I gingerly lean down to grasp the spoon held up high, barely within my reach. My friend's face below her painted straw cowboy hat, popular in the 1970s, resonates sarcasm as usual. Next, she hands up a brown, speckled chicken egg. It is raw, as dictated by the rules of this event.
She turns to walk away then glances back over her shoulder, “Break an egg...I mean leg,” she giggles.
After carefully balancing the egg in the spoon, I focus on my friend, tracking her movements and watching as she takes a seat in the front row. She may be a wise-guy but she will cheer me on.
The loudspeaker screeches before a voice begins to speak, punctuated by bursts of static.
“All riders for the bareback egg-in-spoon race...repeat...bareback egg-in-spoon race, enter the arena at a ‘walk’, please.”
I focus my attention down, to reins resting on the wide dun neck belonging to the horse I will partner with. His mane is roached in 1970s horse grooming fashion and it tickles my left hand as I lift the reins. Using my heel, I tap Sandy Oklahoma...Okie for short...gently in his side. He awakens, refreshed after a nap, and we follow a line of participants, holding spoons that are holding eggs, into the arena.
This stout gelding is a seasoned pro and champion in the Pensacola small-time AQHA western pleasure circuit. He will make me look good. I only have two jobs. Keep that egg in that spoon and don’t fall off.
Entering the ring, he is smooth in the walk and my confidence rises as my legs grip just behind his massive shoulders. I look to my left, simultaneously watching the judge, centered in the ring and the horse and rider just ahead of me while shifting my gaze to the spoon in my right hand periodically. Keep it level, I coach myself.
“Trot your horses," crackles from speakers and Okie begins his slow trot. No cues are necessary from me. He is lazy and we are moving so slow that other riders are passing as if we are standing still. Around me, eggs are splatting into the sand and egg-less riders sullenly exit through a hidden side gate. We trot through broken eggs in the sand but our egg is steady and we continue on.
“Reverse your horses.” I slightly shift the reins and maintaining the slow trot, Okie reverses inward toward the judge. We make a tight circle and hug the rail once again in the opposite direction, the egg still cozy in the spoon.
“Canter your horses,” and my stomach flutters. Okie has a stilted, lopsided lope and it is difficult to look smooth and stay balanced while hanging onto that spoon. The transition seems easy as he takes his right lead and we continue clockwise around the judge. Eggs continue to splatter all around and it is down to the wire now. Just Okie and me and one other horse and rider pair. We are still in it to win it.
“Reverse,” bursts from the speaker and we begin a slow circle inward. I shift my weight and Okie complies by taking his left lead and we are rotating the ring counterclockwise now, all while maintaining a canter. My egg has survived this difficult maneuver.
“Stop your horses,” and I smile knowing how Okie and I had perfected this move. We slide to a perfect stop, Okie’s haunches sitting low. The egg wobbles but stays put.
I hear a burst of applause and look toward my opponent. Her egg AND spoon are lying on the ground. She shakes her head and makes a slump-shouldered exit.
My friend is standing now, two fingers in her mouth emitting an ear-piercing whistle. I collect my blue ribbon and exit through the side gate. I have just won my first competition and now I have a hankering for a fried egg sandwich.
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.