Sequel to the Beth Stories.
BETH’S WILD RIDE
Beth and Isabella were spending a lazy summer day just before school was to open again. They were sitting on the large granite boulders that were part of the dry landscape of low mountains, canyons and rock outcrops. A cool spring was below them, the hot air cooled over it, sending a moist updraft to the girls. They were chatting away, not a care in the world. Then Beth grew thoughtful. Perhaps what had puzzled her at her mother’s conversation when they visited their relatives could be brought to her friend. Beth ventured, “I was wondering, does your family ever speak to each other about religion?” Isabella giggled and said, “We are all Catholics! Of course our Faith is talked about. Most of our family celebrations are feast days of the Saints! Or weddings and baptisms, which are in church, with parties afterwards!”
Beth sighed. “Mine doesn’t. Everyone believes differently from everyone else, except for a few families. In order for everyone to get along with everyone else, we cannot speak about religion or politics at our family gatherings.” “Oh”, responded Isabella. “Well, not everyone in my family is Catholic, or even the same kind of Catholic, so I do know what you mean” “Do they fight, then?” asked Beth, forward as ever. “No, not any more. There is a lot of respect for our older relatives in my family. Grandpa’s word is law, and he stopped the fights.”
“One cousin of my mother’s is a Baptist, and he was just terrible to be around, always trying to tell everyone that his way was right and trying to get me and my brothers and sisters to go with him to his church. He accused my father of being narrow minded, and said if they would only go to his church just once, we would all see how much better it was. Finally, father did take us, and we all begged to leave early, as it was a cold auditorium with loud music that hurt our ears!! We did not even wear our veils to that place because they only believe that Our Lord is a memory, or something strange like that! Then grandpa’ told that cousin to be silent around family, or he would throw him out! He wouldn’t and left, and no one was sorry! Then my father’s cousin joined the modern Catholic Church, which is kind of half Baptist! But he is silent about religion around the family. He is still a part of our natural family, but not our Catholic family, so he and his family are a little separated, and his daughters are not asked to be flower girls at weddings, and such. But they like being with family, and we like them. We are always polite around them so that they will continue to want to be around our influence. Not everyone has a grandpa whose word is law, in their families, to keep order. I am glad that we do! Grandpa’ tells us to pray very hard for them, to come back, so they can go to Heaven, and we do. One of this cousins sons whispered to my sister that when he was eighteen he would come back and marry her and go to our church! So, grandpa’s way must be working!”
Beth and Isabella laughed at this brave cousin’s proclamation. Beth was glad she had Isabella for her best friend. After a little while of silent reflection, Beth said very softly, “When I am eighteen, I am going to come to your church again.”
It was evening when Beth started from her friend’s home. The magic of evening and sunset had already set in. Approaching a paddock was Red, the wildish mare whom the Espinoza’s might buy—if the price were lowered. They said that she was unsmoothly gaited and that she to get the bit in her teeth and run. Beth began dreaming. She would love to ride Red and have her for her own. She hadn’t permission to ride her and it would be trespassing—but night has a sense of dare in it—and it overcame her. As Beth took straw and rubbed her, she thought, “Why not?” After all, she did need exercise.
Beth tried to get her to stand near the fence, but she wouldn’t. She pressed her neck and made her back up and pushed her hind quarters nearer the fence. She danced away. After two repeat performances she cantered halfway to the end of the paddock. Beth tried to get her to come to the fence, but she would not. Beth was changing her mind about riding her, when she came near enough to be pet. She lowered her neck and stretched forth her head, and Beth got the idea. She leaned her body over her neck and she threw it up, and she slid smoothly onto her back. It was so simple that it surprised Beth.
She tightened her legs around her barrel (no feminine side saddle for this little dare devil tonight!) and fastened her hands deep in her mane. She touched her flanks and they were off at a canter, ‘round the paddock. It was so easy, with no bothersome reins. Her hands were in a perfectly natural position and Red could be guided by moving slightly from side to side. She was still wild, and fairly uncontrollable, but Beth was so thrilled it didn’t matter.
Then she was away into the night and magic, and they were galloping like lightning across the hills the tall green grass brushing her flanks. The wind was balmy and sweet in the chill of night shadows. They were flying straight into the sunset, with a never ending sort of exhilarated ecstasy, and that wild sense of the free. Her hoofs beat torridly, and her whole body, a smoothly flowing, wild and free thing, was warm and alive, with muscles flowing effortlessly, and nothing could ever, ever catch them.
Heart pounding with the excitement and fear of it, Beth leaned back and pulled on Red’s mane to stop her. She slowed to a lope and, reluctant, to a stop, crab-stepped—a sort of side stepping prance. Weak with excitement, Beth’s legs went limp, like when one is over-tired, and feels like laughing. Slowly, she let herself slide around her barrel, and she fell to the soft ground exhausted. Red danced away and paced around the pasture—and Beth was back from the magic with the grass and the sun gone. The air was frozen, though Beth hardly felt it. Beth stumbled over the dirt and down the cliff toward her home. The magic and un-realness of Red back in the canyon stayed with her the whole night.
The next day the consequences began. Mother awakened Beth in the morning with a very serious look, but a twinkle in her eye. She informed Beth that she had been seen and that the Espinoza’s were quite shocked and not happy that Beth had rode the horse. They felt that Beth was too wild to be a friend of Isabella’s and that she should not visit until she understood what a lady is before she came back. Beth was stunned, but did not quite believe it. Surely in a few days or a week, they would forget about this and things between Beth and her best friend would be normal again. Beth’s mother only said, “It was an adventure, wasn’t it?” Beth smiled. Her mother understood wild temptations, and the two could be rebels together. It was to take Beth a long time to figure out that this was not the best attitude, as well as to figure out that her mother was really secretly glad that this Traditional Catholic influence in her daughter’s life seemed to be abruptly distanced.
* * *
As lonely week followed lonely week, and Isabella would not even sit with her at school during recess. Beth became crestfallen. She knew she had done a wrong thing, but she also loved her adventure of riding the horse as well. She had never been punished as much as she should have been in her family, being the only girl and the last child, with no more children following. She really was muddled about what was right, wrong and rationalizing, in some things, so she remained a little confused. Beth sobbed on her pillow when the lesson finally sunk in. She had lost her best friend over one forbidden horse ride! Well, at least most week-ends she was with her own family, as her grandparents were aging, and the family wanted to be together, while they still had them. That was a comfort. Some weeks later, Beth came to be with another, more liberal, friend, much more to her mother’s liking.
* * *
Image #1 the spring #2 surroundings #3 dream sunset #4 Red