Please be brutally honest and give me constructive criticism to make this essay the best it can be. Thank you!
My dad used to say, "Georgia, you are the most accident-prone person I have ever known." I believed him. Good thing for Mike. On a damp and chilly day in January 1969, a month before my seventh birthday, my family was visiting San Francisco. I was riding in the camper shell on the back of dad's 1967 robin-egg-blue Ford pickup truck. Dad had propped a kerosene heater in the corner to warm the camper. A sudden bump in the road caused the heater to tip spilling kerosene across the plywood floor. It instantly ignited. Within seconds, the camper filled with flames, smoke, and heat. Dad drove obliviously down another hill unaware his truck was on fire. Pulling myself onto the bed at the front of the camper, I pounded on the window, my eyes and lungs burning.
It was a long-haired, bearded, denim-clad man in an orange Dodge Charger driving behind us who recognized my peril before dad did. He drove alongside the truck forcing dad off the road. He leapt from his car, pulled open our tailgate, and yanked the burning plywood onto the ground. Mike peered into the smoke-filled camper shell and met the red-rimmed eyes of the little girl perched on the bed, who thought she was done for.
Wrapped in a singed blanket, I huddled in mom's lap on the curb while dad cleaned out the camper. My rescuer walked up and said, "Are you okay? I bet that was scary being in a fire."
I only nodded; I was too shy to speak. He didn't tell us his name, but to me he looked like a 'Mike'. It was the last time I ever saw Mike, but it was not the last time he ever saved me.
When I was ten years old, I fell into a discarded broken window slicing my wrist to the bone. While stitching up three veins, a bundle of nerves, and a large flap of flesh, the doctor marveled aloud that I hadn't severed the artery. I was certain Mike had protected me from bleeding to death.
At twelve, I leaned a ladder into an old breaker box with glass fuses. Mike threw me clear at the first spark. An explosion, fireworks, and unbelievable heat should have fried me on the rungs. The melted metal glob had to be pried off the wall with a 2 x 4.
Two years later I was given the responsibility of riding Buster, our unruly horse. Buster was a white stallion with a bad attitude. He hated being saddled, refused to take a bit, and would sulk the whole time I rode him away from the farm. The second I turned him back towards home, he bolted. No amount of yanking on reins or hollering, 'whoa' could keep him from galloping at a full-out, frenzied hurtle. He shot under low-hanging tree branches, exploded over ditches and bushes, and darted around barking dogs. It was a battle to stay in the saddle clinging with hands, arms, feet, and legs. All he wanted was his warm barn and oats and to be free of his saddle and rider.
After several days of this madness, Mike put an idea into my head: 'Ride Buster at the rodeo grounds.' It was brilliant! I could walk Buster into the large show arena, fasten the gate, and gallop him in a huge circle. Buster was calm and well-behaved when he couldn't tell which direction home lay. Of course, he still made a mad dash for home as soon as the gate was opened and we exited the show grounds.
One day we arrived at the rodeo ring to find three, gaily-painted 50 gallon drums set up in the arena. I had always wanted to try barrel racing like a beautiful rodeo queen. I excitedly urged Buster into a canter toward the first barrel. We circled it. I pointed him to top of the triangle and barrel number two. Around it we looped, then on to the third barrel. We made a wide, sloppy circle to complete the cloverleaf pattern. Then it was a straight shot back to the gate. Oh, that was fun! I had to try it again, but this time with some speed. I wrenched Buster's head back around to face the first barrel. A kick to the flanks. We were off. We quickly slipped around barrel number one. My adrenaline was pumping as we thundered towards the next one, but disaster struck at the top of the diamond. We approached too fast and instead of moving to go around the barrel, Buster stopped short and reared. My body whipped forward, backward, then off onto the ground. I wasn't injured. The soil was soft, but I knew instantly I was in trouble. My cowboy boot was caught in the stirrup and Buster, abandoning my plan of circling the third barrel, bolted straight for the open gate. My head and body bounced through the plowed earth raising a cloud of dust down the entire length of the arena. I thought, 'this is how my life will end.' There was no way I could survive the pounding of being pulled more than a mile across the hard-packed ground, graveled parking lot, paved roads, canals, and rough fields to our farm.
I tried to sit up and twist my boot out of the stirrup. I attempted to pull my foot from the boot. The pressure of being drug by that one foot wouldn't allow for either. I screamed, "Stop, Buster!" I caught air as he turned the corner at the mouth of the gate. It was useless. There was no stopping him when I was tugging on his reins; with reins flying free, the outcome was inevitable.
Just as my body hit the edge of the graveled parking lot, Buster stopped. He came to a full, stand still halt. I didn't waste a second. I twisted my boot and pulled it out of the stirrup. I jumped to my feet. I expected to see someone holding Buster's reins, but they lay limply on the ground. I looked around and saw no one. Buster continued to stand motionless. I grabbed his reins and led him over to metal rails of the arena. I leaned against the fence to catch my breath then I stepped up on the bottom rail to scan the vicinity. Mike wasn't waiting by the grandstands or lurking near the snack bar. He wasn't sitting on the bullpen or the horse corrals. I couldn't see him, but I was sure he was there. Buster continued to wait calmly while I regained my composure and emptied dirt from my boots, shook out my hair, and patted dust from my clothes. Then, for the first time ever, Buster serenely allowed me to mount. As we slowly made our way home, I examined each knobby hillock, old tree stump, rock outcropping, and brush ditch bank I should have been drug across, over, and through. I imagined my little brother, Jim, finding my battered body tethered to Buster by a shattered leg. I shuddered.
In the 36 years since that day, Mike has been busy. There was that Jeep rollover in 1980; a high-speed, rear-end auto accident in'93; and the near-drowning of '96--just to name a few incidents Mike saved me from. I don't know why Mike first appeared as a scruffy man in San Francisco and I haven't set eyes on him since. Maybe my older eyes cannot perceive him? Perhaps he got better at his job and staying out of sight? Someday I will see Mike again--maybe on a cloud in heaven. I will walk up to him, take his calloused, work-worn hand, and look into his blue eyes. We will talk about all the times he saved me from accident and injury. He will tell me about all the other times he saved me when I wasn't even aware I was in danger. Mike has accrued some serious overtime.