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
Time now for a few words about Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, one of the many animals with whom I share my life.
Huck’s nine years old, and we’ve had him since he was a green-broke, newly gelded Appie colt with only one tiny, quarter-sized spot on his chestnut rump. He was beautiful anyway. White blaze, wide-set eyes. Long, full mane and tail gleaming translucently in the sun. And, as a colt, he was also bossy and spoiled.
The proudest of “proud-cuts,” always behaving like a stud.
I’ve had horses for thirty years, but it wasn’t until Huck came into my life that I started to understand them. He was so young and so out there with his feelings that they swept right into me. What it boiled down to was this:
“I’m scared, so I’m thrashing around.”
“I’m angry so I’m thrashing around.”
“I’m happy so I’m jumping and rolling.”
“I hate you so I’m biting you.”
“I love you so I’m biting you.”
It took a couple of years for Huck to lighten up. But when he came around he did it big. I remember the first time he talked to me, when we were still in California. I was walking past the corral when he whinnied and, in my head, I heard him loud and clear:
“Thank you!” Huck said.
I turned and saw him watching me. He swished his tail in the direction of the three horses then comprising his herd. “You’re the one who brought me this family,” he called. “And I love ‘em like crazy!”
“My pleasure,” was all I could say.
Huck came over to the fence so I could scratch his ears. “And thanks for getting rid of that stuntman trainer too. He kept gouging me with spurs! And his boom box was always blaring so loud that my head rattled.” Huck nuzzled me. “Now if you just wouldn’t be so mad at me all the time…”
“I’m not mad at you. Why do you think I’m mad?”
“Your ears. They’re pressed so close to your head. Horses only do that when we’re mad.”
“But I’m made this way. People’s ears are always close to their heads.”
“So people are always mad? Figures.” Huck turned and swished his tail over my face. It felt like being flailed with a hundred little whips.
“Hey! What’d you do that for?”
“Flies,” he said. “Just trying to help—”
Across the corral, Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang squealed. “Gotta go,” Huck said. “See you later—my brother.”
Since then, Huck and I have been as close as brothers. I groom him everyday, and he loves when I pick at burrowing bugs. We have long talks and go on long walks, and the only love bites I get are little nibbles on my fingers while I rub his lips.
Here in Paradise, Huck’s calm and contented. He even plays with our dogs. When they get tired of rolling in horse pucky, or eating it, they bark and jump at the big guy and he goes along with the game, running back and forth for them to chase. He never kicks or bites—as I’ve seen him do with other critters he doesn’t like.
When Huck was younger he spent a lot of time trying to get out of his corral, pushing at the latch, working on the chain. Recently, though, he stopped all that. The other day, I asked him why.
Huck’s ears pricked forward. “Why would I want to mess with the fence?”
“Because it’s keeping you inside.”
“No,” he said. “I’m inside because I like being inside. What this fence does is keep the bad guys out.
“Remember,” he went on,” we’re brothers, you and I. Horses, even if you don’t have a tail. No matter how strong we are or how boldly we behave, in the bigger order of things we’re both just prey.”
I’ve been thinking about that conversation for awhile. I’m not really a horse. I’m a human being. And humans are the ultimate predators. Hunters to the end.
But if my brother Huck the Spotless Appaloosa doesn’t see me that way, maybe he’s right.
I used to pretend to fit in with all the other predators, planning and stalking and conquering.
Now, though, I’m Huck’s brother. And life here in Paradise is the fence keeping my bad guys out.
Here’s hoping both our fences are as strong as they seem.