And Never Let Us Cry
April 14, 2006
By William Christy
A series of stories sliced from life during the thirties
in the central and Sandhill areasof Nebraska
Horse of a Color
Part 2 of 5
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“He’s a nice horse,” said Mart’s mother, “but I’m afraid he cost too much.”
“He cost a lot,” Mart’s father corrected, “but not too much. There’s not another stud like this in the valley.”
“I’m glad there isn’t,” observed Mother, “or we would probably own a team of them.” She was not impressed with horses. She liked chickens and kittens. After delivering a few more slightly caustic remarks, she walked toward the house.
Mart’s father wanted to talk about his horse some more. He looked at Mart who was squinting upward against the sun. “See how he holds that head. That means he’s thinking. He understands things. Horses are like people; some are smart and some aren’t.”
Mart stepped closer to his father and the horse. He like it when some one talked to him about important things. He listened closely and repeated some of the words to himself.
“Look at his eyes. They show his spirit. They’re not too bright and not too dull. If his eyes were flickery, that would mean he was nervous and jumpy, but this horse has trusting eyes and man needs a horse he can trust.”
Mart looked at the horse’s eyes. His father was warming to the subject now, and Mart was beginning to absorb the enthusiasm.
“Look at that chest. He has good wind. A horse with a good wind can go and go without stopping to rest. And see how strong and straight his legs are; that gives him power. He can stop short and turn around as quick as a kitten. There’s speed and power in those legs. He’s a good tall hose, too. I like a horse that can keep a man up out of the dust.”
By the time supper was ready, Mart knew a lot about horses. He had been exposed to several generations of knowledge in a few hours, and his father was pleased to see how much he had retained. His mother was surprised, too. Mart often had trouble remembering to gather the eggs once a day, and sometimes he forgot to bring in firewood in the evenings; in fact, he had forgotten tonight.
“What shall we name him?” asked Mart.
“We’ll have to give him a good name,” said Father, “and until we do we’ll just call him Stud.”
“Is that a good name?” asked Mart.
“It’ll do,” his father answered, “until we decided on a better one. It tells a lot about him in one word.”
Mart was up early the next morning to look at the horse before walking the mile and half to school. He felt good as he trotted across the calf pasture and stepped out onto the road. He walked along swinging his dinner pail when a car pulled up beside him. “Do you want a ride?” asked Reverend Stormwell.
“Yes,” said Mart without ceremony and climbed in quickly.
Reverend Stormwell was a tall striking man. He had a been a farmer until he “got the word” and started preaching in the community church. When he preached on Sunday morning, he could be heard clear down to the post office. He was quick on his feet and moved around quite a bit while preaching. Sometimes he would wave his arms and trot down the aisle of the church with powerful stride holding his head high and flashing his eyes from side to side. Several people would say, “Amen,” and he would turn around quickly, run back to his lectern, grasp the edges of it with strong hands, and then start in again without even pausing long enough to breathe properly.
He was friendly to Mart as they rode along, and Mart didn’t feel afraid as he often did in church. Mart looked at Reverend Stormwell carefully, noticing his clear eyes and broad chest. He was beginning to admire him.
“I’ve heard,” said Reverend Stormwell, “that you are a good boy.” He reached over and patted Mart’s head.
Mart was proud to know he was so well thought of. He couldn’t think of anything to say, however, and the car stopped by the schoolhouse door.
“You’ve made me ride very pleasant,” said the minister, beginning to speak in his church voice. “Well, so long young bronco.”
“Thanks for the ride,” said Mart as he always did when he was fortunate enough to get a ride to school. He tried to think of the minister’s name, but couldn’t remember it. He stood by the car thinking.
“So long,” said the minister again.
Mart looked up with sudden inspiration. “So long, Stud!” he said pleasantly.