Last week at the clinic, drifting off to sleep while staring at the ceiling of the horse trailer, I got to thinking about the past. I got to thinking about quiet mentors, mentors that let mistakes happen, mentors that let the learning happen, mentors that are there to help clean up when the learning gets messy.
I got to thinking about Bernie.
Bernie started this fire. He put me on his horse Gimlet a long, long time ago. I think he liked kids. He was a friend of Grandpa’s and one (maybe the only one) of those guys with good sense (most of the time). Bernie had this kid’s back on those rides. He’d let me learn (sometimes the hard way) but then he’d be there to help clean up the mess. If I came off, he’d laugh with the rest of the guys, but then he’d help find my hat while I shook the sand out of your underwear. He wouldn’t say, “you should have done this…” he’d say, “think about doing this next time…”
Decades pass. I was now in my 30s. Riding out with Grandpa who was now in his 90s and riding 30 degrees off-of-center at all times. Ride, lunch and drinks with the guys. It was the last time I’d ride with Grandpa, he hung it up soon after that. I knew better, but the “cultural experience” got the better of me. Grandpa and I mount-up to head back to the ranch; a 90-something with a 30-degree list and a 30-year-old acting 20. A mess waiting to happen, the ride back a windy fire road. I glance back several times to see Bernie’s white truck secretly trailing us home. Hanging back, just out of sight, just around the bend, he had our backs.
He quietly had our backs.