Friday, September 17, 2010

Memory Lane Friday

This week, Memory Lane Friday is "No Theme" so we are all going to write about . . . well, very different things. At first, I was all excited because there are so many things I could write about, but then I felt overwhelmed because there are so many things to write about.

So I'm going to narrow it down to a very memorable experience I had while on horseback. Of course, I had to go the equestrian route, again. I guess I've been missing riding lately, so maybe if I write about it here, it'll help alleviate the "I miss it" feeling . . . if only just a little bit, and for just a few minutes.

Okay, this experience was BIG. When I was a student at Culver Girls Academy, I was part of the Culver Equestriennes, the mounted team that performs musical drills.

Well, every 4 years, the Presidential Inaugural rolls around. Typically, Culver Academies gets an invitation for the Black Horse Troop (a.k.a. BHT - the boys enrolled in Culver's Troop) to participate in the Inaugural Parade. For the longest time, it was just the BHT.

But then, for the January 1985 Parade (occurring months before I attended Culver as a freshman), the Equestriennes were extended an invitation, along with the BHT.

So that meant that when I became part of the Equestriennes, I'd be a part of the Culver- Inaugural tradition by the time I graduated.

And it happened, of course. My senior year, the Culver Academies were to send both the BHT and the Equestriennes for the 1989 Presidential Inaugural Parade. I almost couldn't stand the excitement.

Well, in the months leading up to the Parade, we had lots of practice - all these riders practicing staying in formation, practicing Pass in Review (what we'd do exactly when passing the President's reviewing box), practicing riding in formation with loud sounds going off all around us like cannons, emergency vehicles with sirens blaring and lights flashing, flags whipping around, having to maneuver around tires and odds and ends all around us, (to prepare the horses for anything), and just practicing, practicing, practicing. And it was COLD in NW Indiana in late fall, early winter.

I foggily remember leaving for Christmas break. Then, again in a fog, heading back to campus and having 1st semester finals, barely being able to concentrate on the exams in front of me.

I remember that our travel plans depended on our finals schedule. We had a couple "waves" of students traveling to D.C., our departure all depending on finals. I was in the first wave to leave. I remember getting my plane ticket, a booklet with the "who, what, when, where, how" - which included:
  • a Code of Conduct, explaining how the Academies' trip to Washington, D.C. would an "official academy function . . . " 
  • a uniform packing list for both girls and cadets, 
  • horse assignments for Troop A, Troop B, and Equestriennes,
  • student/faculty/staff manifest for both the earlier and later travelers,
  • hotel room assignments, with "room commanders'" names in bold (yes, I was a "room commander")
  • schedule of events
 It was exciting. I remember that a few days before we were to leave, we had to get our equipment ready. Since we'd had our horse assignments soon after getting the invitation, we already knew which horse we each had (because we had to practice with that horse), and the corresponding stall number. My horse was a black gelding named McClellan, #52. Each horse had a corresponding saddle, bridle, and brushes, each item with the appropriate horse's number engraved somewhere visible.

Each of us was given a big white canvas bag, with a number stenciled on it, corresponding to horse number. So, of course, in my #52 bag, I needed to put McClellan's brushes, hoof pick, saddle, a white leather double-bridle, saddle pad, white saddle pad cover (with Culver logos on it), and I think our boots and helmets.

Then the horses were loaded on to these huge horse trailers (each horse having a designated trailer number), to be driven out to D.C.

A few days later, the rest of us left.

Traveling with my pals was just too much fun. I remember that my good friend, Debra, was traveling with me on my same schedule. She was also going to be in my hotel room with me, along with two other girls. Debra and I were on the polo team together, on the Equestriennes together, and we hung out a lot. We still keep in touch.

Traveling, checking in, getting meals, and being briefed on upcoming events was just a whirlwind of excitement, and I almost couldn't wait for the big event.

Finally, it was January 20th. We had to get up early, before dawn. I remember eating attempting to eat breakfast. It felt too early to be hungry. Plus, I had butterflies due to excitement. I remember getting into the bus, Debra in the seat next to me, heading from our hotel (a Holiday Inn) in Manassas, VA to D.C.

We had a designated spot where we'd meet the horse trailers. Then we'd lead the horses to a different area to groom them and get them tacked up and then we'd mount.

I don't know how long a bus ride we had, but I dozed off. At some point I awoke with a start. Debra asked, "Did you dream you were falling?" Huh? Oh . . . I groggily explained I was just startled awake by a bump in the road.

As I blinked and looked around, I remember seeing the Capitol ahead of us in the pink/purple/raspberry/peach dawn light. It was an awesome sight. I couldn't say anything; there was nothing to say. I could only look.

We finally got to our destination. We got off the buses, each of us Equestriennes in our white shirt, stock tie, white breeches, boots, and wearing navy blue Culver sweats on top, partly to keep clean, and partly to keep warm.

We waited for the horse trailers to get there. And then they were there. We were on some D.C. street, which had been blocked off for the event. We had to stand around waiting for a bit. I certainly can't tell you how long, because the excitement blurred my sense of time.

I then saw McClellen's trailer number, and I went, along with my fellow equestrians with mounts in the same trailer. And we all began unloading horses.

It was wild. Here we were, leading our horses down a street (sometimes down a sidewalk) in our nation's capitol.

In another whirlwind, we groomed and tacked up our horses, got ourselves ready, mounted up, and spent a lot of time walking to get our horses loosened up. There were some port-a-potties in sight, but for some reason, I decided I could hold it.

But as time went on, and we were getting closer to finally getting the show on the road, I finally couldn't wait anymore. Plus, I didn't want to remember this ride by how badly I had to go to the bathroom. So I dismounted, had a friend hold my horse's reins, and I took off for a port-a-potty. Of course, there was a line. Ugh.

Finally, I was mounted again, and after what seemed like forever (apparently Pres. G.H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush had decided to get out of their vehicle and walk), we were off. It was mid- to late-afternoon by the time we headed out.

I was in the second row of Equestriennes on the very right - on the TV camera side. The Senior Prefect (who was also an equestrian) and the Equestriennes captain were on the left - the Pass in Review side. But Su and I, the 2 four-year Equestriennes, were on the TV side.

We proceeded along the parade route. I remember that the streets were packed with people trying to watch the Parade, and the streets were lined with military from all branches, but for some reason, I only remember seeing the Marines. I vaguely remember seeing a woman specifically cheering for the Equestriennes as we rode by, wondering if she was an alumna, or a parent. Then I noticed that she waved an "ERA NOW" sign, and the lightbulb went on over my head.

I remember that the crowds were LOUD. The excitement was electric. I couldn't stop smiling. Of course, when we perform, we Equestriennes always smile, but this smiling was easy!

As we got close to the Pass in Review stand, I remember seeing a sign indicating we were entering the TV filming area. It was late in the day, with long shadows, and golden afternoon light.

And then the command for "Eyes Left" (usually "Eyes Right" but the President would be on the left on the Parade route). As we marched past the Reviewing stand doing "Eyes Left," the first person I noticed was Mrs. Quayle because she had on a periwinkle-like bluish outfit and hat. The color stood out on that winter afternoon.Then I caught a glimpse of Dan Quayle, standing, because he was from Indiana, and so was our school. I remember seeing Mrs. Bush, briefly, and just barely getting the quickest of glimpses of Pres. Bush.

And the next thing I knew, we were heading off onto some side street, and McClellan got spooked from some yellow police tape. He sidestepped so quickly, we were at the other end of the row before I could blink.

I barely remember much at this point. I don't remember dismounting or taking care of McClellan, or even the bus ride back to the hotel.

I just replayed all the snapshots in my mind - from the view of the Capitol that morning to the fluttering police tape.

So there you have it. I wish I had the video coverage that we all got, covering everything from practices, to the actual Parade footage, but alas, it's on VHS, and I have yet to get it transferred to DVD. One of these days I will.

In the meantime, I've posted Culver's official photo of the event.

There's a little float ahead of us, with flags and banners and such. It indicated "Indiana" and each state had one ahead of all the units participating from that state. We were first in line for Indiana, which is why we're directly behind the Indiana float. Yes, there are "pooper scoopers" behind us with shovels and trash cans. A marching band was next, and then a float with an eagle and a globe.

If you look at our mounted  unit, the BHT cadets are carrying state flags. You'll see a light blue flag fluttering on the left in the photo. My face is right next to it to the right. The Equestriennes don't carry flags, but with photo angle and the way the flag is fluttering, it looks like I'm immediately to the right of the flag.

Culver Academies in the 1989 Presidential Inaugural Parade, Washington D.C.

Memory Lane Friday is hosted by Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs . . . so please click on the button to check out Tow Bears' and the rest of this week's Memory Lane Friday posts. 
Come back next week when the topic is "A Restaurant". . .yummo - I already have one restaurant in mind.

1 comment:

varunner said...

Oh wow, what an amazing experience. I love that picture. I can't imagine riding right in the capital like that (but I've run it - worst marathon I've ever done ;-))

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