GENDUSA COLUMN: Happy trails to you

Published 6:15 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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Dad held my hand as we strolled toward the mammoth beast he wanted me to ride. Since I was only five, the horse resembled a dinosaur but didn’t appear as if he could spew fire. Dad hoisted me into the saddle as I realized horses are sure larger in real life instead of those on television. I tried not to be frightened, but my heart pounded.

The horse must not have taken too kindly to the kid on his back because before we took one hoof-sized step, he bucked. The next thing I knew was I was lying in the dirt gasping for air. Yep, either the fall knocked the breath out of me, or I decided to quit breathing so I wouldn’t have to ride that dinosaur!

Luckily, the only thing that was hurt was my dream of riding horses like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans do on TV.

I even had a cowgirl outfit and boots to play the role of their kid one day. Now, my illusions were shattered because I concluded that there was no way anyone would put me back in a saddle again.

Well, that was what I believed before Dad picked me up off the ground and put me back on the dinosaur as I screamed and kicked. However, this time the horse didn’t buck. A handler led the horse and me around the oval track while I begin to hum “Happy Trails to You” near the finish of my ride. “Shoot, maybe I would be on the television with Roy and Dale by Saturday if I kept this up!” I imagined.

There were many times during my life when my dreams landed in the dirt. Times when I felt nothing would make me believe I could put my shattered hopes back together. Many of us have attempted to conquer fears, tame a beast, try and try, only to fail repeatedly. When dad caused me to ride again so soon after I fell, he taught me that no matter what, if an attempt doesn’t kill you, just keep trying to find your Happy Trail.

My father often needed to push me. From riding a bike to learning to drive a car to believe that I could do anything if I put my fear aside long enough to try. Many times, I kicked and screamed through my panic. I shook my head no and stomped my feet, but ultimately, I succumbed to his determination or mine.

When the world began traveling by automobile, my grandmother decided car-driving was not for her. She wanted someone else to drive her, or she would just walk to get what she needed. She put her stubborn foot down and was unruffled by her husband’s attempts to plop her in the driver’s seat.

Granddaddy knew her reluctance was based on fear, but he finally coaxed her to get behind the wheel. “Ok, but I am not learning to drive on the road!” Grandpa declared. “Well, Nannie, where are you going to learn if not on the road?” He responded.

“In the front yard!” She announced, putting that stubborn foot smackdown on the hardwood floor.

Granddaddy looked out the window noticing the yard was full of trees. How was he going to keep her from running square into one?! 

She got in the old car with granddaddy by her side, while both feared for their lives.  She dodged trees, slammed on brakes, and swerved so hard she almost threw her husband out the passenger door. Yet, somehow in the tree-studded front yard, she miraculously conquered the beast.

When Grandpa was around age 95, her children finally took her little red Dodge away because of her worsening dementia. When I visited her one day, I asked, “Grandpa, how are you feeling?”

“Shoot, I’d be fine if they would give me my Dodge Dart back!” She said as she stomped her foot on the tile floor.

Sometimes when we conquer our fears to fulfill our dreams, we find complete joy like my grandmother did once she started putting the car on the road.  I assure you she never drove over 30 miles per hour, but that didn’t matter to her one bit.

There is not one day too late to put your worries aside and work a dream into reality. Find the Happy Trail for you and remember to get back in the saddle if you fall.

“Happy Trails to you, ‘till we meet again

Some trails are happy ones

Others are blue

It’s the way you ride the trail that counts

Here’s a happy one for you.”

Dale Evans