Dan’s New Friend
Even though we’d become Dan’s new herd, he seemed lonely when he was by himself in the pasture. If someone jogged or walked along the roadside, it wasn’t unusual for Dan to meander over to the fence and follow along. Some times the person came over to Dan, petted his nose or pulled some tall grass to feed him before continuing on their way.
But Dan was definitely hungry for more than just grass; he was hungry for companionship. So we started talking about buying a horse again. Even though we found Dan in the paper, this time when I checked the ads, nothing really piqued my attention. Then we remembered Shawnee.
Shawnee was a bay gelding that Chuck had owned when we had been first married twelve years ago. About five years later, Chuck had sold him because we lived in Phoenix, Arizona and Shawnee was boarded in Colorado at his sister and brother-in-law’s ranch. Riding him only once or twice a year wasn’t Chuck’s idea of owning a horse. So he sold him to his nephew, Keith. Well, now we lived in Colorado and the word was that Keith was looking for a buyer for Shawnee.
Dan was young and rambunctious. We thought Shawnee might be just what he needed: companion, mentor, steadying factor. So the deal was made. We just needed a couple of weeks to make a few adjustments to accommodate a second horse.
Unfortunately, due to Chuck’s busy work schedule, it took longer than we expected. Then Chuck was critically injured in a wreck, the accident hospitalizing him for nearly six weeks. So he missed the day that Shawnee was moved to our property. And so did I.
The horses, however, managed without us – Shawnee and Dan seemed to get along just fine. Wherever you saw one, you also saw the other. Actually, in those first days, Dan was the one who stuck close by his new buddy. As a matter of fact, when I was not at the hospital with Chuck and was at home for a quick change of clothes, I couldn’t even entice Dan to come to me, not even with the bribe of a carrot. Of course, those moments at home were far and few between. Was Dan forgetting me? I couldn’t help but feel just a wee bit left out. I also knew though that Dan would come around. And sure enough…that’s exactly what happened. But not until after Chuck was released from the hospital.
By then, however, the two horses had been moved by my bother-in-law to an adjoining back field where there was more grass. But the location was inconvenient. And in order to get the horses to come back to where I had better access to them, I’d have to do a lot of coaxing and hollering. They, in turn, also had to walk through a low water filled area among some trees and they didn’t like that. It was frustrating; I couldn’t stay away from the house for very long in case Chuck needed help with something.
An unexpected solution soon presented itself though. The cow and her calf needed to be moved to the north pasture where their round bale feeder had already been placed. Even though there was still plenty of grass where the horses now were, I decided to put them in the south pasture where Chuck could see them. This seemed important to him. And watching them became an integral part of his daily routine and recovery…something positive for him to focus on.
The horses, of course, loved the new pasture. Just as it was Shawnee’s first time there, it was also Dan’s first experience in this area where there was much more room to run freely. The day I opened the gates and let them through and watched them both gallop across the field, free as the wind, I knew I’d done the right thing.
They settled in fast. A few days later when I stepped over to the pasture fence and called to Dan, he lifted his head from the grass where he’d been grazing and headed my way. Shawnee followed suite. And when they arrived at the fence, they both got some pellets. Dan had no qualms when I reached over to pet him; Shawnee, however, didn’t know me as well. My fingertips barely grazed his nose before he moved away from me.
It was several months later before Chuck was able to share in this experience. In the mean time, he continued to watch the horses from the dining room window where he had a perfect view of them.
Then the day came when Chuck was strong enough and the snow covered ground safe enough that he could walk out to the fence himself, call to Dan, call to Shawnee. And they both came to him…old friend and new friend. It was indeed a special reunion – a true homecoming. It was obvious, too, that Dan wasn’t lonely any more.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.