Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lightning in the Yard

For smaller liveries, kids’ camps are a fact of life. It means basically shutting down the livery for a day in order to accommodate the camps, but it’s guaranteed money. The purpose of the kids’ camps is to expose underprivileged kids to the mountains and provide them with an opportunity they might otherwise not have. As a general rule, I made myself scarce on kids’ camp days. I’m not a big fan of other people’s children and do better when I just don’t have to deal with them.

Like clockwork, during the month of July, summer thunder/rain storms hit daily between two and three in the afternoon. Knowing this, the kids’ camp rides are scheduled to be back before the storm. Usually, we’d take one one-hour ride out at noon and the second out at one p.m. and be back just before the storm hit. An exceptionally violent summer storm made the last kids’ camp I worked pretty exciting.

There were three of us wranglers out with twenty kids; one wrangler leading, one riding drag, and I was out-riding, which means I was responsible for keeping the ride in line and watching for equipment failures before they became a problem. The sky was clear when we left on our ride, but that’s typical. The weather at that altitude changes very quickly, so none of us were surprised when the clouds gathered a little earlier than expected. Luckily, I was out with one experience wrangler I’d worked with extensively, Lindsay. Unluckily, we were out with a new wrangler, Newbie, who thought she knew everything there was to know about the job despite only having been on the job for two weeks. I mentioned the weather to Lindsay and we decided to cut the ride short and high-tail it back to the livery. There was some disagreement from Newbie, which we basically ignored and headed the ride back.

Lindsay and I kept a nervous eye on the sky and harried the ride along, much to the displeasure of the third wrangler. The closer we got to the livery, the more nervous I felt about the weather. Having worked with Lindsay as much as I had, I could tell by her body posture that she was feeling the same way. We were used to quickly moving storms, but this was fast.

My daughter and Bear, another wrangler, were waiting for us in the yard, ready and willing to help unload the ride. I breathed a sigh of relief when my horse reached the yard; the storm hadn’t hit yet. We’d beat it! Now we just had to get the kids off the horses and in the bus.

I had no sooner tied my horse to the wrangler rail when the first clap of thunder hit, followed immediately by the crack of lightning. We had to get the kids off the horses, which are nothing more than four-legged lightning rods during a storm. I grabbed the nearest horse, pulled the child off of it, shoved the child toward the bus and pulled the horse to the rail to tie it up. I was just beginning to tie the horse to the metal rail when the next crack of lightning hit and then it dawned on me…I was tying a four-legged lightning rod to a metal rail in a lightning storm…what was I trying to do? Kill myself? I forced the thought to the back of my head and headed for another horse/child combination. I took half a second to look around and saw one of the kids throw herself at my daughter, who barely caught her; Lindsay had two horses’ lead ropes and was shooing the kids to the bus; the Bear had a child in his arms; Newbie was still tying her horse to the wrangler rail. And so it went, screaming kids, nervous horses, and lightning. Lots of lightning.

The yard was a blur of activity; one kid after another, one horse after another, one crack of lightning after another. I’ve moved fast before, but never this fast. Between myself, my daughter, Bear, and Lindsay, we managed to get everyone unloaded and to safety in under three minutes.

Newbie? She got her horse tied to the wrangler rail. But to give her credit, that "Bank robber's knot" is a tricky one.


RoxanneRustand said...

I've got to get my daughter to read your blog!

She was only a wrangler in the Tetons for half a summer, but I know she would love this!


GunDiva said...

Half a summer is plenty to get the feel for it. By all means, send her over, I bet she's got plenty of stories of her own.