Today Lucky and I walked toward the stables where Skip the red horse lives, past a great blue heron hunting gophers at Deep Seeded farm. It was the first time my binoculars were around my neck when spotting a heron — a common sight — in the field of long green grass, thistle, Queen Anne’s lace, plantain, clover, mustard, dandelion, that makes up an average pasture near the Arcata Bottoms.
Lucky and I hadn’t been over to see Nick in awhile, instead focusing on getting out to the ocean as often as possible. For almost five years Nick had been penned away from the road, half the length of a football field away from me, but we became friends anyway. He had two stablemates, a white and a big black. The white disappeared, and the black is still penned in the back pasture, but lately — the past several months — Nick has been at the gate near the road, and I can hear him nickering when he hears Lucky’s collar, before we can peer around the hedge and see him waiting for us at the recessed access gate.
Nick must be some sort of show horse because he travels. But he hasn’t traveled lately, although his mane and tail are still neatly clipped. His tail would brush the ground if it hadn’t been cropped straight off at his hocks. It’s a smart enough look, but he has a mohawk across his back and I think he should have a braided mane, and I think his tail should be done up beautifully too, and he should be regularly groomed and ridden and pampered.
I tell him this, and also that I have some red clover in my garden box, and it will be ready for him in about a month. He is patient with me as I get things off my chest, because he knows the real reason for my visit is to give him any grass, dandelions and clover I can rip up across the street outside of Skip’s pasture. Skip is way off in a pasture far from the road, but I wave to him and shout hello. Skip’s nearest pasture is overgrown with mustard. Skip’s stablemate, a thick-necked chestnut mare named Heidi, died a few years ago.
In autumn several years back, when I had been invited onto the property by the resident kid, I threw an apple toward Skip because I was in a hurry to be on my way, but I wanted him to have it. My aim was poor, and I hit Skip on the rear end, causing him to leap up in surprise and emit a loud fart. I couldn’t help laughing, and then I couldn’t stop laughing. Skip was sore at me for awhile but we became friends again after Heidi died.
Usually when we go to Nick’s there are dogs that go ballistic along the way, but this morning they ignore us. My visit with Nick is satisfying.
We became friends because he was a good listener when I sang to him from 50 yards away. He liked everything — songs Billie Holliday, Amy Winehouse, Nancy Walker made famous gained a new appreciation from Nick, who most likely had never heard these songs before and would never otherwise have been exposed to the subtle yet rock-hard diamond artistry of these women. He was a great audience. It’s a godsend that he’s not penned away from the road anymore because I can feed him and pet him and show him how much I appreciate what a good listener he is.