Sunday, August 16, 2009

Generational harmony, eternal gift

Generational harmony, eternal gift

August 16, 2009

By Julie Kay Smithson

April swirls about me as the hill falls beneath my feet toward the creek. In some places the ground is still cold; in others, it is being warmed by a tender spring sun. Trees are transitioning from bud to leaf; winter-dormant grass is flirting with gamut of green. A young blue heeler cattle dog frolics, still busy learning from my actions whether he should join the herd or observe from a polite distance. He chooses to observe. Good dog! Greatness dipped from the gene pool has been provided to me in spades. If only I can always remain cognizant of that.

Muzzles dripping from their morning thirst-quencher, a clot of horses watches my approach. They've come down from the barn, tummies full of third cutting alfalfa. Ears up, gentle souls survey this person they know well. No flies have come yet to make them stomp or swish. Morning eases into day as the night before retreats.

No grain required

One young lady is first to nicker hello, closely followed by her father's more throaty welcome. The bay filly and her father look so alike -- their color only a tiny part of the equation. They share so much more. Strong bones and hooves, short backs, tulip-shaped ears, black-tipped, well laid back shoulders, musculature built upon generational DNA, minds ever-learning and curious, eager to please, full of playfulness but with no dearth of heart.

A favorite game involves me morphing into a sort of two-legged cutting horse. The first to be worked with has already sensed that he's "it," and he is filled with excited delight, knowing that we're going to do things this morning that will stretch our minds and our muscles. He fairly dances with joy, blowing rollers and tossing that black flag of a tail o'er his back, his hooves cadenced in the poetry of motion, whisking air neath them as they carry him to me. We're close enough to blow our own breath into one another's nostrils ... then he does a perfect rollback and canters up the hill, saying clearly, "Catch me if you can!" I know full well how effortless this is, because he will soon put his nose through a halter, eager to be the chosen one this day. In the interim, I ignore him, smiling as my herd cavorts 'round me, darting this way and that, feigning a charge, only to stretch out my hand to meet an outstretched prehensile equine lip. A touch, then we both whirl and "flee." A fleabitten grey mare with the "bloody shoulder" roan patch, the bottom of the pecking order, has patiently waited for "her turn." Now she accompanies me up the hill, my hand in her mane so she can help me up the steeper part. The others wait "up top," watching us proceed with eyes of utmost fondness. No grain is required to "catch" any of my horses.

We work a bit. He takes the first bit he's ever known into his mouth, tastes it and considers the possibilities. It's a rubber bit, large rings on either side and snaps attach it to his halter. Like many others before him, all training is done with respect, gentleness, praise, and firmness. When this colt moves on in life to another person -- often another family, complete with children he will carry, as he will carry their parents -- he will do so with confidence, knowing that bits, like saddles, are a part of sharing life with people. He will bugle a "Hello!" to people and will come running to meet them.

The fuzzy brown rectangle

Often I have dreamt of how my horses view the world and this puny human that they trust for their health and very lives. They must trust that I will provide them with clean, fresh water -- cool in summer and not frozen in winter. They must trust that I will keep their pastures and hay of the best possible quality, that I will keep them vaccinated against disease and wormed against parasites. They trust me to keep their strong hooves rasped and smoothed at the correct angle to maximize their ability to defy gravity and leave nothing but my gasp of wonder at their fleetness of foot. They trust. I, in turn, strive to be trustworthy.

Through the chocolate-colored rectangular window of their eye, fringed with lashes that have to shelter against sun, wind, and more, they look upon this world. May they always see people as kind, protective, yet also with the call to adventure that may be found when sitting upon their back, our eyes focused between their ears.

Our dogs share their wisdom through their joy, patience, work ethic, and loyalty. Wiggles grants me his life that I may better learn to live my own. He asks only for kind words, a gentle hand, food and water and a place to sleep that is within reach of his "mom."

The present embraces the past

Horses that are now gone back to the earth, hold our hearts hostage. Our favorite dogs do the same. Through our memories, they leave hoof and footprints on our souls and mold the people we have become. They gift us with the knowledge that wisdom is eternal, and all we need do to know this is to look deeply into their eyes, their souls. A glimpse of this eternity may be found there. What we do with these gifts is our thank you to them for having graced our lives, no matter how many days/weeks/months/years. We choke back a sob as we recall the most special times with them. This is our private paradise, out of which we cannot be driven. We pray that we will be reunited with them, to know them without aging or infirmities or earthly bonds.

My babies. With quiet humility to be so blessed with this time in my life, I walk amongst these wondrous horses, at an utter loss to describe their greatness, a lump rising in my throat as I consider the horses and people of a faraway desert on the other side of a distant ocean.

In that far-off place, an olive-complected man appraises his wealth with a loving eye as one drinks deeply at a rare oasis. His mare carries an old spear scar on her hip, but has never limped. She has carried him for many years, and still he draws a ragged breath, thinking of her courage and strength. So like her granddam is this one, her tenth foal suckling her milk as she sips water. Her lips sound like they are pulling air and water through her teeth, and so they are, as she sifts sand from water. Her eyes close in pleasure at his touch, her trust in him complete to the point where he can handle her foals with never a worry. He is a king, a sheikh, his wealth born from oil; yet ... his dearest treasure is an Arabian mare.

Harmony through the generations: Man and horse and dog. God spoke to the south wind, His breath creating the horse. We, who love horses and dogs for their beauty, functionality, grace, speed, kindness, and more -- thank God for this gift.

1,204 words.


Julie Kay Smithson was blessed to have wondrous horses for 34 of her 57 years. Wiggles blue heeler remains still her companion, though the horses were dispersed in order to help her keep her home in the country. She has become a decent property rights researcher and champion of responsible resource providing. She is certain that Heaven holds horses and dogs, for how could God not love these manifestations of His Greatness?

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