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Going Riding [August, 1985]
The pictures stare out of the old album; a fat little kid sitting on a burro, squinting into the sun. I can clearly remember when my father took those pictures, crouched over the box brownie, shading the ground glass lens and pulling the long lever, hearing the loud click of the shutter.
Now I am a fat old kid, but every time I pass the old Parks place I am reminded of Miz Parks and the burros I badgered my parents about riding.
The saddles didn't fit a little kid. They were old army saddles with the split in the middle. I was too small to actually ride anywhere by myself, so I had to wait for a group of children to form so we could be led for an hour through and around Allenspark.
Miz Parks sold worms, too. They were kept in the shade in a big washtub, and my father would buy them--I think they were a penny each--for his fishing forays on Roaring Fork, which isn't a fork and only roars about two weeks a year.
I didn't care much for worms, being a city kid. The closest I usually got to worms was seeing them in the beak of a robin. Now Miz Parks dredged her large hands through the dark, moist dirt, plucking the long, squirming worms out and counted them aloud. I counted along with her. We took our time.
Miz Parks, it seemed to me, always seemed to have plenty of time. More than we did. She was, to put it kindly, a very large woman. Her size and her disposition seemed to combine to create a sense of going through life in slow motion. Surrounded by jumping, squealing kids, excited about a burro ride, she was a huge island of calm.
After World War II I was too big to ride the burros and I rented horses at the Meeker Park stable in the days when it was down at the junction of Cabin Creek Road and Highway 7. For several years I always tried to rent the biggest horse they had, named Star, because he had a white star on his forehead. I almost always rented him for a whole day and around 3:00 PM Star knew it was time to go home, and I was generally no match for him. One time I left him tied up too loosely and at 3:00 he just went back to the stable by himself. I'd like to find a rental car I could do that with.
These days I sit on the porch and watch the Cheley Campers ride along Big Owl Road and I think back to those days, but I don't miss the riding very much. Like a great many things, it's mostly a young person's activity. I often thought, when I was their age, that I'd like to have a horse of my own here, but in many ways I'm glad I have instead the memories of Miz Parks and the burros and Star.
The black pages of the photo album are stained and faded, like the pictures themselves, and many of the little black corners are gone, but the memories are as fresh as the air on Big Owl after a summer rain.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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