In my antics last fall riding with the cowboys, I have collected some more “Most Embarrassing Moments”. (More will be revealed later) However, none can top the original …….. yet. This was originally posted as a guest post for my friend Suzanne aka “Fairchild Farmgirl” . It is the benchmark by which all others will be compared:
“I have a plethora of material to choose from. Twenty odd years worth of “Oops!” for this clumsy cowgirl. However, one moment is still so excruciating my cheeks flush red as I remember…..
I was in my early 30‘s then, my 50’s now. 20 years cannot dim the humiliation (or the humor). I was living in the mountains of Eastern Utah. I had fallen in love with the West (in general) and Cowboys (in particular). I was fairly new to riding horses and a pure neophyte with cattle and ranch work. I loved it so much. An old cowboy named Ray sort of adopted me as a “project” after a bad riding accident. He said “Terah, you need to learn how to ride and you can’t do it in the arena. You need to go to the mountain with us”. (and you need a better horse). To picture Ray, think Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove. Same age. Same mannerisms. Total Cowboy. Total gentle-man.
Ray had a summer grazing permit for his cattle in the Uintah Mountains. I helped him when they turned out in the spring and when they gathered in the fall. We would spend days and days in the saddle. This particular day we were on a summer roundup, moving cattle from one big Forrest Service allotment to another. The mountain scenery is rugged and breathtaking. I was in awe because of getting to ride with real cowboys. I was also very self-conscious. I wanted to look like a pro. Watching closely, I schooled myself to do whatever they did. They were my idols. Cowboys are by nature very quiet and polite. We had been gathering cattle all morning and just finished putting the herd through a gate. We stopped for a break before riding back several miles to the trucks. The cowboys got off their horses, so I got off mine. 4 or 5 cowboys were standing in a loose circle talking. I stood a few yards away holding my horse. Waiting. I started to get a little nervous and self-conscious standing there doing nothing. For some reason I decided to get back on my horse even though no one else had saddled back up yet. I suppose I wanted to be ready.
I was wearing my cowboy gear. Cowboy hat, long sleeve shirt, jeans, boots, spurs, “shotgun” chaps. “Shotguns” are a style of chaps where the leather goes all the way down to your ankles like pants. (Bikers wear them too) These had 6 straps with little buckles to hold them on to my leg starting at the hip ending above the ankle. (Very important visual reference for later).
The rest of this story takes place over a brief 2 ½ seconds. Here is the freeze frame version;
The Cowboys are standing in a circle talking quietly about 10 yards away. I’m standing to my horses left side. Cowboys are to his right. I’m fidgeting. I grab the reins and the saddle horn with my left hand. I put my left foot up in the stirrup. I take a springy boost off the ground. I pull myself up on the saddle. Swing my right leg over his back with too much gusto. My right spur hooked the bottom left buckle of my chaps, which is attached to my left leg, which is attached to my left foot, which is still in my left stirrup, which has all my weight in it. My right leg gathers too much momentum from my rocket booster jump. The spur will not release the buckle. My feet are essentially bound together at the ankles. The centrifugal force of my (now attached) right leg jerks my left foot out of the stirrup, propelling both legs (bound together) up and over my horses rump. For a second my torso is balancing on the saddle like a car teetering precariously over a cliff. My left hand still has a hold of the saddle horn. My head is pointed straight down over the horse’s front cinch. I was hanging there, upside down, on the right side of my horse, with my feet up in the air like a trick rider.
There was only one thing to do…….. Let go.
I dropped like a sack of spuds at his feet. THUNK! My horse never flinched.
The cowboys stop talking. In unison, all heads turn to look over at me. Expressionless. In unison, all heads turn back to each other and they resume their conversation. Like nothing happened. No one says one word about it. Cowboys…… quiet and polite they are.
Luckily the strap broke when I fell and I was able to stand up on my own.
25 years later. I still have those chaps. I never fixed the strap. Just in case.
Happy Trails Everyone!
Cowgirl Red aka Terah aka Calamity Jane
P.S. You might thing it more polite for them to jump over and help me up. Mercifully, they must have felt my humiliation and acted like it never happened. Ray and I remained close friends until his death last year. Loved that old cowboy.