Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Brown (11/26/09)
TITLE: Befriending A Brown Mountain
By Bill Schwan
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Karen turned toward the voice and wasn’t surprised to see Taylor, the Camp High Point groundskeeper, with his weed whip running at a low idle. When she confirmed her identity with a nod, he turned off the two-cycle engine and asked if he could have a moment of her time.
“What’s up, Taylor?”
“You’re in charge of cabin seven if I recall correctly, so you would be the person to inform. I was getting ready to change a mercury vapor light by the stable and overheard a discussion between a few of your girls. To their credit, two of the girls were doing their best to calm the fears of the third who was voicing some concern over tomorrow’s horseback ride up the mountain and back. I only mention this because of how frightened the girl seemed. It didn’t look like concern over unfamiliarity with horses but seemed more like a genuine fear of the animals. Forewarned being forearmed…”
“I know who you’re talking about. Her name is Madeline and you’re right, she’s near petrified of the notion of riding a horse. I was thinking of introducing her to Clover after dinner tonight to try and break the ice.”
“A good choice,” Taylor said with a nod, knowing that Clover, though one of the younger horses at the camp, was also one of the gentlest. “May I suggest a carrot or two?”
“Always a good idea. Thanks.”
Four hours later, Karen took a seat next to Madeline at the Cabin Seven table. After the rest of the campers were seated and Karen had said a blessing over the meal, she began steering conversation in the direction of tomorrow’s ride up the mountain.
“Madeline, could you come with me?” she asked as they carried their trays back to the kitchen after the meal. She led them through the kitchen, procured two carrots from one of the cooks, and turned in the direction of the stables as they exited the rear of the building.
“Where are we going?”
“I’d like you to meet someone before tomorrow,” Karen said and handed her a carrot.
“Meet who?” Madeline asked with suspicion.
“His name’s Clover,” she said as she opened a gate. As she led Madeline between two rows of stalls she began making a clucking sound with her tongue. A few seconds later Clover’s head eased over the top of the gate to his stall. Madeline gasped and drew herself behind Karen.
“No need to be nervous. He’s safe where he is and doesn’t have any desire to come out.”
“B..but he’s so big. He’s like a big, brown mountain.”
“And he’s one of the small ones. He’s around a thousand pounds, but oh so gentle,” Karen said, reached out and rubbed the animal’s neck. “Do you know what I like about these animals?”
“What?” Madeline asked in a tone that expressed doubt over how any one thousand pound animal could ever be described as gentle.
“They are strong but do not abuse that strength,” she said and offered a carrot. “And they welcome our approach. As powerful as horses can be, they seem to enjoy our company.”
As Clover made quick work of the snack, Karen instructed Madeline on how to offer her carrot.
“Just hold it out and as soon as he takes it let go and point your fingers straight out,” Karen said and placed reassuring hands on Madeline’s shoulders.
Uncertain as could be, Madeline presented her carrot. As soon as Clover took possession she moved her hand as instructed. Once the carrot was gone from view Clover moved his head to nudge Madeline’s hand three times.
“He did that on purpose?” she wondered.
“Yes. He was saying ‘thank you’.”
Madeline’s entire outlook changed before Karen’s eyes. Fear was replaced by a touch of wonder and tension with a smile. She reached out and with a nod from Karen rubbed the bridge of Clover’s nose.
Though Karen knew they were a long way from doing any show jumping together, she saw the potential for a good friendship at the very least. As she watched Madeline nervously but not fearfully stroking Clover’s neck with a brush, she marveled at what a little gratitude could accomplish.
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