In a fit of irony, the stable owner named my bucking bronco “Wimpy,” after the very first Quarter Horse sire to be registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in 1940. “Wimpy” was anything but wimpy. As we saw in the previous installment of this series, Wimpy II was happy to bite, kick, and generally try to kill me in any way he could dream up in his horsey mind. My personal mission in life was to gentle him.
After the backward crash incident, he suddenly gained respect for me, a little creature one-tenth his size, and decided he’d better settle down and go to work. When I had his walk, trot, canter, and gallop under control in the ring, and had taught him to change leads and side-pass, I took him out on the trail.
Oh boy, that was some fun. As soon as I got him on the trail and headed into the woods, he took off like a cannon ball galloping full tilt down the trail, the bit between his teeth so I that I couldn’t control his wild career. Wimpy, my foot.
Tree branches whipped me in the face. My glasses flew off. By some miracle, I raised my left hand and my glasses thwacked right into it like a scrub nurse smacks the handle of an instrument into a surgeon’s hand. I didn’t try to put them back on, but hung onto them for dear life until Wimpy wore himself out and slowed to a respectable trot. I rode the son-of-a-gun all afternoon for that, till he and I were both exhausted and dripping with sweat.
“That’ll teach you,” I muttered as I untacked him and rubbed him down. His muscles quivered with exhaustion, and I was afraid he was going to “tie up.” Tying up is when a horse’s potassium or other mineral levels get out of balance from over-exercise or other stress, or else their muscle cells start leaking, and their muscles start contracting out of sync. They fall down writhing and are in danger of their kidneys shutting down. It’s a very dangerous condition and can be lethal.
I stayed with him a couple of hours, until I was sure he was going to be OK, then wobbled my way home on my bike.
I was starving after that adventure, but by force of will ate as little as possible at dinnertime.
“You’re looking really good these days,” bubbled my mother. “It must be all the exercise you’re getting, riding your bike and the horses.”
I do believe my mother has an eating disorder. “Looking good” in her lingo means “You lost weight,” or at least “You’re thin.”
I reveled in her approval. Getting Mom’s approval meant everything to me. It took a lot to get it. Good grades were expected. Making good art was expected, since both my parents were artists and I had taken Saturday art classes since I was five. But “looking good” was a big step up from “fat ass,” and I determined that I was going to look really good.
We moved again that year, and the stable was too far to get to by bike. Both of my parents worked in a town far away, so they didn’t get back until after six in the evening. It became my job, at age fourteen, to prepare supper. I didn’t mind it, since I love to cook. Fortunately they were so grateful to have dinner waiting for them when they got home that they did not complain when I created experimental dishes such as spaghetti with raisin sauce, or egg foo young swimming in a sauce created from random liquids found in the refrigerator door. They ate it without complaint.
I didn’t eat it, beyond tasting while cooking, and spitting the food out after tasting.
That year I was a freshman in high school. Having started the year skinny, I garnered the respect of the girl population and the lust of the boy population. I was invited to join the cheerleading team (Cheerleading! Me?), which I declined. I wasn’t the cheerleading type, and I hated the snotty girls on the squad.
I found, though, that the hypoglycemia that accompanied the anorexia caused my brain to be fuzzy–not good for Advanced Placement English or Latin Three, my favorite classes. So at lunchtime every day I picked up a chunk of peanut butter fudge in the cafeteria, and nibbled on it all day to keep the brain fuzz at bay.
At last I reached my weight-loss goal: seventy-eight pounds. I could wriggle in and out of my size one Junior Petite jeans without unbuttoning the top button–but I couldn’t stop. My brain knew I was thin enough, but every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was fat. So I kept on with my rigorous weight-loss program, and joined the Cross-Country running team at school.
My mother looked at me with admiration: “Boy, you’re sure looking good.” But now, I didn’t feel like it. All I felt was fat.