It never fails. As soon as you’ve got your plans made and future organized, wham! The Universe comes up with something that changes everything.
Our plan for my horse brother, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, had been in place for months. Gwen the Beautiful and I would go to Port Paradise with Emmy the Bold, Decker the Service Dog, and Ditsy Dixie, and Huck would remain on The Mountain with the Landry family, which was coming to stay at Cloud Creek Ranch while the rest of us were gone.
The Landrys were cool with this. They’re bringing half a dozen of their own horses anyway, as well as various children, grandchildren, and, as I understand it, a couple of dogs and a rooster. (And if that doesn’t keep the property hopping while Gwen and I are gone, I don’t know what will.)
As usual, Huck was curious about the arrangement. “How many horses?” he said when I told him the plan.
“Well,” I said, “they’ve got about a dozen, but I don’t know if they’re taking them all.”
“How many mares?” Huck said.
“About half of the herd.”
Huck’s ears twitched. He looked concerned. “The rest are stallions? I’m not too sure I like those odds.”
“Mostly geldings, I think,” I told him. “Maybe a couple of young studs.”
Huck isn’t a stallion. But he’s no ordinary gelding. In fact, it’s safe to say he’s the very proudest of “proud cuts.” So when he heard this, he whinnied loudly. Pounded the ground. “I’ll have to show them who’s boss.”
“It’ll turn out fine,” I said.
“Sure,” Huck said. But he didn’t sound sure at all.
I wasn’t that confident either. Huck and I have been together a long time, and to say he’s been spoiled doesn’t begin to do justice to just how spoiled he is. He’s the only horse I’ve ever known who really behaves like the star of a kids’ horse book. As a result, we’ve treated him more like a family member than, say, livestock.
Obviously, that was going to change.
Here, though, is where what Albert Camus called “the benign indifference of the Universe” clearly manifested itself. Just as I was starting to worry about the situation, up drove Marcia Helm.
Marcia’s a dog trainer, first and foremost, and she’s been doing the usual dog trainer things with the Cloud Creek pack, with excellent results. She’s also had her eye on Huck. (Hey, he’s pretty much irresistible to women anyway. Sorrel coat, white blaze, cream-colored mane, big eyes that look right into your heart.)
Marcia has great rapport with most animals, and every time she came over she’d spend a lot of time with Huck, giving him carrots and scratching his chin. “I really miss having horses,” she’d say. “I’ve got just the perfect area to fence in for one or two. How does he ride?”
Marcia stopped in our clearing, got out of her car. “Hey, Ms. Dog Whisperer,” I said. “Want to go for a ride?”
She knew I wasn’t talking about cruising down Main Street. A few minutes later, Marcia had all of Huck’s tack ready to go and was brushing and picking and getting him ready to roll. A few minutes after that, she was on his back —
And Huck was bucking.
Not a lot. Just enough to say, “Wait a minute here. It’s been a long time.”
Marcia was no novice to be easily thrown. She did better than just hold on, she let Huck know who was in charge…in a smooth, confident way that also showed him he was respected and loved. Huck trembled, then totally relaxed. Off they went together, around the clearing and down the driveway.
An hour later, when they came back, it wasn’t as horse and rider but as one beautiful being. A centaur. Contentment and exhaustion exuded from both.
“He wants to come home with me, ‘Dad,’” Marcia said. “Is it okay? Huh? Huh?”
I eyeballed Huck. “That what you want, My Brother?”
“Well, she’s not much of a listener,” Huck said. “And bossy? Whew!”
“I heard that,” Marcia said. She stepped out of the saddle, lighting on the ground.
“She is tall and blond,” I pointed out.
Huck blew out of the side of his mouth, the equine equivalent of a Happy Face. “And she’s got gentle hands,” he said.
“Heard that too,” Marcia said, and she hugged him.
The two of them beamed.
This weekend, Marcia’s fencing in a corral.
The Universe strikes again.
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer. He, his wife and various animals divide their time between Marion County, Arkansas and Puget Sound. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside entirely in his imagination and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.