Usually when I hear those politically correct platitudes about how “meaningful” and “worthwhile” and “generous” it is to be an event volunteer, I usually figure that kind of talk is engineered to connive us into more work, sort of the way they name buildings after big donors, to get them to keep donating. “Without our marvelous crew of selfless volunteers, we certainly couldn`t have run this year`s blah blah blah, you get the picture.”
Anyway, being sort of a sucker for that manipulation, and still waiting for The Denny Emerson Memorial Porta-Pot”, or something equally prestigious to crown my selfless efforts in behalf of all the nervous competitors who probably need that, I am about to head out to the Carolina Horse Park, clipboard in hand, to herd cats.
“Herding cats” is a pretty good description of the job of Cross Country Warm Up Steward, my official title for today. Luckily, Susan and Van Firth will be there to keep me from messing up too badly, as we coax, coerce, badger and nudge riders from the safety of the warm up area down to the Jaws of the Starting Box. Some of them go cheerily to their fate, like lemmings off the cliff into the North Sea, or where ever it is they drop from, but others wiggle and squirm, and need more Gestapo like measures. “Number Eight, we are deeply and sincerly sorry that you are only twenty years old, and your coach is not here to hold your little hand, and watch you jump the warm-up X thirty three more times, while Dauntless Dobbin gets covered with more lather than if he`d run around Badminton, but you actually do have only 24 seconds left before your scheduled start time, and we are already fifty three minutes behind because fence 12 got knocked into the Head Of The Lake, and the chainsaw artist had to carve another life size Armadillo before we could resume, and the Technical Delegate`s golf cart ran out of gas before he could approve it, and you know he`s too unfit to walk there to inspect it, since the last time he actually rode a horse was 1979, so we had to find a cart replacement, SO GET OVER THERE!”
These subtle reminders are usually effective, more so when bellowed with either a German or Japanese accent, like from a scary old World War Two movie.
I find that visits from Mike Plumb to anywhere in the general vicinity of the warmup area are apt to cause disruptions, because after about nine decades of eventing he`s apt to get confused, and wander in front of various cascading teenagers, as they plunge toward the vertical, shrieking “VERTICAL!”, and has to be rescued. We have all learned to bring extra bibs, so we get him cleaned up, find his minder, and resume action.
As the long, hot day lurches on, our main source of relief is the visit from the sandwich lady in her golf cart. Other than that, we soldier gallantly on, knowing that without our gallant and, (unfortunately), unpaid efforts this event could never have been conducted for your viewing pleasure.