Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ghost riders in the sky

Hello everyone!

First of all, let me just say that my heart goes out to all of you who are living through this sweltering summer! The temperature in Denver seems to rarely be under 100 lately, but they don't even know the meaning of hot since the humidity is like 20%. Those of you in the Midwest could teach the people out here a thing or two about hot!!

Up here in the mountains, it doesn't usually go above 80 and the humidity is non-existent. This is in the shade, mind you. One time they put our thermometer in the sun for awhile and it went up to 114, due to the ferocious sun at this altitude.

We sit here all day with screenless windows wide open, and all doors propped open. So, naturally, flies are all over the place, and they seem to prefer the windowsill right by me to die on. It's not unusual to have squinnies running in and out of here just to say hi. The barn cat likes to poke his head in the door to let us know that he's ready to get his back scratched. The hummingbirds come within a foot or so of the window, but we have yet to have a bird fly into the office.

Anyway, the big news this week is that I went riding for the first time!! You'll recall (I'm sure) that I had planned to do all sorts of cool things on my day off (i.e. fishing, skeet shooting), but I couldn't do shooting because one set of guests used up all the clays (or whatever they're called), and then a high-strung group of 10 youngsters signed up for fishing (and they only have like 8 poles). So, I was left with only horseback riding, but let me tell you--I didn't have much energy left after that to do much of anything else!

I went down to the barn at 9:30 and had to wait around awhile for the Breakfast Ride to get back, which only gave me more time to develop my nervousness. I kept picturing myself trying to throw a leg over the horse 20 times and never being able to reach, or getting up enough energy to swing my leg over and then immediately falling out the other side of the saddle...and various other "I Love Lucy" scenarios.

However, once the ride got back, the head wrangler, Randy, gave me the official horse orientation. This consisted of how to make the horse go left, right, backwards, and stop, plus how to sit when you're going uphill, how to sit when you're going downhill, and a basic word of advice to not fall the fuck off the horse.

Then, I was immediately led to the "loading dock" where the really inept riders get to stand on a platform that's about level with the stirrups on the horse. There was a squished, dead baby bird on one of the steps up to this thing, which I took as a bad omen for the day. When I said, "What the HELL is THAT?!" one of the wranglers kicked it out of the way and said, "Um, nothin'!" Sighing heavily and realizing that I would now return from this ride either crippled or not at all, I stepped up to the horse and accepted my fate.

Fortunately, I was able to swing my leg over in one try and all of a sudden I was sitting on an ENORMOUS MOVING HORSE!!! This seems a trifle obvious, but it was really a bit of a shock to the system. I had gone from being in control of myself and my movements, to being totally at the whim of this huge beast. He had been on the Breakfast Ride for a couple hours, so I'm sure that he wasn't exactly keen to be saddled up with the fattest chick on the ranch for another couple hours. Consequently, he seemed a bit pissed off as soon as I sat down and was trying to walk away from the "dock" as quickly as possible. Eventually, I found myself facing the fence, in the corner, unable to make the damn thing turn around and face the right direction. I was off to a roaring start.

Now, I was under the impression that since I was a total beginner that my first ride on a horse would consist of being led around the pavillion and maybe learning the movement commands better. Much to my surprise, not 5 minutes after I got on the horse, I found myself being led up into the mountains on a trail ride!! Holy shit!

First, we had to go downhill to get to the start of the trail. Despite imitating the posture Randy had demonstrated for me, this was a very scary sensation. There were only 4 of us on this ride. A wrangler, Dusty, in front, then me, then a kid, Margaret, then Cole, another wrangler. (Both of the wranglers are from Texas, so naturally I can hardly understand them half the time. Trying to decipher their "Texan" did help distract me from my nerves, though...) So, as we're going downhill, I was, admittedly, having more than a bit of a freak-out session. Dusty just said, "Shannon, you're gettin' too tense! I can FEEL the tenseness! The horse can feel the tenseness! You jus' need to RELAX!" I'm sure he wanted to tell me to put a sock in it, but the men around here are generally very gentlemen-like, so he refrained.

Anyway, so I made it through the downhill, and then it was right onto a path into the woods that went STRAIGHT UP. Another freak-out session, which I tried to keep as mostly internal monologue, to spare the other riders. :-) The thing about these paths that made it so scary to me was that they were only like a foot wide in quite a few places, which is generally more than enough room for the horse. But, if the horse had gone 6 inches to the left, we would have been rolling down a huge hill! Of course, as Dusty pointed out to me later in the ride, the horse doesn't want to roll down the hill any more than I do, so he's probably going to stay on the path.

Well, my horse, Brewster, was slightly more interested in eating the wildflowers along the path than he was in staying on it. I kept having to pull back on the reigns and say, "NO BREWSTER!" He was freaking me out! But, I couldn't help feeling sorry for him. Poor guy. Every time we climbed up a hill, I could hear him panting and struggling to make it up, which I can imagine was due in no small part to the load he was bearing. I would occasionally pat his neck and say, "It's going to be OK Brewster, we're almost done!" :-)

Suffice to say, I made it back to the Ranch in one piece, but my legs (where they join to your body) were pretty sore. So, after lunch I decided to try out the hot tub and heated pool for the first time. It was nice, but I would call it more of a Warm Tub than a hot one. They need to up the temp on that, for sure. So, I ended up going back home and running a scalding hot bath that I soaked in for an hour. I felt much better, despite being sore as shit the next day. But, one day of soreness was ok, because once I got used to the riding, it was actually a lot of fun. I took some great pictures, too!

Aside from that, the only other interesting thing is that I have been forced to listen to ghost stories about the house I live in. Believe me, I realize that my imagination works overtime and I don't need any help with that. But, the women I live with told me these stories forcibly, and now I'm a little spooked out. I haven't seen any ghost activity myself, but they have and they're all very down to earth, the kind of people who don't give a FUCK what you think. So, I don't think they're lying.

Anyway, here's the skinny: apparently, the millionaire that used to own this place would have high-class call girls brought in for parties and the whatnot, plus our house was also just used for general housing. Well, word on the street is that two women killed themselves there. *sigh* So the story goes, one day, Lisa, the bartender from Minneapolis, was sitting in our lounge in the middle of the afternoon and the tablecloth on our coffee table was WHIPPED OFF in front of her eyes. Then, the doorknob on the nearest bedroom started rattling, and the door was opening and closing on its own. She actually got up and LOOKED, but there was no one there. Plus, the other night we were all sitting around and we kept hearing what I thought were the Russians walking up and down the hallway doing their laundry, and Lisa got up and opened the door that separates the lounge from the hallway and said, "God, I've been hearing footsteps all day and whenever I look there's no one there! I'm leavin' this damn door open!" And after that, there were no more footsteps.

So, needless to say, I think about all this shit every time I go to bed, but so far I'm not too scared. But I'm saying this right now: if the tablecloth gets whipped off right in front of me, I'll be leaving on the next thing smokin'.

Anyway, it's the end of my night shift, and us girls are watching "The Philadelphia Story" tonight once I get home, so I need to hurry. I hope everyone is doing well and I'll talk to you soon!

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