City Slicker

My sister, Cyndi, texted me today: “Still gonna go on a cattle drive with me someday in Montana?” Well, first of all, I don’t remember ever agreeing to that, so “still gonna?” seems to be an optimistic misstatement. But, regardless, I impulsively if somewhat sarcastically answered “Sure!” (Okay, now if you are reading this and know me well, raise your hands if you can picture me doing this. Nope, I don’t see any hands.)

Whoa, Nellie! The more I pondered, the more curious I became. So, I called her. She excitedly starting talking and I vaguely recall hearing riding horses, big skies, cowboy hats, camping out, and real cattle. To which, I asked, where do we put on makeup and is there an extension cord long enough for my hairdryer?

I have ridden a horse exactly twice in my life. If by “riding”, you mean both times on a plodding old geezer which is one breath away from the glue factory in a single file line behind a trail guide in Cades Cove then yes, I have ridden a horse.  I have an impressive and commanding presence on horseback. Except for the time the horse wanted to drink from the stream and would not respond to my giddy-up.

But, the real concern with this adventure is my propensity for mishaps. Let’s review: exploratory arthroscopic knee surgery after a friendly game of tennis with Dad; a broken tailbone–twice–first while ice skating and then again after lightly jumping off a countertop; a broken thumb while playing volleyball; a broken wrist from being unable to walk and talk simultaneously; a sprained wrist from another fall; a broken toe when the car door shut on it; recent rotator cuff and acromioclavicular surgery from unspecified trauma, and a likely mild concussion during a flag-football game for my law school intramural team, The Tortfeasors. As if I could fease a tort upon anyone, other than myself!

But, hope springs eternal. I am open to new experiences. Two weekends ago, I had the chance to kayak in Morgan Creek and the connecting estuaries off Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Two friends and I enthusiastically set off behind the guide, each in our own bright yellow kayak. The kayak had foot pedals to steer the rudder and a large double blade paddle.

We had a great time and I took great pride in not capsizing. (I listened very carefully to the “keep your head aligned with the center of the boat” instructions because I greatly feared turning over in water inhabited by sea creatures that might see me as a snack.) Really, it was three of the most interesting hours I have ever spent.

But, as we paddled back to the dock, the Intercoastal Waterway had become crowded with mid-day traffic from yachts, jet skis, and parasailing boats. We had to wait for a clearance, then paddle across the waterway to the far side of the channel and then paddle single file under and in between the various docks and posts all the way up the waterway. This kept us safely out of the boating traffic. But, it made our paddle work more challenging and exacting. The assorted docks of varying lengths and placement along the shore created a slalom for us to navigate.

And, since this was the end of our journey, I was tired. More tired than I realized. I was last in line. As I approached a narrow opening between two posts, my brain thought “Right! Go right!”. But, my arms paddled and feet steered the kayak left. Too far left. WHAM! The pointy bow of the kayak rammed the dock post dead-center. My kayak came to an utter and complete standstill, perhaps because I just embedded it into the post. The jolt snapped my head back and forth, much like boating whiplash. I fervently hoped that the group ahead had not heard that sound. I was last and they were pretty far ahead, so if I could just back paddle, get realigned and move forward, who would be the wiser?

No, they heard it. The guide swiveled his head back toward me, and like dominos my friends turned their heads in sequence toward me. I waved sheepishly. “No problem!” I called out jauntily. I prayed, oh, please don’t let them watch me get repositioned.

Yes, herding cattle on horseback seems like a great idea. Think I’ll go watch City Slicker I and II. What could possibly go wrong?

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