These days, I find myself regularly traveling to exotic destinations like Krum, Texas, and Haughton, Louisiana, to watch my eldest and most expensive daughter compete in equestrian competitions. How she developed her mania for horses is a mystery to my wife and me. Neither of us have a background in rural livestock, and my past experience with horses mainly involved riding the coin-operated carousel at the entrance to Walmart–and that was a full month ago.
Horse shows are typically all-weekend affairs during which my daughter actually sits atop a horse for approximately forty-five seconds. The other 8 to16 hours of my time is usually spent trying to find something to eat and locating the men’s room. If I’m lucky, I might also find an old phone book to read.
Recently, we had to travel to Bucyrus, Kansas, for one of these events, which took us from East Texas up along the Indian Nation Turnpike through Oklahoma. We drove past towns like Hoot Owl, Big Cabin, Bushy Head, and Big Tussle. (Obviously, these communities are named after professional wrestlers.) For some reason, I imagined that I might see evidence of Native American culture throughout our journey. Instead, the most interesting sight I witnessed, other than a couple of bored-looking llamas, was a pontoon boat covered in mildew and being pulled by a John Deere tractor. Besides being disappointed that I didn’t see a single Native American on the Turnpike, I also found myself paying a toll every one-hundred feet, apparently to help Oklahoma buy more llamas–and tollbooths.
We did experience some excitement at a roadside gas station in the Creek Nation. Upon entering the bathroom, I noticed a warning sign indicating that any damage to the restroom would be considered a federal crime. Although I knew those convenience store egg rolls I had in Hugo could cause me trouble later, I had no idea that they might put me at risk of federal prosecution!
When we finally arrived at the horse show in Kansas, I naturally headed for the bathroom and immediately recognized the main feature of the Kansas landscape–wind, and since we were at a horse show full of animals that aren’t housebroken, it was as if the entire state needed a massive dose of Gas-X. Like all horse shows, this one featured a small selection of portable toilets (two, to be precise) for about 900 people, and the one I chose appeared to have hosted a mud wrestling match earlier in the day. Despite their filth, these were fairly modern porta potties, and after about my third visit, I discovered that the sink was actually a urinal!
During one of these pit stops, gale force winds began jostling the potty from side to side, and I turned my attention from the architectural advances of outdoor commodes to avoiding a swan dive into the blue water. This was no small feat as I was attempting to maintain my balance while clenching some new Thinsulate gloves in my armpits. (In case you wondered, each horse show is intentionally scheduled to coincide with the next polar vortex.) Although I did manage to stay dry, my armpits proved less coordinated than I had hoped, and the unthinkable happened to one of my gloves. I then did the unthinkable and pretended I was retrieving the One Ring from the lava in Mt. Doom. Of course, I spent the rest of the horse show proudly wearing my toxic glove and threatening to touch my wife with it. (Hey, I wiped it off a little, first!)
After surviving Hurricane Johnny, I managed to find a seat in the one area of the horse show venue that didn’t include a foot of manure, and as a bonus, it was near the snack area. I was hungry, and I was hoping to sink my teeth into a burger, hot dog, or something else to get my mind off of the smell. Imagine my shock when I approached the counter and realized that the snack bar special of the day was pasta salad! Really? Was the intention of the show organizers to starve all of the dads into submission so that they would resign themselves to spending a fortune every other weekend on an activity specifically designed for teenage girls to live beyond their parents’ means? Unable to bring myself to face a paper plate full of disappointment, I bought a king size bag of Cheetos and went, dejectedly, back to my seat. It was only after eating the entire bag and sticking my finger in my mouth to lick off the magical Cheeto dust that I realized I had forgotten to take off the glove.
In the end, the horse show was a rousing success for my daughter and her teammates. They won reserve champion, and I couldn’t have been prouder. It was in the midst of my rejoicing that my wife reminded me that the victory meant the team would advance to yet another competition in the next couple of weeks. As she patted me on the back, she promised to pack me some Cheetos, pasta salad, and my favorite phone book.