The Red Horse


  • Life

    The Red Horse

    The darkest part of the morning,
    A small cloud brushes by a cold dying moon.
    Silent, but for the sound of snow
    Squeaking as it compresses under my boots.
    In the barn a dull yellow light glows over the hay manger,
    hinting at warmth.
    I enter the corral
    Holding a bridle under my arm
    By the steel of its bit.
    The horses stamp
    Breath frozen breathe clouds
    And huddle in the furthest corner.
    As I approach, The roan, the buckskin, the gray and Old Tom
    Trot by in single file
    Kicking backwards slightly as they pass me.
    I spread my arms and corner the big brown horse
    He settles, understanding that he is chosen
    I offer a bridle whose cold metal has been warmed by my body
    I wonder if he appreciates the thoughtfulness
    I flip blanket and saddle onto his back
    He swells himself as I pull the cinch
    I curse him and jerk the cinch tighter.
    Outside we settle down to riding the fence line
    The brown horse and I becoming one
    With the dark, the cold
    And the purpose of the morning.
    A calf bawls, the wind blows through us
    I ride hunched, the brown with his head down
    Little swirls of snow dance
    Stinging our eyes shut occasionally
    The brown horse and I ride with the last light of the morning
    pale off the snow.
    The purple darkness of the horizon beginning to flicker
    As new light slowly dissolves the darkness
    The ridges of the eastern hills focusing it into a singular light
    That shines down the fence line
    Becoming bright
    Bouncing off wire and crusted snow.
    The brown horse and I come to a place where the wire is broken
    I dismount, cursing the cold
    I remove the wire stretcher and fence pliers from my saddlebag
    The brown stands where I leave him
    Ground reined.
    I put the stretchers on the broken wire
    tie in a splice
    "Hold barbed bastard wire"
    it breaks, cuts my ungloved hand
    Fingers hurt from the cold
    Blood feels good, it is warm
    I stretch the wire again
    It holds. I release the wire.
    I get back on the brown
    Pull a piece of hard cake from my jacket
    and tap the brown horse on the shoulder.
    He reaches back for his treat.
    The wind is softer
    The sun fuller.
    I think about the red horse
    For twenty years you rode the red horse.
    Then I rode him
    Cause you knew he would not hurt me
    I thought it was you who taught me
    Maybe it was him
    I did not know that then.
    I think about the day I had a calf the red horse and my arm
    All wrapped up in my rope
    Hard and fast.
    The red horse did not move.
    You rode up, untangled us,
    Both cursing and chuckling,
    The buckskin would have hurt me
    Maybe killed me
    He would not have stood still
    I did not know that then.
    Eventually we put the red horse out to pasture,
    A place we called The Long.
    You and I would ride through
    and like an old friend, The red horse would trot slowly up to greet us.
    You would always say

    "Well hello Red
    And talk nice to him
    The red horse would follow
    As we rode through his place
    On our way to other chores.
    One day we rode through the Long
    The red horse did not come to greet us.
    On our way back from the day's work
    we found him.
    Standing alone.
    Frail and pure,
    Staring through hollow eyes.
    The next morning you strapped the Winchester
    to the roan I had saddled,
    We didn
    t talk.
    We found the red horse standing in his final small place.
    He was standing proud, I thought
    And stronger.
    His eyes were bright
    The early morning sun flashed and shone off his coat
    Like he was that young red stallion,
    Pivoting right and left, squatted down
    Front feet light.
    Putting you on calves faster than any horse in the territory
    Cutting off wayward cows so quick You could only hold on.
    You dismount and hand me the reins to the roan.
    I hold them
    As you slip the saddle gun out.
    I watch from the brown horse
    Taking a tighter grip on the reins of both horses
    In anticipation.

    You lever the Winchester,
    The red horse watches this.
    He looks straight at you,
    With a calm recognition.
    The brown horse throws his head and dances a little
    The roan pulls back.
    I use reins and soothing words to settle them,
    But my eyes never leave the red horse
    Red goes down to his knees,
    almost as if you had trained him
    To do just that.

    I had never known sadness before.

    The brown horse and I come to another place
    Where the wire is broken
    And the snow has drifted packed.
    Tracks show that cows have crossed over
    Into White
    s place.
    We fix the wire.
    Tomorrow I
    ll load the brown horse into the back of the pick-up
    And the brown and I will push the wayward cows back to our place.
    The brown horse and I return,
    finished with our work for the day.
    I think of that young red colt,
    Soon I
    ll bring him in.
    Maybe he will be another
    Red Horse.


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    TinaD commented on The Red Horse


    This is so very beautiful. Felt like I was there. How wonderful the love can be between an animal and a human being.

    Teardrops commented on The Red Horse


    You are a master painter but with words .I felt the same way as you when i had to put my quarter horse down it goes deep far beyond just a horse and man . Loved this cowboy thanks for the read Marie

    Insideme commented on The Red Horse


    This is a very powerful piece full of imagery and real life at its simple best.....I love this work of art youve created



    Thank you for the kind words..I have worked for years to get it the best i can..Red deserved that..Still feels 'hanging' at the end..T64

    shallenemcgrath commented on The Red Horse


    I'm so glad you made me read this! God it is fantastic. It reminds me of my time in Australia. I actually strung a few fences with a bloke over there. Of course being petite there was no way I could do it on my own, but I helped take up the slack. He made me shoot a sick steer once... it almost killed me with grief. I wrote about it. Living there was a life-changing experience. Just as life-changing as sailing was. Not only was I going through the catharsis of living on a ranch for the first time, but I was also dealing with a little bit of a culture shock. -I don't know what I would have done without me pen and page.

    StandingBear commented on The Red Horse


    An astounding write pertaining to life and times of a young cowboy whom has *never known sadness before*. Written so well, from beginning to end, *The Red Horse* is an honor for me to comment on your first poem here. Reminds me of times spent living on my uncle's ranch when I was a young boy. The life of a cowboy ain't for sissies. Unexpected, beautiful ending to conclude this astounding write. SBear



    Standing Bear: Thank you for the really kind words. I've worked on TRH for years. Combing the present with the past was difficult thought it would get confusing for the reader... Thank you again very much. Train

    Poetry is either something that lives like fire inside you or else it is nothing, an empty formalized bore around which pedants can endlessly drone their notes and explanations.

    Unknown Source

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