Petunia as Pegasus in the Rockies
Updated: Feb 16
When I was young, I had the lucky chance to meet COL Jones on the corner of Venice Boulevard in Oklahoma City. He wore a cowboy hat, chaps, cowboy boots, and spurs. He was practicing twirling his lasso. The circle in his rope went round and round until he let it fall almost to the ground. Before that point where it would cease spinning, he added some force, and the ring went up above his head, never touching his hat. He jumped inside the expanding loop and made the rope go up and down, up and down. It was magic, I thought, but then he saw my brother and me and showed us the reality of how to twirl the lasso. We did not do it well, but I did get it to go round and round in place a few times. He told us about the dude ranch he owned and ran in the Jemez mountain range of New Mexico.
My brother and I were excited about the place, and we found ourselves on a bus from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque, New Mexico, that summer. We went to the ranch for five summers, learned how to ride horses, explore mines (abandoned), a ghost town, logging camps, and wandered inside caves once inhabited by Indians. We walked many miles on trails used by animals and the early settlers of Pine, an abandoned town where the ranch was.
There are lots of tales and stories for sure. One I will tell you now is about a horse named Petunia. She came to me in a dream last night to remind me of our meeting. She had a reputation for biting and being mean at times. She was a Pinto with brown patches, and she looked great.
One evening I walked far down the road from Tent Rock. I sometimes took walks at twilight to explore the valley when the campers were getting ready for bed. I would time the trail so that I would arrive back at their bedtime, and the sun's rays died behind the mountain tops.
That evening, I walked too far, and a rainstorm popped up as if it had been waiting for the sun to make its exit. I was a good mile or two away from the ranch when night fell. I kept walking, but there were no lights back in the valley, except for the moon, and she had not come out, and if she did, the clouds blocked her glow. I heard the cry of the wild cat that came by at times. The raindrops fell, and I was getting wet, although not too much yet. My concern was that I could not always see the ground and I imagined the wild cat was maybe a mountain lion.
That was when Petunia trotted up to me out of nowhere. We let the horses roam the valley at night, and then rounded them up in the early morning before breakfast. I was glad to see her but wondered if she would let me ride her. She looked at me through her bangs and stood still as if to say, "Well, get on, lost boy."
I grabbed her mane and swung my legs onto her back. I had no bit or saddle, of course, and I worried if I could manage to guide Petunia back to the ranch, but she knew where it was. She was small, but to me she was Pegasus ready to give me a fantastic flight. So, we took off and trotted along. The rain grew in intensity, and I urged her to hurry. She broke into a gallop. The ride was smooth and rhythmic. In a few minutes, I saw the lanterns in the tepees in which we slept. At that moment when the two of us arrived, the rain drenched us, and the thunder and lightning broke loose. She took me to my tepee, and I dismounted. I gave her a big hug, and she reared away from me. I saw her eye again. It was wide open as if she was excited. Maybe she was thinking I should be more careful, maybe she was just glad to get me off her back.
She calmly walked away, and I went inside just as a lightning bolt hit the ground, or maybe a Ponderosa pine somewhere close in the valley.
I started to tell my campers what had happened, but they were arguing about something trivial. I changed my clothes and went to bed listening to rain against the canvas.
I made sure I got back to the ranch before the sun went down from then on.
To this day, I remember the wonder, the gait, and the feeling of being one with that horse, Petunia.