I did a lot of hiking over the weekend, and ran across something interesting. Arizona is a fairly unique state, and there are things you can see here that you only rarely see in other places, if at all: The Saguaro cactus, the Roadrunner, the single-digit IQ person who gets elected governor… On Sunday, I ran across a herd of wild horses (that’s a couple of them in the main photo). Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “That’s great, Greg. But can you somehow turn this wonderfully serene tableaux into a story involving horses and dangerous drugs?” Why, yes. Yes, I can.
The university I
totally blew off while learning how to bounce a quarter into a glass of beer attended used to suffer from a housing shortage. With well over 40,000 students, this meant that housing located within walking distance of the campus became highly sought after, and rents were set accordingly high. This is when people who lived nearby decided that the money they could make by renting their house out to students outweighed the convenience of living in an area where random drunk people would fornicate in their yard. And so everyone made the decision to rent out their house at once.
This resulted in a glut of housing and rent plummeted, first as a direct result of the overabundance of housing, and then as a result of alcohol-based redecorating projects undertaken by students. These projects, which I was no stranger to myself (read: indoor beer Slip ‘n Slide), added value to rental properties, if by “added value to” you actually mean “removed all value from”.
And so it happened that I lived in a house with ridiculously low rent ($110 a month, all utilities included) that attracted a colorful cast of characters who made up for their decidedly non-industrious nature with a boisterous love of grain alcohol. I’ve mentioned one of my roommates, Darren, before. He was a local who, in a town with a normal housing market would almost certainly have been living on someone’s couch, if not in an alley. He worked at Pizza Hut a few nights a week, a fact that we abused as often as we could. We’d phone in an order for an extra-large pizza with double portions of everything on it and have it delivered to a non-existent address an hour before Darren got off of work. When the pizza was returned, he’d grab it on the way out the door and bring it home. It wasn’t hot, but we cared more about cold beer than hot food, and it tasted fine.
One night, Darren was tripping on some acid he’d gotten from a coworker. (Yes, believe it or not, people who work at Pizza Hut do drugs too. I’ll give you a minute or two to recover from the shock.) I’d been getting stoned all night, listening to Darren’s bizarre ramblings which were starting to wear on me.
Darren: Dude, did you know that if life really started when you were in the grave and your life went backwards, that we’d grow young instead of old, and you’d be allowed to drive until you turned 16?
Me: You are high as a motherfucker, Darren. Stop saying that kind of shit, it’s freaking me out.
Darren: Oh. Sorry.
Darren: What if the color I know as green is actually the color you know as red, but because we have the same word for it and no other way to describe how we see it, we’d never really know if we’re seeing the same color?
Darren: Oh yeah, right. Sorry.
Darren: How cool would it be if we replaced all of the grains of sand in the world with ping-pong balls?
So when the sun came up and going outside became an option, I jumped at the chance to do so. “Hey, do you want to go for a bike ride?” And so, at an insanely early hour of the morning, we hopped on a couple of our roommates’ bikes and set off for adventure.
I looked it up via Google Maps just now, and I think our trip was around 20 miles in length, which is pretty impressive given the fact that Darren was having trouble pedaling, at one point asking me if I could do it for him. At about the halfway point, we found ourselves in open farmland. The land South of the university was very rural with a sizable population of Mennonites. If you’re unfamiliar with Mennonites, think Amish with slightly different hatwear, but down with technology. It’s like one of them said, “Fucketh this, Elijah. I say we baileth on this scene and go play XBox. To keep God appeased, we’ll keep the hats.”
A girl I dated for a while in college wound up house-sitting for some friends of her father who were Mennonite. We spent a lazy, uneventful weekend getting stoned and drunk at their house, at one point getting it on in their pickup truck for some unknown reason. I’m sure it made sense at the time. (“Hey! We’re fucking in a Mennonite’s pickup truck!”) A week later, the owner of the house swung by my girlfriend’s parents’ house to drop off a few things. “Your daughter left this in my pickup truck,” he said, as he handed over a pair of her big-girl sexy panties. “Oh, and if she’d like to recycle the empty beer cans she left in my back yard, tell her she can pick them up at my house, if she still remembers where that is.”
Back to the bike trip. We were at the midway point when we stumbled across an idyllic scene: A large pasture of verdant, rolling fields, dotted by large trees and populated by several horses. “Look!” I exclaimed as I hopped off my bike. “Horses!” Darren and I spent the next few minutes feeding handfuls of grass to the horses through the fence as we petted their necks.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could ride these horses?” asked Darren.
“Well, they’re domesticated,” I said. “So I bet if you managed to get on one, you could ride around for a while.”
I’m not sure why I said this, to tell you the truth. I knew that any attempt to climb aboard a horse this way was bound to end badly. I wasn’t trying to get Darren hurt or anything. I think I was just being a stoned idiot, something I was quite good at in those years.
Darren and I discussed the idea in practical terms, or terms as practical as you can expect given the fact that we were smoking a joint and couldn’t go more than 30 seconds without bursting into a giggle fit. The plan was for Darren to climb to the top of the fence and sit there with his legs inside the enclosure. He’d feed the horses, and then when he ran out of grass, I’d offer some to his left. When the nearest horse turned his attention to me, Darren would hop on and… I don’t know, do some show tricks or something. We hadn’t really thought past getting on the horse.
Darren climbed the fence, and the horses scattered. They seemed to know something uncool was about to happen.
Bob: Ok, I don’t mind the weird two-legged horses feeding us grass, but what is up with the fence-climbing shit?
Keith: Yeah, that makes me nervous. Remember the time that one guy climbed over the fence and did that thing to Roger?
Bob: Oh, you mean when he cut off his…
Bob: Not cool!
Still, the allure of the grass must have been pretty strong, because after five minutes or so, the horses came back, eating grass from Darren’s hands as I replenished his supply a few times. After the horses had calmed down, we executed our plan. Well, Darren executed it. And he didn’t so much execute the plan as he totally deviated from it.
Look, I admit that it’s one thing to plan calmly climbing on the back of a thousand pound animal, and it’s entirely another to actually do it. But at no point in time did we discuss an ear-splitting Kamikaze-style death scream, which Darren let out as he fucking jumped from the fence onto the back of this huge brown horse.
The horse, of course, was less than enthused about this sudden turn of events, and in one quick, violent motion, sent Darren rag-dolling into the enclosure. This was followed by a lot of panicked neighing and a hoof stomping retreat which, from my perspective, looked as if it went directly over what I assumed was Darren’s corpse.
“Holy shit! Darren! Are you ok?” I asked as I climbed the fence. The grass inside the enclosure was high enough that I couldn’t even see Darren, so I began walking towards where I thought he’d landed. After about fifteen panicky seconds of looking I turned to find Darren standing up behind me.
“Wow. That was fucking intense.” He didn’t have a scratch on him, which just goes to show you that while God looks after fools and children, he also looks after assholes on acid.
We laughed about Darren’s sub-second horsey ride all the way home.
When we got home, the phone was ringing. It was my mother, making another one of her patented early-morning calls.
“Well! I’m surprised you’re awake!” she said.
“I will have you know that I just got back from a very long bicycle ride.”
“Good for you!” my mom replied, somewhat surprised. “It’s good to hear that you’re doing something healthy and not sleeping in.”
“Thank you,” I said, cracking a beer. “Darren and I are turning over a new leaf. We’re thinking about taking up horseback riding!”