We had a lot of work to do to bring out the Beauty in that mare. She had cracked feet and my Dad rubbed lanolin from a bucket on her hoofs. We curried off the mud and it was us kid's job to comb all the burrs out of her mane and tail. When it was all said and done, Beauty was indeed beautiful. She was a light palomino with a flaxen mane and tail. We didn't have a saddle for her and even if we had, I would have still climbed on her bareback.
After school, before the fall Montana days grew short, on most Saturday afternoons, (when chores where done), and in the summer, when the sun would hang in the "Big Sky" until 10 o'clock at night, I would walk the four blocks to Veterans Park, past Rimrock Elementary where I went to school, cut though Rocky Mountain Collage and down Rimrock road to the Mission Home. The Mission Home, had a barn and a pasture in the back. This is where Beauty lived, in an apple orchard with my Mom's horse Arab. I would carry her bridle with me from the house, (funny I don't ever remember putting a halter on her). At first we would weave the apple trees in the pasture, always at a walk. No matter how much I would kick her she would not go any faster. In a while when my legs were stronger, she would trot a little, until I started to bounce to one side and she would slow down and let me right myself again. She never balked, or bucked. She never stepped on my feet, maybe she knew most of the time I was barefoot.
My days became magic, full of adventures. I had my girlfriends, and we had fun, but Beauty knew all my secrets and unlike some human companions she never told them to anyone. She would let me be who ever I wanted to be. I could be Yellowstone Kelly, Liver Eating Johnson or some frontiersmen from the Louis L'Amour books I loved to read, and she never cared that those might be strange characters for a girl to want to be. We would look for treasure, or escape from an orphanage in search of lost family. I loved to think I might ride far enough to find a hidden Indian cave that no whiteman had ever seen before.
Soon I started to venture out of the apple orchard. Sometimes I would ride her all the way to my house and give her a bath in the back yard, and then back to the mission home again. I loved riding through the neighborhood, all the kids would run out to see the girl riding the palomino horse. On one of those days, I thought about my good friend Saralee Melnick, the only Jewish girl in school. We didn't get to play much . Her mother was very protective, and wouldn't let her leave the house. Sara couldn't have pets because she was "allergic" So I rode Beauty up to her front door. Saralee looked out the window, and I could see the big smile on her face. Beauty was so good, she stood so still, and she didn't even poop on the lawn. In a little while Saralee and her mother came out the door and very carefully, with much fuss, Saralee was allowed to feed Beauty a few carrots. Mrs. Melnick quickly hustled Saralee back into the house to wash up, but as the door was closing her Mother smiled and waved good bye, and Saralee whispered "Thank you".
Rocky Mountain Collage had a dirt avenue running through a large park, lined with Cottonwood trees. Beauty and I would imagine all sorts of Regal events as we traveled up this Grand Promenade. One day as I was immersed in one of these day dreams, Beauty decided that I was ready for a canter! From a merry bounce on her back bone, to Royally rolling on fluffy white clouds, that was how it felt. Beauty had just given me a gift of indescribable joy. Cantering up my avenue of huge trees became part of my riding routine!
Back then, my best girlfriend was Maureen Degnan. Her Dad was an optometrist, so they had more money than most people I knew. Maureen being the baby of the family was, in my eyes, showered with more luxuries than I could ever imagine. She had not one, but two horses that were kept in a pasture too far away to walk to. One day her Dad arranged to pick Beauty and me up so Maureen and I could go on a trail ride! Maureen had a western saddle and a fancy bridle for her Appy, MoJo. I climb up on Beauty, bareback of course, and we took off on our amazing ride at the base of the Rim Rocks. I spent a good deal of time shouting at Maureen to slow down! I could canter bareback but a gallop was pretty scary to me. I should have known that Beauty would not let me fall, just like before when she felt me start to slide she would slow down enough to let me get centered again. Suddenly, ahead of me, MoJo jumped sideways to avoid a rattlesnake in the trail. Beauty did not spook but just kept on going at a trot and landed her stride right on the head of the snake. Now you might think that she didn't see that rattler, but I know better. She always took great care of me.
I had three wonderful years with Beauty, and then the dreaded day came. My Dad had gotten a new job in California. It was just not practical to take the horses. The thought of losing my dear horse felt like a rock lodged in my gut. I didn't dare let my folks see me sulk or cry, in a family of five kids you know that it is just life. I was glad that a family with kids had bought Beauty. They came in a pickup truck with high panels on the side. They led her up a ramp into the back of the truck. I was in the apple orchard, I don't know why, maybe I was hiding, I know I was praying . "Dear Heavenly Father, please let her look back at me". Then calling to her, in my mind..."Beauty, please, please look, let me know you love me too!" As the truck pull away her head turn, she look right at me, "I love you. Why aren't you coming? " she said. Standing behind an apple tree,in the pasture of childhood dreams, I let the tears flow .
Beauty left that day to fullfill dreams for other children. Now that I am an adult and have had a few other horse companions, I feel that Beauty was there when they came into my life. She blew in their nostrils to greet them, and she would say, let me tell you about this woman, I knew her when she was a child, I can tell you her dreams, but I will never tell you her secrets.
Carol writes her own blog about her equestrian adventures. Check it out. http://www.equinexplorer.com/
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Behind The Mist, Book One of The Mist Trilogy