After passing a tolerable night in Truckee, Isabella put on her Hawaiian riding dress* and walked through quiet streets — she thinks it might be Sunday — to the livery where she’d hired a horse from a bar patron the night before.
When she got there, her friend showed her said horse and let her choose from three velvet-covered side-saddles, which will not do. The man seemed reluctant to let her use a “Mexican saddle” because she’s a she but eventually relented. “Ride your own fashion,” he said. “Here, at Truckee, if anywhere in the world, people can do as they like.”***
She rode through the town, then followed the windings of the Truckee river for 12 miles. “All was bright with that brilliancy of sky and atmosphere, that blaze of sunshine and universal glitter, which I never saw till I came to California, combined with an elasticity in the air which removed all lassitude, and gives ones spirit enough for anything.”
On her way out of town, three “fine-looking” men guiding 22 oxen pulling a freight wagon passed her. A couple of miles later, she went up a steep hill in the forest and caught a glimpse of two mountains whose tops are covered with snow. “It was one of those glorious surprises in scenery which make one feel as if one must bow down and worship.”
Her horse was having none of it, however, and became fidgety on the way back. She was sitting “carelessly” upon him, when “a great dark hairy beast rose, crashing and snorting, out of the tangle in front of me.” It was a bear.
The horse took off. She fell off.
“I got up covered in dust, but neither shaken nor bruised. It was truly grotesque and humiliating. The bear ran in one direction, and the horse in another. I hurried after the latter, and twice he stopped till I was close to him, then turned round and cantered away.****”
After playing this game for a bit, the horse eventually just took off for Truckee, with “the saddle over his shoulders and the great wooden stirrups thumping his sides, while I trudged ignominiously along in the dust, laboriously carried the bag and saddle blanket.”
Fortunately, the ox-team guys (remember them?) remembered passing a lady on that very same horse, caught him as he ran past, and saddled one of their own horses to go find said lady. It all ended well enough.
* this get-up is the talk of wherever she goes. It is, essentially, a pair of baggy trousers under a full-length skirt that has a hidden slit up the front so that she can ride astride rather than side-saddle. It was quite the scandal.
** Side-saddles are really f-ing dangerous if you are going to do more than prance around a ring. If you are going out into the wilderness, you might as well break your own neck in the comfort of the stable and save yourself some time.
*** the more things change, etc.
**** say it with me again: horses are assholes.