The Spotted Mare
The first time I saw Spotty, there were half a dozen kids on her back, and she was walking slowly around in circles. My friend Chris was crying, actually not crying but oozing. He was allergic to horses. He loved to ride, but it turned his face into a puffy, snotty, streaming mess. One day Chris fell asleep on a saddle blanket. When he woke up, he was fine...which is odd. Everything that is on a horse is on a horse blanket… shrug.
The couple who owned Spotty divorced. I ended up with her. We were told that she was born a free mustang on the grasslands of Wyoming. In the 50's and 60's the Bureau of Land Management rounded up the wild horses, brought them to the Cheyenne Stockyards and sold them to Cal Can for dog food. There was an old mare and a black and white spotted filly that didn't fit onto the last truck. The owner of the Cheyenne Stockyards had a son. Baby Spotty became his 4H project. She spent her working life moving cows around the stockyard. The boy she had belonged to died in Viet Nam.
I couldn't get Spotty to do much. My arms weren't strong enough to pull her head up from her grazing. I kicked her to make her go, but it just made her ears twitch a little. She was perfectly safe. I could crawl under her, lay flat on her, lead her around, and feed her carrots, grass, apples. She never stepped on my foot, or bit me, or hurt me in any way. Sometime she would walk around in circles with me on her back.
I saw other kids riding their ponies with sticks, hitting them to make them go. My mom discouraged me from treating Spotty this way.
"She's a grandma in retirement, be nice to her." Mom said.
When Spotty was at my Grandma's with me one summer, I led her to the ditch to drink several times a day. I had nothing better to do. I remember throwing a crying, angry fit because she wouldn’t drink. Shrug, I was young.
Mom said “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink,” in a sing-songy way. I thought that it was an original statement for years, but even city-people know that one. Do you know how foolish that makes me feel!
My Grandma was horrible. I mean, it was good of her to let my Mom dump me off for the summer, but she was horrible. She accused me of trying to run her over with Spotty. There was a car between us the only time my Grandma was anywhere near Spotty and me. Head shake. She would accuse me of running away if I wandered into the field, but she sure didn’t want me in the house. It was a miserable summer. Then Spotty got sick and laid down.
“When a horse lies down flat on her side, she’s probably going to die.” Mom said. I was angry and went and cried and beat my fists against Spotty's side and yelled at her for deciding to die. She had no right. She recovered.
Once, we kept her on a piece of land in the woods, with Mom’s bosses mules. Mom was trimming her feet. They were striped, black and white hooves. The white part was soft and cut easily, but Mom strained to cut the hard black strips. It was like oak and cottonwood in the same tree.
Once, she lived with my Aunt’s brood mares on steep hilled rangeland. When we asked to have her moved to a rented lot near town, Pat sent a hired-hand out to catch her, put her in a trailer, and deliver her. The cowboy saw the herd up on the hillside. He stopped the truck and got his Las Vegas winning roping horse out of the trailer. He got his rope, swung it around a few times, and started riding up the hill after the old mare. Spotty lifted her head when she saw him coming and ran like hell -- straight up the hill. The cowboy spurred his athletic horse, but the fat pony was making three steps for every one his quarter horse would take. The cowboy swung his rope around and around his head. Spotty was nearly in the brush, and free, when the rope caught her around the neck.
I wish they hadn’t caught her, and then she would have died on the range, naturally with dignity. In the green pastures around Charlo, she foundered and laid down. Mom gave her huge white butanol pills with a plunger for days. Finally she called Stew Fraiser, the mink farmer, to come pick her up. I remember the bang of the gun.
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