“Sunshine”

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Delbert H. Rhodes

Toby sits high in the saddle as he rides the range. The Triple T Ranch has been in his family for three generations and he absolutely loves it. All of it. His Dad, Matt, is aging but ropes as good as he ever did, Granddad, although retired, remains agile and strong. He keeps the books, oversees everything. Marlene, Toby’s wife, runs the home and family, that’s right, the entire McTiernen Clan. In some ways, this lady is the Boss’s Boss. She is a big help to Granddad, assisting with the books and all matters of Finance.

Yep, ranching is the second love of Toby’s life, he’s a true Cowboy, and his first love, his family. Learning the business from the ground up, one day, as does his Dad, Dane would run The Tripe T.

While surveying the North Forty, something spurs the Boss’s breeches. A beautiful Chestnut grazes in the far meadow. The horse seems to brighten the sky, its coat shines like sunshine. “Let’s go boy,” he moves in for a closer look.

The meadow, a part of his lands, Toby wonders where this animal comes from and who owns it; or possibly, the horse is wild, a rogue. Careful not to spook him, the Cowboy watches from a distance; wow, what a beauty, “I gotta get closer,” and so he dismounts and approaches on foot. Lifting its head, sniffing, the animal wants nothing to do with the intruder. It runs. “Ok, fella, tomorrow’s another day.”

Back at the ranch, dinner conversation is filled by the usual talk; except, Toby’s story is new. None of the men knows of the Stallion, he is new to the range. Chris mentions that a cowboy from the Bar X once spoke of a strange horse, “Yours matches the description.” “Let’s get a better look tomorrow,” says Chris. Bright and early, the dust flies as the men ride out to the meadow. No sign of the Stallion. The sun is high, it’s about noon, and the men wait, spit a lot and then finally, the horse strides into view.

Strategically placed, the boys circle the animal, no luck, the creature is smart, too smart. It rears, stepping and stomping on its hind legs, loudly protesting; the meadow becomes a grassland of turmoil. With glaring eyes and vocal roars, the animal refuses captivity, and then it does something that nobody has ever seen a horse do, backing off, the animal seems crazy, running the circle at high speeds, too fast for anyone to get a rope on it, fearlessly charging the group, the big horse leaps into the air. Stretching like a Phoenix rising from fire, the beast flies above the men, breaks free and then high tails it.

The men are left with blank faces, they cannot believe what just happened. “What do we do now, Boss?” “Well, “no use chasing him, we’ll see him again, later.” “Tomorrow’s another day.”

On the ride back to the ranch the men feel kinda silly, that one horse could outsmart these Cowboys, well, the whole thing is a little embarrassing. (Some say the rogue sprayed piss as it flew over them. We’ll never know, for sure.) It’s not the sorta thing to brag about. The boys can’t wait to get back at that devil, except the Boss has another idea.

This time Toby tackles the Stallion without help, without the men. This time he is ready for a fight and cunning is his only weapon. “That beast thinks he is better than I am, well, he’s wrong.” While guzzling from his canteen, the Cowboy hears hooves pounding the earth; Toby glances to his left side. Well, now, the Chestnut seems to have come home. Rearing, the proud horse displays confidence, ownership, it seems to stake its claim here. “You like this place, don’t you.” “I knew you would come back. You like the grass, and the sparkling water in the nearby stream.” (“My grass, my stream.”)

The Boss fetches some water in a large basin, he also adds a healthy patch of grass, to go with it. “I’m gonna make friends with that animal, one way or another.” Not far away, the powerful beast eats without worry. Strange that it seems to own the meadow, even stranger, Toby admires this animal.

“You’re smart, and if I’m gonna win this one, I gotta outsmart you.” Giving lots of slack to the big boy, Toby quietly speaks from a short distance, about twenty yards. Close enough for now. With ears high, eyes wide, it pauses while gazing at him, heck, the darned thing seems to offer a challenge. It snorts once or twice and then looks away, and without turning its head, the power of its stare torments Toby. Then suddenly, casually, lowering his head, the horse resumes grazing. (“Yeah, I know you’re laughing at me.”)

Toby eases closer, but slowly the animal moves away, creating more distance between them. “Smart Ass.” The Cowboy realizes what he’s up against and refuses to let the Stallion win. After all, who is boss, here. “Come here, boy, I have something for you, don’t you want it?” The horse pauses, staring at Toby’s outstretched hand. Cautiously, stepping closer, the Chestnut quickly darts off.

“Ok, boy, I know, you don’t trust me.” Toby lays the clump of grass down and then steps away, far enough away, allowing the horse some room. The basin of water is laid another ten yards from the clump of grass. The Stallion waits, sniffs, snorts and then sniffs some more. Suddenly like a freight train, the horse rears, roars and then runs. “Where’re you going?” “Come back here, damned horse!”

After three weeks, still no luck, the Cowboy is about done. A rainy day and Toby rides out to the meadow, he hopes to see the Stallion. Luck is with him, the great horse grazes a stone throw away. Something isn’t right, its left hoof, the animal limps a little. For sure, a rock is caught between its pads. Calling out, “What’s the matter, boy?” “Something in your hoof?”

The Chestnut snorts, but seems to acknowledge what the Cowboy just said to it. Cautiously moving closer, Toby encourages the horse to trust him. “Let me take a look at that, maybe I can help you, boy.” Snorting, backing away, the horse obviously distrusts him, yet seems to stay just close enough. “Come on, now, I just want to help you, fella.”

For a while, Toby backs off, he simply waits, while staring at the Chestnut. Cocking its head, the injured animal whinnies and then lifts the affected hoof. Slightly applying weight to it the Stallion limps about but stays close by; the horse seems to ask for help even though it distrusts the man.

“Come here, boy, come on, now.” Moving closer, Toby stands only two feet away from the injured animal, it grunts, sniffs, snorts, but stays. Reaching out his hand, the Cowboy offers the Stallion a carrot. It stares and then extends its neck, sniffing, a slight grumble of uncertainty, slowly, the horse limps closer; then finally, it accepts the food. “That’s it… good boy.”

With a gentleness that maybe is uncommon to his hands, Toby strokes its snout, and as the Stallion softly whinnies, the stone is carefully removed, followed by a cool refreshing wash.

The Chestnut walks about testing its leg, sensing its hoof, then like lightning, the big horse sprints across the fields; but, doesn’t run away. Stopping, it stares over its shoulder at the Cowboy, then showing trust, the horse returns to him. Nuzzling closely, vocally, the animal thanks the man. “Ok, boy, I know, you’re welcome.” Suddenly, something wets Toby’s palm.

Tonight, a happy Cowboy shares a wonderful tale with his men, and somehow, from a hill, closeby, “Sunshine” hears it. With ears high, eyes big, the Chestnut repeatedly rocks its head, as though agreeing, supporting the Boss’s words. (Well bunch my breeches.)

Typically, the accounts in the North Forty are properly and eloquently documented; and unknown to his men, the Boss also pens a poem. Three weeks later, The Triple T receives mail by Pony Express. “A publishing house in Tucson put the poem on some fancy paper, and then put it inside a handsome picture frame.”

On a wall in Toby’s Den, Sunshine sheds a little more light:

The Stone

Eyes untrusting
Sensing the wind
Takes two steps closer
Then backwards again

Favoring one leg
Displaying a need
“Come on boy.”
He ponders my plead

Cautiously scanning
Ears standing tall
Artfully limping
Preventing a fall

Slowly advancing
Distrusting of me
A breathtaking beauty
Something to see

Finally there
A few feet away
Dare not speak loudly
He dares to stay

Near him I step
Nervous, he stood
Sniffing for bad air
Smelling the good

Verbally stroking
I gave him a name
Grunting and snorting
To me he came

Freeing the stone
The meadow he ran
Nuzzling closely,
A tear… in my hand

Copyright © 2003-2017 Delbert. H. Rhodes

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