I’ve always had a fascination with horses—and harmless mischief—and have enjoyed plenty of both in my life. UCF’s 1976 Homecoming provided me the opportunity to experience both.
I highly recommend attending UCF’s Homecoming; however, my advice to you is not to attend it while riding a horse. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because it may take an unexpected turn.
On a cloudless October morning in the City Beautiful, I was 24 years old, completely sober, and decided upon waking that I needed to immediately borrow a horse.
Impulse is a funny thing, assuming it’s harmless, and it can even be downright hilarious. It also can provide great memories 35 years later.
Have you ever tried to catch and saddle an unwilling horse? It’s not easy—even for a cowboy born and raised on the Plains.
At some point, my horse gave in. The saddle was on, the bridle fixed, the stirrups adjusted—things were looking good. I was excited for Homecoming, and welcomed a respite from studying and exams.
I mounted up, and we moseyed down Rouse Road and then up University Boulevard, stopping at red lights and getting a few honks while I tipped my cowboy hat to passersby.
As we got farther from the barn, however, the horse became a little uneasy. Finally, we trotted across Alafaya and entered the campus.
The campus was alive with excitement as everyone prepared for the parade, a new tradition for our fledgling university. The Homecoming theme was Whiskey, Wild Women and Horses—it was a different time—and we fit right in.
Rufus, a university maintenance employee, watched as we rode up to say howdy. Oddly, Rufus wasn’t surprised to see me on his horse, and his horse seemed glad to see Rufus.
We joined the parade, placed between a chuck wagon float and a fraternity dressed for a roundup. As the noisy parade circled the Reflecting Pond, the horse began to get feisty, and suddenly we were splashing through the water, me waving my hat and hooting a hearty “Yee-haw!”
I looked back to see the campus police headed our way, so we galloped across campus to our secret hideout, waiting for Rufus to give the all clear. I knew I had pushed my luck enough, so we headed off campus as soon as possible.
As we zigzagged through neighborhoods, apartments and back roads to the safety of the barn, I reflected on the greatness of the day. As Winston Churchill said, “There’s nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” It was a perfect day and a memorable Homecoming—a willing horse, great weather, fun friends, a little mischief and a lively ride home.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that the only things I regret are the things I didn’t do. There are no YouTube videos, tweets or Facebook posts about that day, but the details are perfectly clear in my mind. It was a Homecoming I’ll always remember! I still get a big smile on my face remembering that horse, those friends and UCF back in the day.