All the Pretty Horses

Catherine Crier, the host of Court TV’s Catherine Crier Live, on growing up in Dallas, riding and showing horses, and moving away from Texas.

I spent so much time at the local stables growing up, particularly Glad Acres and Horseman’s Paradise, which is now long gone. I was a semi-city kid, if you can call it that in Dallas, but after school and on the weekends, I was basically a country kid who grew up riding and showing horses all over the country. My mom would drop me and my sisters off at the barn, turn us loose, hope we didn’t kill ourselves with the horses, and come back about dusk. In the fall and spring, mother would get me out of class, and we’d go to horse shows. I skipped a lot of school, but as long as I kept my grades up, we would climb in the back of a truck and head out. In the summers, we would hook up a horse trailer and disappear. My poor father would call and go, “Where are you guys now?”

That’s the reason we moved out of Dallas proper: We had so many horses that we finally had to move to the country, in Celina. It was a schizophrenic life. My father would put on a suit by day, then he’d come home and start baling hay. He was a banker primarily, but for a while he worked as a radio broadcaster at KRLD. My mother would go to the Dallas Woman’s Club, then she’d come home and put on her jeans. She basically ran the horse operation, and we averaged about thirty head of Arabian horses most of the time I was growing up. Both of my parents were very independent, and although they had three girls, there was never any sense of “You’re a girl. You don’t do this.” You could do whatever you were big enough to do.

Of course, as a kid growing up in Dallas, I remember when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was sitting in the classroom when the teachers were all called outside to the hallway, and one of my classmates started crying. She was sure that World War III had broken out. I remember being sent home. We had this little Zenith black and white television—it must have been a seventeen-inch—and I remember sitting in there with my mother watching the footage so clearly. The tension at the time in Dallas was very palpable, and even as a child I understood. I was fascinated with politics and the law and all that business back then, so I was paying attention as much as someone my age could.

Literally, when I was five, six years old, I used to tell people I wanted to be a lawyer. My mother’s rationale was that I’d argue with a post and I had to find a profession that would pay me to do that. But I like my story: I always, for some reason, had this abiding sense of justice. When I was ten, I used to read everything I could about the mob. I thought, “What a great adversary it is to be a prosecutor chasing the mob.” Even then I said I’m going to end up in the East River with cement blocks on my feet. I didn’t quite go there, but I started out as a prosecutor working for district attorney Henry Wade. And when I ended up serving on the bench, my window looked right down on the Kennedy Memorial, and I could see the Texas School Book Depository.

I’d probably be in trouble today, because I commuted about sixty miles each day to finish high school in the suburb of Richardson. We used my sister’s apartment address so I could finish up there rather than in Celina. I had a big mouth when it came to school, you know, in terms of raising my hand, but in terms of the social world, I was a bit of a mouse. Didn’t get asked out to the senior prom. Didn’t have a date. As for college, I think I was bleeding orange by the time I was born, so there wasn’t a lot of debate about where I’d go. I actually went off to the University of Texas at Austin when I was sixteen. Back then, all I had to do was take my junior English course, and I took it as a correspondence course in the summer and was able to head on out.

Years later, when I moved to Atlanta in 1989 to co-anchor The World Today at CNN, I felt like something was wrong with me and realized that I was claustrophobic. Atlanta was so green and thick, and you’re constantly driving where you can’t see the horizon. When I would visit Texas, I’d step off the plane, and it was as if I could breathe again. I missed the open spaces. When I came to New York City, I found out within about two years that I couldn’t do the apartment thing. I had to get back out where I could see birds and have some space. I now live an hour north of the city—I’ve got about thirty acres—and have four horses and six dogs. People have heard it before: You can take the kid out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the kid.

Catherine Crier, 50, is the host Catherine Crier Live on Court TV. She lived in the Dallas area from 1955 to 1971 and 1975 to 1989 and Austin from 1971 to 1975. She currently lives in Westchester County, New York.

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