Courage

2007 Rodney Cox

Lori Banks was enjoying riding her horse, Midnight. He was a large, five-year-old, black quarter horse, and rather spirited. She planned on breeding him eventually, but for the moment liked to take him out riding whenever she could. Lori was an aggressive rider and perhaps took too many chances and rode too fast.

She was riding along some trails through a forest near where she boarded Midnight, moving quickly. Something, perhaps a groundhog or squirrel ran out in front of the horse, startling it. Midnight reared up, throwing Lori from his back. She felt herself being lifted away from the saddle and had an ironic sinking feeling. This was not good, she thought to herself. She had never thought about ever falling off a horse.

Lori hit the ground hard and heard a loud "pop" as she landed on her back. Pain exploded in her lower left leg, and shot up through her whole body. The pain was so intense she couldn't breathe. Never had she felt anything like this. She couldn't even make a sound or even form a thought as waves of agony swept over her. Everything in the world was blocked out except for pain.

Just as Lori thought she was going to pass out, the pain suddenly faded away, leaving her lying on the ground breathing hard. She tried to move her left leg but stopped when the pain returned. The leg didn't feel right. It was all wobbly and felt like jello. Damn, she thought, it's broken. Midnight was standing not too far away, nibbling at some grass. What was she supposed to do now? There was no one around. It could be days before some other rider came this way.

Luckily, Lori had a cell phone with her. Oh please, please, don't be broken, she thought. She gingerly reached for her phone and pulled it out. It didn't appear to be damaged. She turned it on and dialed 911. To her vast relief, the phone started ringing.

"911, what's the emergency?" a woman's voice said.

"I fell off my horse and broke my leg. I'm alone on a trail in some woods," Lori told the voice. She was surprised at how calm she sounded.

"You fell off your horse. Do you have any other injuries?" asked the dispatcher.

"I don't think so. Nothing else hurts. But my leg is definitely broken." Lori replied.

"What is your name?" asked the operator.

"Lori Banks."

"Okay Ma'am, how old are you?"

"I'm thirty-two."

"Thank-you. What part of your leg is broken?" the operator asked.

"My lower left leg. It’s all wobbly," Lori answered.

"Okay. Can you tell me where you are?"

"Yes, I'm at the Chesterton Horse Farm on one of the trails. I can give directions. Heading out from the barn you head for the main trail. Keep taking the left forks until you cross the stream, then take the first right fork. I'm about a hundred yards down that trail. You can ask Walt to help. He's the owner."

"Okay, Ma'am, I've got the directions. An ambulance should be there soon. Would you like me to stay on the line with you until they get there?"

Lori thought about it briefly. "No. If I change my mind I'll call back."

"Alright, Ma'am. Someone will be there soon." And then the woman hung up.

Lori turned off her phone and lay on the ground, looking up at the trees above her. She tried not to move her leg as that was upsetting. After awhile she started to get bored. Lori thought that she should be scared, or more upset. Probably in shock, she thought. She couldn't believe that she broke her leg. Of all the stupid things to do.

Then she realized that they were probably going to have to cut her pants open to get at her leg. Oh, no, she thought. These were new riding pants. She also figured out that she would have to spend some time in the hospital. She'd better make preparations now since she was just laying here.

She called her work first and left a message with her supervisor that she would not be in for awhile due to her fracture. Lori dialed her best friend Sally next. Sally and her had grown up together, got to school together and even worked in the same building.

"Hello," answered Sally after letting the phone ring for an uncomfortable amount of time.

"Hi, Sally."

"Lori! How are you?"

"Well," began Lori, "Not good. I fell off Midnight and broke my leg. I'm lying in the middle of the trail waiting for the ambulance to come get me.."

"What? You broke your leg? Oh, Lori, that's horrible. I'll be right over. You're at Chesterton's right?" Sally was full of concern.

"Yeah, but would you stop by my place and get some stuff for me? I'll probably be in the hospital a couple of days."

"Of course," said Sally. "Where are you exactly?"

Lori gave her the same directions she gave the 911 operator. Sally said she would be there as soon as she could. Lori also told her that she would ask to go to City General Hospital in case the paramedics had taken her away before Sally could reach her.

That taken care of, Lori hung up and waited. It took another half hour before she heard people moving through the woods.

"Hello?" she called out.

"Lori?" asked Sally.

"I'm over here."

She was very relieved to see her friend and the paramedics. Walt, the owner of the property was there as well. He saw to the horse, while the medical people immobilized her leg and eased her onto a stretcher. They only hurt her leg a little bit during the move.

Soon she was in an ambulance going to the hospital. Lori didn't recall much about the trip. The next thing she knew, she was in the emergency room lying on a table. The doctor and nurses were very friendly. They put her out to set her leg, and when she awoke, she was being wheeled to her room. Sally was with her. There was a cast on her left leg that went from her foot all the way up to her crotch.

"Hey, there. How are you feeling?" asked her friend.

"I'm sore," was all Lori could manage.

"Well, you'll be in your room soon and then you can rest. I brought your stuff, even the book you're reading." Sally told her.

Lori smiled weakly. "Thanks."

Sally hung around after Lori got to her room and safely into bed, until Lori told her to go home, assuring her that she would be fine. The doctor had been by to tell her that Lori's leg had been set nicely and that the x-rays looked good.

"You were very lucky, Miss Banks," the doctor told her. "Your injuries could have been much more severe."

After she was alone Lori began to cry. As tears rolled down her face and sobs wracked her body she was thinking: Why me? Why did this have to happen to me? She didn't feel all that lucky, despite what the doctor had said. She was an excellent rider and had spent countless hours on horses. How could she have fallen? Lori cried herself to sleep.

The next day, Sunday, she was feeling better, at least she wasn't going to cry at the drop of a hat. Sally visited Lori, as did several of her co-workers from her office, including her supervisor. All of them offered to drive her to work when she was ready. The doctor had told her that it would be at least six weeks before she could go back to work. That depressed her until her supervisor assured her that they would hire a temp to cover for her until she could return to work. She would receive compensation for the time she was out, thanks to the generous medical coverage her company provided.

As the weeks went by, Lori got better and better. Before she knew it, she was back to work with a waking cast. During this time, Sally had practically moved in with her to take care of her. The first few weeks had been bad for Lori. Because she was in a full leg cast, she needed help getting up to go to the bathroom, and showering was impossible. Sally brought her lots of videos to watch. She had crying spells a couple of times, but slowly felt better about herself.

Finally, after eight months, the doctor declared her leg fully healed. It felt funny to not have any sort of cast on her leg or not using crutches. She was nervous walking unaided, but the doctor had said it was okay. Her left leg had atrophied a lot during her recovery and even though she had been using a walking cast to build up strength, it was still significantly smaller than her right leg.

It was now winter and Lori tread carefully in the January cold. She didn't want to risk slipping and falling. She thought about her horse, Midnight. Lori had been out to visit him as soon as she could, but she had not ridden him. Truth be told, she was scared. Lori was afraid of having another accident and going through the months of pain and hardship. Even now she could not think about falling and breaking her leg without visibly wincing. The memories were still very vivid and horribly sharp.

Lori continued to visit her horse through out the rest of the winter and into the Spring. She kept putting off riding Midnight, making excuses until early June. She did want to ride him, but found that the fear was in the way. She wasn't sure how to get around it.

Walter came to her one day as she was grooming Midnight. "Lori, when are you going to take him out?" he asked.

Lori shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure I'm ready yet. I don't want to push things to fast."

Walter looked at her closely. "It's been six months since your leg got better. Seems to me that you're saddle shy. The only thing to do is ride again. Like the saying goes, you have to get back in the saddle again."

"I know, but I just can't yet," Lori told him looking away. She continued to brush Midnight, feeling Walt's gaze on her. Finally, he cleared his throat.

"Let me tell you a story, Lori. I'm a pretty active rider, always have been. But thirty years ago, I fell off a horse myself, broke my ankle something fierce. It was so bad that I got gangrene and had to have the foot removed. I've had an artificial foot ever since."

Lori looked up at him startled. In the ten years she had known Walt, she never realized that one of Walt's feet was artificial. He moved so normally to her. "I'm so sorry," she began. "I had no idea..."

Walt waved away her distress. "Don't you worry about it. It's ancient history. But the point is that it took me awhile to get back on a horse. Five years to be exact. When I did, I regretted not doing it sooner. I spent five long years feeling sorry for myself not doing something I loved because of fear. I don't want you to make the same mistake I did, Lori. I know it's scary, but the sooner you get back on Midnight, the sooner you'll be fully healed and the injury won't have any more power over you. That's what's its about now. Your body's healed, but you still have to heal your mind."

"I guess you're right, but I'm still scared to try," Lori admitted. "What do I do?"

Walter smiled at her. "Well, I'll just saddle up Midnight and my horse and the two of us will do a little riding."

"You mean now?" Lori asked alarmed.

"Sure, no time like the present. Don't worry, we won't do too much."

"Well, okay," agreed Lori, although reluctantly.

Walt smiled and set to saddling up Midnight and his horse, Lightning. Lightening was old and moved as slow as he could. His name was something of a joke.

Walt and Lori led their horses out of their stalls and into the yard. Walt mounted Lightning and sat waiting for Lori to do the same. She set her left foot in the stirrup and paused. That was the leg that was broken. It didn't feel strong enough to support her weight. She was suddenly afraid that it would snap.

"Lori, your leg is strong now. Don't worry," Walt told her.

Lori nodded and took a deep breath. Then she lifted herself into the saddle. Her leg didn't even have a twinge. She let out her breath, feeling relieved. Midnight after not having been ridden by Lori for a long time, made an sudden, anxious step, causing Lori to gasp and hang on to the saddle horn, her eyes screwed shut.

"Just relax, Lori," Walt told her. "It'll be okay."

Lori opened her eyes and took hold of the reins. She was scared of being thrown again, but was determined to work through the fear. She kicked her heels and Midnight moved into a walk. Walt stayed right beside her. They walked the trails for about and hour and then came back. On the way to the stables, Lori even got Midnight up to a canter. It felt better than she thought it was. A lot of her anxiety was gone..

After the horses were back in their stalls, Lori hugged Walt. "What was that for?" he asked.

"For helping me get back in the saddle," she answered.

"Well, I just led you to the water. You had to take the drink yourself."

Lori laughed, the first time in months. "Yes, I guess I did."


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