The Day I Was A Hero

Jerry Martin

© Copyright 2002 by Jerry Martin

The setting is in the late fifties in West Houston, where a old 
Kiddie-land park that used to be on the corner of Bunkerhill 
and Katy Freeway was. A typical day in the lives of the 
teenagers of that era.

Photo of a metal of the sort awarded for valor.
When I was around sixteen years old, in the later fifties, a group of my peers and I were doing some serious loafing one balmy summer day trying to figure out what to do to amuse ourselves. Money for us was scarce and ways of earning it was even more spotty. During these times kid jobs were far and in between. The ones who were fortunate to have one, held on to them with a tight grip.

We usually went to the local Kiddie-land park that was located out Highway 10 and Bunker Hill, West of Houston, hoping they would have a good turn out so we could earn a little spending money and little it was. We were fortunate to get a few hours in running the kiddie rides and if they had several birthday parties, we might get assigned to be in charge of one which meant several hours more duty and perhaps a nice tip. While we waiting up rode a pretty young girl we knew who was a bit tom-boyish and horse crazy.

She could ride horses very good and bare-back at that. This girl kind of liked me and gave us a demonstration of her riding skills and she was very good. She was riding a very spirited, young, mare who loved to run. The horse was well taken care of, shiny and pranced around wanting her master to get back on and "let's go."

Of course, after watching her go through her obvious skills of controlling her horse and making it do everything except read a book I was starting to think that I can't this wee snip of a girl show me up. So not wanting to be outdone, I chirped:"you ought to see me do that." (Not revealing that my horse riding experience consisted of riding a few foot dragging old plugs rented at a riding stable.) OK she said, dismounting, HERE!! she grinned, handing me the reins. Well I gurgled to myself, "Jerry you done shot off your mouth again." The fat was in the fire and all my boys and the girl was eyeing me to see if I was going to weasel out of the situation I got myself into.

I couldn't lose face. So I jumped on the LIVELY bareback horse and "KABAM" that insane animal was off like it had been hit with a bolt of lighting and I was fortunate to barely have hold of the reins with one hand and holding on for dear life with the other hand on it's mane. The horse really didn't give me time to get myself settled so I was bobbling on it's back, desperately trying to find a niche on it's back where I could clamp down with my butt muscles which were snapping wildly at anything they could grasp onto.

It was a stroke of luck that I was in a cleared pasture with nothing in the way but ground and the freeway. FREEWAY?? Great Scott!! and it was coming up fast. I tried desperately to turn the horse, but it just picked up more speed and was like a rocket to me. That left the ground to contend with. OH LORD, take my spirit because I'm going to die, I thought.

Another hard yank to the left on the bridle and the horse abruptly started a tight turn and off her side I slid. I looked down and saw that ground coming up, the flashing hooves, frothing mouth, with my head inches from being battered to a pulp and knew I was going to be a grease spot. I was almost under the horse still hanging on with one hand and one foot. To make matters worse, I was being pelted with huge gobs of horse slobber and dirt clods. Now everyone is going to find my dirty corpse riddled with dirt clods and horse slobber. UGH! I gagged at the prospect.

It seemed the steed was going about 259 miles an hour. The wind whistling by my ears was deafening and I hoped no one could hear my sobs of terror. With all my might I pulled myself back up straight, trying to lock my legs around the horse who never missed a gallop and frantically headed the killer of young men, monster animal back to the crowd of CHEERING admirers. I returned and from the group of friends that I had just left, they all were hollering, jumping up and down and applauding with much excitement. I looked behind me to see what they were all excited about and saw nothing to get in a tither about. Could this be for me I pondered?

I nonchalantly slid off the horse probably as white as a ghost and wobbly-kneed trying to look cool, calm, collected and not whimper. Many back slaps and "man we didn't know you knew how to trick ride" and a admiring smile and eye fluttering from the young lady. Well seeing the chance to play this scenario to the hilt and get a few "cool" points in. I just had to say through chattering teeth: "Aw shucks," you should have seen me ride when I was younger. I was carefully peeping out the corner of my eyes trying to look for any kind of "fraud" reaction but observed only the admiration and smiles from my bluffed unsuspecting audience.

Then came a few "we sure would like to see you do it again" hints. I shuttered and quickly squeaked out of the increasing situation by saying: "well the horse did slip a little" and to the beaming little girl I advise her to take her horse home and let her Daddy check out the shoes so they didn't fall and hurt themselves. So with a big hug from her, thanking me for my "expert" advise, she mounted her horse and trotted away. Gawd! I thought to myself, when I finish growing up I will probably make millions bluffing at poker games. I congregated myself at my cleverness.

That day I was a hero.

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