Tuesday, October 25, 2011

among goldenrod

among goldenrod,
little black horse, two brown calves
rest in the warm sun

I first saw the miniature black horse a couple of winters ago, in a little pasture just on the edge of town, between the Little League Field and the veterinarian. She (or so she seems to me) and her companion, a Holstein bull, stood out stark black against the deep white snow. The bull stood knee deep while the little horse stood belly deep, looking like she was floating on the snow. It was a cold winter with lots of snow and ice, so there was no way they could get down to the grass. The owner deposited a big round bale of hay next to the fence and this became both their dining room and bedroom. They pulled mouthfuls of hay from the bale and some of it fell on the ground, providing them with bedding, while the tall bale acted as a thick insulating wall protecting them from the icy north wind. They stood side by side, heads down. There is a little red barn on the far side of the pasture, but the two companions stayed outside the whole winter.
          In the spring, the black bull disappeared. I don't like to dwell on where beef cattle go. So the little black horse was left all alone. She grazed in the pasture all summer, in grass taller than her head. But then in the autumn, she, too, disappeared. My friend who raises Icelandic horses said these miniature horses have a lot of physical problems and the owner probably sold her. I missed her, as you miss a friend you see every day, even just in passing. I hoped she had been sold to a family with a little girl or boy who would love and take care of her.
          But then I kept catching a glimpse of her as I drove to and from town. Sometimes I was sure it was the little black horse, but other times I thought it was just a dark bush or a shadow or my imagination, sparked by my desire to see her again. Another hard winter with a lot of snow. No big round bale of hay in the pasture, so I was sure she was gone for good.
          Wet spring, dry summer, fleeting horse shadows. Hot autumn, leaves burning red and yellow, goldenrod waving in the wind. Suddenly, there she is, clearly not a shadow or a bush, but a little black horse wearing a blue bridle, standing near a pair of brown Jersey or Guernsey calves. I make a quick turn and get out of the truck by the pasture. The calves are lying back to back in the grass, eyes closed, chewing on their cud. The horse has her head down in the low green grass. She looks up when I approach the fence, watches me for awhile, walks past the calves, stops and surveys me again, then disappears behind a low hill. But now I'm sure she's really here again and I'm glad that she has friends once more for the coming winter.

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