What were my parents thinking when they moved us to Antioch? Because in my 14 year old mind I felt like they cared nothing for my feelings let alone my opinion. I was mad as hell and sulked like crazy. Not only that but I didn't have my horse for two months after we moved. There I was in that good awful town with no friends and no horse living in an ugly track home development.
When the time came for my horse Duke to come I was obsessed with being able to go ride. The new barn where he would be was at the fairgrounds in town and my mom would allow me to go be there much more than when we lived in Salinas. Heaven, I could brush, ride, and just hang out with horse people. Dub and Ilene who managed the barn, were the best of people and made me feel like I mattered but did not try to parent me. I may not have had a purebred horse but they dolled Duke up in ways I had never done. I would come out to the barn and Dub would have his fetlocks all shaved and trimmed, his hooves shined up glossy, his bridle path clipped and all his whiskers shaved. Duke had never had this kind of fancy grooming. I didn't own clippers just a pair of scissors I found at home and took. I didn't own the horse products to shine a horses coat up with and what was in the tack room I was allowed to use. Dub would bathe my horse and showed me how to as well. He had an extra horse blanket for in the winter that he even put on my horse to keep his coat from getting long and furry. I became a better horse person listening and learning from that man.
As much as I hated Antioch I met some interesting people that year. The fairgrounds were filled with horses all year round along with quite a community of families with kids hanging around having a great time. Our barn was separate and private with full care versus the fair stalls where you had to clean and feed yourself. My parents oddly enough bellied up to paying more for this barn which impressed me. Honestly I think they were worried about having to aquire hay and get the stall clean which would mean going there twice a day. That wouldn't have been a chore they would want to do even if it would be me doing it. But it would require them to drive me there and that wasn't going to work with their plans.
Two of the friends I made were Rodger and David. They use to hang around on weekends talking to Dub as Rodger owned a big white Tennessee Walker which is the breed Dub owned. Oh that horse was beautiful with his long flowing mane and tail. My Duke looked like a midget next to him. Rodger was lean and slight of stature, with a hairstyle that reminded me of Elvis Presley, black and greased back with long sideburns. He smoked like a chimney but then it seemed all the horse people smoked. David was a dirty blonde with lambchop sideburns that were a darker shade than his hair, trimmed short. He had a way about him that I just couldn't figure out. He had a half quarter horse that he rode and kept in the fairground stalls along with his siblings. Both these men were in their late 20's and were roommates. They met each other at work being an ambulance driver (think of the vehicle that was in Ghostbusters). David was always with Rodger, they were quite a couple at the fairgrounds. This was before I knew what gay was. I had never been around any that I knew about but these two while not openly affectionate were clearly an item. David was the feminine one, from the way he held and smoked his cigarettes, to the way he sashayed when he walked. He also had this high toned way of laughing and, dare I say, giggled. I never heard a guy giggle! Rodger was a bit more manly with his deeper way of talking and walking. Noted by me as well was that they liked to wear their pants tucked into their cowboy boots which I just had never seen done except by little kids.
I knew that David was estranged from his father who had kicked him out years before. I can only guess it was his choice of relationship that caused an issue back in the 70's let alone in this hick town of Antioch. He seemed to only be around his sisters when he was at the barn. Rodger was his family. With their shooting the breeze horse talk at the barn, smoking one cigarette after the other, it wasn't long before I was doing it too. Of course I had already been smoking for over a year but not openly with adults. I would bum them off the guys who liked the brand Kool. I who had only done Marlboro brand before enjoyed that menthol flavor. Sometimes Becky, who was in her 30's and owned a sorrel colored quarter horse with a flaxen mane and tail would be with us. She had the longest false eyelashes I ever saw. It never mattered to them that I was only 14.
They all took me in as an equal age to them. When Grand Nationals came to the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the four of us went. We talked about forming a Color Guard Group together. Rodger had great ideas for what we would wear and what kind of flashy saddle pads for the horses to wear. Silver and black would be our colors, with the silver being extra bright and sparkly. He had found someone who would sew all our vests with silver fringe, and the pads for the horses that would hang down long under our saddles with extra sparkle and fringe. We would have black boots, black cowboy hats with a silver trim to top it all off. We were inspired upon seeing the color guard at the Grand Nationals. Parade riding was nothing new to Duke and I as I had ridden several times in the horse parades during the Salinas Rodeo.
For all the flak David and Rodger took by others, which as time went on I heard some nasty comments made at the fairgrounds about them, they were the nicest people to be around. My parents never were interested in what I did at the fairgrounds nor ever asked. When the color guard idea came up that was fine with them. I didn't realize my parents were having their own issues between them. I heard them arguing more in their bedroom and my Nan had gone to visit her sister in Tennessee so it was just us three. I stayed in my bedroom as much as I could except for meals. I still was mad with them for taking me from Salinas where I was happy and had a lot of friends. Here I only had the barn friends. An oddball group of misfits we were.
One of the silliest times we had together was David driving his Volkswagon bus out to the field adjacent to the fairgrounds that had been cut but not baled yet, taking armfuls and filling that bus up. His bus had a skylight that we opened and once we couldn't stuff anymore in from the side we passed it up to whoever was on top to throw down the skylight. We were all laughing, covered with oat hay in our clothes and hair. We drove that bus around in circles till we figured we better get out of there before we got in trouble. You would have thought they were teenagers like me. Our horses loved that fresh cut hay as a treat as Dub and Ilene fed pellets because of storage issues. David filled his extra stall that he stored tack and feed in with the rest. I think I had the tips of the oats stuck in my socks, shirt and pants for quite sometime as they seem to be impossible to fully extract.