I still look for him in the pasture when I drive past it. I miss his little orange spotted pricked ears. I miss how he used to whinny at me when I drove the truck past or how he would always come when I whistled. I still think about going out to the barn to cuddle with him when I've had a rough day. He had put up with my middle school and high school angst enough times that he would stand there forever while I clung to him.
I always thought he'd be there forever for me. He will always be my handsome old man.
I was taking a writing class this time last year. One of our assignments was to write a short story about our favorite room in our house where we grew up. I don't have a favorite room persay, but I do have a favorite place on our property: the barn. I wrote this little story a couple weeks before Grady passed away. I am not a good writer by any means. If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably know that. But I still love this little piece:
Dust motes glimmered in the golden sunlight that diffused through the frosted windows as she finished sweeping the concrete floor. A copper colored horse, shiny from grooming, munched contentedly on his dinner in his stall. The hay was stacked neatly along the far wall, providing the perfect platform for curling up with the barn cat and a good book or a jumping off point for using the old, frayed rope that dangled from the ceiling as a swing. The hay’s sweet smell pervaded the small space, mingling with the smell of dust and horses. A saddle sat along one wall, taking the position of a prized possession. Its leather was worn and cracked but it gleamed with oil and the best care that a young girl could offer.
She remembered all of this as she inhaled the scent of her horse, remembering a simpler time when she was young and the barn was her favorite place. It still was her favorite place, somewhere she could escape from the daily stress of her life, her family, bills and college; a place where she could spend her time without the feeling of everything weighing down on her. She still wished for those simpler times when she could spend hours in the barn doing nothing, running away from her petty problems – the latest test that she didn’t do well on or the friends that didn’t stick around. The barn housed her best friend, the one individual that would always listen to her problems, gave her a shoulder to lean on and ultimately would always be there for her.
She couldn’t imagine growing up without horses. They were the ones who taught her to work hard, to listen to what couldn’t be said in words, that there were some things that you couldn’t use shortcuts to get to, that love was unconditional. Sure there were falls and many bruises, but they helped her to remain humble when she got too confident and reminded her that you could never learn all that there was.
That copper horse was still around. He was retired now and lived in a pasture, doing nothing but graze to his heart’s content. She owed him that much for all that he had given to her over the years; a safe and comfortable place to live out his days. He was no longer quite so shiny, he had plenty more white hairs in his coat and his back had dipped down and lost its strength. But he still nickered and trotted to her when she came to visit, still stood quietly when she buried her nose in his coat and inhaled, still listened to all of her problems. They no longer galloped across the field but they both still remembered the time they flew across the ground with nothing between them – no halter or bridle, no bit or rope – simply trust. And occasionally he would kick up his heels and canter stiffly around with his neck arched and his tail streaming in the wind and she would smile. He still looked the part despite his age, her red Arabian stallion, disguised as a small copper gelding.