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The day that galloped away

It was the time when everything in the house looked like a disaster and the outside world was perfect. Green pastures and wildflowers spread everywhere, the air was remarkably sweet. One day I gave myself some choices. I should tidy up the house, I could get at my typewriter, I wanted to go riding. On the other hand a vast expanse of wild horehound should be demolished. After pondering all my problems I decided that the most useful thing I could do would be to start conquering the horehound before it went to seed. That way I could be outdoors and doing something worthwhile.

So far as I know wild horehound is not a relative of horehound- flavored candy. Before it turns summer dry it produces determined small burrs which attach themselves to everything, making thick tangles in horses' manes and tails. You can't pull the burrs out one by one; the only thing to do is to give the animal an unbecoming haircut. After the first rains soften the earth and the young plants are just starting it is an easy job uprooting them. I didn't get at it when I should have. The plants had become many thick green clumps, waist high. Left unattacked these can crowd out pasture grass and cover acres of land with something on which no animal can graze.

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The earth was not as moist as I had hoped and the horehound had grown thicker and tougher than I had expected. It took a strong hoe and a lot of work to remove only one thick clump. Though horehound will flourish anywhere, it does its best under the shade of oaks, so I had a good place to work, out of the sun. From this hillside I enjoyed looking at mountains and valleys when I, too frequently, stopped to rest. The dogs who ordinarily love to dig holes couldn't be enticed to dig at roots here, though they have a passion for uprooting garden flowers. They went to sleep in the shade, and the yellow cat, who was with us, crouched down and seemed to be observing my labors with interest.

It wasn't long before I knew that I should have been wearing work gloves. I looked across a meadow at my house and it seemed too far to walk under the sun just to find gloves, so I kept on and with some enthusiasm. Since I detest hard labor this was strange, but there was a feeling of exhilaration whenever I got the best of an extra big clump.

The untidy house looked good to me when at last I went in to sit down and gulp something cold. Then the phone rang. Marguerite said, "We're all going riding; Tom, Leo, you and I. We'll be along about 5:30 -- it should be nice and cool by then."

I protested, "I'm tired and hungry. I'm going to eat a lot and then I'm going to sleep."

But of course I went riding. I rode my old horse Cherokee, who is lively and fun. Marguerite rode her bay Pete, Tom was on a gray gelding and young Leo, from Mexico, was on a wild little red mare. She is beautiful, but Leo calls her poco loco.m We traveled through meadows where oaks spread long shadows, we took a woodsy trail beside a stream, we rode by wild lilac, and could smell Cleveland sage. Leo's mare never settled down. From time to time she left the earth, leaping straight up with all four hoofs off the ground. Constantly she reared, plunged, whirled, but Leo just laughed. "She is one spoiled mare, I wonder who used to own her."

Leo dismounted to open a gate. Somehow the mare got away from him and vanished at once. Shouting strong remarks in Spanish, Leo started running, though we all offered to give him a lift. It was growing almost too dark to see the mare's tracks on the trail, but she must be heading for home. We found Leo's hat where he hadn't bothered to pick it up, but it was a while before we caught up with him.

Eventually, when Leo and his mare were reunited, there were lots of stars and a new moon. I was cold, hungry and tired as we rode up the last homeward hill and I wondered why I had imagined that I was having such a good time. But I was.

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