No matter how much you plan for a vacation, it’s sometimes wise to stay fast and loose and saddle up with serendipity when it comes trotting along. You grab it by the reins and climb aboard, just like Wendy did in Monument Valley during the long-awaited, two-vulture swing through the Southwest last week. As much as I relish trip research and itinerary planning, one thing I now recognize: the best times in life are often unscripted and happen in spite of you.
We were vacation day +3, about an hour into the MV tour with Harry, our Navajo Spirit Tours guide, when we rolled by John Ford Point, an outcropping of rock perfectly positioned in front of West Mitten and Merrick buttes that the old-Hollywood director used in many of his classic John Wayne westerns. It’s a great place to pose and play cowboy or cowgirl. The scene is vintage American west and an iconic location for a photo op.
Just a few sticky details though. It’s up pretty high, and that docile horse is just a few feet from the edge. No thanks, I said to myself. I’ll just watch these chumps from afar.
So imagine my shock, my awe when Wendy jumped at the $5 photo op to climb atop this horse. Who did she think she was, Annie Oakley or something? Me, Calamity Jane, wanted to say, “Darn tootin’. You sure are loco, pardner.”
Instead I bawled, “Nooooooooo way.” I know my limitations. What about an unexpected “Hi-yo Silver” horse-stand moment? What then? What if the horse suddenly got tired of posing and wanted to gallop away? WHAT THEN, WENDY?
But she insisted. She bravely, gamely, enthusiastically put that foot in the stirrup and yanked herself tall in the saddle. The horse handler took her camera for photos while I stood off to the side to document this moment for my scrapbook. He took about three quality clicks and was readying to usher her down to earth when Wendy suddenly gets the urge for more. Sort of like John Ford wanting one more take of the Duke riding high. She blew off the horse guy and started directing the next shot.
For as long as I live I will remember her saying, “Hey, how about this?” and thrusting her right hand out into the dry desert air. Dialogue ran through my head. Something like, “Boys, I think that’s a water hole out yonder.”
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