A wolf tree stands alone in field. This was the first thing you taught me – how to spot the species that stands out in the forest, to grow without shield from the elements, to be the first person to people a field.
“Kiddo,” you said, “The important thing to remember is that a tree can grow from the bald face of a mountain. It just takes a strong seed to find roots in the land.”
Of the things I count on in life, the first is your calling me Kiddo.
This is the first thing I mean to tell you, that sometimes, even now, when I wake up in my apartment in the city, I remind myself to muck out the stalls.
I have found this the best cure for a hangover.
When my old boyfriends call me, they say this is the part of me that they took with them – the ability to pick up their own shit.
I tell them they must get that from my father.
How you’d say, “Don’t forget to muck out the manure.”
And then there is the way you rode horses. How’d you’d bought us a green one, a flighty little gelding.
When you brought him home, you unloaded him in front of the house. He shied at the telephone poles lining the edge of the street.
“Don’t ever let an animal smell his own fear,” you said.
The next was a seventeen hand Morgan, a real devil. Pawed so hard in the dirt that he dug himself into a hole in his own stall.
Each morning, when you went to feed them, Rebel looked several hands shorter, until he appeared almost the height of a pony when you first approached his door.
That, and the way you rode him, tamed all his seventeen hands.
To this day, I say the man who galloped that seventeen hand dynamo around the cornfield is a picture of my father. Prone over his withers, riding in your bike helmet, the one that saved you that time he slipped in a muddy patch on the side of the cornfield and you almost got a stalk through the eye when he went down.
As I remember it, each night of my childhood you read me a passage of Black Beauty. You said the worst thing about making a horse pull a carriage is that they cut off the horse’s tail so that it can not lash out at the driver.
The definition of adaptation, you said, is that each animal is gifted with its own form of protection.
Now, in the summer, when I walk down 59th street, I shake my fist at the cabbies whose horses are trying to swat at the flies with the stumps of their tails.
*End note – Happy 59th Birthday, you old schemer. Je t’aime.