I'm thinking about getting a motorcycle. Yes, at age 48, I am going to put
something exciting between my legs and ride off into the sunset! Is this a middle-
age crisis or am I just looking to escape the heat and grit of the New Orleans summertime?
What is it about lesbians and the things they do to escape from stress? Some of us go fishing. Some of us do pottery; some make music. And of course there is always the gym, the movies, the tanning bed.
For me, escape always came in the form of locomotion-motorcycles, cars, trucks, planes...even horses. Horses-now there was one of my biggest escapes.
The stable was a haven for women, gay and straight alike. And horses are demanding creatures who need to be feed and exercised daily. So what you get at the stable is a lot of outdoor-type women in boots and jeans and flannel shirts who are busy feeding and brushing their horses, riding on the levee or in the park, and developing the dynamics that make the stable a kind of lesbian dating game.
I was 22 when I first bought a horse. His name was Brandy-a Palomino with short stocky build and a spirited temper. His stable mates included Sassy, another Palomino; Stormy, a tall roan; and Scout, a lanky paint. Each day the horses offered an excuse for easy conversation among all the owners of the animals...and everyday stronger and stronger bonds grew between the women of the barn.
Few horse owners were men or boys. I suppose that they had other interests. And, as these things go, the girls were soon developing all the links that lead to lesbian encounters and female jealousies.
Ever watch a woman ride a cutting pony or a barrel racer? It is a terrifically exciting thing to watch horse flesh quivering and to see strong female hands guiding the powerful animal through it's paces.
That's where I met Linda, and she taught me everything I know about horses. I taught her everything I knew about being a lesbian; and, at age 22, it sure wasn't much. All of my "knowledge" came from myth and imagination. I had had only one lover by that time and we were truly babes in the woods. Our love-making was a laboratory for creating sexual identities sometimes with spectacular results; sometimes, miserable failures.
By the time I met Linda, I was feeling very independent. I was working as a teacher, had my own apartment, and was able to support myself and Brandy. Linda was a tough little customer with arms of steel from hauling hay bales from the loft to the stalls below. Her jeans fit tightly across her bottom and her walk was accentuated by the western boots she wore.
Linda was afraid of nothing; I was afraid of everything-where horses were concerned. She taught me about cinching a saddle, about mucking out a stall, about hay and food supplements. We worked side-by-side dumping wheelbarrows of fresh wood shavings into the stalls for the horses to sleep on; we filled water buckets and distributed hay flakes. And somewhere along the line, we started to notice each other.
Linda was younger than I was, but not by much. We started going to movies or out for hamburgers. She always wanted to hear stories about my life and the people I knew. I preferred to talk about horses. I was nervous because I knew what I was thinking about and I figured she didn't.
Months of this friendly patter continued, and nothing disturbed the peaceful waters; that is, until the day a red convertible drove into the stable driveway and a blonde named Cherie climbed out. Seemed she was looking for a place to keep her horse-a white Arabian stallion. Oh boy.
And of course, Linda was fascinated by the prospect of having a high-spirited animal in the stable. Cherie quickly realized Linda's expertise with horses and managed to finagle a stall next to hers. Suddenly my little Brandy seemed pint-sized next to this crazy white stallion with the wild eyes.
Cherie and I had taken each others' measure on the first day she arrived. If indeed it takes one to know one, we knew.
On a late afternoon, she followed me up into the hayloft and sat down on a bale. "Let's talk," she said, and proceeded to ask me about my relationship with Linda. I explained that we were "just friends" and nothing more. (I was in major denial.) "Good," Cherie exclaimed, "then you'll have no trouble with my dating her." I managed a thin smile.
"Well, that would be up to Linda now, wouldn't it," I replied as I slipped down the ladder to the floor of the barn.
I was seething. I knew that Cherie's trip to the hayloft was a challenge. Everyone knew that Linda and I were close and that we would probably one day "discover" each other; but Cherie was from the school of all's fair in love and war-and she had put forth the first volley.
Next thing I knew, Linda had a "date" with Cherie planned, and everyone was telling me to "DO" something quick. All I could "do" was to saddle Brandy and head out down the levee.
Hundreds of thoughts raced through my head, but nothing seemed like the right thing. Finally, I decided to "do" nothing and let nature take its course. Brandy and I arrived back at the stable just in time to see Linda and Cherie driving out in that damned red convertible.
You know, there is nothing more exhilarating than a hard, fast gallop down a pathway, and Brandy loved to run. Over the next few weeks, he really got his exercise! Linda and Cherie were the talk of the stable community, and I just did not want to hear any of it.
It was a balmy New Year's Eve night, as only we can have in New Orleans, when Linda and I found ourselves in the feed room together. The silence was awkward, but I went ahead and broke the ice.
"How's Sassy's hoof?" I inquired about a stone bruise that had kept the pony from any hard exercise for about a month.
"Better," was her only reply.
I ventured further. "How's things going with Cherie?"
"We're just friends," she responded, and I was suddenly reminded of my own words that I had used to describe our relationship to Cherie.
"What are you doing tonight," she asked.
"Going to Brady's for New Year's Eve," I said. "But you can't come-you're only 20."
"Yeah, I'm a baby," she chuckled. She patted Brandy's nose as she walked past his stall. "Miss ya, boy," I heard her whisper.
I was one miserable camper! I was not in any mood to enjoy New Year's Eve festivities that night and found myself heading home at 12:05 after one glass of champagne. But I decided to take a detour by the stable to check on Brandy and to feel close to something warm that loved me.
I approached his stall and saw him laying down in the fresh shavings. He whined softly at my footsteps as I unlatched the door and let myself in. His yellow skin reflected the moonlight streaming into the barn, and I sat down with him in the hay. His warm body relaxed me and soon I was humming MY favorite song to him.
A quiet sound made me glance up at the door and there stood Linda. "What a picture," she smiled, "mind if I join you?" She came into the stall and sat near my feet. "Let's go ride," she said.
"In a minute," I answered. "First tell me what you are doing here."
"Looking for you, crazy woman," she laughed. "I wanted to tell you something very important. In fact, I wanted it to be the first words you hear to start to new year."
"Ok, so tell me," I leaned forward to hear every word.
"I love you."
Linda embraced me right there in the hay. I held her still for a long moment before I brought my mouth to hers and whispered the same words. Our kiss was like a roller coaster ride of hair-raising climbs and deep drops. I never wanted it to end.
When it did, we saddled the horses and climbed aboard. The moon shone brightly on the levee and the crickets sang their loud songs. I was caught in the romantic web of every novel I had ever read, every movie I had ever seen. And as the silk of that web wrapped itself firmly around my heart, I realized that my love for women was the most exciting thing I had ever known.
And that is still true today. The silk of my romances has kept itself wound around my heart and somehow there is always something exciting to ride whenever I am in love-so I'm thinking about getting a motorcycle.
In fact, I can almost hear the motor running...feel the vibrations....