"And living with the rewards and consequences of those choices"
– part 1 –
The loud yelp of shock and pain exploded, shattering the quiet, early evening air like a china plate smashing on a concrete floor. It was instantly echoed by the crunching snap of fence boards mixed with the dirt-softened thud of a human body hitting the ground HARD. Harder maybe, then a human body should ever hit the ground.
The stallion’s bared teeth and pinned ears matched the burning hatred in his eyes as he screamed and reared over the motionless body lying beneath him. Portraying some raging, malevolent evil cast from Hell, the stallion screamed again as he lunged and reared with front hooves striking high into the air. But the deadly blows of those slashing hooves never slammed down to crush and kill. At the last second, he pulled back, whirled, did a back kick high over the motionless, crumpled heap of cowboy, and charged off, screaming and snorting as he bucked and galloped across the pasture.
The young man, tall and muscular with the tanned, weather-beaten handsomeness of a working rancher, winced slightly and, favoring his right leg, limped into the kitchen for an early morning cup of coffee.
"Mornin’ Son. How’s the leg?"
"Mornin’ Dad! It’s still a little stiff, but it’ll be OK."
"What’d the doc say about your head?"
"Oh, ah… no concussion. He just kept me overnight to make sure."
"Got a few minutes?"
"Look son, Dancer…….."
"Dad I KNOW what you’re gonna say. It wasn’t…."
"Whoa, BACK young man! Let me finish! Son, this last go-round with Dancer darn near got you killed!"
"But Dad! I just…."
"No BUTS! Now this has been comin’ on for quite some time. As far as I’m concerned, last night brought an end to it! For one thing, you’ve got a responsibility to Amy and that little pumpkin granddaughter of mine to keep yourself in one piece. For another, with all the wasted dollars you’ve spent on books and videos and clinics and trainers, you could’ve picked up pretty decent piece of horseflesh that WOULDN’T try to put you in an early grave every other day. Which reminds me, that last "trainer" you had over was a REAL doozy! My LORD! What will they think of next, voo doo dolls?"
The young man blushed self-consciously as he grimaced slightly while carefully easing into a chair at the table next to his father.
"Dad, I just need a little more time with him. He’ll be OK, I promise."
(Sigh.) "I guess that stubbornness comes from your mother’s side. Look, I don’t mind the expense, it’s your money. And your Mom and I don’t even mind helping out a little once in a while. But good gosh son, you’ve tried everything out there from A to Z!! Where does it end? Where does it stop? Look, while you’re still in one piece let’s just let bygones be bygones. We can change his name to Widowmaker and sell him to a rodeo for buckin’ stock. He’d sure be the best around!"
"Not yet Dad, please? He’ll be OK, I know he will. I just need a little more time is all."
"You’ve had the better part of a year and you don’t seem to be making a whole lotta headway with him. I was hoping this last upside down ballet you two performed yesterday would maybe get your attention."
"Dad, he got a pretty bad start getting to know people."
Son, I know his history and how he’s been handed on from one to another. Heck, he darn near put Bill’s son through a barn wall two years ago! I really think it’s time to close the book on this one, Son, I really do."
"I know Dad, I know. But there’s something special about him."
"Well, you’ve got that much right. Smart as a whip, built like a brick outhouse and got more "go" than I’ve seen in any horse in my life! But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re not getting through to him.
He’s a killer Son, clear as day. The sooner you accept that, the better off all of us will be."
– part 2 –
The little girl grunted and groaned as she strained to climb onto the highest of two boxes balanced precariously on top of a rickety old kitchen chair that had been long forgotten in the back of the barn.
The huge mare’s ears flickered a genuine note of uneasy consternation, but she did not move as the tower of boxes gently swayed and bumped against her side. As it did, the little girl gave a squeal of panic and desperately leaped, clutching at the mare’s mane, trying with all her strength to hang on and not follow the boxes down as they toppled to the floor. The mare’s body shuddered at the commotion tumbling beneath her but she did not bolt, as though she understood and was trying to help the small child retain her grip and keep her from falling.
For a moment, it looked as if all would be lost as the little girl balanced perilously on the top of the mare’s neck, looking for all the world like a tiny human teeter-totter, wavering back and forth. As her weight shifted, she gained a hold with one stubby little leg and pulled herself upright onto the mare’s back. The mare’s low nicker and slow nod seemed to approve of the little girl’s struggle and triumph.
She had no more then sat upright when the barn door crashed open and her Uncle came bursting through screaming at the top of his voice.
"EMMA! Are you in here!!" he thundered.
The mare bolted this time, white-eyed with fear as the little girl crashed to the shavings below.
"Dammmit girl, how many whuppin’s do you need before you stay AWAY from that crazy mare!" he shouted, as he ran toward the mare’s stall.
The mare, shivering, dancing around white-eyed with abject terror, almost miraculously, but purposefully, stepped around the small body that was curled up in panic-stricken ball on the stall floor.
As the man swung open the stall door, the mare lunged at him, striking with both front hooves in deadly precision.
– part 3 –
"NOOOOOOOOOO!" the Mother screamed at the top of her voice as she and her horse crashed across the deep creek and unto the bank at a full gallop. She was still screaming as she leaped from her horse and fell next to the crumpled heap on the ground. Her hysterical shrieking echoed in the small valley as she knelt, holding the broken body of her young daughter in her arms. Blood tricked from the young girls ear and mouth as the Mother wiped the dirt from her face.
"NO-NO-NO-NOOOOOOO! Oh God, NOOOOOOOOO" she ranted uncontrollably, rocking back and forth. "I TOLD you to stay OFF of him!!!" she repeated over and over.
"BILL!!!! BILL HELP!!!!" she screamed as the father bolted out of the barn and rushed to her side.
Still rocking back and forth, dazed with the shock and disbelief, overwhelmed with the grief and fear of motherhood, she held her daughter tightly and wailed, "I’ll KILL HIM!!! I swear I’ll kill him! I told her NO! Oh God, I told her NO, stay AWAY from him! Oh God! Oh God, my God no, please no."
Suddenly, eyes blazing with insane rage, she looked up at her husband and said in a cold icy tone, "Get me a gun, Bill. GET ME A GUN NOW!!"
The beautiful young bay gelding, white-eyed, sweating and shaking violently in utter terror, danced around at the opposite end of the corral, not knowing what he had done wrong, yet seeming to feel and understand that something was terribly wrong.
– part 4 –
The first golden rays of sunrise cast a dull glow on the bent old man as he slowly, doggedly tottered down the path. The early morning mist gently swirled around him as a Mockingbird trilled a cheerful greeting as though applauding his determined efforts. As he approached the gate, the old man gazed expectantly across the large pasture. The pain instantly washed from his face, replaced by a soft smile as he caught sight of the large bay at the far end. The halter buckle clinked gently against the metal gate as he feebly struggled to gain a higher vantage point. His deep, hacking cough, an undeniable reminder of his rapidly deteriorating health, sporadically halted his clamorous ascent. Alternately struggling and resting he finally reached the third support. Pausing for a moment, he took a deep, rasping breath and shouted out the horse’s name as he waved the halter high in the air.
The stallion raised his head from grazing the dew-sweetened grass, saw the old man in the distance standing on the gate and whinnied a loud scream of recognition as he bolted into a joyful gallop across the pasture. Sliding to stop at the gate, the stallion reared, snorting as he pawed the air high above the old man’s head.
"My goodness!" the old man exclaimed admiringly, "We are really feeling our Wheaties today, aren’t we? The stallion whinnied again, but softer this time, shaking his head in agreement
"But come now," the old man grumped in a slightly scolding tone, smiling as he precariously clamored down the gate, "The Farrier will be here soon and we have much to do before he comes."
The gate swung open wide and the stallion nickered, shaking his head in agreement as he trotted over and dropped his head so the old man could put on his halter.
As they walked up the path together, the stallion carefully matched the slow, crippled pace of the old man, occasionally offering a low nicker of concern as though worried about his friend. The deep love and respect they shared for each other, was blatantly obvious to even the most uninitiated in the horse world.