To talk to a horse
you will have to
learn a new language —
one more subtle than
Its rhythm is in
Its poetry is in
It is a language
of the soul
through the body.
You should begin
to be silent.
ears and whiskers,
a shimmy of flesh,
a shift of weight,
the slight of an eyebrow,
the flick of a tail.
until you master how
with your balance,
with your energy,
through your heart.
If you are consistent,
a consummate student,
a devoted truth teller,
the horse will talk back —
will whisper the secret
of all life and beyond
straight into your soul
through the warmth
of his breath.
by Kimberly Beer
The Ford flatbed and the rusty trailer it pulled behind it fit the exact description — and sound — of rattletrap. The rig descended the graveled drive on my Grandma Lou’s farm interrupting an otherwise quiet Friday morning in June. As I watched it get closer, I came to a full appreciation of the trailer. It had been almost completely covered in plywood — and that plywood was held on by baling wire and orange bale string. It looked as if an orange-spewing spider had attacked a wooden shipping crate and someone had put it on wheels.
When the commotion came to a full stop at the end of the driveway, a tall, skinny and very dusty old cowboy emerged. He exited the truck slowly, every movement purposeful and every step premeditated. He looked over me and the series of dogs who had come to greet him with a glance of topical consideration. “Is Lou around?” he said. His voice was deep set, just like his eyes.
I started to explain she was working in the lower barns, but before I could get my mouth fully in gear, the trailer started quaking. What was inside shook the whole of the outfit making my heart pick up and my mind started churning wondering what, exactly, he had in there and if plywood and baling wire could truly contain it. “I need to see her,” he said addressing my inaction and ignoring the sounds of desperation behind him.
“She’s in the lower barn,” I said. “Doing chores.” Behind him, the trailer quieted but the tension coming from within could be felt. Even the dogs had stopped scratching and nipping at flies and stood with ears at attention. “I’ll go get her,” I said and turned to walk away.
“Tell her it’s Grover Cleveland,” he said to my back.
I stopped because the name sounded familiar but didn’t quite connect in my 14 year old brain to the place I was in at the moment. No, that named belonged elsewhere. Somewhere musty and filled with books and facts and dates. Wasn’t Grover Cleveland a president? I turned around and looked a wordless question at the old cowboy.
“No relation,” he said.
Grandma Lou was in the barn wiring up some new feeders. My grandmother was always wiring, nailing, sawing, clipping or pruning something. Rarely was she caught without some type of tool in her hands with which she was, was preparing to, or had just finished using.
“A Grover Cleveland is here with something in a trailer,” I said loudly as I came down the hallway of the barn.
“Doesn’t look a damn thing like the president, does he?” she said as she stood up from where she had been hunched over a feeder and stretched out her back.
“Yes,” I said under my breath. I thought, I had that right! “Nope,” I said and then added, “whatever he’s got in that trailer sure can put up a commotion.”
“Well, then we probably better go see what it is.”
“Whatcha got there, Grover,” she said.
“A mare,” he said. “She’s plumb crazy.” He spat a stream of tobacco out onto the ground. It puddled warm and brown in the soft dirt at his feet.
“Crazy is a human condition,” my grandmother said.
Grover dipped his head in thought at this drop of wisdom, his yellow-white hat covering his eyes. My grandmother, whose patience with horses and cowboys is the stuff of legend, just waited for him to respond, or for the point to sink in, whichever came first. She used the time in between to rub the black and white shepherd at her feet behind the ears. I spied a space between two sheets of plywood and approached the trailer since it was presently quiet.
Though there was very little light getting through the multilayered mess, I could make out the shape of a horse. She was average in size and weight and appeared to be a plain chestnut or sorrel with a narrow blaze, and even in the dimness, I could tell she bore some pretty ugly marks from her trip. She was as curled up in the nose of the trailer, as far from the gate as she could possible get. She had her hindquarters tight up underneath her and her back coiled like a spring. Her head was down between her front feet and she was shaking within her skin. She flexed her nostrils and then looked up at me. The look in her eyes was pure terror. She lunged forward toward me and hit the side of the trailer with her whole body. I flew backward partly from the hit, partly from my own volition, and partly because Grover had grabbed me at the shirt collar and pulled.
“I think you better stay back,” he said matter of factly.
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Let’s get her down to the solid roundpen,” my grandmother said.
“She can get out just about anything,” Grover said. He didn’t move.
“It’s got six foot solid panels, I think she’ll stay in it.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Grover said.
“It’ll be 25 board for the two weeks, that doesn’t …”
“Does that include training,” he said interrupting Grandma Lou.
“No. As I was about to say that will be $100 per week. Extra.”
“Hmph.” Grover retrieved his wallet from his back pocket and produced a 20 and a 5 and handed them to my grandmother. He hesitated a moment and then reached in his front pocket and pulled out a quarter and offered it to her as well. “For the bullet,” he said. “If she ain’t fixed at the end of the two weeks, just go ahead an shoot her. Keep the change.”