We were traveling in Ireland, attempting to find our roots. We were shown a crumbling section of wall, the only remnant of the once-mighty Carroll castle. In the ninth century, we pretty much ran the joint.
Then the evil O'Somethings took over. Oh, it was a sad time.
After three minutes of communing with our ancestors, we drove on to the prestigious riding academy. We were given fine, large, high-spirited horses. My horse was red, with a wild eye. I had to mount him by standing on a fence.
Tracy and Shana mounted their horses the regular way. I had to use the Dopey American Mounting Device. Already I had self-esteem issues. Your stout writers do not, in general, make the best horse-men. They do not look convincing in the saddle.
Off we went! Oh, what fun! Shana and Tracy were laughing with their heads thrown back. They were at one with their animals. I was at two with my animal.
The countryside was lush, damp and green and filled with trees with low limbs. We trotted along a roadway, and I tried to post. I can post for about 17 seconds before my body becomes confused. Then I just bounce along and pray for the horse to die.
Suddenly, more excitement! The horses veered off the roadway and started climbing a muddy hill. "Whoopee," yelled Tracy "Ha ha HA!" whooped Shana "Lean forward, " said the O'wrangler to me.
Then he said: "Don't grab the mane!"
I knew that was wrong. On the other hand, the horse seemed to swerve so that every branch hit me in the face. It knew, and I knew that it knew, and it knew that I knew that it knew, but it didn't care.
So I grabbed the useful mane. If I was going down, I was taking a handful of hair with me.
The ride lasted nine days. Empires rose and fell as we plunged through the shrubbery. Finally, we came into an open meadow and slowed down. I was breathing shallowly.
Tracy and Shana looked deeply satisfied. There's a thing with women and horses; I know that. I've read the advanced text books. The flush to the cheeks, the maidenly downcast eyes, the non-stop grinning; I know what that's about.
"Isn't this great?" said Tracy.
'It seems to be over, at least," I said.
We looked across the meadow to a lake and beyond that, yet another castle. The air was crisp and sweet with the scent of new grass. My horse, suddenly quiet, ambled down the hill to the lake. I began to feel almost peaceful.
"Don't let him go in the lake!" screamed the O'wrangler. I tried to urge my horse to stop, but it went implacably on. I pulled on the reins. I said, "Whoa there, big fella." Nothing. In we went. I felt my feet get wet.
I thought: Gee, this isn't so bad. It's sort of peaceful. The horse is thigh-deep in mud-it's not going to gallop anywhere. I really hate galloping.
"He's going to roll over!" screamed the O'wrangler "He loves to roll in the mud."
I found sudden courage. Using language taught to me by members of the Teamsters Union and a strength provided by fear of dying, I managed to kick the horse landward. The others were waiting for me on the shore.
Only a few of them laughed. My daughter stared at the far horizon, a corner of her mouth twitching. My wife said, "Isn't that castle pretty?" with the air of someone distracting a collie with a squeeze toy. I experienced some more self-esteem issues.