Biff America column: Mounting a hot horse
July 12, 2013
In 1984, I stole a horse. I'm pretty sure I'm covered by the statute of limitations now, but at the time it would have been considered grand larceny. Since I'm confessing, I will also admit that when I stole that beast, I had been drinking. Again, I'm not sure if I'm liable to prosecution, but that makes me guilty of HAWD (horsing around while drunk).
To be clear I only "borrowed" the stallion for about 20 minutes. It was parked in front of one bar and I rode it a quarter mile to another bar. I'm no lawyer, but I believe those are called extenuating circumstances … or maybe just excuses.
When I arrived in Colorado in the '70s it wasn't all that unusual to see horses parked outside businesses.
Where I was raised, only the cops had horses, so I was not equine savvy. It took me several attempts to get on top (I believe it's called "mounting"), and I wasn't sure how the steering worked. Pretty much, I held onto the handle on the saddle and let the horse walk to the next bar … seemed like he had traveled that route before. When we arrived, he stopped without my asking, I jumped off and tied him to a pole.
I was sitting at the bar, feeling cowboy-ish, when the horse's owner entered and inquired who had taken his steed. I saw no need to implicate myself, but I felt he was owed an explanation. So, as I was leaving, I approached the angry owner and whispered that I believed the culprit to be a visiting tourist seated at the end of the bar.
There you have it. I have admitted to horse thievery, horsing around while drunk and bearing false witness against a tourist.
I wish I could say those were the only sins I committed in my life, but there were many others, some of which would make your toes curl.
Why I bring it up now is that I would rather y'all (cowboy term) hear it from me than have it spread across the Internet like Paula Deen's use of the N-word 30 years ago.
I am no fan of Paula Deen. It is not that I have anything against her; I just had no idea who she was. We don't have a TV and I don't like to cook. What little I now know is because you can't go online without reading about how this former media darling is now as popular as Michele Bachmann at a gay wedding. As I understand it, much of the vitriol is caused by something she said 30 years ago.
Certainly, it could be argued that if you were hateful 30 years ago you probably still are. But if you substitute "foolish," "not evolved" or "thoughtless" for hateful that might not be the case.
I can speak personally and say that three decades ago (and even more recently) I have occasionally been "foolish," "not evolved" or "thoughtless" — hopefully not as much now.
Humans are works in progress. As we age, mature and gain life experience as individuals we become less stupid. The same could be said for nations.
In this country you can harken back to slavery, Native American genocide, anti-Semitism — accepted then, unthinkable now — to see how we as a country have evolved and essentially smartened up. As recently as 30 years ago it would have been unthinkable to have a black president, a female secretary of state or an openly gay congressman. It took Ronald Reagan to appoint the first female Supreme Court justice. And if that isn't embarrassing enough, in 1984 Americans were flocking to see the movie "Saturday Night Fever."
So, I'll say again, I won't venture to suggest Paula Deen is worthy of our love, disgust or indifference, but only that a life should be judged on its entirety, not on an instant.
More important, perhaps, we should be more selective about who we idolize in the first place. How come I know Paula Deen's name, yet I can't recall the name of the U.S. soldier who died saving the life of a young Afghani girl?
A common denominator of the human condition is that we are flawed. Call it human imperfection, original sin or, in my case, behaving like a horse's ass while stealing one.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.