• Jennifer Barnick

Some Very Bad and Dangerous Decisions


Photo Source: Public Domain Pictures

Now an adult, I would like to think my relationship to danger is reasonable and healthy in that I do try to avoid it; however, I could not say the same regarding my youth. I am not sure where my recklessness came from or why, but the truth is, I have a very terrible past regarding very bad decisions. I am lucky to be alive. I know I should look back at my incidents of nearly deadly, or at least potentially harmful, misadventures with a sense of shame or guilt, but the truth is I look at them softly—almost fondly. I do, however, acknowledge that I was a very stupid girl.

The Baby Rattle Snake

When I was very little, we lived on a dead-end street that was not a court. Instead, the street ended with a vast empty field. As kids, we would spend hours playing in the field. One time when I was around four, I found a baby rattlesnake that was roughly a foot long. It was coiled and sleeping. I did not know what a rattlesnake was, but I did know that it was absolutely wonderful and that I wanted to show my friends. So, I picked it up just behind the head and began running to my friend’s house. The snake wrapped its body around my forearm. My friend was in his open garage with a few other neighborhood kids. When I entered the garage to show them my find, my friend’s father blanched and very slowly walked towards me while telling me not to move. He then carefully lifted a bucket and a screwdriver. I froze but not because I was afraid I only froze because a grownup had told me to. Once he got close to me, he then used the screwdriver to fling the small snake in a white bucket. Only then did the little snake start to hiss and make its signature rattle. All of us kids ringed the bucket in awe. My friend’s father then got a chisel and severed the snake’s head off. The bucket filled with bright red blood. I remember vividly resenting my friend’s father, and I felt remorse that I had caused the snake to be killed.

The Water Jump

When I was thirteen, I had a very dangerous and skittish thoroughbred mare. I rode three-day event (dressage, ring jumping, and cross country jumping) with the ambition to one day ride in the Olympics. My mare was literally afraid of her own shadow and consistently did a great deal of rearing up and sideways ‘running’ in the open cross-country course. After a few months of training on low, basic fences with only a few bushes here and there, we decided it was time for her to tackle a more advanced jump—a water jump. The water jump was a very high and long stone wall that had a two-foot-deep pond of water on the other side of the wall. Horses hate surprises and what makes water jumps extra dangerous is that horses do not like a jump with dry land on one side and a pond of water on the other. Being that my horse was a little crazy and very dangerous, we spent a long time walking her around the stonewall and pond. We even led her into the pond so she could get a feel for standing and walking in it.

I started her on a few of her most comfortable jumps then rode her on a nice long arc in the field so she would have enough speed to take the tall stone wall. She cleared it magnificently, and we landed right in the middle of the large pond. We were at a very high speed, and I could see tall walls of water on each side of us. But then the intense bucking and rearing began. My horse went into a total panic—landing in a pond blew her mind. I was quickly thrown off; however, she was bucking and rearing so wildly I was trapped in the pond, as she seemed to be in every direction at once. My trainer struggled but could not grab her without getting kicked or trampled. The saddle had slid underneath the mare, and it was increasing her panic. Finally, my trainer started screaming. The place where I trained also had a working cattle ranch and a group of cowboys ran to us. They quickly got my mare and led her out of the pond. A cowboy then ran into the pond and dragged me out. Laying on the ground with my upper body being held by the cowboy he looked at me gruffly and said, “You should not be doing this.”

The Hotelier’s Playboy Son

While in Amsterdam I had caught the eye of a young man somewhere in his twenties. I was 16. I saw him often both in the lobby of our hotel and in the neighborhood of our hotel. Every time he saw me, he would ask me out, and every time I would say no. His father owned the hotel I was staying at and several others. He worked at the hotel as a manager—though it seemed only in name as he was always hanging out with his friends and never appeared to be working. One evening, my roommate at the hotel was with a gentleman in our room, so I retreated to the lobby. The young man saw me reading in the lobby, and asked me if I could have anything in the world what would it be? I looked at him and told him that I would very much like some French fries. He asked me if I would go with him and together we can get some of the best French fries in the city. Everything my mother told me about getting into strangers’ cars flooded my mind. I knew it was completely stupid to get in a car, in a foreign city, with a boy much older than me….

I went. He drove some kind of exotic Italian fast car and drove the exotic Italian car extremely fast. While driving, he pulled out a small, gold pillbox and asked me if I liked to do drugs. I said, “No.” He laughed and said that he did. He popped two pills into his mouth and lit a joint. He then asked me where I wanted to go. I said to get some French fries. He just laughed and turned up the music very loud. Soon we were in a section of Amsterdam that was completely unrecognizable to me. There were far fewer lights and people. I was nearly crying. Finally, at a stoplight, he saw how upset I was and turned off the music. He asked me what was wrong, and I asked him to take me back to the hotel. He then stared at me and laughed and said, “You really did just want to have some French fries, didn’t you?” I looked at him puzzled and said, “Yes.” He then smiled and took me to a fast food place. When we got back to the hotel, I told him, “Thank you,” and ran straight to my room (with my fries of course).

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.