Women with bullhorns are in the streets crusading against oppression by men. With a fervor reminiscent of Joan of Arc, all they are missing is her white horse.

Until recently, I doubted the abuse of women to be so pervasive as to warrant wholesale gender rebellion. There is no fundamental flaw in my male character, I fumed, that demands reformation.

But, as more reports surface about women, particularly young girls, who were forced to wage private battles against sexual harassment, another story comes to mind that gives me pause.

The year is 1962. A teenager is shoehorned into the back seat of an old Ford as it labors up a mountain road in backwoods Arkansas. A weekend trip with older boys, their cigarette smoke wafting, makes him feel more grown up than his 13 years.

As they crest the hill, they overtake a bareback rider shrouded in evening mist, her horse the color of pale cream. Silhouetted against the deep green of a pine forest, her blond hair spills over a plaid shirt and down to her faded jeans. When the car passes, the boy cranes his neck to look at her. Roughly his age, she returns his smile.

But, just as quickly, a whoop erupts from the front seat. The driver U-turns and approaches the girl head-on to have a closer look. Cat calls rain down as the car breezes by. Her eyes and those of her mount grow round with fear. Tears begin streaming down her face as she kicks her horse into a canter searching for an escape.

The boy knows what’s happening is wrong, but is too timid to come to her defense. He cannot rationalize his behavior by casting the others as the sole provocateurs. He had his chance to intercede. He could have protected her, but lacked the courage.

The car pivots and returns again. By the time it pulls even with her she is riding at a full gallop. Holding fast to his bridle, she leans forward against the stallion’s shoulders in unison with each stride. Her hair trails like a jet stream. Never has the boy seen anyone as bold and beautiful.

When their eyes meet for the last time he feels sick with shame. She looks hurt, betrayed. But, her fear is now supplanted by determination. Outnumbered, vulnerable, and alone, she forges on. She will not be intimidated.

Fifty years later, the message still resonates. While it may not always be possible to tame aggression, the step to oppression is not inevitable. Good men can always intercede. They need only muster the bravery the boy could not. The brand of courage taught that day by the girl on the white horse.

I often wonder what became of that girl. I would like to apologize to her on the boy’s behalf. And I will if our eyes ever meet, again.

Malcolm D. Gibson has a home in Galveston and can be reached at mgibson@mdgibson.com.

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(15) comments

Diane Turski

Thank you for sharing your story and for realizing that girls often learn at an early age that they are considered prey for boys and men more often than others would like to admit.

Gary Miller

Is it possible that the problem is not male and female? All female mammals have the same problems. Less among humans but caused by the same problem, the search for eggs that protects a species future.

Kelly Naschke

Had that poor young girl had the ability to defend herself should miscreants, such as the group you chose to associate with, had taken that encounter to the next level...I wonder what the outcome would have been? I wonder if she would have been nearly as frightened knowing she possessed lethal defence? I wonder if such miscreants would have turned the car around to harass her if they knew they might be on the wrong end of the ultimate deterrent?

Jim Forsythe

This is what you got out of this story? Not that harassment is wrong, and he whishes he could tell how sorry he is for what happen.
How do you know a 13 year old girl, on a mountain road in backwoods Arkansas, did not have a gun?
Do you want her to shoot, off of a horse?Have you ever tried that?
Did the group of 5 or 6 older boys have guns? Most do in that area.
I wonder what the outcome would have been, if both groups would have started shooting?

Cary Semar

You seem to think that guns are the solution to all social problems. If so, it is an unhappy solution. Guns are not the solution to the problem, guns are the problem. An armed society can hardly be called a civil society.

Carlos Ponce

From the CDC Study ordered by President Obama: "Priorities For Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence" "Defensive Use of Guns"
"Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies." pp15-16
https://www.nap.edu/read/18319/chapter/3#15

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, what does guns have to do with harassment of a young lady?
Kelly seams to think guns are the answer to most encounters in life.
Maybe you are thinking of Parkland, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Hitchcock High School.

This story was about a man, wanting to express his regret, for what happen in the past.
It is not about arming yourself.

Carlos Ponce

"Carlos, what does guns have to do with harassment of a young lady?"
I was responding to Cary's post who was responding to your post where you mention "shooting". Would you harass an armed girl? Remember, "Little sister don't miss when she aims her gun."

Jim Forsythe

Malcolm reminded us that harassment is wrong, and he whishes he could tell her, how sorry he is, for what happen
I mention "shooting" because I was responding to Kelly.
Cary was responding to Kelly.
Kelly tried to say guns were needed by this young Lady, which is not true.

Remember, this is the area the Bald Knbbers , Jessie James gang, Bonnie and Clyde, The Daltons,The Benders ,Belle Starr, Bloody Bill Anderson, and others called home in the past.
I grow up in a area like Malcolm was talking about. Everyone had guns, and problems were handled, without the law.

Carlos Ponce

Just think about my question: "Would you harass an armed girl?"
Don't mess with sis.

Jim Forsythe

Do you want 13 year olds, carrying guns? That was about the age of the girl in Malcolm's story.
At what age do you want people to start packing?
Just saying that he would use a gun, has turned out bad for a Hitchcock High School student.
Do you want students, teachers packing?
At what age did you start carrying?
Have you ever been shot at? I have!
If you remember right , it was not the one in the song that was assaulted that had a gun, it was her sister, and she killed.
Just as in the song, the girl did not need a gun to be protected.

Carlos Ponce

A 13-year old should be able to defend herself.

Carlos Ponce

If you prefer a more Liberal source see Slate:
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2013/06/handguns_suicides_mass_shootings_deaths_and_self_defense_findings_from_a.html
"7. Guns are used for self-defense often and effectively."

Jim Forsythe

Do you want students, teachers packing?
At what age did you start carrying?
Have you ever been shot at? I have!

Carlos Ponce

Specified teachers, administrators with training should be armed.
"At what age did you start carrying?" I do not remember, it's been a while.
"Have you ever been shot at? I have!" If you were armed you could have shot back.

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