This is what Roo looks like when she trots back to see just how slowly I'm limping along and to suggest that I hurry.
Soon after this, Roo went off into the woods. I followed her, as the ground wasn't too treacherous and I was curious. Way off the trail, in a spot that had to have been chosen for its isolation and tranquility, Roo found this grave marker. Someone named Ripley must have been well loved to be given such a thoughtful burial in a wild and peaceful place. And someone carried that headstone into the forest. If anyone beside Ripley's family, Roo and I have been there since the burial, I would be surprised.
I did the same thing for Orville, taking days to gather stones for a marker for him in Colorado. When Roo and I went there, I took her to his marker.
Here was the odd thing. I hadn't been there in eight years, and a friend of mine told me that over time, the conical pile had flattened out. It made no sense. There are no earthquakes there - what would have made the rocks settle? The wind? It does blow hellaciously in Boulder.
Roo and I made our way up to the mesa where the rocks were. The white pyramidal-shaped rock on top - which is a big, thick 25-pound rock - inexplicably split in half back when I placed it there - was on the ground and the formation was flattening. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I thought. First I thought I would leave it to nature, but I changed my mind and spent some time piling the stones back up.
There is a little trail leading right up to it, and a woman of about 30, riding barefoot and bareback, was coming up on a big brown horse. He was an expensive cutting horse of a type popular around there. I heard her yelling at the horse, "Don't you make me get off here! You better not make me get off here!" But the horse wasn't listening to her, and she started screaming, "Son of a bitch! You goddamn son of a bitch!" at him.
She had her fingers clenched in the horse's mane - he had a bit in and reins on, but she was desperate and yanking on anything she could get ahold of, twisting everything this way and that, trying to make an impression on his ribs with her ankles. The horse cared not at all. He didn't like her, and wanted her to know it. He was enjoying showing her what he was made of. She didn't know how to ride him or make him want to be her horse. I had never seen so much contempt in a horse's eyes. I didn't know they were capable of it. He wasn't quite at the point where he was going to throw her off, but you could see that he was starting to consider it. As he got closer, his breathing got louder, and I could hear it in-between her yelling at him. How I hoped he would dump her.
When they got to the top of the rise, Roo - remember now, this was only a month after the end of her torture in LA, and she was a mess - and now the first time she ever saw a horse, and it was this taunted, ready-to-burst guy on the brink of murder. Roo spooked and bounced around a little and then crouched down and got in his way.
The horse, finding a dog underfoot, rose up on his hind legs and hoofed at the air. He gave his rider a mighty shake to get her loose of his mane. She slid off his back end. On the way back down he landed right on Orville's rocks and had to get his footing back. I got to Roo before she took off across the prairie.
"Every goddamned time!" the woman hollered as she got up. She was literally spitting mad and the spit on her chin didn't quite match her expensive haircut. She started yelling at me.
Now, the closest I ever got to being a hippie was when I was 12 and my long hair and Sticky Fingers T-shirt got me thrown out of a Nixon event at the Waldorf Astoria that I had been assigned by a paper to report on. But of course I've had lots of friends who were, and one of the best things about Boulder used to be that it was a bunch of hippies backed up against the Rocky Mountains. But the hippies have been priced out, and rich, imitation hippies have swarmed in to take their place. They tore down the chicken coops to put in the swimming pools. All hat no horse hippies. It's hard to store-buy hippie, but plenty of expensive boutiques will equip you up to resemble Janis Joplin in Boulder, Colorado.
"Get that goddamned dog out of here!" she screamed.
Well. That was about it. I hadn't said anything until then.
"Lady," I said, "You ever give that horse a chance to walk over you, he's going to break your back and love doing it. That horse thinks nothing of you. That horse hates you. Sad to see. Sad to see."
She knew it was true, but what burned her up more than the horse hating her was that someone had seen him hate her. That someone had seen her merit that hate. It didn't go with the Om pendant and Mongolian beads she was wearing.
At least she knew better than to try getting back up on him. The horse had cowed her. He was practically dancing with delight at his success. As for her, I don't know how dumb you have to be to go out barefoot on a prairie filled with cactus, brambles, old barbed wire, flint rocks and a hundred years of broken beer bottles, even on a horse who means to get you through. But she found out, and I bet next time she decides on a rig with saddlebags stuffed with sneakers. Roo and I watched her hop off, trying to act like it wasn't hurting her, but it was. Nobody's tough enough to make it barefoot on that hard earth.
I didn't take Roo too long to calm down. I restacked the stones, and looked out over the view at the park Orville used to love. I wasn't expecting them to last. Nothing does. Nothing is meant to.
But, hell, don't take it out on the horse.