Thursday, June 25, 2015
I have ridden many horses in my life; never once voluntarily and almost always with a, let’s just say, interesting result. One horse in particular factored into two episodes forever burned in my memory, pushing home the reality that I was, for all practical purposes, the East Texas equivalent of Dill from To Kill A Mockingbird.
Throughout my childhood, I was included in all manner of things based solely on the belief that my inherent testosterone would push me, like any other good ol’ boy, toward activities both death-defying and ill-conceived. Case in point, sometime in what had to have been 1983, it was determined that we would ride in the Grand Entry of the Bogata, TX Rodeo.
For those of you who don’t know, the Grand Entry is an opportunity for those who own horses and cowboy finery to non-competitively ride around the rodeo arena while smiling and waving to those who paid for said horses and finery. The steed selected to ferry me about was named Ginger and I sat gingerly atop her pretending I wasn’t scared or planning an escape. Truthfully, the only thing stopping me from fleeing was a fear of heights. What? You get on a horse when you’re 4 foot nothing and you tell me how far you think it is to the ground.
I sat atop this mare, swathed in ill-fitting attire, resigned to my fate, aglow with perspiration, looking like an overgrown Gerber baby in a cowboy hat and vest, waiting for the start of this procession toward what I assumed would be death by trampling.
An upside for someone bereft of the instincts to control an animal is horses are communal by nature and will travel in herds given the opportunity. I found no major issues simply sitting in place, demonstrating how to wave with my eyes as I was not about to take either hand off the saddle horn, gripping it as tightly as the frog does the stork’s neck in the “Never Give Up” cartoon. And we made it around the one allotted loop with no issues and I was home free or so I thought.
When we approached the exit, Ginger, preening starlet that she was, decided to turn and follow the horses that were just entering the arena. And so we made a second sweep in front of the crowd, then a third. Finally, by the fourth go-round, someone had apparently notified the people that you notify in these types of situations and the esteemed Rodeo Queen, Darlene Brooks, wearing a white hat and tiara, appeared at my side, took the reins and led us out of the arena, to the cheers of the crowd. It could have been laughter. They sound the same, don’t they?
And I was hoping any further equine events would fade into the background. But as is the case in mi familia, I was to be disappointed. Whether the purpose of this exercise was the pursuit of fun or the outcome of heat-induced insanity, I was again riding astride the preening Ginger. “Getting back up on the horse” is something my people seem to do with ease; me not so much. However, I thought this could be a good thing as during my first encounter with Ginger, we had simply pranced in a circle. This I could handle. And we were moseying along just fine when something happened. I later learned the cinch had broken and the belt began to slap her stomach. Well she took to running full tilt, y’all, and I didn’t know what to do except panic full tilt.
Suddenly she stopped running and began to buck like the University of Wyoming mascot (look it up) causing me to grip the saddle as I was determined to stay astride my mount, like a proper cowboy. Full disclosure, I had done a quick cost benefit analysis and believed the possibility of flying with the saddle seemed a better option than almost certain death via trampling.
And I proceeded to let loose a scream so loud and piercing and long that the neighbors for several miles thought it was a test of the emergency broadcast system. After what seemed like an hour (but was probably 10 seconds), I and the saddle flew over her head and landed with a resounding thud on the parched, cracked ground. My emergency broadcast scream transitioned immediately into silence as all the breath had been knocked out of my Ocean Pacific-clad lungs.
The response from my Uncle Ronald was, “Woah, Dusty, I think you rode her for more’n 8 seconds! We shoulda put you in the rodeo!”
I’ve been a cowboy from way back, y’all. And that’s all I’m saying for now.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Recently I have been asked by a number of people what I think about Caitlyn Jenner. My response is "I don’t know" and I’m not being flip. She is a new character in the zeitgeist and I'll reserve judgment about her life choices as I am trying to be supportive of the T in the LGBT continuum. But there are other choices with which I have concern. Throughout this whole transition, I think people are missing something extremely important; Caitlyn may have felt like a woman for many years but I can assure you she did not feel like a ‘Caitlyn’. Women from her era (she was born in 1949) were typically named Linda, Mary, Patricia, Barbara or Susan. In some parts of the country they may have been named Eunice, Ethel, Agnes and even Thelma Lou, if you lived in Mayberry. What they wouldn’t have been named is Caitlyn.
The moniker with which you are foisted upon the world has a lot to do with how the world responds to you. There have been many articles of late discussing those with more ‘American’ names receiving a more positive response on job applications and resumes. It is sad, but it is true. It is also a wake-up call for those parents who want to name their children something like McClavity, Apple or D’@ngel*que. At least Apple will have ‘Speed of Sound’ money to fall back on if she can’t get a job working for her mother at Goop, if this is in fact a real website and I haven’t mistaken one of The Onion’s satirical essays as a news report.
There has been much discussion of whether or not Caitlyn is brave and I agree being your authentic self is brave if indeed who you are is not the average person’s cup of tea. And you may disagree. But I don’t think anyone can argue it is an extreme act of bravery for a 65 year-old woman, who is not Helen Mirren, to appear on the cover of a national magazine in what can only be described as a lycra onesie. And let’s not forget about the hairstyle she chose. What’s brave is selecting a “reality-show-opening-credits-montage” hairstyle for your cover model debut. I can assure you the G in the LGBT acronym have been discussing this at length.
I suppose it is appropriate as she will now star in a reality show which is a spin-off of another reality show which is the spin-off of a sex tape which was (and let’s be honest) a spin-off of the OJ Simpson murder trial, and possibly “Moesha”, being that Ray J is Brandy’s brother. And we shouldn’t be surprised America has rallied around someone who is desperately clinging to the periphery of our attention span, which is exuberantly ill-informed, inconsistently forgiving and sticky with a mixture of melted Popsicle and nacho cheese.
Is it really brave to face the world from a position of wealth and material comfort? I wonder how brave Caitlyn would have been if she had to go to work at Carl’s Jr., or serve as the nursing supervisor at an assisted living facility or work in a bank? Is it brave when you are lauded for being you and awarded financially for your transition? Most trans people, from what I understand, just want to be themselves and blend into the vibrant fabric of this country. It doesn’t mean that we can’t applaud her for helping the national conversation about a topic both uncomfortable and timely.
I am not someone who is interested in knowing the ins-and-outs of Caitlyn’s life and I will certainly not watch her new show. I will also not remember her name is Caitlyn because she does not look like a Caitlyn. Maybe I would remember it if she changed her name to Marilyn or Olivia or Lauren or even Priscilla.
And that’s all I’m saying for now.