When I was nine years old, Dad wanted me to get into 4-H. The only local club was run by Mr. and Mrs. Greeley, who lived at the end of a long driveway in a run-down farm and farm house. They had a pet monkey in the kitchen that ate grapes. With the Greeley’s advising them, there was an eclectic mix of kids from all the farms. Some had rabbits, others had goats, lambs, cattle, hamsters, whatever. So a nine-year-old with a horse wasn’t going to get much attention, but it was 4-H and that was important. My first 4-H project was a chocolate colored horse I named Cocomo. Now Cocomo was mostly quarter horse and the rest was something else. He was tall, muscular, fast, and stubborn. Oh, boy! What a ride!
There wasn’t much instruction about riding horses in the old 4-H books. They were mostly record-keeping and care. That was easy enough. The riding part, I already was pretty good at, but was always trying to get better. Cocomo was pretty hot. He liked to run. And it took a while and a few scratches, bumps and bruises to get him under control. But he and I got to know each other pretty well. And you could say that he was a one-man horse. He would not let anyone else ride him. Well, that summer, my cousin Bobby came from Phoenix. Bobby fancied himself as a western cowboy, even though he hadn’t ever ridden any horses. He had the hat and the boots and thought he, at 14, was hotter than James Dean.
Dad told me before he left that day that under no circumstances was Bobby to ride Cocomo. Well, I needed to ride him, so I saddled him up and took him out back, where there was about a ¼ mile flat path near a tree line. After a walk-trot-canter workout, I sometimes would go practice riding at a full gallop with Cocomo. After watching some Roy Rogers episodes, I also had this cool trick where I would get Cocomo galloping and I would run alongside him and jump my foot into the stirrup and swing onto the saddle. When Bobby saw me do that, he insisted he could do it better than me. I told him Dad forbid him from riding Cocomo, but he was older and bigger than me so he bullied the horse away from me, mocking my Dad’s words and calling me a sissy for not having my own mind.
Against my strong protest, Bobby got Cocomo into a canter and he skipped his foot into the stirrup and tried to swing his leg over the saddle. Cocomo took off like a firecracker, kicking and bucking. Bobby went flying off and got his foot caught in the stirrup. Cocomo drug Bobby pretty much all the way down that ¼ mile strip, ripping his shirt to pieces, shredding his back and shoulders, and finally hitting his head on a fieldstone, before stopping for a bite of grass. Bobby was all racked up. Had a concussion. He was lucky he wasn’t killed. Dad was furious, but he knew Bobby and what had happened. Told me, the smart-aleck pretty much got what he deserved. What’s Proverbs 16:18 say? “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” And before tearing up your clothes, scraping up your body, and giving yourself a concussion.