"Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty." ~ Sicilian proverb
I had three "best friends" in Culver City, all at the same time! Linda, Bobbie, and Sandy all were my best friends, but, boy, were they ever different people! None of them liked the others, but they all liked me. I guess it wasn't until a lot later in life that I realized that I had a little bit of each one of them inside of me. How does that happen? Were those parts of me to begin with, or did each of those girls emboss their personalities onto mine? Don't know... It's something I do wonder about sometimes...
Linda was an only child, and she never had to put up with a little brother like I did. Mom would drive me over to her house, and Linda and I would go into her backyard and climb the two huge avocado trees that had limbs the size of horses' backs. Linda would "ride" the "palamino branch," and I would climb up a little higher and "ride" the "black horse with the white mane and tail." There probably is no such coloring for a horse, but this avocado tree always cast a magical spell over us, and I could have any colored horse I wanted! We would gallop over the plains and have make-believe adventures on those branches all summer, and I loved it.
One day, Linda called me. Her Mom and Dad had bought her a horse ...not another avocado tree, but a real, LIVE horse! I could hardly wait until Saturday to see him! Linda's Mom drove us to the stables to ride Cholla. He was a red-and-white paint horse, not young, but very crafty. Linda made me brush him after she led him from his stall. Then she brought out the saddle and the blanket. I watched Cholla take a deep breath and puff out his stomach. As soon as Linda threw the saddle on him, tightened the girth, and stuck her foot into the stirrup, Cholla exhaled. Linda jumped out of the way as the saddle, blanket and all, swiveled, ending up squarely on his stomach right between all four legs of that sly old horse. He turned his head to watch his trick, and I swear to you, he giggled!
This got to be the norm... Cholla would be a kind old guy to us until Linda put the saddle on him. She found out what to do, though. It seemed cruel to me, but so did Linda telling me that to ride Cholla, first I had to shovel the manure out of his stall for her! Anyway, she'd throw the saddle on him, and then she'd punch him in the side. I know it sounds horrible to you, but Linda was a young girl, and even my little brother could have beaten her up! When she'd punch him, he'd exhale, and then, if she were quick, she could cinch the saddle so she could sit on him safely.
Then it would be my turn to climb up and sit right behind Linda. I don't know if you've ever ridden behind a Western saddle before... suffice it to say, all those actresses in the old Western movies, who were pulled up onto the back of a horse by the handsome cowboy, could tell you a thing 'er two about how uncomfortable it is!
But off we'd go... into the Culver City wilds... Culver City was surrounded, then, by fields planted with California crops, and we could ride all day and be safe from cars. In fact, when we were hungry, we'd stop Cholla behind a little hamburger hut, and Linda would go inside and get us each a hambuger and a Coke. I had to stay on top of Cholla so he wouldn't be stolen, or more likely, wander away. That horse... stolen! He would have figured out a way to make those thieves wish they hadn't ever seen him!
Linda always, always told me NOT to ever, ever kick Cholla in that space between his stomach and his hind leg... I don't know what you call that place, but DON'T DO IT, EVER! As we rode along the dirt path along side of a strawberry field, we were talking about which of the boys at school we had a crush on, and as I was dreamily thinking of Jim... BOTH my heels accidentally relaxed themselves into nudging against Cholla's forbidden place. I'd barely touched him! Suddenly, he laid his ears back flat against his head and went careening across the field right straight for the 4-lane highway, bucking all the way. Somehow Linda got him to run parallel to the cars whizzing past, but I was being bucked off that horse. Only my long, spindly legs and my iron-grip on the back of that saddle held me on his back! Cholla bucked for blocks until he finally ran out of energy. When we got back to the stable, and Linda was carrying the tack back to wherever she stored it, and I was rubbing Cholla down, he turned his head to look at me, slowly backed up until he had just the right angle, and stood on my foot!
We had survived, though! The very next Saturday there was a knock at our front door. It was Linda with a squirming little fur-ball puppy in her arms. She gave him to me, and said she was sorry about Cholla. Well, I loved that puppy, Inky, and he was just what I'd hoped for, BUT the top of my foot was still dark blue and inky black... hence my new puppy's name!
Linda ended up moving the same summer that we moved to Stamford, Connecticut so Dad could commute to NYC every day to his office. Linda and I wrote to each other for years. Once she wrote that she had been named the town's "Rodeo Queen." Well, Cholla had given her enough experiences for her to become the Queen of All Rodeos, in my opinion! And my left foot is still a little flatter than my right one. Mil gracias, Cholla...
But Linda, in that small town where they'd moved, learned lots quicker about the ins-and-outs of life than I ever did in "New York City's bedroom community" of Stamford, Connecticut where we'd moved! I guess that we "creative types" are slower to learn things than we are to watch, and dream, and watch some more...