This weekend our little town will likely double its population at least, and we’re talking horses and mules as well as people. The annual Autumn Trails trail ride always comes through town on Friday afternoon. We have teams and wagons, horseback riders, folks from all over the area. We gather on the front porch to watch them, because they always pass down our street on their way to City Park, where they headquarter. Before long, the smell of food being cooked over campfires drifts our way. Mules bray and horses whinny. We can hear the music from the barn dance. Saturday morning, you’re liable to park next to a horse drawn wagon at the grocery store. After a pancake breakfast Sunday morning, trail riders set out down scenic country routes, and stop for a picnic lunch midday before returning. Leaves are just beginning to turn on the trees and everything is beautiful.
I remember one year in particular. My daughter Carrie was a senior in high school. Even though she probably thought she’d outgrown it, she sat with me and watched the parade anyway, because that’s what we always did. We waved to the regulars, admired the horses and laughed at the good-natured joking, just like always.
As pretty as she is, Carrie got lots of attention. This time in particular, she caught the eye of one handsome, young cowboy in a duster, riding by on a prancing, dark horse. I’ll never forget the expression on his face when he caught sight of her sitting on the steps. She had his attention. All of it. When she realized, she smiled her million dollar smile and giggled. And as the riders moved slowly past, he shifted in his saddle and turned, looking so long and so hard he ran into the back of a wagon. The parade moved on, but before we knew it, Carrie’s cowboy on the dark horse had turned around and was riding up to our porch! With a smile, he touched a gloved hand to the brim of his hat and nodded a greeting. Like someone who’d stepped out of the past, he asked her if she would do him the honor of finishing the ride with him. Is that not romantic?
And that’s the story of how Carrie got to be in the parade one year. And it really happened that way, just like a scene played out in a movie.