Seeing Galveston in the news in the possible path of Hurricane Rita — our best wishes to everyone there — reminds me of a story from 1984 which has nothing to do with natural disasters.

My wife and I were visiting my brother in Houston for a few days and decided to make a road trip to Galveston.  Once there, we were driving along and saw a sign advertising horseback riding on the beach.  It sounded like a fun idea, so we pulled in and up a dirt road until we got to some stables.  The guy in charge explained the cost, brought out a couple of horses, and pointed to a trail.  He explained that we could just take the horses — by ourselves, none of his staff with us — up the path about 100 yards to the beach, where we were free to ride around for an hour or so before we’d have to return the horses to the stables.

It sounded as odd to us as it does to you, but we were happy to have the chance to ride at our own pace without any other customers, so we climbed into the saddles and started up the trail.  When we got to the beach, we turned the horses to the left and rode along while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the gulf.

After a couple of minutes and about 50 yards, my horse stopped.  I thought it was because my wife had stopped her horse first.  She’s done a lot more riding than I have (in other words, she’s been on a horse more than four times), so I always defer to her horse knowledge, but she said that she hadn’t done anything.  In fact, she was now trying to get her horse going again, but no matter how much she urged and kicked it, the animal wouldn’t move.  So, she climbed down with the reins in her hand and walked around to the front of the horse, where she attempted to pull the beast forward.

That’s when life became a cartoon.  There was my wife, pulling on those reins with all her might, while her feet were running in the sand, going absolutely nowhere.  I had to laugh — until she suggested I get down and try to help.  I did, but with the same result: the horse standing still, my feet digging a hole in the sand.  That’s when she started laughing, too, at the absurdity of the situation.

We now understood why the owner had trusted us with his horses — they had done this trip so many times that they knew exactly how far they were supposed to go, and simply would not go any further.

We climbed back into our saddles and turned the horses around.  They were happy to go the other way, until we got to the path leading up to the stables, at which point, they made the turn and walked right back to where we started.  Our hour-long romantic ride on the beach had lasted all of fifteen minutes.

I can’t help but wonder if the owner has been able to get those horses to evacuate Galveston, or if they’re stubbornly refusing to budge another inch.