| December 21, 2008 11:58 pm

The pulsating roar of the alarm clock pulled me out of my wonderful sleep. It was a deep, blissful kind and not the type that either comes (or should be given up) easily. The day was cool and still in that time of morning when everything was bathed in a pearly gray light. A quick look sideways confirmed my greatest fear, the alarm clock was already glowing 5:30 am. It was time to get up. I rolled over and waited for the roar to kick over to the less obnoxious radio, covering my head with the pillow in the process. Certainly there must be some way to blow off the appointment and catch up an extra 20 or 30 minutes of sleep? Even 10 minutes would likely make a big difference. Though it probably wouldn’t. That, however, would be too true to form. This appointment was important.

Coming to terms that the night hadn’t been long enough and the day was going to be much longer, I rolled over slowly; but not slowly enough. I put a hand to my throbbing head and waited for the sleep vertigo to quiet and the room to hold still. Mornings and I have never gotten along well. While waiting, I spotted a pile of relatively clean clothes piled in the corner. The shirt passed the sniff test, and the pants were only dusty. They were clean enough. The pants were old Levis, worn justhte way that I like them: pajama soft, but not quite frayed.

When dressed and as the sleep hangover began to wear off, I began to straigthen the room a bit before giving up. I wasn’t the tidy sort and any straightening would have required substantially more time than I had to give (not to mention more effort than I was willing to expend).

Nothing moved in the house and itwas completely silent except for the sound of the old heater as it cranked to life. It rumbled and spat, like an old man who was none to excited to begin yet another day of work. I left my room (careful to shut the door) and exited the house through the kitchen into the early morning pitch. With each step, being awake became more pleasant.

The road in front of my house was the same as always – dark and long – with the few lamp posts spitting and fluttering. They were sorely in need of repair and it was clear that the repairman hadn’t been out to visit in a while. The local pranksters (in their attempts to show off to friends and girls) had broken out the lights and marked up on the poles. I smiled to myself. Had I ever been so young as to think that a stone sent through a light with a sling and the explosion of glass that followed was so entertaining? As I reflected on it, I decided that I had.

As I walked, the sun was just cresting the tops of the mountains and the beautiful rays of crimson spread over the whole of the earth as Apollo’s missile brought with it the first bursts of life to shower the cold and thirsty world.

Let the light shine forth and free us from this awful slumber!

At least that is what the world seemed to cry, but it may have been the last few cobwebs of sleep clearing themselves from my mind. In a few brief moments, the bright arrow of first light passed from the east to the west in a flash. Of course, this process, or its beauty was lost to me. I was troubled with my own thoughts.

I arrived at my destination as swiftly as if it had snuck upon me of its own accord, always taking far too little time (regardless of the speed which I walked). The rows offences and pipe corrals seemed to appear, rising from the ground like a city of mist and shadow, which seemed to coalesce from nothingness. From within the fence lines, a grou pof shadowed forms lifted their heads and regarded my approaching figure. Most then dropped them into their feed buckets and picked at the scraps of the evening meal. A few took the blue tubs which had been cut from large plastic barrels and banged them against the doors. The consensus among the herd seemed to be simple: As the first human arriving on the scene, I had a moral imperative to provide food. That was an important plank in the horse/human peace accord.

A few whickered for attention (rather than food). However, a single dun approached and lowered her head over the gate. She made no other sounds, demands or wants. I gently traced her soft nose and lips before rubbing her forehead.

I undid the latch and slowly pushed the gate open. As I did so, I clucked quietly. The horse immediately came to my side, gently crowding me as she nuzzled her head on my back. I waited a moment before turning and walking away. The little dun horse followed silently, the softness of her footsteps being lost in the silence of the morning.

I rounded the corner and passed beneath the ancient, weathered timbers of the barn coming to a halt before two large weathered doors. Opening them with effort, I removed a blanket, saddle and bridle which were deposited by the little horse’s feet. I then took out a soft brown bristled brush and began passing it over her shining coat. I brushed hard, as thought I were polishing the minted gold that must surely be right below the hair. It made little difference that this chore had just been done the previous evening and that the little dun horse was spotless. I was doing the work simply for the sake of doing it, because this was part of the order of things. Brush prior to saddle and saddle prior to ride.

Left side, right side, belly and head. The horse patiently waited as she was brushed, sniffing only a little as the ticklish bristles streaked over her nose and ears. After the brushing, I took the saddle pad and slowly – deliberately – laid it over her back and rubbed it back and forth until it took up the shape of her back and stayed in place. The saddle then followed while the horse patiently waited. She stamped, slightly impatient as the cinch was drawn tight, but that was all. When it was finished, the horse lowered her head and opened her mouth, making her motions that she wanted the bridle and bit now. This was her sign that I was too slow.

I took the bridle and carefully inspected the bit, savoring the motions. The dun horse stamped her foot and shook her tail, eager for me to get on with it; but I still lingered and savored the actions for I knew something that the horse did not. This would be the final ride. When we rode out of the gate and down the lane, I would be coming back, and the little horse would not. I smiled at the little horse and said, “You can wait, for once.”

– July 16, 1998
– Edited: September 17, 2008

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