THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang lives her life with the utmost care. She’s almost twenty years old, and moves slowly and stiffly most of the time. When she’s startled, though, Elaine moves like a streak. Her survival instinct kicks in, and she’s gone with the wind.
The two things sure to send her running are angry nips from her soul mate, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, and the sound of something heavy scraping along the ground. I always understood her reaction to the nips—even love bites from a 1400 pound Casanova hurt!—but it wasn’t until last winter that I learned the reason for her other big fear.
No, not from Elaine. Even after all these years she doesn’t talk much to people. It was Huck who explained things one day after she’d sprinted to the farthest corner of the corral while I dragged a garbage can full of firewood to the house.
Huck’s ears flicked toward the garbage can. “You’re bringing back bad memories,” he said. “Causing my girl pain.”
“How?” I said. “What happened?”
“The sound reminds her of when she was captured. A group of men dragged bales of hay into her herd’s territory, and the horses who went to eat it were roped and netted. They kicked and fought, but in the end all of them, including Elaine, got dragged away.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “If I could pick the can up and carry it to the house I would. But I’m just a human being—“
“And not strong, like a horse.” Huck nickered. It sounded like a laugh. “Maybe if you brought over some carrots she’d feel better. I know I would.” He laughed again.
I thought about that conversation this morning as I brought the horses their hay and saw only Huck, standing protectively in the wooded part of the corral. Looking closer, I saw that he was beside Elaine, who lay on her side.
I slipped through the wire fence and hurried through the cleared part of their area to the trees. Elaine’s head rested on the ground, her face angled toward me. I waited for her to blink. To lift her head. To get to her feet.
It didn’t happen.
Not even an ear twitch.
My chest started to tighten. A feeling of dread.
I slowed down. Moved closer.
Heard her ragged breathing. Still alive!
But in a mode I’ve seen before with animals. The Near-Death Mode. The peaceful acceptance thing where they’re not thinking about life anymore, just preparing for whatever comes after.
Looking past Elaine, I saw why. Sometime in the night she’d lain down at the back end of the corral. Probably she’d rolled around a little—a horse’s equivalent of a shower is to roll in the dirt—and then tried to get up.
Except that she couldn’t get up. Because her hind legs had gotten caught in the “barbless barbed wire” Gwen the Beautiful had insisted we put in. Because of this, Elaine wasn’t cut or torn, but she was trapped. Probably had been all night.
Long enough to make her give up.
I walked around her. I wanted to get outside the fence and see if I could move the wire, or her legs, or both, to free her. I worried that she’d panic and kick at me and twist or break a leg.
Maybe her leg. Maybe mine. But she wasn’t going to make it unless I did something.
Huck watched me closely. Blew softly. Seemed to nod.
Suddenly I heard barking. Two of our dogs, Decker and Belle, had been in the trailer with Burl Jr. The New Groundskeeper. Now they were out…and running into the corral.
And in a burst of adrenaline forgot all about the fence and the reason she was down. I threw myself to the side just in time as Elaine rolled and leapt and kicked and pushed and—
Yes!—made it to her feet and ran, ran, ran as though she was young again, and sound.
Huck charged at the dogs. They’ve never read Shakespeare, but are smart enough to know when the better part of valor definitely is discretion. Off they scurried, back to the trailer.
When the dust settled, Elaine and Huck and the dogs and I, and even the fence, were safe. Intact. Doing fine.
A crippled old mare taught me a wonderful lesson today.
Nothing’s over unless you give up.