Been Knocked Down? Get Back UP!
Updated: Jan 24
"A man can fall many times in life, but he's never a failure until he refuses to get back up." - Evel Knievel
I learned the harsh lesson of getting back up when you've been knocked down from my Grandpa when I was six-years-old.
My Grandpa was the last western cowboy that lived. He wore his cowboy attire like a uniform, pressed Wrangler pants, snapped up plaid country shirt, ten-gallon hat (tilted to the side to cover his eye) and of course, cowboy boots and oversized belt buckle. Grandpa had lived through the Great Depression, WWI, WWII, and worked his fingers to the bone. He had skin that looked liked leather from years of exposure in the dry heat. He was missing an eye that was plucked from its eye socket from a bull's horn at age 17. Grandpa had one fully intact ear, and the other was ripped off by a cattle gate during a wind storm when he was in his 80's (a story for another day). He lived on the same plot of the land as the one-room clay adobe house he was born in 1914. He was a cattle rancher in the desert of western Utah. Not this modern style of a cattle rancher, but the old school rancher that Western movies are made. My Grandpa would drive, on horseback, his 100 head cattle in the spring to Nevada to graze and back to the farm in Fall. He kept farmer hours, up at 4:00 A.M and worked till he was bone-tired at dusk.
Grandpa was tough as nails and had true grit!
I was six-years-old, staying with my grandparents on their farm during the summer to help out with the chores. Not that I was much help, I was a skinny little thing. Horses on the farm were like beautiful running machines. Everything that needed doing on the farm involved a horse one way or another. One hot, dusty morning, Grandpa and I set out on horseback to check on the cattle in the south 40 (that's a farmer term for a far off pasture).
We were a few miles away from the farm on the dirt road when we came upon a rattlesnake crossing the road directly in front of my horse. My horse spooked and reared up! My tiny hands grasped the saddle horn, holding on with all my might as the horse bucked and spun. I was no match for the enormous horse. I was flung off the back of the horse like I was a pesky bug. I remember flying through the air a few feet and landing hard on my side on the rock hard ground. I was terrified! I had the wind knocked out of me, and it took a minute to register all that had happened. I began to cry hysterically. My body ached, and my head was pounding. Luckily, the horses pounding hoofs had scared off the rattlesnake. As my senses came back, I registered my Grandpa. He was wrestling with the two frightened, wild-eyed horses. He had one hand on his horse's reigns and the other hand reaching to hold the reigns of my horse. I was expecting to hear words of concern, empathy, and compassion from him. Instead, Grandpa was yelling at me, "Get up! Get back up! Get back on that horse and show him whose boss. Connie, get up now!" Attempting to stifle my sobs, I slowly stood up. My body was sore, but nothing was broken.
I froze, staring up at the massive, and shaken horse. I was petrified of getting back on that horse. I had a new respect for how much stronger that horse was than me and I wanted nothing to do with it. "Take the reigns, Connie," Grandpa commanded. I sniffled and shook my head, "I can't." Grandpa replied, "You can and you will. If you don't get back on now, you will always be afraid. You have to look at your fear head-on. Another thing, if you don't get back on that horse, the horse will know you fear him. That horse will never trust you to lead him again. You teach that horse that he can't buck you off again." I looked at my Grandpa in defiance and crossed my arms as if to say, 'you can't make me.' Grandpa got very serious, "The longer you wait, the more hold your fear will have on you. Plus, you have no choice. You can't walk back."
I inched closer to my horse. The horse flinched as though he could sense my fear. I took a deep breath and put my foot into the stirrup and swang my leg over the saddle. I was quivering with fear. Grandpa handed me the reigns, "The calmer you are the calmer the horse will be. You have to show the horse that you are not scared of it." I slowed my breathing and thought to myself, "I am safe. I am brave. I am strong. I am in control. I love my horse." I kept this mantra going the whole way to the farm.
My Grandpa taught me a valuable life lesson, one I think of often when life knocks me down.
Life is like a horse. It knocks you down sometimes, but you can't give up.
No matter how many times life throws you down, you have to get back up.
You must stand and look at your fear head-on.
You have to tell life, "I am safe. I am brave. I am strong. I am in control. I love myself."