Last year was a difficult time for my family. I lost multiple family members, one of them being my Aunt Kay. Last Summer we decided to go to one of her favorite mini-vacation spots, Southern Cross Horse Ranch, an oasis in the Georgia woods. People come from all over to ride horses on this gorgeous property that has a cozy bed and breakfast. I had never been there before, and was excited to go to this place that was so dear to my Aunt Kay. On this trip was my sister Kimmy, my Aunt Cheryl, and two of Aunt Kay's’ best friends: Beanie and Suzanne. We stayed there for four days. On the second day we had a bit of an adventure so saddle-in and enjoy the ride.
That second day of our vacation we were going to have a morning ride and afternoon ride. We had a great ride in the morning and were expectant of another fun time in the afternoon. Aunt Cheryl, Kimmy, Beanie and myself could't wait. We chose to have a guide take us because they know all of the best spots to canter and where we could ride through rivers.
As we were being introduced to our guide, another guest of the ranch was added to our group. We started lining up to go on the trail. The order we rode in was; Rebecca the guide, my sister, the guest Sarah, myself, my Aunt Cheryl, and Beanie. This ride was supposed to be for two hours. Rebecca gave a quick introduction speech and guidelines for the ride. We found out Sarah who joined our group had arrived at the ranch a few hours ahead of her family. We also learned that the guide’s horse was named Jolene (this will be important later on).
Now at first, the ride was going great. We rode through some streams, saw some deer, and we were all just enjoying being together in the serene woods. However, we had two minor setbacks early on. While we were cantering, Sarah had called out to stop because she believed she had hurt her back. We asked her if she wanted to go back to the ranch, explaining we would go with her, but she insisted that she was okay.
The second minor incident was when our guide was opening up a gate to let our horses through an area of the property. All of a sudden her horse, Jolene, got its foot caught inside the metal gate. Now, this was a large horse who was extremely jumpy. So when Jolene's foot got caught the horse started freaking out. The horse got its foot out eventually but broke the gate off of the tree it was attached to. Jolene wasn’t hurt which was the most important part. At this point, I had this feeling that maybe we should go back.
Unfortunately, our party kept on going. We were halfway through this ride. Now my horse was a lot slower than the others, so there was a big gap between Sarah and myself. All of a sudden I looked at Rebecca, Kimmy, and Sarah because Kimmy’s horse was freaking out. Her horse began to spin in circles and was bucking like crazy. Kimmy was trying her best to get control and stay on the horse.
Sarah’s horse then began freaking out in response. Then, Sarah’s horse came, dangerously close to my horse, so I pull to the side because I wanted no part of that. Sarah was yelling for help as her horse was continuing to buck. Sarah let go of her horses reins and grabbed its mane, which only fueled the fear in the horse. Kimmy and Sarah’s horses kept getting more and more upset. Now at the time, my Aunt, myself, and Beanie had no idea what was causing the horses to become so frantic. We later came to find out it was because the horses were standing on a yellow jacket nest. In fact, every time the horses kept moving and kicking, it only stirred the yellow jackets up more.
The guide, Rebecca, was trying to help, but all of a sudden my sister was thrown off of her horse and falls 6 feet to the ground flat on her back. Like any sane person would do, because she just landed in a yellow jacket hive, she runs away and steadies herself against a tree. At some point, Sarah is knocked off her horse. Sarah, however, did not get up and so she was trampled by her horse. She is laying on the ground, unconscious. All of this happened within a 2 minute period.
The guide gets off her horse and immediately goes to Sarah. All three of their horses took off. Now, on the guide's horse was an EpiPen, a first aid kit, and a radio. So we had no supplies to call for help, or to assist Kimmy, Sarah, or Rebecca once Jolene and the other horses took off. Beanie got off her horse and was attempting to call the ranch. My aunt then got off of her horse and helped me off mine as well. All of us are shaky at this point and tied our remaining horses up to nearby trees.
Rebecca the guide asked one of us to go back to the barn and get help. My aunt volunteered. She gets back on her horse and takes off. I look for my sister but see her way down the path. The guide looks at me and asks if I am allergic to wasp stings. I’m thinking to myself I have no clue. I’ve never been stung. I take a deep breath and go to help bring Sarah out of the hive.
Rebecca and Sarah have wasps all over them. Sarah is bleeding from a head injury. They both aren’t breathing right. So I do the only thing I think to do which comes from years of asthma attacks during high school marching band; I try to get them to breathe. I repeat, "In through your nose and out through your mouth." My adrenaline is pumping as I try to reassure everyone that it is going to be ok. We hear the gator/golf cart coming our way. They take my sister and Sarah. We beg them to take Rebecca, but they don’t since they needed a staff member to stay with us guests.
Now my Aunt was back from getting help. We let our horses go because they know the trails and will go back to the barn on their own. We look at Rebecca who has a lot of stings, and her adrenaline is appearing to be gone. Rebecca, turns out is allergic to stings. She does not look good.
We call the barn saying we need someone to come get her asap. She is starting to hyperventilate. We are asking her questions to keep her awake, about her kids and life. One of her children was named Leviticus. I mentioned that it is a name from the bible. She replies yes and that she went to Liberty University to be a chaplain. So we get into a conversation about that. We at some point started singing the song Jolene by Dolly Parton. We were doing anything and everything we could to keep Rebecca conscious.
Let me paint you a picture. A woman is sitting on the ground with three other women beside her all loudly singing Jolene, in the woods. The next thing we know the other golf cart pulls up, and we put Rebecca in the front. The rest of us sit in the bed of this golf cart and hold on for dear life.
As we are heading back to the barn, we see Jolene. It felt like a movie, we got the driver to start following the horse so we could get the EpiPen. The driver pulls up, steps out, gets the EpiPen from the saddle, and gives it to Rebecca. Rebecca was delirious at this point and injects the EpiPen into her jeans, so it doesn’t go through. My aunt and Beanie are asked to take Jolene and our horses back to the barn.
I am still in the golf cart, and as we pull up to the barn, the driver gets out. I go to Rebecca, and she is not looking good. I do the only thing I can think to do which is to repeat, “In through your nose, out through your mouth.” Finally, the medics come and get her. My sister and Rebecca are taken to a smaller hospital while Sarah is taken to a larger one. At this point, all of my adrenaline is gone. My aunt stayed with my sister in the ambulance. I go with Beanie to get the truck and Suzanne.
My mind was going so fast I tried to think what we would need. I decided on my sisters purse and a drink for my aunt. Now I’m going to fast forward. My sister and Rebecca were discharged that night with minor injuries. Sarah had to stay that night in the hospital because she had fractured her pelvic bone and had a concussion. Going through all of this on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation was extremely traumatic. I realized something though, later on when I was retelling the story.
It was a blessing that my horse was slow and kept a gap between the other horses who were in the nest. It was a miracle there was a fallen tree so my aunt could get back on her horse, which she had never done before. I believe God gave me the courage to help Sarah and our guide as I willingly walked into a yellowjacket nest. I think the ability to stay calm and calm other people was from the God. It was amazing that the guide was also a believer so I could pray over her. It was a blessing Suzanne didn’t ride that afternoon because she was allergic to stings. It was a blessing that I thought to grab the only thing we needed which was my sister's purse and a Pepsi for my aunt.
I was blessed that I didn’t get stung that many times and didn’t end up being allergic. These blessings you don’t think about in the middle of a tragic event. With every sting, I wasn’t thinking, “Thank you Lord for the courage to help this woman. Thank you, Jesus, I’m not allergic to bees."
There will be tragedies in your life, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be blessings in the tragedy. That doesn’t mean God won’t be there to walk you through it. That doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself. Let me tell you something: God is going to equip you with characteristics and abilities to get you through it.
We don’t think God is with us in the tragedies of our lives, but He is there. He will reveal the blessings that were in the middle of the tragedy. The pain from the stingers was keeping me from seeing the blessing. Pain can blind us.
Let me leave you with this. Don’t focus on stings of pain. Find the blessings. Look back for them. Write them down. Read them over. You are doing better than you think you are.
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