So many young women with hopes held high. 4H teens showing horses they loved, brushed, trained and stabled; each child doing their best with the immense animals that held their dreams. I was pre-occupied by heat, a hard wooden bleacher and dust funneling around my feet like little tornadoes. I wanted water and shade, wished we had gone to the river instead of the fairgrounds. But I was doing this for her, my 13 year old granddaughter, Britan, visiting from Los Angeles.
One week ago, she stood tall and handsome in her English riding habit, sun-streaked hair tucked in a neat ball at the back of her neck, like an elegant ballerina. I had dropped her at the stables and drove home to have time alone. Then I got the call, her voice sounding small and frightened. Grandma, I got bucked off. I landed on my head. I want to come home.
We are here on a too hot summer day, watching the horse competition in the hope of keeping her near the sport she loves. Her neck and shoulder trauma healed with the speed of the young, her willingness to ride again present but needing time.
We toured the 4H stables before the show, examining the horses and photos of each young owner. The teenage women living on remote farms and ranches immediately sensed the difference between themselves and this green eyed girl from the heart of the city. They stopped and studied her, stealing glances over their shoulders as she feigned disinterest.
Together we watched the girls parade in the arena, displaying their best horsemanship and finest clothes. The lens of a camera gave my granddaughter the distance to be both present and removed. She stepped in through the lens, documenting the world she loved, picking favorites and tracking competition, while I excused myself to buy ice water. The walk to the shed that sold drinks felt like being swirled in a clothesdryer. A paper cup was lodged under a bush, discarded napkins pushed into the dirt. A baby in a carrier positioned next to a fan smiled at me as I paid and left.
When the event ended she turned and said. Oh, Grandma, the paint should have won, don’t you think?
The paint, I thought, yes, I guess there was a paint out there, somewhere, one of them.
“That rider was dressed in extreme shades of pink. I could never wear an outfit like that.”
Very, I said, It was very pink. She continued talking about the paint and why it should have won. I reached in my pocket grateful to find the car keys and pull away from the heat of the day. How was that for you, I inquired? Did you enjoy it?