by R.T. Fitch ~ author of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart“
He was young, so young that life had no fear or pain. His life revolved around the warmth that he felt from his mother, her milk and the sun. All the warmth made him feel happy, it made him glow, it made him feel loved.
His family was not large but they made him feel safe, they did not play often as he was the only baby but they made him feel loved. There was his father, bold and strong; his young mother, his older sister and two aunts that kept an eye on him if he should stray far from his mother.
It was an autumn day as he danced around the brush and nipped at his sister’s back feet. Sometimes she would strike out at him but through persistence he learned that she would turn and run him off. To him, that was playing. But today, as he nipped at her hocks, there came a great sound, a rushing, roaring noise the likes of which he had never heard before. He saw the tension in his sister’s stance then watched her legs lung her forward as his family bolted away from the sound roaring at them from behind.
He did not know what to do, there was the ever increasing sound, a pressure from behind and above, dust, running family and he could not keep up. The harder he tried the further away his family band seemed to pull away. The dust stung his eyes, his lungs were on fire, he gave his small legs the freedom to run as fast as they could to escape the giant, mechanical bird that threatened to consume him. He never saw the gulch, the drop-off, the dried creek bed as he went airborne over the edge in a cloud of dust and landed on the hard gravel bed, below. There was a snap, a bolt of searing hot pain and his right front let would not work nor let him stand. He struggled and flopped about the dried creek as the roaring, man-made condor descended upon him; from out of nowhere strange horses appeared with odd creatures on their backs. He felt no warmth, he felt no love, he now felt only one thing, fear.
One of the back riders slid off from a strange horse, he tried to crawl away, the two legged creature planted one of its feet on his neck so he could not move while the noisy bird of prey sped off. The rider pulled something from his hip, pointed it at his head, he felt a moment of insurmountable panic and in a flash of white light and a bang, he was no more, ever, finished, destroyed. He felt no warmth, he felt no love, forever.
His mother heard the shot, the giant buzzard was bearing down on the band from behind and she could not see her baby. Without thinking of her own safety she pulled from the running band and ran back directly underneath the snarling bird of prey. Underneath and back she ran until she found the strange horses with riders standing over a crumpled body on the floor of the dried creek bed, it was her baby. She charged at the rider on the ground to drive him away from her baby, he jumped back just as snake like things reached out and grabbed her neck. She spun around to attack again and another serpentine vine flew out from one of the strange horses and rider and choked itself around her neck. She lunged against the pressure and their grip only tightened. She reared and twisted as the strange horses pulled back and increased the strangling grip on her neck as she watched the ground rider return to her crumpled baby. She could no longer breath, there was fire in her chest, her vision was blurred and began to go dark as she saw the rider look at her, smile and then kick the crumpled form of the baby squarely in the chest with only a hollow thud heard in reply. Her heart exploded, she felt no warmth, she felt no love, she was destroyed from within and without; gone, forever.
Later that day, far across the now silent plains, a computer screen flickered with the written text:
Friday, Oct 15
Summary: Operations continued at Magnolia Bench in the morning. Helicopter-assisted roping west of County Road 5 took place in the afternoon.
Animals gathered: 4
Animals shipped: 0
Gather related animal deaths: 1
Cause: During helicopter-assisted roping a seven-month-old colt broke its leg and was euthanized onsite.
Non-gather related animal deaths: 1
Cause: A three-year-old mare died with no visible injuries after being roped. A necropsy was performed, which found a pre-existing heart condition. Significant changes to the musculature of the heart was found, indicative of a chronic and progressive problem.
There was no warmth, there was no love, there was only a cold and empty silence while a nation wept and no one listened.