Daddy said I could name the new colt. How were we to know where it would lead?
It was tradition on our ranch to incorporate a name from the parentage into the foals. The stud’s name was Elvis. The dam was Blue Angel. I thought “Blue Suede Shoe” a brilliant choice.
Filling out the registration was a responsibility usually handled by my mother. The fact that the paperwork fell into the hands of Rowdy Turner could only be by God’s divine plan.
Rowdy was about fifteen when he showed up on our ranch, misshapen cowboy hat in one hand, backpack in the other, looking for work. After a long discussion between them, Daddy took him on. I was ten at the time and not privy to their conversation. By the time I was fourteen, working in the stables alongside him, Rowdy’s past was of no concern to me. He was just a boy who worked hard, treated my parents with the utmost respect and, for the most part, tolerated me.
Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoe was to be the colt’s registered name. We would call him Blue. When Blue was six weeks old, pictures were taken and the online registration form downloaded. My mother was working her way through a stack of paperwork, when she was called away to help my grandmother who had broken her arm. The registration form for Blue was in that stack.
It fell to me to take over where mother had left off. I would much rather have been in the barn than cooped up in mothers little office. When Rowdy wandered past the office one afternoon, I coerced him into helping me.
Out of courtesy to the boss’s daughter, Rowdy obliged. I rapidly explained the procedure to filling out a form. Blue’s application was auto-filled with all pertinent information except the chosen name, and date of birth.
“You fill this in while I find the pictures and other forms. Then I can be out in the barn where I’m really needed” I implored.
Rowdy stared at the paper in front of him. I should have paid attention to how he labored over two simple questions. I should have proofread his work. Instead, eager to be done, I crammed the forms into the envelope, practically ripping the paper out of Rowdy’s hands. Licking the manila envelope shut, I dismissed Rowdy with a jerk of my head. A quick jog to the mailbox and I had fulfilled my duty. I raced back to the stables and my colt.
Several weeks went by. Grandma was on the mend, Mother was home and summer was in full swing. Blue was growing at a rapid pace, taking on a glistening sheen that reflected his name. Rowdy and I spent a lot of time working with Blue together, and for the first time in all the while Rowdy had been with us, I felt like we had established a friendship.
Then, the paperwork came back. “Tess, I need to speak with you.” my mothers’ calm voice carried across the dusty yard, interrupting me from my chores. “Honey, can you explain this to me please?”
My eyes ran over the form, I sucked in my breath as I caught it. “Elvis’s Blew Swayed Shoo” it read. I looked at my mother in bewilderment. “Is this a joke?”
“Well Tess, I was just going to ask you the same thing.”
That day in the office came back to me: Rowdy’s hesitation as he labored over the form, his uneasiness.
“I think I can explain mom, but first I need to speak to Rowdy.”
I found him tossing fresh straw in Blue Angels stall.
“Rowdy why didn’t you tell me you can’t read?” He turned and saw the paper in my hand.
“Can so read.” He muttered. “Just don’t spell real good is all.”
“Rowdy, look at me.” His eyes were dark with shame. I caught his hand. “Don’t be embarrassed. It’s okay. We can fix it.”
“Always thought someday I‘d go back to school and finish my learning.”
“I could help you, Rowdy, if you’d like.”
I saw the hope in his face before he ducked his head. “I’d like that very much.”
I was cleaning my desk the other day when I found it: faded, but legible, still spelled wrong. Memories rose from the page. I gazed at my husband reading his morning paper. Rowdy lowered the paper as he turned the page and our eyes met. He winked.
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