The Horseman by Gary Cadwallader

Life for horsemen like Bill Crump is always about grass. Fescue, alfalfa, orchard grass. Four by six foot round bales that weigh 1 500 pounds. Small square bales one man can lift and pitch into the bed of a white pick-up truck. Wrapped with wire, wrapped with string.

Bill has brood mares in the south pasture. They are all pregnant this year by a great pinto stallion and he dreams of brown and white babies running up and down his hills and rubbing against the wooden fence he has painted black. Running with small bits of dog chain on their ankles so that they lift their feet all pretty like.

If the grass is good, they'll fill out just right, though the tendency for all young ones is to have their ribs showing until they're two or three, like super models on a Paris runway.

Every spring Bill kneels in the dirt and he smells the dirt and he lets it drift from between his fingers and he looks at the sky, judging the clouds and he wonders how much rain, how much rain?

But this year the rains come strong and won't let up. Every morning the sun shines pink between the clouds and down upon his inundated pasture. While the grass can grow, it never gets cut or rots in the field. But the babies keep coming anyway and there are more mouths to feed and still the rain pours down every night like it was Brazil and the grass is taken over by towering weeds that turn into bushes, turn into trees.

And his wife says, "You could call the killers."

She means call the men who buy horses for meat or glue. She means sell some horses before you lose the whole herd and she's right of course. It's what a business man would do. But Bill shakes his head.

"I just can't," he says.

She puts her arm around his shoulders knowing that's what he would say. Expecting nothing less. "We'll make do," she says though she isn't at all sure about that. Not one bit.

Bill says, "The big mare is ready any day now. I seen her teats have dropped."

"So have mine," Bill's wife says and she giggles.

Bill rubs her belly. "Damn mares," he says and grins like he ain't got good sense.


@ 2009 - Cadwallader

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