When a cowboy gets the worst of a horseback wreck he straightens his hat, dusts off his britches and gets back on the horse.
When someone asks, “Are you hurt?” he laughs, points to his body part that hit the ground first — usually his rear end — and says, “Nah … landed on my brains.”
My dad told about asking the boss on a big outfit for a job during a rainstorm. The boss said, “We’ll catch you a horse so you can show us your style.” Dad said, “Lead out your worst one (that’s what they were going to do, anyway).”
He was a super bronc rider, but not that time. “I flew straight up in the air so hard and fast it stripped all the rainwater out of my bridle reins,” he remembered. Evidently, he’d stayed on longer than anybody else so he got the job.
The first time I climbed on an unbroken 3-year old sorrel gelding called Sleepless my husband asked, “Are you scared?”
“Course not,” I lied. That horse threw me away like I was a rag doll, then bucked five minutes with the empty saddle and got really good at bucking.
When I started to get back on, my husband noticed I was coughing up blood. “If you get back on that horse he’ll kill you,” he said. We went to the hospital, and I still hate that I didn’t get back on that horse right then.
These stories show what happens when people refuse to allow fear to rule their behavior even if they know they’re headed for a wreck. A scared person would have insisted the horse be put in a padded pen with all kinds of “safety” equipment. Both horse and rider would have been safe — in the pen — but they couldn’t be turned out in the pasture — too risky. So what would be the point?
As our society has become more affluent and safer and life expectancy has steadily increased, we would assume citizens would feel more relaxed and secure. Michael Crichton, in his novel, “State of Fear” said that hasn’t happened. “Western societies have become panic-stricken and hysterically risk averse,” he wrote.
British sociologist Frank Furedi wrote a book (2002), “Culture of Fear: Risk-Taking and the Morality of Low Expectations.” He believes the “rituals” of risk management supplant actually taking real-world, effective action.The BP oil spill is a case in point.
A recent German-made movie, “The White Ribbon” won a Golden Globe award and a top award at Cannes last year. Some thought it was about the rise of fascism, but film critic Roger Ebert gave it four stars and wrote, “It’s about how the rise of fear leads to the loss of freedom.”
Our own government has become expert at the “fear” game, knowing when people are afraid they are easier to “manage.”
I vote for everyone to pursue the cowboy way. Even if you’re scared spitless, don’t let it show. Animals (and people) can smell fear. From now on I plan to be totally fearless — around horses, other people, even the food I purchase.