It ain’t always easy, bein a brave horse, despite what some folks think. Even the bravest ranch horse may not want to be brave sometimes. He may be shakin from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his hooves, even if you can’t always see it directly as a person, with your tiny li’l people-eyes. It don’t matter whether what a horse is faced with — if it’s a real scary, maybe slippery deep arroyo he’s got to cross in order to get someplace where he’s needed on the ranch, or the sudden sight of a pack of beady-eyed stinkin javelina-pigs when he comes around a bend through some brush. Or, here on the County Island, if it’s a great, big rumbly-truck that’s called a garbage truck.
Mostly, they rumble on past us on the roads where the people-cars and rumbly-things run, and it’s all cool. Well, unless they sound off with their hissy-squeal, which is called “hittin their air breaks.” That sound can startle a horse as bad as a rattle from a snake or a squeal from a pig, and it sounds like the two of ‘em put together in one critter, which ain’t right, and they smell worse than pigs, too. Sometimes they even fart a foul gas from their hindquarters. Apologies for bein indelicate. So a garbage truck is kind of a distasteful critter in general, but like the rattlesnakes and the javelina-pigs, we got to learn to give each other some space and thusly get along.
In particular there was one day when I learned why a horse ought not to trust ‘em even though he’s got to live with ‘em. Also, livin with don’t got to mean likin. On that one day, I learned what it is they really do here on the County Island. Some of you more sensitive or flighty, hot-blooded types might want to hoof it and come back to my story-tellin another time.
We was headin down the road, and I heard the big ol’ rumbly-garbage truck comin. Mostly what I been trained up to do in such situations is stop off to the side, and wait ‘til he passes. It’s a good trick for a horse to know, and for a person to know to teach to a horse. Rumbly sound means whoa. It teaches a horse there ain’t no reason to panic. Ya stop, ya wait, then ya move on, “no problemo” like we used to hear back at the ranch.
We stepped aside and I stopped to wait with all my usual patience. But instead of rumblin by, the garbage truck rumbled right up beside us. He was after the garbage cans damned near right next to us — pardon my french. The bucket gal’d picked the absolute wrong place to park me and I didn’t have nowhere else to go! The garbage truck was blockin the tiny ranch road which is called a “drive way” right in front of where we stood. And he wasn’t fixin to move nor to give us some space to move away, neither. We’d have to wait right next to him while he did whatever he was gonna do. I might’ve overheard some people-french from the bucket gal as she swung out of the saddle lightnin-fast. It was gonna be so bad, whatever it was, that she had to get off me for it, and hold my reins, and pet my neck. Aw, hell…
I never saw what garbage trucks DO before, nor did I ever care. It ain’t got nothin to do with feedin horses, nor waterin horses, nor halterin horses, nor feedin us, so why would I?
The truck squealed and farted at us, and then he grew long front legs that reached down from way on up high above his own head, and he stuck the biggest claws I ever seen straight into the sides of the garbage can. And then he lifted that helpless garbage can straight up into the air. And he turned it upside down. And then he shook out all its entire guts and laid waste to all its innards.
I jerked sideways and my eyes went real wide. I couldn’t help myself no matter how bad I tried to stay still. The bucket gal told me it’s OK, whoa and easy, and kept strokin my neck. Now, I been broke to death, and I’ve worn a lot of wet saddle blankets. I also been bomb-proofed by the horse police. But none of that was ever like this.
Finally the giant truck-claws took the poor garbage can and set it back on the earth where I always see it stand before, doin nothin, not botherin nobody. Only now, it was entirely emptied out and hollow inside its body like a old, dried-out dead thing left for the vulture-birds to pick at. And then the garbage truck farted at us again, and then he squealed off to rumble back down the road. The bucket gal led me in search of a big rock she could stand on to get back onboard, and our ride resumed with no further fuss nor horror.
The point is, a good horse always manages to do his job, even if his job ends up bein watchin a monster-claw garbage truck lay waste to one of a whole lot of unsuspectin garbage cans that live around the County Island. Since the incident, I also heard tell that the garage truck goes around regularly disembowelin all the horse-manure dumpsters the people keep at their ranches, but I aim to manage to never find that out for myself.