My neighbor has horses, racehorses. He raises them and trains them there in a little paddock across the street and spends his summers shuffling them from one event to the next.
I never had a horse, but I wanted one. Actually, I wanted a unicorn, but I figured a horse was close enough. We couldn’t afford one, so I spent most of my time imagining what it would be like to have one, and the rest of my time petting my neighbors’ horses. In those days, everyone in this town had a horse or two, everyone except for us and the folks who were old enough to think of horses as an outmoded means of transportation instead of a luxury.
I still go visit with the horses. Last week, Rick, my neighbor, introduced me to the new filly. Boy is she pretty! Her long legs haven’t quite figured out this whole walking thing, and she skitters a lot, sliding into things like she’s stealing home plate. Her hair sticks up in an expressive shock of two-inch mane above wide eyes and nostrils that dance with excitement at new smells. I like the way her tail constantly swings, like she’s bopping it along to some song that only she hears. I just visited her this afternoon. She came running when she saw me, and stuck her little camel nose against every bit of me she could reach over the tall fence while her mom nudged and nibbled at my pockets. The filly has a name, some racing thing, but I call her Lovey. Her mum and I are old friends because of my skills at scratching and nonchalance about horse muggings (she enjoys rifling through pockets).
On highway 37, I’ve recently spotting a warning sign for Wild Horses. I never knew we had any.
When my grandparents left The Ranch, commandeered by the US Government for testing the A bomb, itself a wild horse, they sold their horse, Smokey, to a processing plant. He was old, tired, and they needed money to find a new home. But some people left their horses behind. Perhaps they couldn’t find them, or the horses jumped the fences in a bout of missile testing and found the open range. Their descendants make up the wild horses that gallop across the missile range. It almost seems counter-intuitive that this little community can exist out there, galloping around Trinity Site. Some might think they just joined up with the four horsemen of the apocalypse. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Or maybe they are just reverting to some primal instinct, something inside all of us: Freedom and Survival.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been visiting the little filly and I’ve been seeing horses everywhere, but I’ve been dreaming of horses lately.
Sometimes, in a reoccurring dream, it’s the 1800’s and someone is trying to take my beautiful Palomino for war with the Sioux.
In another dream, I’m a horse thief, whispering against their cheeks words that will make horses follow me.
In one, I was a circus performer, and my horse was dazzling black, like he’d been painted with shoe polish.
Sometimes I just ride and ride as far as the horse will take me; then we fall exhausted off a cliff or into water. And then again, sometimes I’m being chased by horses, and I can hear the pulse beat of their hooves on the hard soil.
Perhaps someday I’ll get to ride horses more often. I don’t think I’ll ever own one. I’m not sure anyone can really. Sure, they pay for horses, but you can’t own something that clever and that strong.
For me, horses are always wild, always ready to leap over their fences the minute they decide escape is the best plan. Perhaps it’s the connection to the same land the wild horses make their home, or perhaps it’s the frequent urge to live like a wild woman, but, for me, I’ll always imagine those wild horses live inside of me. I can feel them galloping when my heart beats.