My horses were munching hay as part of their “lunch” and I dropped into the grass today. No sun, a bit of mist, and thunder threatening, but no rain. It was a beautiful day.
I chose not to ruminate about the land and boundary issues I’ve got, I put my thoughts to the house I left, in Nuevo, California. It’s rented, and I haven’t heard a peep from the tenant in over a year. She faithfully deposits the rent into my bank account on the fifth of each month. There’s no worry, and she and her family are very happy.
There’s nearly an acre of property there, in the desert. In back, there was Gilbert.
Gilbert was, or is, an old man, a Mexican American. He had Cowboy, the old white horse who used to dance and ride in the parade. Gilbert told me that Cowboy got too old for it.
Cowboy used to visit with my daughters when they were small, through a small grate in his shaded area. This was the first experience my daughters had with horses. I still have the early drawings they made for me. Later, as my girls grew up, Cowboy visited with my little Shetland Paint pony, and she could barely reach her nose up to meet with him. I guess they took a liking to each other.
Across the street, there was a thoroughbred horse boarding ranch. Some years before we moved north, the ranch was sold to a developer, and with the economy as it was, nothing happened, and it rented out to someone else who boarded large numbers of horses.
He also had a beautiful Andalusian stallion, Sebastian. Gilbert would ride him in the small town parade until the last year before I moved. Gilbert was getting too old and couldn’t risk falling. His wife was sick with cancer. I loved seeing Gilbert and Sebastian, fully dressed as Caballero and Caballo.
One day, when no one was home over the tall double fence, of chain link and wood planks, I heard a banging coming from Gilbert’s place like I’d never heard before. I became alarmed and ran like hell, to the fence in back, where Gilbert had built a gate for desert heat to pass through the back yard. When I looked, it was worse than I could have imagined.
Someone had left a halter on Sebastian. He had it stuck on a nail or hook on an open window in his 18 x 20 stall. Sebastian was bleeding from the face and frantic trying to get free. He repeatedly slammed himself against the wall of the metal stall. Worse still, Gilbert was nearly deaf and all my whistling and screaming wasn’t going to bring him out, even if he was at home.
Seeing no one there, or responding, and Sebastian willing to kill himself to get free, my 17-year-old daughter, unafraid, flew over the fence and freed him. Mark followed. The huge stallion shook his head repeatedly – he could have knocked himself out, trying to get loose.
Soon after, Gilbert came home. That was the last time Sebastian wore a halter in his stall.
I’m not a big fan of stalling horses for long periods of time. Sebastian did have some time out. He was trained to “dance” and now and then, Gilbert’s son would come and tune him up. I hated hearing the whip and Gilbert let me know that he didn’t agree with his son’s training methods. Sebastian was such a good-natured animal.
Gilbert, a good neighbor, a father, a truck driver, a Mexican American and a Marine. I miss him.