Photo: High Wild & Lonesome
November 1968, eleven months after we were married, my husband the pharmacist working for the Public Health Service in Parker, AZ so he doesn’t have to go to Vietnam, decides that it would be an adventure to check out the drug cabinet at the base of the Grand Canyon. Where the Havasupai Indians live on a reservation of several hundred people next to the Colorado River. Philip loved adventures. “Ever been on a horse,” asks Hubby?
“Oh sure, lot’s of times,” I respond. (Once when I was 12 but who’s counting.)
It’s November 1st, we wake at 2 am, drive for two hours mostly over rocks to get to a dirt road, with even more rocks to arrive at a hilltop in Peach Springs (not far from Kingman). Violá we are somewhere on a knoll at the top of the canyon in the dark. It’s five degrees. I’m wearing several layers of clothing, including a red wool car coat with a hood and gloves. There is no getting warm. The only place to pee is one of those blue porta potties. It’s so cold that inside the outhouse you can hear the wind whistle.
There’s a Havasupai guide waiting for us holding the reins of three large horses. “Ever ridden before,” asks Hiawatha Watahamagee our guide? (I swear I’m not making this up.)
“Oh sure, I ride all the time,” says the 23 year old idiot with oatmeal for brains. Moron is actually a much better word, but I digress.
The horse steps off the cliff’s edge and we are on a dirt trail that is probably less that 30 inches wide with a 3000 ft drop straight down on my left with no railing. I am either too young or too stupid to realize how grave the danger. Hiawatha is in front of me and Philip in back. If I fall it will likely be sideways.
Three hours later we finally arrive at the bottom of the switchback trail at the base of the canyon. My very independent horse decides he knows a short cut to his stable. Trigger is in a huge hurry to get home. He takes off at full gallop with me lying on top fiercely grasping his mane, the horn of the saddle, and anything else I could cling to for dear life. We are on the shores of the Colorado River and there are boulders the size of VWs everywhere I look, which was easy from my angle of lying on top of the horse with the reins in my hands, my feet desperately trying to stay in the stirrups, in my Little Red Riding Hood jacket blowing behind me, hearing my hubby screaming “Sara hold on!”
Yup, that’s me the experienced horse woman. I’m going to do one of them Lone Ranger jump from one side to the other tricks at 45 miles an hour with rocks on either side. An eternity later we arrive at the ranch and Trigger stops to get a drink. I don’t have a scratch anywhere.
That’s when you hear the angel on your right shoulder holding on to the hair on the back of your neck, shaking his head, “Wait till God hears about this! Moron, did I bring you from Tashkent to the bottom of the Grand Canyon so you could kill yourself?” Hey, what do you want? My angel has an attitude and sounds like my Mother.
Other people’s children merely shave their heads, get a tattoo, dye their hair a ridiculous color of orange or purple. Then there’s me. I can be talked into almost anything by almost anyone. At least once, if they come bringing Hershey kisses.
My son once asked in high school how come I let him make so many of his own mistakes and didn’t intervene the way most of his friend’s Mothers did. Hopefully this story many years later answers that question. When you do stuff in your youth that would scare your Mother to death if she knew, you have to give your children the gift of learning lessons they need to learn as well.
As for Moms, pray a lot and hang on!