In which Carrie remembers something nearly forgotten . . .
Now it is used to store trash cans which aren’t really cans and several boxes of my books are in the stall named “Annie,” for she was the last resident. She came along after I had gotten past my horse ownership phase, but my mother took up the torch. I had three that I called mine.
As an adolescent I was introduced to horses by getting one and getting bucked off him a few times to instill the fear properly. That horse (He Who Shall Not Be Named) was sold three months later. I got Scotch Lad, or “Scotch,” soon after. He might have really been my first love, as girls who get to own horses can understand. We even don’t think their shit stinks, which helps. It has a oaty-hayey clean smell to it and is usually around tack and other good smells, like the horse himself.
What I was just memoryin’ (to borrow David Mitchell’s coinage for “remembering”) came back to me like a twelve-thousand pound hug. A salve for loneliness and feeling lost and driftless in an ocean between continents. Is it why we have memories like these, and why something in me plucked at that stray daffodil among a field of cheatgrass? The warm tones in the barnlight and the horse fur kept me in some cloak of okay then and now.
I believe I must have felt lonely a lot as a kid. Not unlikely, not uncommon. But some have more usual routes to manage that and more friends and family to share the burden. I had those but was too afraid to ask sometimes. I had the horse too which is better in some ways than people.
I would ride in the daytime, but not everyday. It was work and effort to saddle up. Plus, I was afraid sometimes. I wasn’t one of those girls who was all free spirited and fearless. I had to work myself up to getting on. But one thing was an easy release of my self. My way of losing who I was in that state called by some “flow.” I didn’t really know about it until now until I remembered going out to the barn in the evenings.
The trail from my parents house to the barn is still slightly carved, and gets some rare foot traffic. I remember it being thick with snow sometimes. I would go out in the middle of the night in my jacket and nobody looking. I would walk and call to him.
He came for the little extras, carrots or a handful of hay or oats, and sometimes I’d just leave it at that. I’d stand there, arm across the barn wall, in the beautiful barn colors of leathery saddles and cloudy saddle pads and firm bridles and earthy hay bales and those standard bark chips on the floor. I’d watch him rolling the food in his jaw, or sometimes go in there and put my ear to it and hear him demolishing the carrot. I think I thought in those more serene moments, watching. Smelling. Thinking about my troubles or pleasures. Troubles become pleasures like that.
Other times I would put him in the cross ties. His face looking out the rolling barn door usually closed in winter. It was well lit in there. I could have used it as a reading room but I don’t think I ever did. Hay is kind of uncomfortable to sit on. It comes through the cloth and there are spiders and stuff.
Sometimes I would have so much energy. Some nights practically burning with it pent up by the square chairs at school or the suffocation of other people. I’d let it out through brushes and hoofpicks and other weapons of mane and fur maintenance. Scotch’d just go with it. The hind feet were a little ticklish at the hocks. He’d pull a little in resistance but I wasn’t really too afraid of being kicked. He was a really trustworthy animal. An all-around good guy.
I’d talk to him. He’d smell my breath when I breathed into his nostrils. He’d let me fondle his ears, and I still retain the old habit of scratching the insides of ears belonging to other horses to check for fly egg deposits or lice or whatever gross thing it is inside horses ears, mostly in the warmer months. This, I just realized, represents something I know. This is knowledge I have in the form of an action. I’d never really thought it before. And now I write it.
This helps to think about. The image of a saddle when I type “saddle” but more than just an image. It is like a whole miracle that happens only within me. Same with hoofpick and handful of hay and Scotch’s copper penny fur, thick and dull on this remembered winter night, shiny when it becomes summer inside my imagination at another time I call on horses to help.