So I wrote the framework for this essay about year ago. I started to turn it into my college essay, but went in a different direction. Then my history teacher was like "write about a childhood experience that taught you a lot about yourself." And I was like "hey! I've been writing about that for like two months" So here is the resurrected and expanded upon Don't Let Your Luck Spill Out:
The mountains belong to my father. Not all of them, of course. Just a piece. Twelve acres to be exact. He owns twelve acres of the Uintah Mountains. My father has made his twelve acres a classroom where he can instruct me on everything he finds pertinent. He taught me to hike, fish, do the dishes by hand, play in the mud, ride an ATV, crash an ATV, hitch up a trailer, mend a fence, divert a stream, start a campfire, look at the stars, find wild raspberries, tell a mint plant from stinging nettle, appreciate the beauty of a rare evening Primrose or elegant Columbine, keep my eyes perpetually on the lookout for a deer or moose or badger or fox, but best of all, he taught me to ride a horse.
When I was just a toddler my father would put me in front of him on the saddle so we could go for short rides down the drive way and back. He waited patiently for me to grow up enough to sit on my own horse. Soon enough we were going on “real rides”. He would always ride in front, holding protectively to my horse’s lead rope. His grasp on the lead rope loosened over time and I started to ride the horse on my own, following tentatively behind him. My bravery grew almost as fast as I did and soon I began to ride in front, eventually leaving him behind as my much younger horse, Tinker, outpaced his arthritic one.
I rode on my own for the first time the summer I turned twelve. I promised to wear my helmet, not to gallop and took off for my glorious ten minutes up and down the dirt road. I was acutely aware that my father was watching me out the kitchen window, but I felt invincible and ignored his warning to keep Tinker at a walking pace. My father chided me as I galloped up the driveway. I was stubborn, insisting I was fine to go as fast as I wanted and accused him of being overprotective.
I regretted my stubbornness a week later when I went for my second ride. This time I was going up a different dirt road; a longer one with rocks and hills. I put on my helmet and took off, commencing the gallop as soon as I was out of sight. The first half of my ride went well, but as soon as the house came into sight, Tinker took off. I went toppling off the saddle as we came galloping up the driveway. My father was there, without criticism or I told you so, to help me up and give me a boost back on. He gave me the confidence I needed to go for a third and fourth and fifth ride until riding a horse became second nature to the little girl who sat in front of her dad on the horse.
I loved the freedom that I felt from being able to ride a horse; I’ve always craved the next step towards independence. It meant a lot to me that I was now capable of saying goodbye to my parents, saddling the horse myself, and going into my own world. Hours were spent going up to rockslides and meadows, over peaks, across rivers and traversing the Dimple Dell gully. Often, I’d urge Tinker into a gallop and come falling off when he started to go really fast; race pace. But I always managed to track Tinker down, fix the saddle, summon up what courage I had left (it helped that I had to get home) and get back on. It took me a few tumbles to learn that I was responsible for my own safety, but eventually, I started to think twice before galloping. I learned that independence runs its own risk. As the boundaries were pushed further back, I had to learn how hard I could push them without hurting myself. Though my father once told me when it was safe to gallop, I now had the freedom to decide for myself, and the responsibility to face the consequences if I was wrong.
My father taught me how to feed a horse by hand. He taught me to spread my hand flat, palm up. I had to learn to fight back the instinct to curl my fingers. My father taught me to hold my hand out to the horse, offering the treat but not forcing it upon him, because the horse had to be allowed to choose. I learned that gentleness, though difficult, is a quality more valuable than assertiveness. For if I was gentle, the horse would reach out and softly but quickly eat off my palm using only his lips. My father taught me how a horse’s nuzzle feels like velvet. He taught me how their whiskers tickle. He taught me how comforting the warm puff of air that comes out of their nose can be. He taught me and I, in turn, taught others.
By the time I was thirteen, I had outgrown “the little saddle”. My father and I determined it was time I got my own. We took a trip to A.A. Callister’s where I eyed a barrel-racing saddle with a pink Ostrich skin seat. Knowing it would not be the most comfortable, and being a cowboy too proud to buy a pink saddle, my father pointed out another saddle to me. It wasn’t meant for speed or agility as one raced around barrels or chased down cows; it was built for long trail rides. One could sit in the deeply padded seat for hours, it was light so the horse wouldn’t be too burdened, and the deep mahogany leather was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. This saddle was perfect, and within a few minutes, it was to be mine.
On our way out of the store, I paused to look at the Cowboy hats. A cowboy hat wouldn’t be useful to me; I always wear a helmet. Nevertheless, I wanted to be a grown up, like my father who always wore a hat on the horse. I mentioned that I liked one to my father and got the reply, “nice try kid. We’re buying you a saddle and that’s all you get for your birthday and Christmas for the next four years.”
A few weeks later it was my birthday. My saddle was, of course, wrapped when I came upstairs. I unwrapped it and was quite surprised to see a hat sitting on the saddle horn. My father explained that he had gone back to the store later because he wanted me to have at least one surprise on my birthday. It meant a lot to me because he was willing to buy something for me, though he knew I wouldn’t use it, simply because he knew it would make me happy. He taught me in that moment that I can’t do solely what I think will be best or make the most sense for others. I have to be willing to listen to them and take their voices into account.
My hat was worn to a few rodeos and on a few short rides, but for the most part, it sits in my father’s closet where you can see a large boutique’s worth of slacks and monogrammed dress shirts. There are exactly twelve white shirts and a wall full of leather dress shoes. But if you look past that, you can also spot three cowboy hats lined up in a row. Brim in the air so the “luck doesn’t fall out”. A closer look will reveal the overuse of the first one. Gray and worn, not quite holding it’s shape, “shapeless and bulged because it had served for a while all the various purposes of a cap” (The Grapes of Wrath). This hat belonged to my father’s father, who rode on a silver saddle. The next one is straw. It smells like human and horse sweat. That is my father’s, worn in reining competitions. On the last hat you will notice brown rhinestones. That one is mine. The surprise that meant the world to me. If you are perceptive enough, you’ll notice that it has less luck then the rest. It was put it down brim first by a careless teenage girl who unwittingly spilled her luck out. Her father quickly turned it the correct way. He taught her to save her luck, because there would inevitably come a time when she would need it.