There’s a saddle in my office. No, I don’t ride to work on horseback. It’s a saddle that I haven’t sat on in nearly a half-century.
When I was a kid, we had two horses, Ace and General. We bought Ace from the Murphree family. I have kept my acquaintance with their two daughters over the years.
We later bought General for about $200, and that price included the aforementioned saddle. We didn’t own a horse trailer. My dad rode him from the Douglas County line to a stable in Ben Hill, which may have been 10 or 15 miles. General was not a pretty horse, but my dad liked to ride him.
Later, we moved to Social Circle. My brother, Dixon, offered one day to saddle up General and we would go for a ride. General was startled by something and tossed me to the ground. I was taken to Dr. Barton’s office where an X-ray revealed that I had broken my collarbone.
The weekend before, I walked the aisle of the First Baptist Church of Social Circle and gave my heart to Jesus. Here I was a few days later, scraping the abundant red clay off of me, and feeling a lot of pain in my shoulder. I was thinking some not-so-Christian thoughts about that wild-eyed horse.
When my shoulder had healed and Preacher Tribble had immersed me in the water of the baptistery of our church, my dad decided I needed to learn a life lesson.
“You’ve got to get back on the horse,” he said one day.
Fortunately, he had warmed him up for me. “Now you make him go where you want him to go,” he told me as I rode off with my knees squeezing that saddle tightly. I rode him around the yard and felt that, for a few minutes, I was in charge.
A year or so later, Dad invited me to ride double with him on old General. Somewhere on the old dirt road that led to the railroad trestle, General bucked and my Dad and I were spilled onto the road. My hard head hit my dad and broke his nose. We never tried that again.
It’s not a fancy saddle, but it sits there as a reminder of what seemed like a challenging time in my life. Sometimes I reach over and run my hand along the tree of the saddle.
We need to treasure our memories. It may be your grandmother’s rolling pin or her handwritten recipe on a tattered card. It may be a cane pole you used to catch a little bitty fish that seemed like a whale at the time.
I like to touch those things that hold those wonderful memories. Sometimes the ability to retrace the path of someone now gone that you loved is very therapeutic.
Over the past seven years, my office has become a tiny museum of my life. There are old books, models of old cars and a painting of the very first Krystal restaurant in Chattanooga in my collection.
Some days when I get a little frustrated or discouraged, I can look over at the old saddle and hear the words of my daddy. He was a man of few words, but those words are forever etched in the treasure chest of my mind.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page.