Mother used to say I cared more for my animals – over the course of my lifetime a parade of dogs, cats, and horses – than people. That was (and likely still is) true, but the why of it isn’t the point. They connect me to important times and places. Places that matter. Places that have made me who I am.
With every death, I have one less physical remaining connection to places I cherish, places my heart once rested: the ranch in Ukiah, the house we built in Lake Don Pedro, and now, our little farmhouse in Idaho. When they go, ties that bind are loosened and fall away. Norman connects me to all of them. He’s still here. For now.
He’s my last remaining tie to the first place I loved. To the ranch. He assumed that role when his mother died a few years ago. Honey was the granddaughter of a mare my parents bought at a Quarter Horse sale in Nevada in the 60s. They dabbled in breeding registered appendix Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse crosses.
Kabaka (King in Swahili), a beautiful bay stallion they bought out of a UC Davis herd, was bred to Correo por Avion (Airmail, or Marca, as we called her). Tammy (Tamarca Tee) was their foal, a nice palomino that my dad bred to a neighbor’s equally nice palomino stud. Honey (her registered name escapes me) was their foal. When dad found a stud that was squatty and built like a bulldog but sired tall leggy racing Quarter-type foals, he bred Honey to him. Norman took after his daddy.
Had they ever broken him, Norman could easily have roped and dragged massive bulls, but by the time he was born my dad no longer rode. So for his entire life he’s been a good-looking dun pasture ornament – a pretty good gig for a horse.
When my parents sold the ranch, they gave Norman to me. for years I’ve fed, shod, and vetted him out of reverence for the tie that he is, binding me to our shared past. It’s been worth every dollar.
Norman went from the ranch to Lake Don Pedro to Tuolumne and now lives with us in Idaho, how much longer, I don’t know. As his back gets more swayed, I see sand running through an hour glass.
At twilight now, my favorite time when horses are still, I close my eyes and tangle my fingers in his long Stevie-Nicks mane like I did on the ranch when we were younger. I remember the coolness. I hear the wind chimes dad hung in the sycamores, the radio he always left on in the barn, and the sheep baaaing for their lambs. I am transported back.
I shall miss Norman, and all those places, when he goes.