Abner pulled his head off the soft warm pillow. The air was cold as consciousness poured back into his memory. October… Sunday… church today…chickens…milk the cow…bring in some wood…Ol’ Henry!
The cold didn’t matter anymore! Abner recalled staring down the dusty dirt road the day before when he caught his first glimpse of big Ol’ Henry struttin’ alongside his father. He couldn’t even see the short piece of dingy rope loosely tossed round Ol’ Henry’s neck. It was as if Henry was just out for a stroll and his father just happened to be taggin’ along.
His feet were on the floor before he even finished the thought not noticing how cold the pine wood floors are in Montana this time of year. Being Sunday, he knew he was the first one up ‘cept for the sun peeking over the trees.
His father promised him he could ride Ol’ Henry after church today, long as he got all his chores done before.
It didn’t take a minute for Abner to pull on his trousers and the woolen shirt his momma had made him. A pair of warm socks and a jump in his boots and he was out the front door and scurrying across the scruffy brown grass to the barn.
Henry was massive. A huge brown beast! Abner had almost forgotten how monstrous Ol’ Henry was. His daddy let him name him. Ol’ Henry just sounded like a big name to him. No particular reason why.
“Good mornin’ Henry.”
To a lad of seven or eight years a new horse or a new cow in the remoteness of a Montana farm is, after all, like finding a new friend.
Ol’ Henry’s ears were standing straight up as if he could understand every word a little boy might say.
“You are a handsome horse,” Abner reassured Ol’ Henry as he surveyed his bulging shoulders that shimmered in the early morning sun creeping through the open barn door. Ol’ Henry barely flinched as Abner reached up slowly to brush the short soft hair at the end of Ol’ Henry’s long brown face.
“We’re gonna’ be good friends, you and me. Ain’t we Henry?” Abner looked into Ol’ Henry’s big black eyes almost as if he was expecting some kind of answer.
Ol’ Henry let out a snort and bobbed his head, startling Abner for a few seconds until he realized that Ol’ Henry was just agreeing with him.
Like any little boy, Abner just wanted to climb up on Ol’ Henry and go racing off across the east meadow in search of the next adventure that lies beyond the distant tree line he could envision from his memory. It wasn’t long before he had drifted into his own story of cougars and bears, Indians, and bad men who seemed to want to confront him for no particular reason at all. Just because he was there. But, Ol’ Henry was a fast and powerful horse that could outrun, outfight, and out intimidate any other horse alive and Abner drew his strength from his powerful steed.
“Abner! Where are you?”
“Uh-oh. Mamma’s callin’.” Abner suddenly jerked back into the chilly October morning. Chickens… milk…wood… Sunday mornin’!
“I gotta hurry now, Henry, or you and me’s is just gonna’ be lookin’ at each other all day.”
“Abner!” This time the call was not quite as shrieking but certainly more stern.
“Be there in a minute, ma!” Abner whooped out with a little boy’s bellow that startled even Ol’ Henry.
Funny how a few chores can take just a few minutes some days and all mornin’ others.
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