Last night, July 3rd, I entered Terry’s office to shut down the computer prior to heading for bed. Everyone else was tucked away and I was just doing the last minute security sweep when my eye’s caught the bright glare of a fireworks rocket heading for the stars in the northern sky. When it reached it’s pre-destined point of suicide, it erupted into a brilliant display of red and blue stars cascading downward across the acres of millet that separate us from a distant subdivision. I walked closer to the window when, suddenly, the noise of the explosion reached our farm. BOOM! As the sound trailed off, another took its place—the thunder of hooves. The horses were freaked.
I ran out the back door and looked over our compound’s rear fence. I could just make out, by the glow of the barn’s back security light, a multi-colored, many legged mass working up and down the back fence. The boys were not happy.
I called them, jumped the fence, and began to whistle the comforting dinner whistle. Although they slowed, they would not come any closer as I was several feet nearer to the terrifying sight and noise. Continuing to walk towards the moving mass of fur, feet, and ears, I knew that there were a few bulging eyes in that mess. The darkness, however, covered the evidence.
As I neared, Apache, the tough little Brasileiro, peeled off from the herd and planted himself in the middle of the pasture staring at the source of the commotion. I let him be as he was making his statement that he was tough, cool, and the big man on the farm. Standing at only 14.3 hands, he suffers from chronic short-man syndrome. Again, I whistled, as I planted myself next to the back fence. I was particularly careful that in the dark I not touch the electrified rope that keeps the boys away from that single strand of my neighbors barbed cow wire. I only had on sandals, and touching that now would result in all five hairs on my head sticking straight up. That would surely terrify Terry when I finally made it to the bedroom.
Apache stood his ground and, in the dim light, I could both see and feel two Thoroughbreds, one Appaloosa and a little Mustang mix headed right towards me in full gallop. It was a pretty sight, but rather disconcerting as I failed to bring out any protection—not even a lead. I hollered “Whoa!” and walked towards them. They split up and in an instant I was surrounded by heavy breathing and horse noses tapping me on the shoulder and the back of the head. Harley steamed up my glasses as if he wanted to verify my identity.
As the horses milled about me, I listened and watched as their individual personalities materialized both to my eyes and to my ears. Ethan instantly became brave with me standing beside him. He planted himself firmly on the ground looking in the direction of the fireworks with his ears pointed forward—a virtual pillar of strength. Should I move, however, he would, too, and not allow the gap between us to be any greater than just a few feet. Of course, that was not due to fear, but rather comradeship.
Then there was Harley, slowly circling and finally standing behind myself and Ethan. Although he wanted all to believe that he is the toughest and the greatest, he would gladly give over the title of Pasture King to anyone who would take it in a time of crisis.
Big nervous Bart continued to pace the fence line with the little Mustang baby carefully tucked between him and the fence. Little Pele kept peeking over Bart’s back to see what I was going to do to make the fiery noisy monsters go away.
I calmly leaned over, reached to the earth and jerked up a handful of grass as if I was grazing. I kept this process up as I drifted further and further away from the back fence. The notion that I was calm enough to graze pulled all of the horses to me, with the exception of Apache. He was firm in his stance. As the horses calmly came around me, I heard the whispers and the soft gentle sounds of expression that I have learned to love. They come so rarely, but when they do, it is so special. I listened and did not cloud their words with my inquiries.
“What are those things?” panted little Pele. “I have never, ever, seen anything like that. Do they eat horses?”
“We don’t think so.” answered Harley, “But we are safe now that Grey Mane is out here.”
“We were safe long before he ever showed up,” countered Ethan. “The fact that he is here shows that they are a special thing, and he is only here to help us learn from them.”
Bart replied, “Man, you’re smart. I thought that someone was shooting at us and that we were all doomed.”
Having enough of the chit-chat, Apache slowly turned his head and snorted, “You are all a bunch of sissies!” Then he laughed.
I laughed, too, and when I did, they all turned to look at me; then at each other; and then at me again. It was truly a “Kodak Moment.” Those horses looked at each other, and then looked at me. You could clearly hear them say, “Does he hear us?” The look of shock and surprise was priceless.
Ethan moved away from the others and pressed his nose against my chest. “Yes he does. I forget this as it does not happen often, but I was the one that taught him to listen.”
Without giving away my secret, I stroked Ethan’s forehead, looked directly into his left eye and smiled. He put his left nostril into my right ear and exhaled, “And I hear you, too,” he said.
We then turned towards the north, standing behind Apache, and watched the fireworks: Ethan to my right; Harley to my left; Bart with his head over my right shoulder; and little Pele goosing me in the left kidney, “Can I come in with you tonight, Dad? Please? Can I come in, huh, can I?” I turned and petted his head, smiled and turned back to the display. Five horses and one human watched in awe. None of us can tell you when it was all over; the night melted away, and I do not know how or when I found my bed.