Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dandy, Ironsides and Salty

Three More Horses, Dandy, Ironsides and Salty
Copyright Ken Harris, 2009

I don’t believe Dandy was a U.S. Cavalry veteran, but he was interesting. For one thing, his neck was thicker than his head and jaws. Halters and bridles dropped off him like rain off a slicker. Escape was his specialty. But when he had freed himself, he didn’t want to go anywhere alone, so he would untie all the other horses as well. Chuck or Bobbi Williams would periodically take the working horses down to play in the Arroyo Seco water, back n the days before it became a concrete ditch, and to soak their hooves. If Dandy had not been working during riding lessons that day, he was left behind. Not to worry, he would soon show up minus his halter. After that the Williamses decided that whenever anyone went for a cooling footbath, Dandy got to go as well. It was easier than hog tying him.

Ironsides was a boarder, but he loved to jump so much that he was used in jumping lessons as well. The horses lined up and jumped in turn. Ironsides was so keen that he would cut in line to get in more jumps. Most of the other horses didn’t mind since they could live their entire lives and never jump, prefer it, in fact. A professional trainer whom I shall not name, borrowed the horse for further schooling. She “crammed” Ironsides against a jump and ruined his front legs. He was good for the occasional pleasure ride, but his jumping days were through. The trainer, by the way, was not my landlady, Bobbi Williams.

The last horse I shall discuss was neither the most beautiful nor the most obedient. Certainly not the latter. His name was Sultan, but everyone called him “Salty.” That should give you a clue right there.

On this particular afternoon I had just returned home from work. (So many of my adventures begin with my just returning from work to discover what my frau has been up to.) On this afternoon, she had been dutifully washing the dishes. She had put her hand into the top of a glass holding a wash cloth, and made a circular washing motion when the rim broke and she gashed her hand deeply.

Bobbi Williams loaded Joanne into her elderly Cadillac and took her down to the Los Angeles County Hospital Emergency Room where they administered medicine in the rough. They held her hand over a pan and poured alcohol over it, and then stitched it up without benefit of any pain deadening injections. Fortunately, I guess, the alcohol on the fresh cut caused the nerves in Joanne’s hand to shrivel because she didn’t even feel the stitches. It’s like curing a headache by cutting off a toe.

They got back from the hospital just as I drove in from work. Meanwhile, Salty ran out of the stable with his saddle underneath his belly, leaving his rider, a teenage girl, lying face down in the middle of the ring. Salty hung a right out of the stable driveway and began his mad escape. We piled into Bobbi’s Caddy and began a hot pursuit. We’re talking Friday afternoon rush hour here.

It was easy to track Salty. You just went in the direction people were looking and pointing. When we caught sight of Salty, he had slowed to a canter. Just then an intrepid soul in an MG convertible tried to head him off. Salty was a jumper-and-a-half at need, and he easily cleared the MG, saddle under his belly and all, giving the driver an object lesson in why people should think before they act.

By the time Bobbi caught up with the horse, Salty had slowed to a walk and was on the on ramp to the Pasadena Freeway. Cars were lined up for a half mile in every possible direction. Bobbi pulled up beside the horse and drove slowly, perhaps 1- to 3-miles-per-hour, as slowly as she could without stalling. Joanne stepped out of the car to catch the horse.

Joanne was carrying our first child. Her balance must have been a little off because she did not land gracefully on her feet, but flopped around like a scarecrow in a whirlwind, finally landing in a supine position on the street. At this point, the cars stopped.

Joanne got to her feet. Still silence. She walked quietly by the horse, not even looking at him. She’s just a girl going her own way, minding her own business, catching a horse the furthest thing from her mind. She suddenly reached out and grabbed one of the broken reins dangling from Salty's bridle and stopped him. Quickly she uncinched his saddle and stowed it in the car.

The trip back to the stable was almost anticlimactic. Joanne began to walk Salty home and soon Bobbi slowly drove by in the Caddy. They women changed places, Joanne drove, Bobbi and Salty walked, and order was restored in the universe.

I never before believed in miracles until this incident, but in all that time, with all those cars stopped, not one Los Angeles motorist honked. Now that’s a miracle.

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