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Donna Flood
The Horse, Shorty

The strong legged pony like horse was working his heart out. A potential buyer  put the horse through paces in order to see if Shorty was everything the owners promised. For Lisa it seemed  a mean rough treatment being used.  The man turned the pony in the air. He kept the reins pulled up close and the girl could see the horse  being forcibly controlled by the bit. The heavy breathing of the horse with the lathering up on his skin told how much pressure the animal experienced. Now the rider had the pony side stepping to the right and then back to the left keeping an imaginary calf in front of him out of the herd. Never had she ever seen Shorty put to such a test and in her child like misunderstanding she was angry with the stranger who was undoubtedly adept with his riding skills but seemed  to be so cruel.

Lisa was a woman now,  keeping mentally balanced in a world gone crazy. The sweet gentle days of childhood were like a horse loping along. Today was an animal let loose at breakneck speed. People every where were rushing here and there, back and forth, up and down the roads. Now she understood the meaning of  “a penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a weasel, that's the way your money goes, pop goes the weasel.” That quick moving, jerky, erratic little weasel, popping up here and there best described the present lifestyle.  These could not be criticized or chastised. It was the way they had to live in order to survive.

“I'm telling you, if one of these little copperheads hiding around here gets you, maybe you will have fifteen minutes to get to the hospital and even then you will be swelled up like a gourd with skin ready to burst and break.”  Lisa spoke to her neighbor after he used a shot gun to blast away at their best small snake dog.

“The dog has already pulled two of them out of the fence row.”  Lisa had seen the man  watching her as she did a controlled burn down the fence row. With hose in hand and a careful scrutiny of what would burn rapidly already wet down and the low grass allowed to burn the fence row was cleaned out in a matter of minutes.

“You realize we are  less than a quarter of a mile from this little creek down at the bottom of the ridge. There is a spring  and anyone who has lived in the country knows this is where they go, except when it gets this hot. The spring drys up to a trickle causing cool rocks to become hot.  Snake slithers quickly to our places with cool green grass and nice fence rows for hiding.”

Lisa worried about the way the children, the young adults, her husband, would react to the “shooting.”  She couldn't believe they all seemed to take it with a “ho-hum” attitude. For all the world,  the only one to be upset about it was her Mother.

“You tell that irresponsible little gentleman to use a newspaper to spank dogs.  It works far better than a shot gun.”

Lisa was making a mental note not to share the goings on  around them the next time something came up, not because she didn't value her Mother's opinion, but the next several days of having to worry with her blood pressure bouncing around like a yo-yo made the daughter know her Mother's pacemaker might not be able to keep up with older women's chagrin.

Lisa's own mind somehow kept going back to the memories of seeing her Dad out in the pasture with Shorty. His gloved hand reaching down to pat the horses neck once, and again his holding the reins just so in order to relieve the pressure of bit gouging at the horses mouth when they were in certain area where the horse had to walk over rough rocks. Shorty was so well trained.  Her Dad could drop the reins for that matter and the horse easily worked on his own.

Not only was Shorty trained though, and this was the joy the woman remembered. The cattle were trained as well and, probably, this never happened very often.  Her Dad had a lead cow, even with a name, “Cherry.”  Whistles in staccato meant one thing to Cherry.  A long drawn out low whistle meant something else. What was particular exciting to see was the man leaning back in the saddle as he let Shorty out into a run. The particular whistle he used caused Cherry to run after them and behind her the whole herd moving along at a run too. This was the way he moved the cattle from pasture to pasture for water, or whatever other reason.  In this way their Dad worked the cattle by himself when other folks had to have a number of hands to do the same thing.

Another time, another world, but for Lisa a hedge there in her mind full of the joyful memories of it and for some reason coming at night in a dream as if to say, “I'm here even if you don't call me up during the day.”

As though the gentle spirit of the calm era around Shorty carried over to her, she watched the burning of trash along the back fence row which had been there for at least three years. Her neighbor was doing the same controlled burn he had watched her practice.

“Well, well!  There is hope for the city boy after all.”  Lisa smiled to herself.

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