|Chico, not Topper. But you get the idea . . .|
Topper. My eldest brother’s horse. The ultimate in challenges.
My world was small. I admit it.
By the age of seven, I had moved through the ‘pony’ stage was ready for something a bit . . . bigger. Certainly more challenging.
My brother’s sorrel gelding was the answer.
If I could ride him, I would have achieved my greatest goal. By so doing, I would enter the world of the adults. I would finally be considered a grown-up.
Or so I thought.
We were selecting our mounts for yet another round-up. This one to include branding and all of the fun and high-jinks that went with that.
My brother, Jerry, stepped into the corral ahead of me. He lifted the halter he held and approached . . . Ranger.
My day had come. Before anyone could think of stopping me, I moved to Topper’s side and slid my halter over his alert head.
So far, so good.
Grooming and saddling took next to no time. A good thing as I was in a fever of impatience.
And then I was aboard.
Wow! The ground was so far away! This horse was a giant! Okay, he would have had to stand on tip hooves to reach 14 hands, but I had been riding a Shetland pony. My measuring stick was slightly skewed.
But I digress . . .
And we were off.
All went well to that point. In fact, all continued to go well as we received our assignments and separated to begin collecting the herds. I was given one of the smaller fields. A measly little quarter section. No problem. Topper and I started off at a brisk trot. I was amazed at how much more quickly he moved than my little Pinto.
I have to admit here that Pinto had one speed.
This was living!
And then . . . that sun.
In Southern Alberta, at least the corner where I was raised, the early summer days are . . . hot. There are no trees. The sun beats down on the hard-packed earth, turning it into a heat reflector of gigantic proportions. In no time, the heat waves are distorting every horizon.
And the favourite little blue jean jacket so necessary when you first hit the barnyard is suddenly superfluous. And distinctly uncomfortable.
And really needing to be removed.
With slow, staid Pinto, a simple task. No sooner thought of, then accomplished. He wouldn't even have noticed.
With Topper, another story entirely.
I undid the buttons.
His ears flicked back. I’m almost sure his eyes narrowed. “What are you doing up there, Human?”
I slid one arm half-way out of the sleeve.
A jump. A little kick. “Whatever it is, I don’t like it!”
I stopped moving.
I moved, he jumped.
This went on for some time. Then I finally tired of the theatrics and decided to show him who was boss.
I shed my coat entirely.
He decided to show me who was really boss and shed me.
I’m not sure whether I bailed off, or he planted me. It matters little because the results were the same.
My face took the brunt of the landing.
When I came to my senses a short time later, I struggled to my feet and discovered that Topper was actually waiting for me a little distance away.
I approached him slowly. The only speed I could muster.
He watched me, warily.
I drew closer.
He let fly with both back hoofs.
I really don’t know how I managed to survive life on the ranch. I must have a particularly hard head.
The next thing I remember is one of our hired men, Bud. He had followed the trail of my belongings until he finally discovered me, lying in a very small heap and plucked me from the prairie floor, like flotsam off a beach.
I noticed, with some degree of satisfaction, that he had already rescued my beloved jacket.Reunited. I may have smiled. I really couldn't feel my face.
Bud set me on the saddle in front of him and I looked down at the horse he was riding.
The delicious appaloosa.
The ultimate in challenges.
If I could ride him, I would have achieved my greatest goal . . .
You can see where this is heading.