A Story by John Cox – Cascade Mountains 2020
“Didn’t have nothin’ ta do, cept sit I suppose. . . Turned on some of that Reality TV. . . I watched what ya’ll said, some kinda popular show people watched, Ol’ Bob said while shaking his head, pointing his crooked finger at the TV.
I looked at Ol’ Bob, and knew right off he would never turn on the television, as he thought it was evil; actually, in realty, he spent his life at Line-Shacks in the mountains, and on the range tending to cattle and horses. He must had been really bored sitting there, to turn on the TV at all. His old warn-out hands, thick, arthritis set in, and his fingers crooked like a creek in the woods.
He was One of those Forgotten Heroes, that we only hear about passively then go about our own business, from a war a long time back, that everyone has pretty much forgotten about, and have forgotten them, people like Ol’ Bob, in total. Obvious his PTSD alive and well, isolated him, actually, buffered him from the world.
“Pawnbrokers! Fer Crin’ out loud! Bottom of the barrel Pawnbrokers! Where I grew up, Pawnbrokers were thought to be scum, bad people, bottom-feeders. Ya only yaked at a Pawnbroker in the lowest part of yer life, and down to yer last dollar bill — and those people knew it, still stole most of it! What’s wrong with people today? How is a cotton-picken’ person like that even liked, at all?” — Ol’ Bob grumbled, Wrangler and Ranch Foreman 60+ years, now 98 years young . . .
So I sat with Ol’ Bob, a Korean War Veteran, and was enlightened, in total, of his perception of television, which he simply never watched — His life was totally in the mountains and on the range. He was one of those honest, and descent Good Ol’ Boys, that knew his homelands like the back of his hand. He had to. His life and the life of the cattle and horses, he was responsible for, depended on it. And that is what he did, his entire life.
He would, every early fall, take the cattle in, and watched them get loaded onto the cattle trucks — he seen the trucks from the 1950’s up to the 2010’s, at least, and how he kept track of time.
He sat on his horse, watched, until the last cow loaded, as if to say goodbye, to them all. He watched the dust from the trucks pulling away, until they drove onto pavement, then banged their gears, down the road, and disappeared around Collins Curve.
He would get paid. He would always go to the Post Office, stuff an envelope with most of his pay, address the envelope, then send it. Nobody knew Ol’ Bob that well to really know where he was sending his money to. He done that for 60+ years.
Ol’ Bob would then go to the store down the block, get his groceries for the month, load’em up on two of his mules, and lead them out. He disappeared for the winter, only to show up in early Spring at the Ranch, gather cattle, and take them to the mountain range.
For sure, Ol’ Bob knew no other life. I suppose when things changed in that business, was when he realized his knowledge, or his way of doing things were simply no longer needed.
Years later, no one knows what he did throughout that time, as he never spoke about it. . . He wound up at the old Veteran’s Home. He could look out his window, in his room, and see the Mountain Range he spent his entire life, one could say easily, upon it.
When asked about any of it, he would merely bow his head, and start talking about the horses he had, lived with, and rode daily. For gosh sake, he would even speak highly of the character and significance of his mules.
We lose a lot, not knowing or sitting people like Ol’ Bob down, and getting their stories.
The quality of people like him, we will never know, because we ignore him for people that, like the above, are unworthy of notice, as the real people, those people uniquely driven to live their own life the way they see fit, remain ironically, unacceptable in our society — and their values?
Ol’ Bob told me once, “. . . John, I go about my business, harm no one and never would, and do what I do, no matter if others like it, or even paying attention to me at’all. As a matter of fact, my rather’s would be, just leave me alone.”
I made sure his gravestone had that, Exactly, same words on it.
A Story by John Cox – Cascade Mountains 2020
I am sure when this story began. Chuck and I flew over some of the Forestry Land looking for small bands of horses. This time of year, fall, it was somewhat cold-out in the mornings, but by noon and the sun up, it got a little warm, although, still coat weather. The fall colors amazing.
I looked out the side window, shut the telemetry equipment down, and ready to head back home. That was when I caught first site, of the largest and most beautiful, totally black, a Thoroughbred Stallion. I had never seen such a sight before.
He stood straight, quite obvious, Nobility his birthright. He overlooked his Kingdom, from that hilltop, while he scanned the countryside. Proud, as his mares not far to his front and in knee-high pasture. The grass higher than the two black yearlings, stood at each mares’ side.
“Chuck, swing over there for a minute. Over near that Stallion.”
We swayed a little, in the Piper cub, caught the cross current, and went low. Chuck swung the plane around so I could get a couple of photos, in particular, the Stallion. Ironically, we connected eye-to-eye. A moment in infamy, in my life, anyway.
While posing, he thrust his chest out, lifted his leg and curled it upward, majestically; then, stomped the ground with it. I held the camera trigger down, and hoped to capture the entire event, the magnificence of it all.
The value of such a scene, tremendous. My heart skipped, as I mumbled “Wow” unconsciously. His country. His pasture. His woods. His sky. We were just visitors in his realm, his Kingdom. The power of his presence, Chuck and I both felt, while doing the flyover.
We were trivial and we knew it, in that Stallion’s eyes, but there was something. There was something that happened in that milli-second of time . . . as if my very life changed, within those following seconds . . .
A couple of summers later, I went to an Auction Yard Sale. I was in the back of the lot. I seen one of the stable boys.
“Why are these horses back here, separate from those in front going to sale?” I asked.
“. . . These are going to slaughter. Nobody wants them. Ol’ feral horses that probably can’t be trained, is all.”
“Well, I . . .”
I was caught off-guard. I stepped quick, toward a stable. A horse stood against the back wall. Its head bowed down, its mane dirty, knotted, and tethered from dirt, lack of attention.
I took a breath, deep, as its stench overwhelmed me. I breathed out while flipping the light switch-on in the stable, covering my nose with my hand.
There he was. My God, the Nobility of that horse. Gone. I recognized him immediately. He raised his head, slight, but enough to raise his eyes, and connect to mine. Those eyes, they connected with me before. He knew and I knew, right then. Right there.
My heart dropped, broken. He recognized me, just as I recognized him from a distance. I could see the Nobility in his eyes, still, but he was broken. A captured Wild Horse.
Those who captured him tore-down his spirit, as they were just too damned ignorant to recognize what kind of horse he was – to them he was feral – although, to those who seen him, and knew horses, immediately, he was Nobility.
His weight was down, and he looked very muddy, clumps in his mane. He smelled bad.
I hollered at the Stable Boy, “Boy. Go get me the owner here. I want to buy this horse.”
“Those are feral horses, mister. They don’t . . .”
“Just get the fuckin’ owner over here. Now!” I said, with disgust toward these people in the auction yard.
I mostly spoke to myself, then, mumbling, while helping this horse up, and assist him in gathering himself to walk. “How could these despicable people do such a thing. Unconscionable, at best, and the lowest of the low scumbags, to be sure.”
I bought the horse a little over what the slaughter-price would have been, $550.00. I have no idea why I said it, but when I placed the halter on him, he took it immediately, as I mumbled, “. . . such a Noble Knight.”
I think he not only knew he was safe now, but he wanted out of there. His eyes brightened, and despite his overall dilapidated and dirty appearance, he rose, stepped out like the Champion he indeed was, and his Nobility took hold.
I looked into his eyes, and told him, “From here out, you are Nobel Knight, and a more distinguished name I cannot think of, for you. I am so proud of you. . .”
He high-stepped, chest out – legs high, as we walked across the auction yard. He stepped into the trailer as if a King stepping into his carriage. Proud once again, Distinguished and Handsome.
The Most Cherished Moment of My Life – and three very special friends
A decade and a tough winter later, and into Spring — Henry was a good friend of mine. 50 Years’ worth of friendship. We were in Vietnam, same squad. Actually, he saved my life, not once, not twice, but three solid times. I got word he was near death, and to come and see him, for perhaps the last time, at least, during his life.
It took me very little time to decide what I had to do. I had not much to offer, as a goodbye, other than a life-long friendship and many stories and things we had done together or with all of our friends, as well. Sad stories, happy stories, crazy stories, and all the amazing things in between.
I pulled the trailer up, behind the hospital. The nurse waited for me at the back door, as I approached.
“I will go get Henry now. Are you ready?”
I nodded, then said, “Absolutely. We’re all ready.”
Henry was being wheeled down the hall to the back door. At the same time, I turned and went over to the horse trailer, and opened the door.
“Ump, bring Noble Knight out.”
Just as Henry was being wheeled out of the back doorway to the hospital, Ump, my Border Collie – McNab, had a lead rope in his mouth, he was bringing Noble Knight out of the trailer and over to Henry. I had never seen Henry with such a big, and robust smile, in my life. The nurses gasped, one covered her mouth, the other intears. I turned, and then seen what they seen, and oh, what a sight.
Being led, by a black lead rope, was Noble Knight. He glowed in the sunlight, 17-2 hands, the blackest of black hide, the long mane rich and soft, soft tail, and the black saddle outlined in silver conch and brass with brass stirrups.
I signaled to the nurses to pull Henry up to the side of Noble Knight. Henry was all smiles, and energized. I helped him off the wheel chair, and lifted him into the saddle. I stepped to the front of Noble Knight, looked directly into his eyes, and asked, “Please, my friend, take care of this man, as he saved me many times, my life, and eventually to save you.”
Noble Knight understood, immediately. I handed Henry the reins, and told him, “. . . the horse will take care of you. Trust him, he will do what is right. Just trust him to do so.”
Noble Knight spun around, slow and assured, his cargo in the saddle safe. I have seen horses with children, but what I seen before me was one of the gentlest, as well as purposely smooth rides given to a human being, as I have not seen before. Noble Knight, with his majestic stature, placed Henry into the limelight of that mysterious-light and glow of Nature’s Magic, combined with the presence of royalty, and stature.
My dog Ump and I simply looked on for what must have been an hours’ worth of riding. The horse flipping its mane into the air, as if in flight. Henry and the broadest smile I have ever seen on a human, so smooth in the saddle, Angelic in many ways, a Crusader and His horse, ready for heaven.
The Ultimate Moment
Years later — I walked up to Nobel Knight’s corral fence. He was laying in his corner, but something was wrong. I slipped through the fence and trotted over to him.
He was wheezing but attentive, when I got there. I stood near him. He held his head upward, nickered, then laid his head back down. With a burst of energy, he tried to rise, tried to get up. It did not matter, as his energy was gone. He laid back down.
His eye’s never left sight of me. He blinked. I thought I, ironically, had seen a thank-you, an emotion, in those eye’s, and his facial expression. . . The side of his mouth seemingly curled upward, and I swear to God, it was with a smile.
I reached up, and lightly pulled his eyelids over his eyes. I got up, and walked out of the corral. I knew he lived a good life. His royalty and his Noble spirit I will never forget. He has a place, for life, in my heart, in my mind.
When I realized he was almost sent to slaughter, rounded up by a corrupt government, placed into an Auction Yard, and headed to slaughter – But then I realized, Mother Nature does not make mistakes, and Creator had a plan.
This horse was part of Creator’s plan for Ump and I to experience, as well as all others that will experience the same things. Their story will be different, but Mother Nature and Creator are never wrong.
This story is only one of many more, that I am positive either has taken place, or will take place in the future. Adopt a Wild Horse, and never look back . . .