A Ray of Sunshine

As I stood scowling at the cold gray skies for the sixth day, I felt like maybe just for once, West Texans had a legitimate gripe about the weather.  It had definitely been an odd April.  At first, it really looked like spring was here... and a very wet spring at that.  But, in the middle of the month,  a cold front blew in, trapping the kids and I in the house just as it had all the long, hard winter.   At first I was mad because my bedding plants froze, turned to mush.  I had tried to be smart and wait until the mesquites budded out before planting anything.  Ha.  Even those thorn-crowned old-timers were wrong this year.  Then I got worried about all of those tiny seeds beneath the dirt that would someday be my garden.  But, on that morning, all of my gripes about the yard and garden were gone.   I was resigned to the inevitable.  All I wanted was a small bit of sunshine, and to be able to re-pack the winter clothes into storage. 

Later in the afternoon, Nick came stomping in, blowing on his hands.  He drank the dregs out of the pot of coffee and played with the kids for a little while.  The dinner dishes were done, and it was almost nap time.  As he re-tied his wild rag and pulled on his jacket, the baby began to cry.  She knew the signs of Daddy leaving.  "Wanna go," she sobbed while big tears rolled down her fat cheeks and she reached and reached with her tiny arms for his big ones. 

"Oh, honey.  You can't go.  It is too cold.  Daddy has work to do.  You have to take a nap."  All of his soft words, spoken with a negative shake of his head only served to further break her heart.  I knew how she felt.  Anything to get out of the tiny, drafty house.  Anything to be outside.  But, no. 
She couldn't go.  It was too cold.   Daddy did have to work.  She did need to nap.  All perfectly good reasons.  As he leaned down to kiss me he said, "You might put on her cap and walk out there and let the horses out of the lot.  I won't be using one this evening, and at least she would get to 'go.' "

I tucked a couple of cold biscuits in my pocket and felt the wind lay for a few minutes right as we stepped out of the house.  In fact, I thought I felt a warm ray of sun, but I was too suspicious to look.  As we walked to the horse lot, Lily chanted "Too-doo, Too-doo," over and over.  That is the way her tiny tongue gets around the syllables of "Cooter," the name of the old kid horse in semi-retirement.  Her glee mounted when she actually spied the old dun horse, lying in the dirt, sunning himself in my small ray of sun that was actually peeping through the layer of clouds. 
We walked on by him and opened the gate to let the remuda into the horse pasture.  When we headed back toward the house, I expected Cooter to get up.  He was lying there, with his front legs tucked under him, letting all of the younger horses make fools of themselves as they rushed for the gate.  I saw his old eyes, patient and calm.  He knew that we wouldn't go back in the house without spending a few moments loving on him and rubbing behind his ears. Besides, I rarely go to the horse lot without some treat tucked into my pocket, and Cooter is especially fond of my biscuits.

As we got closer, I fully expected him to get up out of the dirt.  But he didn't.  He continued to lie right there.  Finally I stopped.  I know from a lifetime of being around horses and livestock that only a very submissive animal will let  you pet him lying down.  And, if a horse panics, he can really hurt a person, trying to get up and away.  I mean, I had a baby in my arms!  But, I could tell he had no intentions of leaving his nice, warm, sheltered napping spot.  He stretched out his nose for his customary petting, so I got up by his head where we could scratch his ears, but be out of the way of his hooves if he lunged to get up.

Lily had never seen a horse from this angle.  He didn't look half so intimidating.  She wiggled to be let down.  At first I told her, "No way, little one.  Cooter might try to get up."  He gave me a baleful glance as if to say, "Not." 

So finally, there in our little ray of sunshine, the only one scheduled for that cold, dreary day, watching the scarred up old hooves for any hint of movement, ready to snatch my daughter to safety,   I set my almost two-year-old down to be eye to eye with her "Too-doo." 

She hugged.  He smelled.  She held out a crumbly biscuit.  He munched carefully, gently lifting it away from little fingers.  She poked his eye.  He bumped her with his nose.  She scolded, "No no, Too-doo."  He blinked.  She rubbed.  He allowed it all.  The two of them carried on a conversation right there in that muddy horse lot. 

Magic moments in life almost always involve nature, animals, and/or a child.   On that day, a ray of sunshine, a small girl who wanted to "go", and a lazy old, used-up ranch horse constituted mine. 

by Amy Auker

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