We have been without horses for a bunch of years now. This is not a hardship for me. I liked to watch horses as a child. My friend, Liz Hatchitt, had one named Lady, that was a beauty. I only fell off the back once. It did not make me less than comfortable with horses. I rode as a Girl Scout—English saddle in a line with all the other girls. This did not make me dislike horses. I thought they were graceful and helped people settle the West.
It was only when I was taking care of horses that did not let me ride them without knocking me off under trees and against fences that I began to think they were forming a plan to get me personally. Then there were the times I brought treats of apples, carrots and sugar cubes. They had no respect even when bribed. I would run out and they tended to pin me up against posts, trying to bite me in the butt when I ran and stepping on me when I rushed the gates just ahead of them by inches. OK, I sort of hated them. They never did that to Bill.
He brought them to the house and got hay and alfalfa for them. Salt licks too and a huge water trough. They liked him for feeding them, letting them vacation for fifty weeks a year and only going out with the hunters for elk for two weeks. I wish I had a job like that. Bill went into the horse business some, that is, we had Mariah, a breeding mare. He introduced her to a donkey of great stature and in no time flat, she was smitten and pregnant.
Mariah gave birth to Booker; he was a mule who did not breed. He was indeed a cute baby. He would use his incredible long tongue to give me a little lick when I brought him treats. He was polite and well behaved. I never tried to ride him. Big Jim made up the rest of the stable. He was 20 when we bought him, and he lived so long we had to have his teeth floated twice. That means they must be sawed off if you will, so they are flat enough to eat the grain. He was a huge horse and we made a deal; he could live with us forever if he did not step on the boys. He did not honor the agreement with me. Bill was going to train and sell the mules. (Remember the cattle business?) We had Booker forever.
Now, horses are not like dogs or even cats where you can leave a bag of dried food out for them and a bucket of water. They help themselves. Horses, you have to feed morning and night. They will kick down stalls and invent ways to hurt you later. They are hard task masters about food. And we have a Labrador who howls like a coyote if he is not fed on time.
When Bill was off TDY, temporary duty, I had to feed the horses. One day when I was dressed up to meet with the school superintendent, I walked out the front door in a silk suit and silk shoes (I got them from Shoe Hero in case you’re wondering). As I looked towards the horses I remembered I forgot to feed them. I did not want to be late, and thankfully school was out that day for the kids. I tip-toed around late spring snowstorm ice clumps cussing at the mud which was getting deeper.
Too late, in for a penny, in for a pound. I cautiously picked up a single flake to put it into the feeders. You can not just chuck food on the ground, they get sick. Really! Booker was waiting as were Mariah and Big Jim. Booker rushed forward and grabbed the flake before I could drop it. He pulled and I should have pushed it at him, but, no, I pulled and fell backwards into five or six inches of gooey, brown, slimy mud. Splat! My suit, nylons, heels and hair were covered and then I slid into the horse pen. The flake fell on my chest and I was on my back with three huge fire-breathing horse flesh waiting to pounce. Booker was first he leaned forward with his Godzilla tongue, licked me on the face and took what was left of the alfalfa. He ran off as if he figured I was packing. Lucky for him I was not.
Then the big decision, to roll over on my front and G.I. Jane under the barbed wire OR stand in the feeder and climb over the wire OR try to open the gate and have them run it and tear off around the neighborhood! I chose G.I. Jane. Walked into the house holding my shoes, into a shower with my clothes on, and called for my late excuse. “I believe you, Jo. No one could make this up.” The superintendent was profound.
The horses have gone to the great meadow in the sky. Booker is out there somewhere licking kids to get their ice cream. And I know somewhere out there is a horse ready to stomp me. Roaring Mouse, carrying sugar cubes just in case Booker comes over. Out.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.