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weary warrior

It's Not So Bad

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It’s Not So Bad

    I found myself in Hunchun, China in 2002. A good friend of mine, Don, had been contacted by a group out of California that was renovating an old farm there and was turning it into a dairy for relief work. It’s too long and complicated to go into all of the details here, but suffice it to say, Don was a contractor and was asked to go and supervise the construction.

    When he got there, he found that they wanted to use horses for work on the farm, and had one lone horse already there. The horse was not broke, of course. They asked Don if he knew anyone crazy enough … I mean willing enough… to fly to China to break horses for them, and he thought of me. So I packed a duffle of clothes and a box with my saddle and gear and caught a plane to China.

    What a beautiful disaster. Hunchun sat at the NE tip of China where China and Russia and North Korea all meet. I stood on the banks of the river and looked across the water at the houses in North Korea. We went to the border crossing one day, and there was a brass bar about 2-3 inches wide and several feet long inset into the concrete with NK guards standing on the other side. I asked if I could put one foot across the line, just to say I had been in their country. They said no. So I didn’t.

    Anyway, out on the farm, there was a one lane gravel road that ran out to the place and then on past. They had pointed out the road to me where it wound on off into the trees in the distance, and told me Russia was just down that road.

    As I said, from a horse training aspect, it was a disaster. I only had a 30 day visa, but I was young and optimistic. It poured rain for 19 days straight. When the rain stopped, we finally got out to the farm and the area I had to work in was tiny, and literally knee deep in black mud and gummy muck. The round pen I was to work the horse in was so frail he just left between the bars when he had enough, saddle and all. I had to really step outside the norm and get creative with my training routine in a hurry.

    But I made progress, worked the horse, got him used to the saddle, got him giving to the bit, and eventually was able to mount him. I started riding him easy down the long, gravel driveway and back, not able to take as much time between stages as I normally would have liked because of time restraints, but he was doing fine.

    Then, about a week before I had to leave, they bought another horse. This one was a little mare, and she was supposed to have already been broke. I was out of time, and the stud I had been working was nowhere near ready to turn over, so I called in the assistance of my ol’ buddy, Donny.

    Donny had grown up in South Dakota and had ridden on ranches as a kid. I knew he would be fine and could handle himself, so I decided what I needed to do was take the stud out on his first full ride, and Donny would ride the mare and come along. Horses are social creatures, and tend to do better when with their own kind. 

    We ran into a small difficulty right off. I had brought my good saddle with me from home, but there was no saddle for the mare.

    Oh. Wait. The Chinese interpreter says there is a saddle here on the farm? Great! Trot it out! This is an unexpected boon.

    Oh, my. That’s it?

    That’s the saddle?

    One of Ghengis Khan’s soldiers rode that very saddle back in the day, I’m sure of it.

    No blanket?

    No worries. Here, Donny. Let’s put this old pillow under that ancient Mongolian saddle and cinch it all down real tight on the back of that little horse that the Chinese interpreter assures us has been broke to ride. What could possibly go wrong?!?

    Trust me.

    And away we go. Wasn’t too bad at first. The little mare had been ridden before, it was obvious. My stud was wound up tighter that a banjo string, but I figured a few miles walking out down a quiet, back, country road would calm him down. So we let the horses walk easy down to the end of the long drive way, then turned left.

    Toward Russia

    I had never seen Russia

    It seemed like a good idea, to go see Russia.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    There was an inordinate amount of traffic on that little road that day. And for some reason, every little Chinese car that passed us felt the need to honk a greeting as they went by.

    Beep Beep

    The stud bunched up. He didn’t like that.

    Another car.

    Beep Beep

    He bunches tighter. I know the feeling that I’m feeling under my saddle. I’ve felt it before. This is not good.

    Another car

    Beep Beep

    The little mare is feeling his mounting agitation, and is feeding off of it. So she’s getting fraction, which is not helping his state of mind.

    Another car.

    Beep Beep.

    I see a building ahead about 100 yards on the right, and all of the traffic seems to be heading there. If I can hold this thing together and get past that building, things should settle down. So we continue on, riding an eight hundred pound stick of dynamite with the fuse lit. Hoping.

    We come to the drive that leads to the building. Everyone down the driveway waves cheerfully. We've made it. Home free. I can breath. We’re gonna be fine.

    Somebody at that moment chooses to set off a string of firecrackers.

    A very large string.

    Oh, those silly, mischievous Chinese.

    Stud horse didn’t like it. Little mare didn’t like. I didn’t like it. Donny hated it. His pillow was slipping.

    But we persevered. I controlled stud horse and told him it was ok. Donny controlled the little mare, and told her bad noise doesn't eat good horses.

    His pillow slipped a little more.

    Gonna be ok.

    Moving on.

    Past the bad house….

    They set off another string of firecrackers.

    The stud had done wonderfully up to that point, but that last string of firecrackers was just too much. He decided to leave the country. I saw Donny out of the corner of my eye and his little mount and he were having difficulty. His saddle was completely rolling over onto her side and he was trying desperately to pull her in while clinging resolutely to her back in a valiant but futile effort to maintain some sort of control. I tried to reach out and grab her headstall for him, but it was a lost cause. I saw him finally roll off in a ditch, still holding her reins like the good hand I knew he was.

    So I gave the stud his head and let him go. In all my years of riding, I’ve never been on a horse that could run faster than I could ride, and this one was no different. He had earned the right, and it would do him good to get it out of his system. He wasn’t bucking (thank-you, Father) and he wasn't heading back to the barn. 

    So run, you rascal. And I’ll go with you.

    Oh.

    Wait.

    Russia.

    I forgot about Russia.

    This can’t be good.

    A wild-eyed American cowboy on the back of a runaway Mongolian pony in the back country of China showing up at a dead gallop to the Russian border?

    The things you see when you don’t have your gun.

    We ran for a ways down that gravel road, and I could feel the stress leaving the little guy as he ran it out. I figured I would just try to explain as best I could when the time came, so I settled down to enjoy the ride. We eventually came to a bend in the road, and around that bend the road … stopped.

    It just stopped.

    There was a very heavy 12’ chainlink fence with barbed wire on top, and on the other side of the fence were trees. and Russia. Russian trees.

    I think I was actually a little disappointed.

    Soldiers with AK-47’s would have made for a great story.

    The horse was run out, so he stopped easily at the sight of the fence, and I stepped down to let him catch his breath. Donny eventually came limping up leading his mare. We got his pillow and saddle back on and re-cinched down, then we both re-mounted and slowly, thoughtfully made our way back to the farm.

    The Chinese from the bad house sent their apologies later. They were opening some sort of government office that day and the firecrackers were traditionally set off to scare away bad spirits.

    If bad spirits ride horses, I can see where that might work.

Edited by weary warrior

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7 hours ago, Alan said:

Wow! What a story. Real glad I never learned how to 'break' a horse.

Got any photos of your escapade?

I do have some pictures of some pictures somewhere. There not digital, though. just some photos stuck in a small photo album.

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If there is any way for you to upload them (maybe take a digital copy of them), I am sure that all of us would like to see them.

Also, I do appreciate your time and effort in relating your trip to China. Maybe, if you feel led, you have any else of interest in your China visit ( or perhaps a mission trip to another country), that you would like to express I am sure it would be a blessing to all of us. We understand that you may have to be discreet in mentioning names and results from China.

Alan

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20 minutes ago, Alan said:

If there is any way for you to upload them (maybe take a digital copy of them), I am sure that all of us would like to see them.

Also, I do appreciate your time and effort in relating your trip to China. Maybe, if you feel led, you have any else of interest in your China visit ( or perhaps a mission trip to another country), that you would like to express I am sure it would be a blessing to all of us. We understand that you may have to be discreet in mentioning names and results from China.

Alan

On the pictures, maybe eventually. They will have to be dug out, and then scanned in. I can see if my wife can help me with that some time.

You're very kind to be asking for more stories about experiences like the one written above. I have been putting a compilation of such stories together, but don't know if I will ever do anything with them. I don't know what purpose they would serve. However, if it will be of any help to you, I will start another "topic" on here and post an excerpt from my journal while I was in Papua New Guinea several years ago. I went over on a two year mission, to help establish 8 national works that had already been started by national pastors up in the highland jungles. I was very young, but never in all of my ministry was I ever more sure of God's leading, nor so helplessly, blessedly dependent upon Him. 

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We have had the blessing of meeting several missionaries to Papua New Guinea and admire their sacrifice. Your personal works, thoughts, and comments, on missions there would be a blessing to all of us.

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2 minutes ago, Alan said:

We have had the blessing of meeting several missionaries to Papua New Guinea and admire their sacrifice. Your personal works, thoughts, and comments, on missions there would be a blessing to all of us.

I just posted that journal excerpt in "writings and poetry" titled "A Living Sacrifice".

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