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Thursday, 12 October
Equus

I have, I must confess, unpleasant memories of horses. For a few years, encompassing the fourth grade through the seventh, I think, we lived on a horse ranch where part of the rental deal was taking care of some beautiful Arabians and a few other farm animals, including one memorably crabby bull that we dutifully fed until he got turned into steaks. The horses, perhaps picking up on this treachery, spent most of their time trying to murder me. Me--not their jailer--just the littlest, dumbest, and most vulnerable little schmoe who was stuck feeding them.

An early unfortunate memory doesn't even have to do with the gorgeous Arabians. It was, instead, an older Quarter horse, a proud American breed, strong and hellishly fast; think of them like Ford V-8s. My father was riding a really gentle old guy, a big roan that was no stranger to riders, and was largely regarded as unperturbable. He was riding around in a nearby field while me, my mother and my grandmother looked on; and after a bit, he swung over to me to give me a ride. He reached down a hand and swung me up behind him.

What I didn't realize at the time was, as my leg arced over the beast's back, my right leg managed to catch his tail, and I sat on it.

Horses, uh, hate this. The Quarter horse sure did, and he commenced to buck like, twice. My father and I, neither of us being rodeo riders in any way, immediately were thrown into the troposphere and then fell onto the welcoming ground. I still remember my grandmother screaming, just before we began our unfortunate parabolas to the ground, "Scotty! No!" Good advice, grandma!

My father sprung a rib, and I got a mild wrist sprain. Grandma was force-fed some brandy.

The other two episodes I recall of felonious horseplay (Ha! See what I did there? Oh, fuck you, me.) involved a particularly unbalanced Arabian stallion, a horse so flighty and weird that he had to be confined to his own meadow, lest he be found eating ducks or setting up craps games in some blighted pasture corner with the other impressionable horses. This guy--a real piece of work--really lived up to the Arabian horse stereotype in that he was hot-blooded and excitable and faster than hell; Arabs are slighter in build than many other breeds, and known for their unpredictability. This fucker was like an airfoil with a hard-on.

Once I was crossing his (large) pasture towards a placid pond that adjoined the property; to be perfectly honest, if I remember correctly, my intent was to go to the pond to go throw rocks and crush a few of the native frogs. (Little boys are, frankly, tiny terrorists and utterly without conscience.) I was halfway across, and keeping an eye on the skittish horse, when, unfortunately, a car drove by the nearby dirt road.

The Arab fucking flipped out, because, well, he was a real asshole. He took about two seconds to hit a full gallop--and these beasts can get up to 40 mph and more if they feel like it--and he was heading straight for me, whether or not by luck or design . . . I don't know. I was caught out in the open field, and no cover was in sight. He was on me before I could even think what to do. So I just dropped and covered up, going fetal.

Human memory is notoriously unreliable. We routinely fill in gaps and then convince ourselves that that was "what happened." It's been proven that we invent things all the time in the name of irreducible memory. All I can tell you is this: He ran right the fuck over me. Make of this what you will.

I dropped to the ground, covering my head and drawing my legs up. This was instinctual. I remember the rich smell of the heavily horse-fertilized soil. I remember hearing an incredible thundering tattoo of hoofbeats all around my body, one near my head, one near my stomach, others . . . I don't know. I remember the light darkening as his body passed over mine. I remember his awful, freaked-out whinny, but maybe that was later. Moments later, the car was gone, and he was back to calmly grazing. I opened my eyes and saw the hoof marks around me.

There's no reason he didn't smash me into field chum that day except, I guess, dumb luck. I had been run over . . . and totally missed.

You should watch this guy, I thought. Kids, after all, think nothing of brushes with death, because as far as they are concerned, they're immortal.

Later:

I still had to feed the fucking bastard horse. I would do this as part of my morning chores, along with feeding the fucking idiot chickens, and so forth. (This was a real drag when I started taking Driver's Ed, so I had to get up an extra hour early to get all that shit done.) They were of course fed in grain troughs in their stalls in the barn; generally no biggie. The horses all knew when the food was supposed to arrive, and they'd wait in their stalls, hanging their heads over the doors for me to come for their chow. Even this guy! Usually he'd be there with the other Arabs, adorably hanging their giant heads over, waiting for breakfast.

One day I showed up, and the horse was in his stall. Backwards. His ass was pointed towards me as I came to the door. He was my last feed. There wasn't any way in hell I was going into this guy's stall with his ass to me, three feet away. I kicked the door. He just stood there.

"HEY!" I yelled. I kicked the door and yelled a few more times. Nothing. He just stood there, in the stall, twitching his tail.

I looked at my watch. If I took too long, I'd miss my bus, and then I'd have to wake my parents, and they'd be pissed off about having to run me the seven miles into town, and Jesus Christ, fuck this fucking horse, man. You'd think I'd have learned.

I slipped the drop-lock on the stall door and eased myself in, hugging the wall, cooing meaningless bullshit to the horse. "Breakfast, breakfast, I'll be out in a minute." His tail twitched lazily. I upended my steel bucket of grain into his trough: it was going to be okay. He was just being an asshole, as usual. I edged back to the stable door, cracked open so he couldn't get out, but so I could still whisk it open and escape quickly.

If you've only seen horses on television, it's like, well, anything else you've seen on television. Television is deceptive. It's one thing to say, "Boy, that horse (or sprinter, or Alpine skiier, or race car, or whatever) is really fast." No. Horses are fast. He kicked at me with his right left foot, right at my head. If his tail hadn't begun twitching more erratically, I might not have noticed, but then, I was watching him every second. Or maybe I just probably got really lucky again. He kicked.

I had only the steel bucket in my right hand, and as soon as I saw the flash of movement, I brought the bucket up in defense. His hoof smashed into the bucket, which promptly smashed into my face, which also promptly smashed my terrible, cheap glasses. I staggered back against the stall door, and the fucking horse gave a nervous whinny and ran out into his lonely field, his food momentarily forgotten. I scrambled out of the stall, latched the lock, and nervelessly took a personal inventory.

I had: one (1) relatively undestroyed (albeit startled and unhappy) face; one (1) completely demolished steel bucket, complete with a rough cast of my profile; and also one (1) pair of wrecked glasses, which I actually had to fish out of the fucking horse stall, which wasn't that worrisome since the homicidal horse had abandoned the stall.

I panted for a while, trying to gather my wits. I thought: Jesus Christ, that fucking horse almost kicked my brains in. I thought: What time is it? I looked at my watch. I thought: Aw, fuck, I'm going to miss my bus. I thought: I hate that fucking horse. I thought: Seriously, I'm going to miss my bus. I thought: I don't need this shit.

I got rid of the bucket.

I only told my parents about it years later.

I didn't miss my bus.

Kritters | Skot | 12 Oct, 2006 |

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Comments

Hooray for inbreeding! (The horse, I mean.)

Comment number: 008508   Posted by: Ian J on October 13, 2006 09:29 AM from IP: 192.150.22.150

My Dad was a drill sergeant in the Army, with a neck as big around as a barrel. He was afraid of nothing except one thing. Horses. Wouldn't go near them. I asked him about it once and he said, "Hell, just look at 'em." By this he meant that horses are bigger than you are, stronger than you are, faster than you are, and if you're very unlucky, meaner than you are. I don't agree with my Dad about much, but I agree with him on horses.

Comment number: 008509   Posted by: Andrew on October 13, 2006 03:21 PM from IP: 70.98.240.174

I can totally relate, as I believe I've only met one or two horses that didn't try to kill or maim me or someone in my immediate vicinity.

Good for you for being quick with the bucket.

Comment number: 008510   Posted by: Robin on October 13, 2006 07:45 PM from IP: 24.11.249.7

i guess it just wasn't that into you.

Comment number: 008531   Posted by: smokeyJoe on October 15, 2006 11:14 AM from IP: 24.21.18.110

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