Some days, a good horse is damned if he does and damned if he don’t. Such was my thoughts as I took a nap like the steady ranch horse I am while the bucket gal was busy sprayin my tail with some kinda smelly red paint-spray, and also afixin what’s called red glitter — which I heard another wise ol’ horse say is the devil’s dust — to most parts of my hide, and also paintin up my own mane with red paint and devil’s dust, and addin flames to me to make me look like I was a devil on fire, I reckon, like a horse on fire’s a good thing. Glitter’s like the gritty sand when it blows across the plains of the County Island, except it’s real shiny and it blows across a whole horse and sticks there. Seems like every people-year when the air turns cool after the long hot time, I got to be the devil, with what’s called red devil horns affixed to my bridle, too, like I’m some sorta mad bull.
I make a real good devil.
Off I went to a pleasure ride, which for horses that don’t know is like goin out to do ranch work only without the ranch work part, where there was also many other good horses festooned with ribbony things, and beady things, and also glitter, and paint and what the people call “costumes,” which is sorta like when a prancey horse wears a tarp-blanket when he’s cold on account of bein sheep-sheared, only instead of keepin a horse warm, it makes a horse embarrassed and appears to make some people happy, mostly women-people.
I think I even entertained a proper rancher who came to the ride with a proper ranch horse in a proper stock trailer and pulled up beside us. He gave me a real long and sorrowful look and shook his head at me, but when I trained my devil-horned ears at him, he made as if to laugh. His horse started to pin an ear in my general direction, so I turned one eye at him to let him know I might be old and glittered, but this devil could still kick the snot out of him with one back hoof. If warranted.
Long pleasure rides warrant slow walkin, especially for devil-horses. Even the devil don’t like bein bedeviled by a bunch of fast-walkin horses kickin up clouds of dry dust. We’ll all get where we’re goin by the end of the trail, which ain’t no more than one big circle ‘til we get back to the trailers, anyhow. And on account of bein a slow devil, I met a real nice li’l devil.
Turns out we had a lot in common, both bein devils — albeit at opposite ends of the experience.
His voice was kinda creaky on account of it was changin from baby-colt to a proper stud’s talk. I hardly recognized him as a young stud at all, on account of his own good manners. Whatever ranch he came from, they’d done raised him up right.
And his whinny, when he made to whinny, also sounded like kinda a mouthful, and he asked me to kindly overlook it as he chewed on his bit, on account of he was losin some teeth.
“Well now, me too,” I told the li’l devil.
He also asked me to overlook how slow he walked, bein smaller than many of the other horses. Well, I am smaller, too, bein proper ranch-sized and all, and also when ya get to be old and wise like me, ya like to slow down so as to hear yourself think while you walk. So I told him walkin slow was the right idea for a devil-horse of any age or size.
Turns out li’l devils benefit from stickin close to old devils, and that we did as we moseyed through the brush and in and out of some of the dry creek beds, and also through one or two that had some water in ‘em. And it further turns out li’l devils can get scared of some things, such as scary-lookin dead trees, and the best way to pass ‘em is for the older, wiser devil to lead the li’l devil down the right road past ‘em. We made a real devilishly good team.
Except for my tail. Li’l Devil couldn’t stop tryin to sniff it and touch it with his nose … He said it was the strangest shade of sorrel he’d ever seen, bein all bright red and glittery like it was, and yet it was also downright purty, kinda temptin him to try to touch it in case maybe it was a best and brightest shiny red apple he’d ever seen. Oh, he still minded his manners, but he liked my shiny red-apple tail a lot, maybe a touch too much. I didn’t intend to tempt him, but I had to swish my own tail from time to time if it needed to be swished, thusly increasin the temptation.
That’s when it occurred to me why the people say that expression about tails and devils like they do, which I always thought was nonsense-words but which now made considerable sense, and which wisdom I wish to impart here — ‘cause, after all, the devil’s in the tails.