A horse is the most compelling toy possible for a budding young girl. Equine males walk around continually naked. Even geldings sometimes achieve moderate elongation when mares in heat raise and roll their tails askew presenting themselves shamelessly. My little sister admitted to me once that she and her friends had to be careful not to get excited at the stables, that riding itself brought on unfamiliar, sometimes startling sensations. I took to horses because I hated football, and because all the coolest girls were equine enthusiasts.
The stables were an incubator of pubescent fantasies on all sides. Mine were directed as a shotgun blast. I wanted all the girls. For me they represented intrinsic wealth, like gold. They were luminous, vivid; their affections darted about like green-eyed dragonflies. If one’s attention lighted on me, it had the effect of transfixing my desire: for a moment, she was the only one.
I did not realize, of course, what a cauldron of untried appetites and nascent powers I willingly jumped into each afternoon, eager to be surrounded by these creatures in bluejeans, who still kept collections of baby dolls piled up on their bed pillows. And yet they were fitted with training bras, which you could grab by the elastic strap and make pop. You might hear a girl say a curse word, and that was thrilling.
They sneaked and smoked cigarettes at the stables, and held hands with you sometimes, looked up at you with big eyes and a strange, sly smile that intimated some thrill known to them that you would never understand, and yet you were somehow the source of the thrill. It was maddening. I wanted them all, all the time. Unless one or the other was focused on me, I was a human horsefly latched on to them collectively. I strutted around the stables in cowboy garb, swinging a genuine, brine-soaked lasso, which I was pretty good with. I could throw a loop over the head of a girl standing ten feet away easy. If one ran from me, I roped her heels and dumped her in the sand. It was great for getting attention and good practice for the romantic rodeo of adulthood as I imagined it, with myself as a dominant male, a real caveman type.
One day the girls couldn’t take it anymore. Something I said or did—or maybe just the sight of me —suddenly infuriated them as a mob.
The riot started as a collective insistence that I stop roping them. Several of them together snatched the lariat away from me. I got the water hose, which they ran from at first, as I soaked several wet to their training bras.
About six of them came after me and picked me up and carried me to a cement water trough in the dark hallway of the stables. It was hot summer time, the water stayed cool in the trough, and I remember thinking, I wouldn’t mind a dip. The air smelled of horse manure—and somewhere in it was the sweat of girls and the slobber of animals — and I was having a good time being roughed up by the girls.
They sat me on the edge of the water trough—because to put me in it, several of them would have to go in with me. Two of them, one on each shin bone, mashed my cowboy boots into the cold water, as if wet feet would keep me from chasing them.
Then they came with my lasso—which was a real rope for taking down cattle, enough of a lariat to hang me.
They were not very good knot tiers. I ridiculed their rope work. They made more knots, and then they carried me out to a hitching post in front of the stables and strung me up by the hands, feet, and belt loops, two feet off the ground, a cowboy hogtied and strung up for meat. The girls seemed to have gone kind of crazy. They ignored everything I yelled at them. Their eyes were all wide and kind of blind looking. All of their horses were saddled and waiting for them to mount. It ran through my mind that they might leave me there, and what would I tell anyone who came driving up to feed a horse, or pick up me or one of the girls. I was the only guy at the stables. Most afternoons it was that way. All the other boys played football.
I suddenly stopped wiggling and started to think how to get loose, and what to do then, how to regain my dignity, or get even, or something.
I was spent—dizzy, exhausted from the struggle of the riot. Maybe I was satiated too, from the handling of so many girls.
They mounted their horses and rode away.
I hung by the ropes, watching the clouds go by above the tall pine trees that grew around the stables.
I kept thinking the girls would come back and untie me. But after a while it didn’t matter. I knew I could get out of the knots. What held me transfixed was a feeling of peace.