As I stood tied to the rail after bein zipped back and forth in the ridin pen at the Planned Equestrian (which means horse) Community ranchette — for what felt like damned near forever — by the half-grown wanna-be cowboy, and as my eyes drooped and I faded off to sleep, it occurred to me this was the strangest place I’d ever been.
Well, truthfully, I’d only ever been on the ranch, or hauled around to other nearby ranches that was just like my home ranch only maybe different. But no matter what my work was on the ranch, it always made sense to a horse. And nobody ran a horse off his hooves all day, on account of that ain’t no way to get a full day’s work done. Not for a horse’s hooves, nor for his rider’s — pardon my french — butt. Life surely couldn’t get no more strange for me than this right here, right now. I’d never had the kind of downtime to ponder any such strangeness before, if I even knew strangeness from a snake hole in the ground, but now, I was fixin to ponder.
The people-voices talkin about my bill of sale, and all the other sounds of all the other people tryin out all the other ranch horses around me, drifted further and further from my the tips of my palomino ears and further from my horse-dreams.
I was out like a light. I do that easy…
…A hand touched my shoulder. I pretended not to notice.
Voices were talkin. I wasn’t listenin.
The hand moved to my cinch, and set to tighten it up. I wanted to flatten my ears, but I was still pretendin to be asleep so I couldn’t. I maybe scrunched my nose, though. A horse has to make his statement somehow.
The hand fumbled with the cinch, then fumbled again. Aw hell, the half-grown cowboy didn’t even know how to properly put my cinch back the way it was before. I thought to myself, what kinda horseman don’t know how to do up a proper western cinch? This day was set to be especially long. My whole entire life was set to be especially long with this kid, I reckoned. I squeezed my eyes shut tighter. The hand finally got my cinch snug.
The hand scritched my withers right where I like it. That felt nice…
A voice said somethin soundin like “good boy.”
I opened my eyes.
The sun was shinin so blindin bright I could hardly focus. I raised my head to take in the distance, which was softer on my sleepy eyes.
The half-grown cowboy, his sire, his dam, and their truck and trailer rig — was gone.
I blinked and took a cautious sideways look out of my left eye.
A gal, with a big ol’ bright white helmet strapped around her head — like maybe she was fixin to ride a quad across a ranch, not a horse? — set to scritchin my withers again, talkin to the people that was sellin me. A guy stood with the gal, but he didn’t look to be a rancher nor a horse trader. He was holdin some kinda aromatic-smellin funny orange stick things that smelled like maybe they could be for eatin, but didn’t look like any horse grub I knew. And the gal was wearin funny pants and boots not like proper Wranglers nor cowboy boots in addition to her funny bright white likely quad helmet.
“… so if you do like him, the price is the price,” the seller lady was sayin to her while I gave the orange stick things what us horses call the sideways hairy eyeball, and I breathed my nostrils wide to get a proper whiff of ’em. “…I price these horses fairly, but I guess they thought they could do better somewhere else….”
“What’s his name?” the quad-helmet-head gal asked. Like it was a real important thing to know about a horse, straight off.
“We call him Whiskey,” said the seller lady.
And then the quad-helmet-head gal smiled, and she nodded like that was agreeable. And then she smiled at me, and she gave my neck a long, soft stroke, and she untied my reins.
“Come on, Whiskey,” she said. “Let’s go see what we can do together…”
…And that’s my entire 25th birthday story, which ends, and also kinda begins, if ya think on it, on a day the people call January 17th, which is the day when I met the bucket gal and her carrot guy and, shortly thereafter, when they took me home to live with them on the County Island. It’s the best birthday an old ranch horse like me can recall. Well, it’s the only birthday I can recall, ‘cept for this one. But I digress.
From me here in my little horse-corral, standin with my butt against the trunk of my favorite palo verde tree, nappin in the shade with my compadres Coors and Coors Light —