The summer I was 15 I had a crush on my riding instructor. Slender and petite, sporting skin-tight jeans, chaps, and a tucked in shirt, he dominated the riding arena as teenage girls circled him in lessons. Curly black hair slicked back and a cigarette permanently attached to his left hand, we all adored him. Once, he had even ridden for the U.S. Olympic team. It didn't matter that he wasn't even interested in females. He was gorgeous and aloof - a romantic mystery in the making.
Each Wednesday evening I and five other girls would tack up our horses and head into the arena for an hour of torment. He was hard on us. He had great expectations - we were his finest students. And we never quite measured up. He'd storm and rage and stomp across the dusty footing, curse words spewing from his mouth as he reamed us out. Once, he taped tacks to the saddle of a girl who kept sitting back on her horse as he went over fences. Another time we could only use yarn for reins, learning to control our horses by our seat instead of our hands. And a few horrible times, he got on the horses himself and beat them. He had a temper for the legends. We were all just a little intimidated.
All we wanted was to hear his praise. We would've done anything to hear the simple words "Good job today". Those words would've carried us through dozens of less successful lessons.
None of us had ever ridden in jockey stirrups before, much less for an hour. The stirrups began rubbing against my chaps within minutes. Chaffing set in deep, each stride of my horse burning my left leg. I set my jaw and soldiered on, refusing to give in the pain even as it increased. We couldn't please the riding instructor that day - he yelled and shook his cigarette at us one by one, pointing out our faults brutally as ashes fell to the ground. Around and around we went, the clock on the wall above the lounge stuck - minutes seemed like hours. Still, I said nothing.
When the hour was over I jumped off my horse with trembling legs. I didn't think they'd hold me as I landed in the soft dirt. I pulled my chaps gently away from my leg, grimacing against the suction. And then reluctantly pulled up the zipper. There, on the back of my calf, was a gaping hole the size of a 50 cent piece. Pus and blood drained from the site. My instructor walked by, right about this time, and stopped in his tracks.
"Good Lord, Lisa, why didn't you say something?"
"It's nothing," I said, sheepishly, for I would've endured sores up and down my entire leg, if only it had made him happy.
He never made us do a lesson of jockey stirrups again after that. But my leg still bears the scar from that day.
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Next week's suggested topic is 8th grade, although you can blog about any memory and link up. After next week, I'll be taking a short break from Memory Lane Friday for a while, but will likely bring it back at another time. Thanks to all who have been so great about participating!