Rats, rats, rats, rats, rats, rats, RATS, I thought, using the expression I picked up sometime in elementary school, ‘cause Michael-what’s-his-face used it and I thought it was funny. It’s a slightly absurd exclamation to use, especially in dire circumstances such as these, but I contend that it’s much better than other things I could say. At the moment, I was directing my ire at the creek crossing in front of me, which, sooner or later, I and my horse, Lilah, were going to have to navigate.
Oh, in the grand scheme of things it was nothing so horrible. It certainly wasn’t a very large creek bed, and it was nearly dry, too. A short short slope down, a small flat area at the bottom, and an even shorter slope back up. But then, the path down was just a little bit steep, and the bottom was a tad muddy, and it really was a rather steep path back up. And so here I was, frozen in, well…I am unfortunately forced to label my emotion at the time to be “terror.”
Of course, I wasn’t the only one about to navigate what was fast becoming, to my mind, a gaping chasm. My dad was ahead of me, on his horse, Sawyer, and I watched as they walked down the slope into the gorge, and then did a little hop-skip-and-a-jump over the mud and up the other side. Dad congratulated Sawyer, and then turned around to wait for me.
My turn, now. But, what if Lilah slipped and fell and took me with her? What if she, the horse, always attuned to the nerves of its rider, grew just as nervous as me and started to fight me? What if she decided to actually jump and I fell off? What if I just forgot how to ride altogether and slid off on the way down, or up? What if she became stuck in the mud and freaked out? What if we were slowly sucked into ooze, down, down into oblivion and despair, a la that horse from The NeverEnding Story? What if…?
No, there could be none of that worrying nonsense, or we’d never get out of here. Hope may have been at its lowest, but that just meant it was time for an epic speech, which I promptly gave myself:
Okay, come on. If you want in any way to be able to even remotely survive Middle-earth, if you want to ride with the horse-lords of Rohan, if you want to be in any way worthy of the Mark, you are going to have to at least be able to get across this little trickle of a creek. Onwards and upwards. Literally.
And, so, we went. And, of course, Lilah and I did just fine. Down the slope, and then a hop-skip-and-a-jump over the mud, and up the other side. And, it was even, dare I say it, a fun experience, what with the skipping and the jumping. And I told Lilah, in my “sugary” voice, very unbecoming a rider of Rohan, that she was “such a good girl!” And so we set off on our way.
You see, as should be quite obvious, I did not live in some adventure story. To tell (or face) the truth, I probably didn’t want to. I liked hot water and soft pillows and air conditioning far, far too much. I don’t even like camping for a night, let alone traipsing about the wild for weeks on end like a real ranger. So, in my line of work, I must take whatever small chance I get, like this one ever-so-slightly-maybe-theoretically-a-tad-dangerous creek crossing, to show a little of something resembling courage, to pledge my unused, still-in-its-box pocket knife to all my favorite fantasy books, and to have just a tiny bit of adventure.