Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Late for the Sky

Years ago I inherited a horse, an old appaloosa named Mo. He came with the farm. I had never had a horse before, or even been around horses, so I thought all horses were like Mo. If you sat down in the pasture he would come and lie down next to you and put his big head in your lap. If you were riding him, and started to slip off because you a) hadn't cinched the saddle properly and b) couldn't ride a lick (ask me how I know) he would slow down very gradually, and sidestep his way back underneath you, and just catch you before you fell off. He knew not to slam on the brakes. And then when you 'dismounted,' he would stand there, saddle under his belly, waiting patiently for your next astonishing feat of horsemanship.

The real estate agent told me, quite definitively, that Mo was 29. But one day not long after, a car broke down on the road in front of the farm, and I could see an older woman sitting in the driver's seat. This was before everyone had cellphones, and I went down to see if she needed help. As it turned out, she did have a cellphone, and her husband was on the way, but we got to chatting and she asked me, gesturing at Mo who of course was ambling over to offer his advice, "how long have you had that gray horse?"

There wasn't any other horse around, just Mo, white as snow. Well, I answered, I had actually just moved in, but he had lived here pretty much his whole life, from what I had heard, and he was 29. "Hmm," she said, a bit skeptically, "cause I've been here 30 years. And he's been here longer than I have."

Years later I found a picture of young Mo galloping in the front pasture. He was a beautiful dapple gray. I was so ignorant that I did not know that gray horses turn white with age.

Mo died when he was 32, if the real estate agent is to be believed. He would have lived forever, I think, except that his best friend, a crotchety old Morgan named Jobbin, colicked and died one terrible night. Mo was in his stall when Jobbin was put down. And still in his stall when the awful removal truck came and loaded Jobbin and took him away. This is one of the many ignorant mistakes I still regret; people told me later that when a horse dies the best thing is to let the horse's herdmates see and smell the dead horse. Then they know.

But Mo didn't know, and for the next two days he ran the pastures, back and forth, calling and looking for Jobbin, frantic. And after that all the joy went out of him. He decided to die. Two months later, in the first week of October when the rain started in earnest, he did.

Three days ago, Eo fell and couldn't get up. That night it started raining in earnest.

Eo of the legendary pedigree, the only living daughter of Promisedland D&M Elvis, brother to Promisedland Bewitched, Promisedland My Fair Lady (dam of perhaps the most productive doe in the breed, Promisedland MG Diva), Promisedland Saanen-Doe-A. She was born in Eastern Washington and came to this side of the mountains as a dam-raised week-old-kid, grimly determined not to be a bottle baby. It was the only point she ever conceded.

It's funny the little things you remember: I remember looking across the bench seat of the old Ford pickup as we got on westbound I-90 in Ellensburg, baby Eo glaring at me from inside her little cat-size kennel. Improbably, a Jackson Browne song from the "Late for the Sky" album came on the tinny AM radio. Feels like such a long time ago. Feels like yesterday.

No one pushed her, no one knocked her down; she was alone in her private stall. She had fallen before, I don't know how many times, but she always bounced back with a vengeance, using any short recuperation period to devour treats and snacks, to browse her private clover patch, to feast on licorice. This time she refused. No grain, no plums, no wheat bread, no gatorade, no hay, no willow leaves. Nothing. She just decided to die. This morning, she did.

The lyrics from that Jackson Browne song keep running through my head: Keep a fire burning in your eye. And pay attention to the open sky.

It was time, she knew that. She went out the exact same way she did everything. On her own terms. Some day that will make me glad. Not today.

Eo. Born in Walla Walla in February 2003. Died this morning in Home. 

Spenny and Eo, my two best girls.


Brenda said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I remember your stories of EO so well. My heart hurts for you and my eyes are leaking. Some seem to take more of our heart with them.

Ashley in VT said...

You write so beautifully, and I'm so sorry you lost Eo. I know she was very special to you. Mo sounds like he was a pretty special guy as well. Your blog always makes me sad that I haven't met your animal friends. Lots of love from VT (big Jackson Browne fan, too)

Marigold said...

We are so so so very sorry! Sending you the BIGGEST of warm hugs.