Friday, June 23, 2023

Growing Hope

 Folks who know me  know I drive horse drawn sleighs at a guest ranch.  A ride generally starts after an introduction to the horses and then photos of the people on the ride with the horses. This is done by either “Jen, the owner” or the office help. Then the ride is handed over to the driver.  The people are loaded on the sleigh. The big sleighs can hold up to 20 people. We have 2 kinds of rides on the big sleighs, a “coco ride” is any number of mixed groups of people.  We also have a private ride on the big sleighs. This ride is for families or groups that know each other. 

My story begins on this one particular private ride. The guests are an Asian family, 3 generations. I usually start the ride with telling them my name and some dry humor like “the emergency exits are to the left and right. If I happen to lose any of ya, I’ll pick you up on the way back!” ... So this wasn’t going to work. I did ask them where they were from and in very broken English they said “Texas.” 

Now I don’t hear very well and at the same time I’m starting the ride, three 8 dog sleigh rides come in within  100 ft of my ride. That’s 24 Huskies all barking at once. I’m having trouble hearing these folks.  They are excited and talking in their own language. So I start the ride. At this point I have to pay attention to the the traffic. There can be dog sleigh tours and snowmobile tours all taking off at the same time. It’s what we call a “Colorado traffic jam” - dogs, snowmobiles and horses all at the same time. 


Once we get away from all that I’ll get into some local history, talk about the horses, dogs and such. This is not going to work with this crowd as there is constant chatter on the sleigh.  I have to stop to let about 40 snowmobiles go by me and, of course, these folks are taking a million pictures.  
    I’m thinking I have to do something to interact with these people so I ask them what their country of origin is. They tell me “Vietnam.” For some reason this hits a nerve with me.


I continue the ride. At this point I have another 35 minutes with them. None of my usual talk is gonna work for one thing and I’m talking to myself trying to sort out my feelings, all negative, remembering all the ugly news when I was growing up. Walter Cronkite, body counts, protests, Kent State, the MyLai massacre; a neighbor’s brother, Jay Neil, committing suicide; one of our Boy Scout leaders committing suicide after being in Vietnam; neighbor Eddy Miller being a POW; men I worked with, hearing their horror stories; being in a Memorial Day Parade and witnessing as a young adult the clashes between WW2 Vets and Veterans of this ugly war in real life. 

All this confusion in my mind in seconds. Meanwhile these folks behind me on the sleigh are having a great family moment, constant chatter, smiling children and grand parents, attractive young mothers playing with their kids. We always stop at the turn around site and let the folks off to play in the snow and take pictures of the country side and horses. 

At this point I’m feeling great resentment, anger.  I did not stop. I just turned the horses around and headed back. I’m fighting in my head. I’m doing what I love to do. It’s a beautiful crisp blue sky morning. I’m surrounded by young people who love and admire me and yet… my anger is ruining all this.

Now... as the ride goes on and the youngsters are playing and giggling behind me, guilt comes charging into my mind. I say to myself “You fool.”  
What can I do to change all this immediate negativity.  I can’t end this ride in anger.
A quote comes into my mind, “resentment is like taking poison and expecting your enemy to die from it!” 

At this moment one of the women asks if I can stop the sleigh and take family pictures of them. I look at her and she is beautiful. It goes right to my heart and I do stop. They all get ready as I leave the sleigh to get them all, along with the horses, in the pictures. They’re all very gracious and happy. Even the grand mom is awake and smiling. As I move on with the ride I ask if the kids could sing me a song.  With help from their parents they stumble through “Jingle Bells.”  I remind them they are on a  two horse open sleigh.  I had to explain that I wanted to hear a song in Vietnamese.

This ride lasted about thirty minutes, less time than it took for me to grow hope through writing this. WHAT A RIDE!!!!

Gregory R. Clark, guest blogger

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