White Oak Mountain Ranger: A Good Horse

Monday, October 18, 2021

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” - Winston Churchill


“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.” - Sharon Ralls Lemon


After feeling like a convicted felon under house arrest for the last year and a half, the offer to escape to an Island in the Gulf of Mexico suddenly hovered in the face like some kind of new and daring adventure.


It’s funny how perceptions of travel have changed in the last few years.


Being ranch bound for so long allowed a few more chores than usual to finally be accomplished.

While continually faced with a ponderous chore list, it looks like pandemic travel paranoia has in some bizarre way, worked on slowly whittling down more than a few long needed fence mending opportunities and related, yet long over due major projects.


Things like toilets that won’t adequately flush and field lines that seem to not want to cooperate during a pandemic, are definitely hard to ignore. I tried.


The lure of a sun splashed October Island, smothered in white sand, fish in the shallows, looked to be an excellent answer to the never ending concept of chore list avoidance. It was also looked at as an appropriate antidote, or booster shot, for pandemic induced travel paranoia.


Five days before impending departure arose a premonition. Some call it intuition, others refer to this sort of thing as a strange feeling. This particular premonition was transportation related. It had to do with a cheap plug in a right rear tire that mysteriously and slowly leaked about every other month.


There is a seemingly distinct difference between paranoia and a premonition. Paranoia has managed to keep me ranch bound during what we refer to occasionally as the pandemic. A premonition is something different; so different that I generally struggle with how to interpret this strange phenomenon that pounces upon my thoughts.


Over the course of a lifetime of many weird or strange premonitions; I’ve learned to ignore many, most scary and disconcerting. I find myself intently listening to and heeding a scant few.


It’s the mental visions that have magically played out, or played out in part, that glue me in tune with any and all premonitions. Looking back, some were lame, some were scary, and a great many I confused with abject paranoia.


The ones that came true, or came close to being real, managed to keep me in the premonition game and paying close attention.


So, the day before the journey to the Island, the vehicle suddenly and inexplicably announced a slow leak in the tire with the plug. Air had been needed for this tire four or five times in the last six months. No rime, no reason, completely intermittent.


The hairs on the back of the neck that get excited when premonitions come to the surface suddenly got thick as a brick. Visions of a flat tire in Atlanta rush hour traffic immediately flooded the minds eye.


When in doubt about tire plugs and risk of blow-outs, I always consult my Tire Guru.


The Tire Guru said “Go for it” as he thumped the spare tire with his knuckles;


“It’ll make it. If it does blow out, you got air in the spare,” said the Tire Guru.


“Will it blow out about Atlanta?” I asked.


I figured that the old Tire Guru had never fixed a flat on I-75 in the heart of Atlanta’s rush hour.


I did not see the need to share my premonition with a Tire Guru at this point. But I find that this deception resulted in a strange feeling that made me feel obliquely conflicted.


I think most Tire Gurus may not actually understand a well based premonition. I’m not too sure Tire Gurus are in this particular clairvoyant class as of yet. Just buy a new tire. Forget your inner voices; a good Tire Guru would say, and drive, drive, drive.


The plug in the tire held. The sandy Island’s beach was assaulted with what state agencies call the RED TIDE. If you have never experienced a RED TIDE here is some free advice; Don’t hope it will go away. Cancel as fast as you can and go north. It is just that simple. DO NOT DO IT!


The second day of surviving the RED TIDE the phone rang. Peso was down.


Peso was pushing 40. For a horse, a big Palomino, this amount of years on the hoof is considered to be an exceptional number of years.


Peso was a gift from a lady that wanted more horse power and a little less hay burn for trail rides. When she delivered the big gelding about fifteen years, or so, ago she ran him through his paces and demonstrated all of his buttons. Forward, reverse and a healthy side shuffle.


She said in his youth he had been a barrel racer of some renown.  She stroked his mane, said her goodbyes and left with a tear in her eye and a “Good Luck, he’s a fine mount.”


The next day I warmed him up, saddled him for a test run in the long pasture.


The button I pushed was apparently translated by the big mount to mean full speed ahead. No cumbersome barrels to dodge, just go from zero to sixty as fast as possible. We came up to a fence pretty quick and I wondered if he was going to try to clear it or just impale us both in the tightly strung wire and fence posts.


We slid up to the fence, turned on a dime and reversed course at a dead run.


I called the previous owner immediately and asked for a quick tutorial on Peso’s buttons. She asked what had happened and laughed for quite a while when I told her the story.


After that little rodeo Peso and all other mounts got on his tall back and enjoyed better than fine rides. Ranch life for the old horse became the best life a horse could have and he became a happy and spoiled member of the family.


There is something spiritual about a good horse. Maybe it’s the eyes. The way they look into your soul when you walk up to them and tell him things that you think good horses need to hear.


Maybe it’s the they way they look when they gallop in a strong wind and kick at full speed with imaginary predators when a cold front pushes them to run like lions are on their tail. They seem to experience something very spiritual in the way they sense the mystical wind borne spirit.


I always thought that these little outbursts were just pure joy for a horse; and that they were in some way giving thanks for just being able to run with the wind in their face. This, to me, must be a horse’s sense of a spiritual moment. No fear, no rider, just the sudden full out pleasure of being free in the world.


If you don’t think a good horse is spiritual just ask the Sioux, the Cheyenne, or the Comanche.


Ask the young girl that is fortunate enough to own her first pony.


Ask any Vet that’s hired to “put down” what many consider to be a family member. Ask the Vet how they feel as the owners turn their heads to hide tears when they see the big needle and feel the shake of the earth as the fallen horse as they draw a last breath.


Ask the owner that traces the imaginary cross on the forehead of his best horse and prays to the Good Lord that the pistol he has in his hand will be instantly lethal.


Ask the equipment operators how they feel as the horse is lowered into a hole and covered with earth while owners stand by crying and internally having the conversation with themselves about what they think is the right thing to say about a good horse that brought them so much pleasure in such a short amount of time.


My premonition had been about transportation, but it wasn’t about motors or tires. It was about another mode of transportation, a simpler kind of getting about and getting away.


The last few winters of Peso’s life had been more than difficult. More than once I had said to myself that he wouldn’t make another winter; but he mustered a rally with the spring, and the senior food, beets and all the tenderness we could heap on him. I never expected he would decide to go when we chose to go out of town.


My daughter called the vet, arranged the equipment operator and endured with the emotions and explanations necessary for her young daughter. We could feel the sadness through the phone.


Stuck on an Island, the sad passing of a good horse was hard to swallow. I wondered why the horse waited on us to leave, why I had misjudged the premonition and why now. I hoped our daughter and granddaughter understood our feelings of needing to be forgiven. I hoped Peso could forgive us.


We hurried home and stood by the fresh burial, saying the things that all horse owners say about the lives of good horses that have managed to enrich an owner of a fine horse.


Time for a good horse is too short. Any time spent with a good horse is good enough.


Peso was a good horse.

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