Double D – A story of twin meanings

Brother MBrother M, Musings, ramblings 2 Comments

Somewhere back in the dark ages, I was a pimply teenager, fit and happy, also loose and full of um exuberance, around 14 years of age.

One year my parents decided to visit the Double D holiday ranch on the Tablelands near our home city. Double D was just a name to me.  What can I say? I was young and innocent.  Later on, of course, I realised that it could stand for American cowboys and a cattle brand. /Coughs

On our first trip there, I was a horse virgin, as well as a human virgin, but we won’t go there.  We were with a group of people: my family, a guy who was a local radio star and others.  After a hearty breakfast (is there any other type in the countryside?), we made our way to the stables.  Most of the others were horse-riding veterans.

There was an old bloke there with leather skin full of wrinkles, watery eyes and tough as nails.  His name was Paddy, a retired dairy farmer.  He dressed in a blue singlet, grey stubbies, thongs (not a G-string) and a laconic expression.  We said, “Gidday”, and he just grunted.

I spied this old horse; it was a burgundy colour, his face was going bald, he had a sleep coming out of his eyes, and he was snoozing, head on the rail of the stable.  As a person of 14 and full of confidence, I said, “I want this horse!”

Paddy blinked for a bit, then drawled, “Sure, no worries mate.”

There were about ten of us so it took a good half hour to saddle all the horses.  They were then led out into the yard.  All the teenage girls were trotting around directing their mounts like the veterans they were.  Paddy held the horse for me to mount.  I did so and sat a little nervously on his back, the horse, not Paddy.  Paddy led him around so I could get comfortable.  I did so and thought this wasn’t so bad, almost not scary at all.

The trip scheduled for the day was to the duck pond, probably around 5km away.  My horse had a pretty red bow on his tail, which I thought was a little odd.  So, I asked Paddy about it.  He said, “Keep him away from other horses as he kicks and bites.”

I am Australian, so I know about the habit of taking the piss, so my mind naturally went there.  After all, this horse was going bald, had sleep in its eyes and could barely stay awake most of the time. “Yeah, right mate” was my response in my head.  Paddy said nothing, just grunted and wandered off… The bastard.

We started; I was in the middle of the pack, my mount a tad sprightlier than before. I thought it was the cool morning air. I was wrong.

What I didn’t know that most horses at the Double D were retired racehorses and trotters.  And the horse I was now riding was called Regal Red, the goddamn fastest horse, in his 20s, mind you, on the whole damn ranch.

Did I mention Paddy was a bastard son of a diseased sheep herder?

So his bald face and ears perked up (again, the horse, not Paddy), and Regal Red started to trot faster.  Who knew that racehorses liked to be in front of the pack…

I was soon leading the way, no idea what that way was, but the horse seemed to know; I was a little more nervous now but still not trembling too severely.  A couple of the girls kicked their horses up and caught up to me, to ask how I was going.  “Are you OK?”


Regal was transported back to his hay day (sorry, I had to).  He took off like a horse out of the gate (the strains of Meatloaf playing in the background).

So about five hours later or about a km down the road, Regal decided he had won the race, slowed down then preened rather smartly, like he had just won the Melbourne Cup. My heartbeat slowed to a reasonable 260 beats per minute, and I took a breath for the first time.

Well, does it ever end there for me?  Of course not.  The girls, worried about me, cantered up behind.  Regal snorted, took one good look, and bolted.  And he didn’t stop, well, until he did, which was about 2km later at the duck pond, in front of a giant mud puddle. Now I wouldn’t blame you if you thought I went arse over tit straight into the puddle, but I didn’t.  Instead, I headbutted the back of the horse’s head and was dazed for a couple of minutes (I swear Regal looked disappointed).  I don’t think I urinated on myself, but I wouldn’t have bet on it.

The others caught up, again, somewhat worried, but I was fine even if my legs didn’t quite work correctly. The lovely radio star offered me his horse for the ride back which I accepted extremely gratefully.  I am sure Paddy was not laughing his arse off at the city kid trembling in fear.  Wait, yes, he was. The bastard!

I imagine you would think I would never ride again after an experience like this. And to be honest, I am not sure why I persisted.  Perhaps it was my young age, maybe it was the cute girls, or perhaps I wanted to succeed; I was very competitive back then. I don’t know why I did but I am grateful that I did.

I ended up visiting the place for school holidays for a few years.  I grew to love horse riding.  Regal Red was the most enjoyable ride of all the horses there.  He didn’t have a trot.  He had a sort of a rolling gait. He was responsive, fast, and a beautiful gelding. He was my very favourite horse. (Best Forrest Gump voice).

Visitors used to think I worked there.  I would fetch the horses early in the morning and bring them back to the stalls; sometimes, it was a trying experience as the horses would instead graze and than be ridden. It was some of the best times of my teenage years, and I am grateful my parents took me there.


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