“The horses are wild now, particularly the chestnut,” somebody said.
I understood they hadn’t been ridden in years, but had had the run of the pasture and would no longer tolerate being halter tied. The day after we returned from a late afternoon church service, however, I decided to walk the pasture before jumping in my brother’s swim pool in hopes of coming across them. I was visiting Texas from Minnesota and it was hot, but I just couldn’t help myself.
The wide-open grassy pasture wasn’t flat like you might think. The Grove, TX had low, rolling hills and the pasture was scattered with Live Oak, the shorter kind that never lost their almond-shaped leaves. There was a wooden fence to the left, and a convenient path made by a four-wheeler or truck ran parallel to it for a half mile ending at a neighboring farm. To the right the pasture spread out and on that side the fence couldn’t be seen.
The sun rested low in the sky and there were no clouds to reflect its rays, but the center was an explosion of yellow light that radiated over the whole pasture, the intensity gradually dissipating as it reached both ends of the horizon. As I stood looking into it from under my visor, its warmth felt like a hug from an intimate friend, its golden hue crowning everything in its path; the scattered Live Oak, the seeded tips of the pasture grass, and my toes as they wiggled in the freedom of my flip-flops and I started walking.
The heat was enough to make a glass of cold lemonade sound very inviting, but the freedom of a filmy sundress and a light breeze made it much more than bearable. A cherry cool pop, which melted faster in its plastic casing than I could eat it, helped keep me cool as I side-stepped around the prickly weeds with long stems called Bull Nettles. Large red ants transporting something that looked like larvae reminded me I should have worn close-toed shoes, but it didn’t even bother me that dozens of katydids continually popped up all around me, sometimes bouncing off my arms but somehow, thankfully, never up my dress.
And there were the horses, grazing in the distance, completely free of halters and encumbrances. One was the chestnut gelding, Bud, the shyer of the two, the other a golden mare called Goldie.
The “wild ” horses had their heads down eating grass fairly close to the path, and as I drew near they didn’t run away or pay me much notice. I started singing “Oh Give me A Home” the way my mother would have sung it, and at that moment truly meant it with all my heart.
The only other sounds were some kind of beetle that buzzed its tune from the trees along with the raucous calls of blue jays, the bubbly song of warblers, and the occasional distant lowing of cows. And as I breathed in the wonderful evening around me, I swore I could smell the sun; something like fresh hay still in the ground before harvest.
As I passed the horses I made no move towards them, but to my delight Goldie started following me. Watching her over my shoulder I kept walking, but slowed down until we met and she reached out to nuzzle my hand. She let me pet her cheek, her neck, and then I started scratching her back and haunches, using my fingers as a curry comb and the flat of my palm as a brush. She seemed to enjoy it, standing swishing her tail at flies while I groomed her and tipping her head to me as I continued singing.
Bud grazed a few yards away. As I rested my arms along Goldie’s back enjoying the sun and watching him, Bud started edging closer to us one footstep at a time. Finally he raised his head and eyed us…then did a remarkable thing. He circled around Goldie and, stopping in front of me, reached his muzzle towards me and let out a long, low-rumbling nicker that went straight to my heart. He wanted some attention too. The back scratching looked pretty good to him, and I willingly obliged. Nothing else of any importance was happening in the world; the only moment that mattered was the one I was experiencing.
Eventually I had to get back, and as I turned to walk away, Goldie stepped in right beside me with her head at my shoulder as if I held her with a halter. It was a joyous, comfortable moment, this other living creature and I with no ulterior motives …just enjoying each other’s company on a fine summer evening.
Finally we parted, and as I continued on my way she stood staring after me for several moments before returning to her grazing. I must admit I didn’t want my evening to end, and decided I could be very happy doing this for the rest of my life.