Memories of My First year in California

Atop Horseback

My favorite place was on horseback. My family had just moved from Hawaii to California. It was a hard time. Mom and dad were separated. My brother was recently deceased. We no longer had a nice house and had to live in low-income apartments with peeling paint and questionable plumbing. My older sisters went straight to high school, my younger siblings went to elementary and I, who was obviously quite grown up at 12 years old was stuck in 5th grade with the babies, not 6th grade like I was supposed to be.

The very first day though, as I was introduced to the class by the teacher, “Meet Teresa who comes all the way from Hawaii”. A girl jumped up and said “I know her! I remember her.” That girl was Brenda and I have no idea how she knew me or remembered me unless she was one of the many kids that came and went on a military base. Remember me she did, though, and she became my first, my best, and my only friend in California. The best part, Brenda lived on a horse ranch.

We both had to take the bus to school and we got to know each other better during those rides. She was picked up last and dropped off first. Our short time on the ride was golden and soon I was spending weekends at her house. Oh, what fun we had! She had her Morgan horse “Disney Diesel Goes Fast” and I rode the mischievous Shetland pony, Jimmy. He was the perfect horse for me. I was short, jimmy was short. I was stubborn, jimmy was stubborn. I was super skinny, jimmy was fat. We had one difference of opinion. Jimmy did not want to leave the ranch and I did.

.Jimmy was very barn sour as he had not been ridden for some time before I came along. He started his protest shenanigans as we tried to catch him. That was a two-person ordeal. Once caught, though, he would come along passively. Until we put a saddle on him. That pony would take a breath and hold it in. It was impossible to cinch the saddle tight enough to prevent it from rolling under his tummy and dumping the rider when he did that. A poke in the ribs once or twice would see Jimmy exhale and a quick pull tightened the saddle. The bridle was also a chore. He would spit out the bit more often than not. I was happy with a Hackamore, a bridle made of rope around his nose with no bit, but Jimmy was hard to control so it was a bit with a roller to distract him.

All bridled and saddled and with me atop, Jimmy still didn’t give up. The first half-hour of riding was going in circles and when he was disoriented enough walking him a few feet down the lane. Once we got to the pastures though, Jimmy was a dream and we rode for hours.

I wouldn’t say we were naughty girls, but we were adventurous and sometimes, we might have done some things we shouldn’t have. Riding up by the freeway was taboo, but that’s where Disney would race the semis going by and poor Jimmy trying to keep up with his little legs. I tried to hold him back as he was little and old and fat but to no avail, what the Morgan did, the Shetland want to do also.

Brenda wanted to be a rodeo Queen, so we played rodeo. Trying to catch calves and ride them, sheep were easier to catch. Roping the geese and chickens until we got in trouble and had to put the ponies away. Sleeping in the barn to see if we could catch the owl so we could have a wise bird pet.

I was excited about the following school year thinking I had a best friend. It was not to be. Brenda was taller and prettier than me. The popular kids brought her into their fold and I was left out, to be called names and ostracized by the others. It was where I lived, I talked funny and I was smart. Kids push away that which they don’t understand. I was hurt by my friend and didn’t understand it at the time. I will, however, be forever grateful to Brenda. She did two things for me. Made my first year in California bearable and fun and because she pushed me away, I spent a lot of time in the library writing and reading. I was first published at 12 and I spent what school years I went to with straight As.

I thank Brenda.

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