"Out to Pasture"

BY DAVID HEIDT

“I wish it would stop raining,” I thought as I unloaded my Polaris 4-wheeler from the truck for what seemed like the hundredth time that month.  Once again I had donned my rain clothes and I remember thinking“ why am I doing this?”  The night before a lady had called to say her daughter’s horse had died and she  heard that we could help.
 
A year prior to that phone call my wife’s 34-year-old mare had to be put down.   Since we have a backhoe and a big field the burial of her horse wasn’t a problem.  The  veterinarian said we were very fortunate in that respect because disposal options in our are a are almost non-existent.  After further reflection he added that he thought we should  offer this service to others.  “Ugh,” I thought, but one year, several permits, a truck, a  4-wheeler, many accessories and a lot of money later - here I am!
 
As I pulled into the driveway I had noticed old cars and rusty farm equipment  scattered around the property (junk, as my wife would say).  The house needed paint and  the barn was on its last leg, the deteriorated roof painting a picture of a family that had  seen better times.  An older lady met me and, seeming more downcast than the weather  outside, led me into the barn.  I could see Missy lying just outside her stall door and the  lady suggested that going through the pasture might be best.  I thanked her and told her I  could take it from there.  She seemed relieved to retreat back to the house.
 
With the 4-wheeler unloaded I hooked up the 4 x 8 sheet of rigid plastic I use for  a sled and headed around the barn.  Marta on KalilaMissy was lying in a puddle with her head toward the  door.  Her teeth indicated she was very old; a farrier hadn’t seen her in a long time.   She was never very big, maybe 14 hands, but lying there she seemed quite skinny and sunken.  When she was younger she must have been a very flashy pinto, but now her coat was dull, her  mane dirty and full of tangles.  
 
When I rolled her onto the sled I noticed something odd.  Her shins had no hair. They were smooth and shiny, much like my head, except for a few scabs.  I looked around and noticed the wood floor of her stall was about 2 feet higher than the puddle in which she was lying.  The floorboard was worn smooth and round from her years of jumping in and out.   Judging by her shins, this had been hard to do for a long time.  Now not only was I wet, I  was angry.  It didn’t seem like a load of gravel or a ramp with some cleats would be a big  deal because her food and shelter were inside, but the water trough was across the pasture.
 
As I loaded Missy and my equipment onto the truck the lady came back out to pay me.  Then she hands me a shoebox and said her daughter would like it to be buried with the  horse. We talk for a few minutes and I learn the daughter and her kids were currently living  with grandma here on the farm.  It seemed to me their life was one big struggle.
 
After I got home I opened the shoebox.  Inside was a sealed envelope which said “I  love you Missy” and “I miss you so much.”  The ink was blotchy and had run in a few places, but I don’t think it was from the rain.  On the back was more writing and more runs.  I can only speculate what the letter inside might have said:  maybe reminiscences of quiet trail  rides through the forest or perhaps, as a young girl, needing a neck to hug and a listening  ear knowing that Missy would never complain.  Possibly the time the crowd cheered as she  was handed a blue ribbon and a bag of carrots for a job well done.  Speaking of ribbons, the  rest of the box was packed with them.  Some were from Pony Club, some 4-H, and still others  from the county fair.  There were lots of blues and reds.
 
After I buried Missy and her shoebox I was no longer angry, but sad instead.  It  seems Missy was very special to her owner, but as she grew older her responsibilities  increased, priorities changed and time available for her horse decreased.  Missy had always been there for her as she was growing up - how could she be gone?  It makes me sad to think Missy’s owner possibly didn’t realize how much the mare meant to her until it was too late.
 
That particular “horse call” changed me.  I began making an effort to slow down and show some compassion.  Many times people want to tell me how special their horse was to  them.  I remember one 40-something, somewhat plump lady timidly handing me a faded Polaroid picture of a pretty teenager sitting bareback on a much younger version of the horse we  were kneeling beside.  I looked from her to the picture and back again.  “That was over 20  years ago!”  she said, as she began to smile through her tears.
 
Maybe you know an old lady who needs a ride to the beauty shop or just the tangles  in her mane brushed out.  Perhaps some old gent that needs a puddle filled or a hard to  reach spot scratched where the flies are pestering him.  Start today, because tomorrow you might be making a phone call to someone like me.  “How do you know what your life will be  like tomorrow?  Your life is like the morning fog - it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”   James 4:14, NLT.
 
So, three years and several hundred horses later I definitely know why I’m still  doing this.  Eventually it will stop raining - and sometimes there’s even a rainbow.

 

 

Other Articles:

"Dead Horse Guy"
by David Heidt

"Don't Cry for the Horse"
Written by -Brenda Riley-Seymore

Eugene Register-Guard
Byline: Tim Christie
The Register-Guard