When I first met my wife, it was at a horse show, Howard Lake MN, and she was showing her horse Daydream, with Reflection Farm’s whole herd. It was a banner day for me. I was hanging around, making myself useful. Empty this muck bucket, tote that hay bale, whatever the ladies wanted done. I had been taking riding lessons from Jean Liestman, owner of Reflection Farm, so I got to come along as a handyman/groupie type deal. Jean never turns down an offer of free help.
I was standing at the rail, waiting for the Showmanship class to start up. One of the participants was a young lady, Joy Houske, a friend of Reflection farm, and she was showing her horse in this class. Now, since I was a relative new guy at the horse show business, I had seen all these people, but did not know them very well, and to them, I was Hey You. Joy was out in the ring with her horse, getting ready and she looks up, notices I am standing there, points to me and says “YOU!” I snap my head in her direction and point to myself and say “me?” She nods her head and says “yes, I want you to be my groom.” Joy was a very sweet girl, still in high school and very easy on the eye. Also, her dad was there, and I was old enough to be her kindly, helpful uncle. I popped over the fence and was standing next to her horse, before she finished her sentence. Much like I would imagine a helpful, horsy uncle would do. Her horse snorted and gave me a side eye, but I ignored it and did my groom thing, which was hold the horse, brush the horse, stand next to the horse. I am thinking, yup, I could like this horse show stuff. We finished the class, and I was dismissed to go back to my free help status.
A bit later, the Western Pleasure class was going on. I noticed this long haired chick on a Pinto Saddlebred that caught my eye. She was well out of high school, so I dropped the whole Uncle routine and ambled up to her after the class, to see if I could be helpful-like. And wouldn’t you know it, she asked me if I could help her out of her chaps. Heck yah, I can do that. This horse thing is looking better all the time.
So, I made first contact with the hot and friendly long haired chick, and now the horse show is over. I think Jean, the owner of Reflection Farm, had noticed my interest in the aforementioned long haired chick, and more than likely contrived a continuation of our first contact. She decided to stop at a local restaurant in Howard Lake for some well deserved food, and amusement at watching how things were going to develop. Our party consisted of Jean, Annie, Jean’s teenage daughter, (very good looking I might add in my Uncle voice), Paula, (Miss could you help with my chaps), and myself.
We all placed our orders and the party started. Jean mostly sat there with a benevolent smile. Annie and Paula were working me pretty hard, but this wasn’t my first rodeo, so to speak, and I was giving as good as I got. The food comes and we all apply ourselves. Looking back on things, this next moment was a paradigm shift in my life. I picked up the ketchup bottle, to suavely apply it to my fries, and what happened next pretty much shaped my life from then until now. Annie and Jean were sitting across from me, Paula sitting next to me. I tip the bottle, give it a shake and nothing happens. Another shake, still nothing, and I give it a manly, but gentle tap on the bottom. Loki, Murphy or Cupid, maybe all three of them, decided they needed to up the ante and helped the ketchup bottle spray Annie and Paula with what I wanted on my fries. Time slows down, you see a fork in the road. Which road do you take? What the ketchup was metaphorically asking me was, do ya feel lucky punk? Well do ya?? I did, indeed. I told Annie, sorry girl, I was aiming for Paula. Paula elbowed me in the ribs, but in a friendly way. Jean just nodded her head, mentally thinking the new guy dufus is going fit in, and I asked both of the ladies if they were going to use all that ketchup on their shirts, as I was a little short.