Before setting up her studio in Hot Springs, wife returned to site of a previous residency in west central Arkansas* to visit with the two horses that lived in the barn below the apartment in which the resident resided. Fred and Molly.
The situation is remote, hot, and dusty. National Park Rangers visit only rarely and the horses thus largely must fend for themselves. Pat them on the neck or rump, flies scatter as dust cloud erupts. When he did appear, rider ranger made a big deal about showing them “who’s boss”.
Wife bathed them regularly and provided exotic additions to their diet like apples and carrots. Attendant snorts and vocalizations were more rich and varied than could have been imagined. Wherever they might be, they’d rush to greet her whenever she’d appear. Which they did enthusiastically early in July even though it’d been several years since her time in that park.
That reunion brought to her mind one at camp during the summer of her thirteenth year. Early on she had developed blood poisoning so severe that she passed out and rode the ambulance to a hospital where she spent two weeks (out of eight). No one from home was able to visit. As she began to recover all she could think about was Lucifer.
Lucifer was a horse that none would ride. He frequently kicked other horses and, less frequently, people. Not possessed of that knowledge however, she’d noticed him the first day because he made vigorously about in a ring all by himself. She’d wondered, approached, he came right over, and accepted her strokes.
Wouldn’t happen in this day and age, but camp let her try to ride that devil. They had quickly developed a deep mutual understanding and she knew he’d be waiting for her return. Upon her release they rode every day after which she’d brush him down and braid his mane.
Last day at camp was race day. Riders would take horses through a difficult and technical series of obstacles including thirteen jumps. Some (senior level!) were to go down. The audience included parents and nail biting staff. War hero father grew more nervous than he’d been at Guadalcanal.
Invigorated by the commotion and excitement, the bay’s nostrils flared and he foamed at the mouth. When their turn came, the little girl (she’s only 5’4” now) leaned over and whispered in Lucifer’s ear “I’m a little scared. Don’t throw me. We’re going to be a team!”
They won the whole dang thing.
**Wife took me riding once in Utah. Asked for “the ones with most spirit!” Gulp. She took off, mine followed. I fell off and I’m here to tell you it’s a long way down.