Maybe I shouldn’t have identified myself as an English teacher.
I’m referring to our guides on the Pecos trip. First, they tell me my horse is the one they put six-year-olds on. Then, I’m told I can’t adjust the stirrups or tighten the cinch myself. Finally, I’m asked to stand on a stump to mount.
All in the first five minutes.
Give me a break. I’m no cowboy. Never claimed to be. I don’t rope, don’t climb on bucking broncs (intentionally, that is) and don’t look good in a Stetson.
But–trip name not withstanding—I’m no city slicker.
The teenage me would have done something really stupid. Like spurring the horse to a gallop and attempting some impressive turns and stops. If I had, pretty sure I would have either fallen off the horse or got kicked off the ride.
So the older me decided to just go with it and try to gain some respect along the way. And maybe give some as well.
After all, I’m thinking, the guides probably had an English teacher who looked at their boots and jeans and said “climb on the stump” (i.e. “we’ll start simple since you obviously can’t read or write”).
So I did what I do with my students. Looked for opportunities to draw them out and appreciate their accomplishments. Wasn’t hard. Huie, the head guide, graduated from New Mexico State with an agricultural science degree. His conversations about cloning and such convinced me this cowboy could be a successful professor. He has the mind for it (I told him as much).
And Emily, Huie’s niece, once was competitive jumping horses. Plus she uses the off-season to train to be a nurse.
Not sure if they changed their view of me.
But there was the day we rode six miles to Truchas Lakes. While the others rested, I climbed Truchas Peak (second highest in New Mexico). Did the 1500’ ascent in about 45 minutes.
“Hey English teacher,” said Huie, late that afternoon when we had unsaddled and were walking back to camp. “How do you feel?”
“Tired and hungry; what’s for dinner?”
His grin said it all.