“She’s going all the way to Hayden, folks!”
Normally, I wouldn’t pay the announcer much mind at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Winter Carnival street events. But tethered to the end of the rope, being pulled by Lightning, the fastest horse in town, was my 6-year-old daughter, Casey, holding on for dear life. And she was showing no signs of letting go, even a block past the Eighth Street finish line.
Not that I can blame her for the death grip. Legs spread-eagled like Park Smalley back in his day – so far apart that her butt nearly touched the snow-covered street – she was in pure survival mode. And I was, too, facing an equally tenuous situation explaining our soon-to-be-missing daughter to my spouse.
Seeing how it was Casey’s first time in the event, I probably picked an inopportune time to meander away from her position in line at the start to chat with a friend behind the fence at the curb. While I was gone – however briefly, I might add – Casey advanced in line precipitously and was quickly at the front looking up to the Wyatt Earp organizing things.
“What speed do you want?” he asked, tipping his Stetson. “Slow, medium or fast?”
Bless her heart, she answered “Fast,” as most Steamboat tykes would, without missing a beat.
Then she took off like the space shuttle behind the fastest horse of the day. Pink parka splattered with manure, snow peppering her goggles, and shoulders wrenched out of their sockets, she held on to the finish line, infinity and beyond, the crowd roaring and turning their collective heads as she headed to Hayden and the sunset.
She finally let go a block and a half past the finish line, suffering the walk of shame back east to the crowd. But there was no shame at all in her results, as her time topped the next 10 riders, all two to three years older. When all was said and done, she notched a bronze in the event, all thanks to a distracted dad.
Of course, a lot of it had to do with the equestrian engine. Later, as I walked her to her role skiing with glow sticks at Howelsen’s nighttime festivities, I couldn’t help but overhear two ladies talking.
“There she is,” they said behind steaming breath, recognizing Casey’s pink, and now brown, coat. “That’s the girl from the street events. She had the fastest horse in town.”
While I swelled with fatherly pride, I stayed a bit closer for her nighttime ski down the face…