I love the month of July. In Utah it’s a month-long celebration of parades, fireworks, rodeos, city carnivals, outdoor concerts and other festivities. We not only celebrate Independence Day on the fourth, but Pioneer Day on the twenty-fourth. Pioneer Day is an official holiday which commemorates Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entering into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. All month long we see more than the usual number of American and State flags flying.
Patriotic feelings swell whenever I see the American flag, but it grows even stronger when it’s flying by horsepower. My fondest teenage memories are having the honor of carrying the American flag in parades and horse shows with my American Saddler, Star. She was a nervous horse and didn’t enjoy the crowd noises of cap guns shooting, cheering and cackling, but she behaved differently when the American flag pole was placed in its holder mounted on my right stirrup. I took the responsibility very seriously and apparently she did also.
I felt obligated to present the flag with the proper respect it deserves and within the set guidelines. I was concerned about keeping the flag straight upright at all times, never letting it lean from side to side or forward or back. This can be complicated due to the constant movement and changing of speed and positions while preforming the team’s drill. Also, the American Flag should never touch anything beneath it, and the horse carrying the flag should never back up because this historically denotes retreat. With my anxious horse, I was constantly worried she’d back up, which unfortunately she did do a few times, but I never lost control or dropped the flag. I didn’t realize these specific rules relating to carrying the flag until I was given the honor. I’d like to think I was chosen because of my horsemanship, but having a tall, beautiful horse is most likely the reason I was given the opportunity.
Star wasn’t my first horse. While I love all animals, horses are at the top of my list for their muscular beauty. I had a gerbil, dog and a cat as a child, but they didn’t fulfill my ultimate dream of having a horse. We sometimes rented horses and I loved to feel and hear the beating of the ground as they ran with fierce power. To sit in a saddle and have control of this mighty animal was such a thrill to me. After years of begging, my parents told me if I saved my money, I could buy a horse. I would also be responsible for the feed and stabling. I saved the money I earned babysitting and cleaning
Dad’s construction business office. At age twelve I had saved one hundred dollars and bought a beautiful two year old buckskin filly named Ginger. Dad bought her mother, a bay quarter horse named Chili. She was fast and had won barrel racing contests. I have wonderful memories of horseback riding with my dad.
I joined the 4-H Cimmerons horseback Riding Club and learned a lot about horses and riding. Ginger was a gentle filly and was the perfect horse to train; she only bucked me off once. She never grew to be as big or was as fast as her mother, Chili. While horseback riding with my friends I was often teased, “Pick up your feet they’re dragging.” or “You look like you’re riding a basketball.”
Three years later, when Ginger was five years old, it appeared she was done growing and wouldn’t get any bigger. She was a perfect pet and I regretted needing to sell her because I had outgrown her. I loved and I missed her terribly after I sold her. It took a long time to get use to my very high-strung, spirited, but tall and beautiful American Saddler. Although I didn’t sell Ginger and buy Star with the ambition of carrying the American Flag, it turned out that way. Another guideline is that nothing can fly higher than the American Flag, so having a tall horse makes it possible. Ginger would have been a much calmer horse to carry the American Flag but her height wouldn’t have allowed it.
My happiest teenage memories are centered on horseback riding and the 4-H Club I belonged to. My proudest memories are the opportunities I had with Star to carry our American Flag.