While visiting with a friend, the subject of fear came up, and the friend asked if I could remember the first time I was really frightened. He said he could and recounted the memory as if it had happened only yesterday.
Actually, it had occurred over 80 years ago. As he finished his story, I began to reflect to try to find that first real fright. I don’t remember feeling any fear before we moved to town in 1939, but then I had always felt nothing but security in those canyons.
I never did recall that first real fright, but I did recall having felt insecure after we moved back to those canyons. I do know that our lives were in danger at times when we lived in the sheriff’s residence, thus, I suppose I learned the meaning of fear there. I still felt OK in those canyons as long as I was within shouting distance of our house or the store.
Whenever possible, I rode horseback with Dad as he checked on the cattle in the various pastures. He taught me to count them, to recognize each one, and to be able to find them even it they had gone into the canyons to graze or to drink at one of the springs. I’d ride by myself to the store or to gather the milk cows in the evening and felt safe.
One morning, Dad said he was going to be plowing all day and wanted me to count the cattle in the east pasture. He knew he had taught me all I needed to know in order to accomplish that task, and I feel sure he wanted me to pass that first real test.
Well, I struggled with the saddle and finally had everything in place so Spud, my paint horse, and I could tend to a simple chore. I was fine as long as we were near the edge of the canyons or in sight of the store, but once we went over a little rise, I suddenly realized what a small dot I was in that large landscape and became frightened.
Yes, I knew all the hiding places and places to avoid in order to be safe from falling into those canyons, but I didn’t know how scared I could be until that strange feeling hit.
Spud and I didn’t find very many cattle because we didn’t go very far into that pasture. I counted all I could see by standing up in the stirrups, ticked them off in my tally book, and decided we needed to head home at a lope. I think Spud knew I was uncomfortable because he didn’t even try any of his usual tricks with me and did just as I asked by tapping him with the reins.
After I unsaddled Spud and fed him, I took my little book to the house to show Dad. He just looked at me and grinned as if he knew what had happened. He said we would check the cattle later in the week to see if some of them had come back.
Mother didn’t even question me for a change, and I began to relax a little. Later, I found out that they both knew I had scared myself silly but wasn’t about to admit it.
Of course, we found all the cattle later when I went with Dad. The subject never came up again, and I wasn’t asked to check on the cattle in that big pasture again. I learned that first time I could not face fear very well and might run it frightened.
Later, I learned to face whatever came along and to stand without thought of running from it. We surely learned much as we grew.
Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident and can be contacted through the Quay County Sun by calling 575-461-1952.