It’s that time again – time for “something a little different”! Inspired by one of my favorite stories, Rashomon, I solicit the thoughts and opinions of others who have tread the same path as me, but (inevitably) they bring a different perspective. End result: you get twice the story.
This was a fun one – going back in time more than 30 years ago, when my mother took my sister and I to an all-inclusive, internationally acclaimed dude ranch in Tuscon, Arizona called Tanque Verde. The journey through my dusty memories is made a little less shadowy thanks to my storytelling partner: my older sister, referred to here as “Sis” of course. Here we go:
1. What are your strongest memories from our trip?
SIS: I have many memories of this trip!
HEZAASAN: Yay! Let’s get to it:
SIS: I remember that even before we arrived we did not account for Arizona not having daylight savings time. We ran through the airport with all our belongings, in scorching hot temperatures, thinking we had just minutes to catch our connection – only to arrive at the gate to see an airplane departing. Mom went to inquire as to how we might get another flight and was told that our flight doesn’t leave for another hour. It wasn’t our plane – we had not adjusted our time correctly and we would be on our flight no problem. You and promptly collapsed in the chairs and fell asleep.
HEZAASAN: One of a very small handful of times we would see our mother run. (A characteristic I’ve somewhat inherited — running is akin to medieval torture around these parts.) I remember thinking our vacation would need to be postponed, as I’d never missed a flight before, and how absolutely tragic that would be. I believe there was much finger-crossing and random prayers to the Great Unknown to “stop that plane!” Followed by sweet relief with a dash of sour embarrassment, culminating in the bitter aftertaste of exhaustion.
Rise and Shine and Horses
SIS: I remember getting up early to ride horses and eat breakfast in the desert, and then come back to the room to sleep away the hours during the hottest parts of the day. And I remember you passing out on the horse during one of our longer rides (you just slumped over onto its neck which kept you from falling off). The ranchers gave you some water and you were fine again.
The story I tell most often is from our riding test for a more advanced ride. The horse I was testing on in the ring had puffed up to prevent the saddle from being put on too tightly. As we were cantering – I recall sliding with the saddle to the side of the horse. Horse hoof getting nearer and nearer to my face. I grabbed the reins and probably the mane of the horse to pull myself back upright. By then the ranchers had hurried over, were assisting me and were asking with great urgency if I was alright. I assured them I was. I recall one of them saying, “Little lady – you pass, but I think if we let you out with us it just might kill your momma – anywho she sure is ready to kill us.” We did not go on the advanced ride.
HEZAASAN: The horses are without question my strongest memory of the trip. The whole point of going to a dude ranch, in my mind, was to be able to ride horses all the live-long day. I quickly learned, after a couple of days, that you really don’t want to be riding them — or doing anything at all outside in the desert, really — unless it’s dusk or dawn.
Our animal-loving mother was excited to take us to the nature presentations and walks in the evenings, so that left us with waking up super-early, checking in for that morning’s ride, getting our assigned horses and following the guide across the valleys and the mountains (depending on the day). We’d typically eat a basic breakfast at our destination, like pancakes, then get back on our mounts and ride back to the resort before the sun could blare down on us and make any further exposure unbearable.
It’s a good thing we all had the “gift of nap” — being able to crash for a few hours after the morning rides was critical.
SIS: I remember the snakes, and insects. It was “mating season” for tarantulas and they were everywhere in the evening. To ease our (my?) nerves we had fun narrating their evening prowls for dates a la “two wild and crazy guys” from SNL.
I remember you finding the black widow on the lock to a bathroom stall (one upping my tarantula sighting outside).
HEZAASAN: First of all, I had completely forgotten about the Wild and Crazy Guys coping strategy — that was so much fun. I do recall that we felt like we’d been dropped in the middle of a Creepy Crawly Convention and we were the guests of honor. And how could I forget going to use the bathroom during one of the outdoor evening presentations, and reaching for the handle to the door to let myself out, and then seeing the infamous red spot and realizing, that’s not a handle. My only regret is we didn’t give her a name (at least not one that I can remember).
Lights in the Sky
SIS: I remember watching a lightning storm, and seeing shooting stars that lasted long enough to be pointed out to you or mom.
HEZAASAN: I have a strong sense memory of seeing the lightning through our cabin window. A stunning sight. I recall thinking I should be afraid, but instead I was in awe. Like looking at a priceless piece of art, constantly shifting and changing, and ultimately every moment being an utter masterpiece. Every moment a perfect storm, the way every sunset is the perfect sunset. Simply glorious.
Words of Wisdom
SIS: I remember meeting an indigenous person who I asked “with so many variations in language how did they know who to trust?” He told me with great sincerity that to best know a person it is wise to look at their actions more so than there words. I never forgot that, and reflect on this often.
HEZAASAN: I love that story. Such truth! Thanks for sharing that, and all of these remembrances.
2. Did our experience alter your opinions about riding horses?
SIS: I have always and still do enjoy riding. It’s something I try to take advantage of whenever possible. This trip just made me a little more confident in my riding skills.
HEZAASAN: For me, I think the experience moved my opinion of horseback riding out of the realm of fantasy and into the world of pragmatism. It was both exhilarating and painful (oh, my aching legs, oh my aching bum). I’ve definitely ridden horses since this trip, and enjoyed it, but I no longer feel like I need the experience of having one of my own as a pet.
3. What did our experience teach you about the desert?
SIS: It only looks dry and lifeless – there is life everywhere. You can’t be absent minded in the desert – you’ll get hurt.
HEZAASAN: The lesson I remember most is similar — that there is so much more than meets the eye. In particular, there are so many different creatures out there, great and small and poisonous and adorable. I’ll never forget our guide finding and trapping the gila monster and talking for a good ten minutes about how we were luckier than most Arizona residents to actually find one in the wild. (He was very Steve Irwin about the whole thing.)
4. Would you ever go back to Tanque Verde with your own family?
SIS: Yes, most definitely. It was an amazing vacation. My children appreciate adventure, and being challenged physically. I believe they would enjoy themselves very much.
HEZAASAN: Likewise! And with luck, we’ll see you there.