No Place to Land

A quintessential West Texas sky.  Mountains at the bottom of the frame and clouds reaching to tens of thousands of feet.

We were riding in the mountains of West Texas, in what is called the “Highlands ” between Fort Davis and Valentine, at the foot of Blue Mountain. My wife was in the lead along with a friend, and they were conversing as their horses were clicking along at a pretty fair gait.  We came to an area where someone had been chopping down a lot of Cholla cactus (Choy-yah) . The ground was strewn with pieces of limbs of the spiny plant. In the old days we used to call this type of cactus “jumping cactus”, because of its tendency to break off and stick to your clothes with only the lightest brush against it’s wicked thorns. What I saw on next made my heart stop! The gray mare my wife was riding suddenly blew up in a furious bucking spree! I was in a panic lest she come off, since she rides not in a stock saddle, but a light dressage saddle. Finally, by jumping off my horse and taking hold of her mare’s halter we got the storm calmed. I looked down, and saw fronds of jumping cactus stuck to the mare’s belly, in very sensitive areas. As luck would have it I was carrying pliers, so I disengaged and removed the pieces of Cholla. I then complimented my wife on her masterful riding of a full-blown bucking fit. She responded by saying,

“All I saw when I looked down was rocks and cactus, and I’ll be danged if I wanted to land on either one! “

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