Who was your childhood best friend? Describe them–what brought you together, what made you love them. Are you still friends today?
My best friend was Janice. In elementary school, she was a Girl Scout and I was a Camp Fire Girl so we didn’t run in the same circle of friends. At recess, I spent my time out in the big field, behind the hardtop playground, jumping over wild mustard plants. I was a horse and the mustard were jumps and I spent my time cantering around my imaginary wilderness. One day when we were in the sixth grade, Janice approached me and asked if she could play horses with me. We quickly became the best of friends, continuing our cantering at her house or mine after school. I preferred going to her house because she had a small dog named Bullet. The two things I wanted most were a horse and a dog. Neither of us had a horse but she had a dog. She also lived at the base of the foothills, on one of last streets before the mountains rose steep and rugged. We would take Bullet for walks in the hills, swim in the pool at the end of her street, and dream about horses.
When we were in high school, we hit the jackpot. A friend of her older sister left town for college, leaving behind … her horse! She offered to let Janice ride the horse in her absence. The horse, Nedra, was a little strawberry roan Quarter Horse and was boarded up a winding road on Bluebird Hill. The family that owned the property had two horses of their own. A mare, Charco, and her colt. Charco wasn’t being ridden as the family’s kids were grown and gone. They offered to let me ride Charco whenever Janice rode Nedra. Janice and I were in heaven. Everyday after school we headed up Bluebird Hill to ride Charco and Nedra. Charco was a Quarter Horse/Arabian cross and a beautiful grey. She was opinionated and tried to dump me as much as possible. I loved her with every fiber of my being. Janice and I rode bareback because we had no idea of how to saddle a horse. We would jump the horses in their pasture, ride in the hills, and race across the plateau.
When Nedra’s owner returned and Janice no longer had access to a horse, I continued to ride Charco on my own. I don’t think Janice minded — she had a serious boyfriend by then. When we graduated from high school, she married that boyfriend and eventually moved with him to the other end of the State. I went off to college. We stayed in touch, but our lives were suddenly very different and we drifted apart. Although we aren’t close now, my memories of those days racing across the fields with the wind in our hair, crouching low with my cheek against Charco’s neck, urging her to go faster, feeling her muscles beneath my legs as we flew — those memories are gold.