Saturday, January 3, 2009

Writing and Riding by Janet Huntington

I was a weird little kid. When I go back in time my memories are floaty and soft, with a few harsh clear jolts mixed in, just to keep things interesting. Kind of like watching the movie Jurassic Park. You know the velociraptor is just around the corner, but can't help launching your popcorn every time he makes an appearance.
One of my fondest, clearest memories is riding my bike down the street, chasing my herd of invisible rabbits. My rabbits ran with the speed of light. When I jumped off my bike and threw myself in the grassy field behind our house my invisible rabbits would swarm around me. I could feel the cool silk of their fur slipping past my ankles, the sharp little points of their toenails scraping across the tops of my bare feet. I would reach down and feel the tickle of their whiskers across my palms. Sometimes my favorite, Blackie, would crawl into my lap and let me pet him. I could feel his hard muscled little body sliding under his fur, his heart fluttering a staccato beat under my hand.
The worst were the nights of terror. Monsters and skeletons, images from the television or stories told late at night in my sister's bed, whirling through the dark,jerking me awake and screaming for my parents. Still seeing the nightmares in every shadowy corner even as my mother soothed me.
These memories are sharp in my mind, much clearer than the endless agony of school, the boring routine of church, the slow crawl of rules and requirements .
I was the little girl who sat in the back of the class, daydreaming out the window. The kid who ran around the playground whinnying, too busy perfecting my gallop to talk to anybody else.
I knew no line of definition between reality and fantasy, I was branded a liar, a teller of tales. My stories got me in endless trouble. I was probably in the third grade before I realized nobody else saw my invisible rabbits. Nobody else knew the horses who came to my window at night and whiffled through my screen. When I talked about the sweet smell of their alfalfa breath on my face I was either talking out of turn or telling another lie.
So I began to draw. I drew my rabbits, the monsters and especially the horses. The older I grew the more I drew horses. I rode my bike as hard and fast as I could over the bumpiest roads I could find, practicing to ride the horse I knew was coming to me someday. I drew him, my fantasy horse, over and over. His name was Raphael. I drew my model horses who came alive and danced in my window sills as I lay sleepless at night. I drew the black horse who pulled me out of the misery of motion sickness, racing our car across the prairie. His coat shone with the sun as he leaped gullies and climbed mountains, always keeping pace with our Vista Cruiser, no matter how long the road trip.
My lies and tall tales became beautiful art hanging from our refrigerator.
My life became grounded in reality when I got my first horse, Mort. For the first time, life was better in real time. It was better to be aware, better to see the world for what it was. Horses made it easy to put away the stories. Horses made it worth my time to begin to see the world around me.
So now, my life with horses has made it time to go back to telling stories. Now I can see the difference. The stories I want to tell come from my reality. My understanding of where to draw the line. Now I choose which side of the line I stand on.
I'm going to be working on what to write and what to do with it. I'll be throwing some ideas around on this blog. Some of you might know me from my blog, If so, you know I've recently retired from being a horse trainer for many years. I'm writing for a living now, working for a small rural newspaper. I'm starting to explore the idea of getting published. Being invited to write here seems like the next logical step in my progression. This is going to be cool. Real cool, if you catch my drift. Later.


summersmom said...

Everytime I read a post about your childhood I'm reminded of my own. I never was able to have a horse as a kid but I day dreamed and imagined my own on a regular basis. Riding my bike through our neighborhood at top speed would make everything else fall away and sudenly I was on my own Black Stallion. I also played with My Little Ponies and Breyers in place of a real horse. Thank you for taking me back and reminding me that I did in fact have an imagination at one time.

Jami Davenport said...

Mugwump, This brings back memories to me, too. I never had a horse as a kid, but I wanted one so badly. I played horses at recess with a dozen other horse-crazy girls. I made entire horse farms on my bedroom floor, read The Black Stallion books over and over, and broke a lot of Barbie doll's legs, as they weren't meant to ride horses.

Good luck on your writing. I'm sure you're going to do well.

FD said...

H'mmm. Mugs, did you ever read National Velvet?

I was lucky enough to have parents who let me start riding age seven, and that just about kept me on the straight and narrow, dreaming through my days, living for the weekends and evening at the yard.

mugwump said...

FD-I did indeed read National Velvet. I was more like the kid in My Friend Flicka though.
Jami-Do you ever have moments on a horse as an adult, where you think, "Oh this is so much better than I imagined!"? I still do.
summersmom-Thank goodness for fast bikes, I used to whack through potholes to pretend I was bucking...

ezra_pandora said...

Ok, clicking on this and not seeing mugwump, but seeing your real name made me giggle for some reason.

I can't wait to see what this new creative outlet brings to your faithful readers.

LatigoLiz said...

Janet, were we neighbors as kids? ;) Or maybe twins separated at birth? :D

Anonymous said...

This post brings back my childhood, too, especially that galloping around at recess, too interested in my imaginary horses and the stories I was telling myself about them to be interested in talking to other kids. I wonder how many of us there are?

I did get to ride some as a kid at our family ranch, but that didn't take away the longing to be out there every day of the week--Saturdays wasn't enough.

Leslie said...

Really admire your writing style Janet. Very easy and natural.

As a kid, my 10 speed bike was always my horse. After Secretariat won the triple crown, I remember riding my trusty "steed" down the road at breakneck speed winning my own race. I didn't have any friends who were horse crazy like I was, but then, as an only child, I was use to spending time in my own little world. As an adult, I'm thrilled my horses are now real. The wait was worth it!

Looking forward to reading more about your experiences on this blog and MW chronicles.

GrouchyBayTB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GrouchyBayTB said...

Wow ... I thought I was the only weird little kid who imagined horses running beside the car. I remember once my cousin (male, non-horsey, and 4 years older than me) asking what I always stared at ... and I told him. Um, yeah, NOT a good idea.

Shanster said...

Another great post. Keep writing! Love it! You have great talent in many areas.

I used to imagine horses in the stars... like how the greek myths were embedded in the stars? I'd make up horses..forget scales or fish or bulls...

and I always wished upon the stars. Somehow friendlier when they were horses!

OldMorgans said...

Good to know I was not a totally weird kid who loved horses so much. I had the model horses, my bike was a horse, I had a pretend horse galloping outside the car where ever we went, read every book I could get ahold of that had horses, and so forth. I did get a horse in 8th grade and had him until he died my first year of college, way back in 1970. I was with out a horse until 1978 and have had many since.
I am all grown up now (but why does it feel that sometimes I am pretending to be an adult) and once in a while, in my car, I still have that imaginary horse outside galloping along.

Jami Davenport said...

I still have scars from a wreck on my bike as a kid. I put ropes on the handlebars to make reins. Needless to say, I couldn't steer.