time breakfast was served, the toast was very sloppy and chewy and delicious. Some of the slices were so thin, they would collapse in two when you picked them up.

To this day, I like my toast crispy and a little burnt, I always add butter and if I happen to have some, a glob of home made jam or even better some Apple Butter. We did all sorts of things, but the base is always, Grandma Sweitzer Toast.