(Photo courtesy of Heidi Stevens)
I'd like to tell you about my friend Cricket. He came into my life at a point I really needed a friend. He taught me how to pick my battles, when to push buttons, and when to be patient. He has tolerated my short comings, been patient with me when I didn't deserve it, and showed me that no matter your size, knowledge, or ability that you can do anything you set your mind to. To be honest, he's been one of the best friends I have ever had.
I made some very poor decisions when I started my teaching career, and I pretty much set myself up for failure. Maybe I shouldn't have been a teacher at all. I do know for sure, I shouldn't have started teaching in the school that I did. I was the 6th Ag Teacher in 3 years and the Ag Program was pretty much nonexistent. I would have been more successful as a teacher if I would have gained some experience in a developed Ag Program under some experienced Ag Teachers instead of trying to do it by myself. I was very green, and other than a little substitute teaching, had no teaching experience at all. I didn't have the experience needed to succeed, and I didn't know how or who to ask for help. I was ready to be done after my first year. I stuck around for a second year hoping that it would get easier.
Cricket and I kind of saved each other the summer between my first and second years teaching. My dad didn't like the little sorrel gelding that was standoffish and not very friendly and was going to chicken feed him. Something about him spoke to me and I traded my bridle horse to dad for him. My brother put a handful of rides on him for me, and as soon as my summer break began I was up before 5 every morning to go and ride my colt. Those early morning rides are when I learned to pick my battles. If I picked at him too much, he let me know and could dump me on my tail. I also learned that if I couldn't get the response I wanted doing things one way, I had to figure out a different way to do it. I think he made me a better teacher. I know he made me a better rider.
At the end of the school year I knew teaching High School wasn't for me and I resigned. I was engaged to the Cow Boss by then and decided to work for him instead. Cricket and I loaded up and moved to a remote cow-camp to begin our cowboy and cow horse careers. I rode him every 3rd day because if I let him go 4 days, he would be humpy and try to buck me off. We did that for a year. We learned to head and heel calves and how to work together. By the time he was 4, often I was riding the youngest horse in the crew, but also the best broke, and by the time he was 5, I was letting my youngest stepdaughter ride him around the round pen. When my dog was ready for a ride, he would put his front feet on Cricket's shoulder and I would drag him up the side of Cricket, and into the saddle. When TR was a baby, Cricket packed us like he was carrying a basket of eggs and never took a bad step. When the boys got a little bigger and I was riding him, all they had to do was walk up and put a hand on his shoulder and he would stand while they climbed up his side to sit in the saddle with me. He's been my go to horse for roping bulls, packing kids, or branding contests in town.
Last week I gave Cricket away. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I almost cried after I told TR that from here on out Cricket would be his horse. Foolish I know because he isn't leaving the place and I can see (and probably "borrow" him whenever I want to). I think it was hard because I now have to find another horse that I can click with like I did with Cricket. More importantly, it means my little man is growing up. He's graduated to a "real" horse, something that he is going to have to pay attention to and really learn how to ride, not just sit on. Cricket will let him think for himself now. It also means that he will be starting to rope off a horse soon, and I'm afraid if I blink he will be all grown up!
I hope that Cricket can teach him patience, to try new things, and take care of my little man as he learns how to rope and more about riding. I hope he can be the friend to TR that he has been to me as well. I pray that Cricket will have patience with TR when he gives him the wrong cue and is frustrated because he isn't getting the response he wants, and when TR does "dumb kid" things that kids are bound to do, he remembers that TR is just a "dumb kid" and still learning. I hope he will take care of TR and make every ride a pleasant learning experiece so that TR continues to enjoy riding.
(Photo courtesy of Heidi Stevens)