Thursday, November 24, 2005


"Jerry, the Champion of my heart"

It is late Wednesday afternoon, the 23rd of November. Thanksgiving Eve. The clock and the sky tells me it's time to feed the herd.

Today the temperature has been as high as 40 degrees although the Northwest wind has kept it cold. You can feel the raw wind of winter coming down from the North. I bundle up and put long underwear, sweatshirts, jackets, hats, and winter gloves on to try to keep the cold out. Somehow, after all of these clothes are on me, I'm still cold. I'm cold from inside today.

Taking Lady-the-Dog with me, I tell her that "If I'm cold, they must be cold. Let's go to the barn." As we walk to the barn, the steady 20 mph wind pushes at my back. My cheeks are chapped and they sting. My head is low and I feel the cold in my bones tonight.

The herd comes in to the barn for their supper in a quiet and orderly manner - showing their respect. Their winter coats are all full of air - fluffy-like - with that natural insulation they have. I am jealous of their ability to be warm and still be hungry tonight.

I go about the routine of placing and hooking all of these charges of mine. I must watch over and so I check each one as I prepare them and their meals. While the barn is full of the sounds of their eating, I stand and survey this family of horses of mine:

Starting with Halima I notice her wounds on her feet are healing. Unit is hoovering her food as she always does. I shake my head at this tiny animal and wonder if she will ever fill up!

Next I touch the flanks of PONY! who eats gently but steadily. Then there is Babee Joy who stamps and waves in the air with those front feet of hers! She is gloriously happy when she eats! Big DukeDuke gets a hug from me tonight, as does young Jeri-Ann. This baby girl stops eating and looks me right in the eyes and says "Use me, mama! I can be a healer, too!"

The center of the barn allows me to watch Blaise and Beauty, each in their stalls, quietly eating and enjoying each mouthful. Both are content and so I continue my rounds.

On the other side of the barn is Miss Bette who is cautiously watching me out of the side of her head. Something is amiss, she senses, and she's nervous that I will ask something of her.

Cole cannot get enough food in to his mouth and my touch on his flanks does not even cause him a pause. I do not touch Sweet Lady Gray, as my touch will cause her to leave the barn. After 27 years, she still dislikes a disturbance when she eats.

Lanna hears me coming and so moves over, anticipating that this will be my request. I assure her that I want nothing but to touch her big body and so she allows me the grace to do just that.

On the back wall is standing our newbie, Big Guy, who raises his head above the 6 foot wall to see me and his eyes question me with "What's wrong?" I tell him he's safe and to enjoy his supper and so he goes back to eating, showing me his gratitude for his new home.

Bonita eats next to Big Guy and April is devouring her supper next to Bonita.

Jimmer is creating his usual soup out of his supper but he respects my wishes and allows me to hug his neck between mouthfuls.

I come to the last feeder. And then I cry.

The tears run freely down my cheeks and I feel the sting of my own salt on my chapped skin. I swear I can hear the sound of my heart as it is breaking. I stand in the dents in the earth where his big feet would be. I touch the collar for his big neck. I cry at the empty feeder.

I can no longer hug Jerry, the Roan Horse. I can no longer feel his warmth or smell his smell or thrill at his dread-locked mane. His hind quarters are not where I would like them to be so that I can hug them. I cannot see those light brown eyes that have seen so deeply in to my soul.

Instead, this glorious minister's body has been laid to rest in the west lawn next to his buddy, Slim. Jerry has been allowed to cross over today, on this Thanksgiving Eve, and I cry for his absence.

It is selfish of me to cry, I know that. I know that Jerry is free once again and no longer trapped in that huge, failing body that had challenged him and me for these past few months. I know that I only helped him on to the next stop of his journey. I know he has freedom now! And he is alive again! I know this! Still I cry.

Selfishly, I cry for me. Who will I go to when I need comfort? Who will I go to when I need support? You see, Jerry, the Roan Horse has been my horse. I have shown him to others and never really shared him. Jerry was mine. He was my comforter. My shoulder to cry one. He was my playmate when I just wanted to play!

A small prayer comes from my lips as I stand at his now empty feeder. I pray for a safe journey for this creature I have come to love and respect. I pray for all of us he left here in this barn. I pray that we will remember him and the lessons he taught us. The lessons of respect and loyalty and being true at all costs. Of taking care.

It's then that I pause. And I smile a true smile from my heart as I remember how he protected me years ago. Jerry put himself between me and a horse with big, dangerous pulling shoes on. I saw the horse's rump rounding and knew the kick was coming but I couldn't move fast enough to get out of the way! Jerry saw it coming, too, and he pushed himself in the path and so the kick of that horse connected with Jerry and not me.

His shoulder was bruised and sore for a month. Never did he hesitate that day. He simply did what it took to protect me. Without being asked, he saw a need and filled it with eagerness. And then he asked nothing in return. What a teacher he was!

Here I'm standing and crying because I lost Jerry.

I never found Jerry! He wasn't mine! I was his!

Suddenly it becomes crystal clear to me. Long ago, that Saturday in May of 1993, I didn't find Jerry, the Champion Horse Puller. Jerry found me. He selected me. He allowed me to enter his life.

I now feel enormous gratitude for his generosity and for his choice. It changes the tone of my tears abruptly. This is the lesson of Jerry, the Roan Horse. To be watchful and a good leader. To be fair but firm. To have compassion and let someone have their way. To be true and loyal and honest.

I am thankful on this Thanksgiving Eve for the honor of knowing Jerry, the Champion. I am grateful that he selected me for his keeper. I am very aware of the new door that his passing is opening up in me. As he wanted, I am just now beginning to see and to learn the true meaning of his presence. Thank you, J, for giving me this lesson. It will take me some time to ponder and really figure it out, but your spirit will guide me. Your spirit which is just over my left shoulder.

You have crossed over, Jerry. Your body is no longer here for me to see or to touch or to smell. But your spirit is here. You are still here. I just need to find you differently, that's all.

I will keep you with me, Jerry. In my memories. In my mind. And in my heart. And I will call on you to guide me. Reinforce your lessons in me, Big J. And thank you for selecting me.

Jerry, the Roan Horse. Jerry, the Champion Horse Puller. Buppa, as I called him. Jerry, the Champion of my heart.

We lost a great one today. What pain! I cry.
The healing is over, the time has come to move on.
Selfishly I want a bit more time - another chance to help.
But soon I smile through my tears and tell those stories
Of how this one touched my life and how he taught me
               even more.
I’m sad but so grateful to have been there next to him
And to hold that big, roman head at the end of his days.

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