We were a horse family. Before I helped my dad build a pasture fence on our property in the Keithsburg community, we kept our horses at a barn in Hickory Flat at the home of Benny and Shirley Williams.
Benny and Shirley were big into horses as were their three children; Ricky, Dee Dee and Denise.
I was at an age that I felt invincible to the dangers associated with horses or pretty much anything else. So we rode the horses and we rode them fast and hard. I certainly didn’t have the expertise that the Williams family had with horses, but I wasn’t a novice either.
Owning horses wasn’t just about the riding. There was a lot of work involved such as feeding, watering, and shoveling manure. I guess if you know me now that might come as a surprise. But yes, I shoveled a lot of manure.
On this particular day, I was riding a horse that was not fully broken. For you non-horse people, I would equate that to riding a motorcycle at 55 miles an hour and having a tire blow out. In other words, when a horse isn’t fully broken, bad things can happen.
I had been riding this particular horse for a while and was sitting in the saddle when Benny had a grand idea. He deciding it would be a good time for two people to ride the horse. So he decided to put one of his daughters on the back of the horse to ride with me. I don’t remember which daughter because it has been too long.
But as he picked her up to put her on the horse, she kicked the horse in the side. Let me tell you that the horse wasn’t happy. The horse started bucking up and down for all it was worth.
I held on ... until about the fourth or fifth time the horse bucked. On its last attempt to throw me off its back, my right foot shot through the stirrup and I fell off. Unfortunately, because of the fact my right foot had gone through the stirrup, I was hooked to the horse.
That would have been fine had the horse just stood there. But it didn’t. It decided to take off and run through an adjacent corn field bouncing my head on the ground like a basketball. Before Benny and my dad could catch it, I had successfully been cut on my neck and stepped on by this horse. I was out cold.
I woke up once on the way to the hospital and remember my dad telling Benny to slow down before he killed us all. I passed out again and don’t remember the next few hours. I woke up sometime later in the hospital with stitches in my neck and bandages around my ribs. As bad as I felt, I was lucky. It could have been worse.
The next day, the pain was worse, if anything. But my dad did something I didn’t understand. He told me to get dressed.
When I asked why, he said because we were going back to the barn and I would be getting on the same horse. I didn’t want to go because the fearlessness I spoke about earlier had disappeared.
After all the times I had ridden hard, jumped fences and creeks, I was now afraid to get on the horse.
But we went anyway. Back then, parent-child relationships weren’t really democracies like so many are today. They would have been far closer to being defined as dictatorships. But we had fewer problems then. But that topic I will save for another day.
Dad assured me that if I didn’t get back on that horse immediately, I might never ride again. So I did as I was told.
I never fully overcame the fear I had from the accident. But I did ride again. And I rode again because my dad made me get back on the horse knowing my fear.
It took years before I understood why he made me get back on the horse. I resented it for a long time.
When he became overcome with Alzheimer’s, I was forced to take a different role in his life.
It’s a scary role. But I face it the best way I know how; just like he taught me.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.