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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Horse and Her Boy

My father raised cutting horses, among other things. Consequently I grew up working around horses most of my young life. Unlike my sister, however, who raises Tennessee Walkers these days, I left home with a firm conviction: I will never own a horse! For me, they represented nothing but hard work.

I must say, however, that horses are magnificent creatures. In my opinion they excel other animals in beauty, strength and elegance. I often stop as I drive through this land and watch them grazing a pasture. I almost always think of Dixie, my first and only horse.

When I was about 6 or 7 years old my father decided that I needed a horse of my own to care for and so bought an old bay mare and brought her home to me. She was about 20 years old when he purchased her and lived for four or five years after. For some forgotten reason I named her Dixie.

She was a formidable beast for me at my age and with my small stature. The only way I could climb aboard was to lead her to a corral fence and climb it like a ladder. No saddle was small enough, nor stirrups short enough for my legs so I rode bareback most the time.

Dixie was plump which meant that my feet stuck straight out in both directions, which also meant that I had difficulty staying astride. Her only gait—at least the only one I could get out of her—was a hard, bone-jarring trot that unseated me more times than I can count. Whenever I fell off, however, Dixie would simply stop, look balefully at me, and wait while I tried to climb on her back again—which leads me to Dixie’s most admirable trait: she was wonderfully patient.

I’m ashamed to say that I felt no benevolent whatever toward Dixie. I grumbled my way through the daily ritual of swamping out her stall., feeding, watering, currying her and doing all the other chores my father expected of me. Quite often I took out my resentment on Dixie, shoving her away when she leaned on me, whacking her with a brush or curry comb when she accidentally stepped on my toes, being less than gentle when I combed the cockleburs out of her mane and tail. Yet Dixie bore my childish tantrums with stoic patience, never once retaliating in kind. She was indeed a noble creature. Horses “are among those that come into Aslan’s country after the judgment,” C.S Lewis said. If so, I know I’ll find Dixie there

I wish I could be more like Dixie, for she was the personification of what I most long for these days: a patience that overlooks a multitude of offenses.

Impatience is a malady of the elderly, I think—not unique to us certainly, but one to which we most easily fall prey. Frustration over our own troubles and the orneriness of others can make us crotchety and ill-tempered. I have to ask myself, “How do I respond when others aggravate me? Do I respond with patience and sweetness of spirit, or do I react with intolerance and ire?”

To overlook an offense. To forgive seventy-times-seven. To bear with human frailty and failure. To show mercy and kindness to those who exasperate me. To gain such control over my soul… This is the work of God.

DHR

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