Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I went over to look at the Silver Lining Ranch the other day, never having seen it, but it was “gated” – perhaps the Aspen Jewish Center will have a more welcoming façade. I hadn’t even been down that road past Dylan Gibson’s dental offices and the Aspen Club (for annual pedicures, now off the budget) in decades. There was a pond down there someplace, owned by the Benedicts, and some rickety stables where I boarded my horse, Brook, and got shot at one day.
My friend Lloyd kept her moody mare down there, too, and we were brushing the horses preparatory to a ride up Hunter Creek when Lloyd suddenly cried out, “Stop shooting!,” and, to me, “Did you hear that? A bullet just zinged past my ear! STOP SHOOTING!”
I will not divulge the name of the prominent family whose sons, we later learned, were engaging in target practice, but I will confess that at Lloyd’s first words of alarm I dropped flat on the ground, while Lloyd continued currying her flighty mare and verbally assaulting the perpetrators while bullets zinged around us, which says something about the differences of our natures, a line drawn in the manure between caution, bravery, foolhardiness, cowardice, anger and fear that probably goes back to the id and the ego, but the upshot was that the kids heard her, stopped shooting, we saddled up and went on our way.
It was good to ride with Lloyd and her temperamental mare because Brook had her own issue, a deep-seated fear of bridges. The sight of a bridge a quarter of a mile away would send her into a frothing panic; she’d start skittering and tossing her head, trying to turn back, and if I got off and tried to lead her toward the bridge she’d rear up, whinny, and rip the reins out of my hand.
But if she were following another horse, any horse, even Lloyd’s unpredictable mare, she inexplicably turned into Philippe Petit. You want me to walk this wire between the twin towers? Hey, no problem, as long as another horse went first.
Between getting shot at, the limitations of riding alone (I had no idea how many bridges there are in and around Aspen) and my calculations that between the boarding, the hay, the oats, the vet bills and the costs of “wintering” a horse downvalley I was paying over $50 per hour to ride, I threw in the manure fork and traded Brook for a 1959 Chevrolet station wagon.
Altogether I had six horses in Aspen, the first two were wild mares my ex-husband and I bought from Rick Deane. At our celebratory dinner with the Deanes at the Red Onion, I suddenly threw up in my plate and it turned out that both I and the mares were pregnant, not an auspicious beginning – all (not my daughter Hillery) were sold to Klaus Obermeyer during the ensuing divorce.
My penultimate horse, Rusty, had been a barrel-racer. He loved making sharp turns at a full gallop and I’d make little jumps for him on the old Aspen Meadows race track (still there, but you have to use your imagination on the path). I had inherited him as a result of a feud between two erstwhile friends. Rusty’s idea of jumping was to speed, head down, to the jump, stop short, then hurl himself over.
As a kid, I was nuts about horses. I’d collect Japanese Beetles by the thousands (100 for a nickel) to save up $2 to walk around a track for an hour. It must have done the trick because I haven’t seen a Japanese Beetle in 60 years.
I still miss the sweet horsy smell and the soft of their gentle noses, but I didn’t know a lot about owning horses. Now my herniations, osteoporosis and degenerations can barely make it through an hour on the Historic Task Force, much less back in the saddle, a sad loss.
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