You are often what your T-shirt says or not

“Do you still barrel race?”

The question directed at me came from a stranger, a woman who operates one of the shops in the flea market in Sugarcreek.

Better Half and I were roaming around in there during what constituted a part of our semi-annual trip to Amish country, a place where I always discover there are things I need to buy that aren’t even on my list.

When the lady looked at me point blank and smiled as she asked me this, several thoughts zipped through my mind:

— Who is this woman asking me this, engaging me as if we have had many horse conversations in the past on this very topic?

— Is she mistaking me for someone else, given everyone has a twin out there somewhere in the world, so they say?

— Is she even talking to me?

— Where would she get the idea that I barrel race?

— And why would she ask me if I still barrel race? Do I look too old to be doing such things, like I’m broken-bone conscious or injury prone or something? Did I seem damaged?

I must have looked surprised at her, offering a pleasantly confused what-are-you-talking-about expression as my immediate response to this cheerful booth operator.

“Your T-shirt,” she said, nodding her head at my top, justification for the inquiry.

I honestly didn’t remember what I was wearing, so I looked down to check. It was a black T-shirt, the front of which has a very small, barely noticeable “Cowgirls Unlimited” logo on it.

Then the light bulb came on — ohhh, the b-a-c-k of the T-shirt.

It has the silhouette of a female on a horse, and she’s, duhhh, barrel racing. The wording on the top is “Feel the Thunder.” At the bottom, “Barrel Racing — Cowgirls Unlimited.”

I came clean quickly, telling her no, I don’t barrel race, unless I’m having a Walter Mitty episode. I identify with that fictional character in James Thurber’s first short story, the guy who was a pretty so-so person, kind of a boring fellow meekly living his day-to-day life outwardly, but in his head, this daydreamer was immersed in all kinds of exotic adventures.

In my Walter Mitty moments, I admit I have barrel raced with champions; outsung Barbra Streisand in front of an audience of thousands; and danced like Vera Ellen (Judy Haynes) in “White Christmas.”

But no, no barrel racing, I laughed, and confessed to the nice lady that I’d only bought the T-shirt in the first place because the word “Thunder” was on there, coincidentally the name of my horse.

That led to a conversation about horses in general since the shop owner said she had one, too, a 1,200-pound lawn ornament, she said, given she doesn’t ride much these days. Her horse is just a great big pet, she added, to be babied and brushed.

Funny how you can quickly bond with a stranger.

We had a pleasant chat during that outing to Amish country, and later it occurred to me that the T-shirts we wear maybe do and maybe don’t say something about who we are or not, what we like or don’t.

I’ve decided maybe I need a revised T-shirt — “Barrel Racer In My Dreams.”

Or maybe this one: “Walter Mitty fan.”

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Ties. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

Thank You

Janice Kiaski

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