The Stallion

Ted watched the amazing creature as it pranced and kicked, neighed and lunged around the corral. Never had he seen a more magnificent animal in his forty-five years. A good 17 hands tall, so black the coat reflected blue in the sunlight. The stallion was a powder-keg of energy.They’d been trying to calm him down for four weeks.

“Flap him,” said Johnston. “Bind and blind, then flap a burlap sack all around the SOB, that’ll calm him down.”

Ted gave his overly-insensitive, sometimes friend, a look of concern. He would no more bend to such tactics than he would allow someone to take a bullwhip to the animal.

“You’re bullshitting me, right?” He tried to grin, but knowing Johnston was dead serious, it was all Ted could do to not punch him off the railing for even suggesting. “I won’t do anything that might come close to breaking such a fine spirit. He hasn’t even tried to bite or kick you.”

Johnston snorted. “Well, Horse Whisperer,” snorting again, “you’ve not accomplished much with him the month we’ve had ’em.”

“He’ll come around,” Ted said, walking away so he wouldn’t change his mind and pull a roundhouse on the man. “He’ll come around.”

But, later that night, when Johnston thought Ted was gone for the day, the man called out three of the hands. Together, they roped and held the powerful black creature hard while Johnston tied an old rag around its muzzle and another around the horse’s eyes.

“You’ll be like one of them stupid sheep when I’m done with you,” he promised the animal, biting its ear for good measure. The horse tried to rear, tried to hit Johnston with the side of its head. Johnston was ready and moved out of harm’s way. Then they put the animal down and tied off its legs. The horse lay there helpless, sweating in fright, unhappy with not being loose and free, able to kick and bite, defend itself.

“Fetch me a potato sack,” Johnston called out. One of the hands went to do his bidding. That was when, unexpectedly, Ted showed up. Johnston was so involved in anticipation of what he was going to do to that unruly stallion that he never heard the man approach. His first clue should have been when the other two hands quietly drifted away and the potato sack never arrived.

“Goddamned it! I…” Johnston turned to yell for the hand, and met the full impact of Ted’s rounder as it collided with his jaw. There was no doubt the jaw was busted. Johnston went out like a kerosene lamp with no glass in a windstorm.

The hands never returned. Ted didn’t bother to check on the damage done to Johnston’s jaw. He took soft, careful steps, walking to where the stallion lay, ribs and chest puffing with fear. The beautiful creature, now all covered in dust, snorted as it sensed the man’s approach.

“Easy boy,” Ted whispered. “Easy. Nothing’s gonna happen to you.”

He reached and began stroking the stallion’s long graceful neck, around its ears, its velvety-soft nose. Eventually, the horse calmed somewhat and Ted was able to remove the blindfold, then the muzzle…all the while petting, stroking and whispering.

“Easy boy. You’re going to do just fine. Yeah, we’re gonna do just fine. Me and you…promise.” Ted pulled the ties loose from the horse’s legs and stood up and stepped back quickly but not too far. The horse stayed down for a second, then fought to its feet, but it didn’t turn away, attack or run from the man who had come to its rescue.

Behind them, Johnston was coming around. Ted heard him groan, then curse, but he remained flat on his stomach in the dust. The moans grew louder as his pain apparently kicked in.

The stallion looked in that direction, then walked around Ted, up to Johnston, lowered its beautiful head on its powerful, long neck, and bit the man on the butt. Johnston screamed like a woman. Ted could only laugh.

Ted watched in amazement as the horse then turned away from the prone man who was now crying, walked up to where its rescuer stood, then nuzzled his shoulder and snuffled at his ear. They walked to the stable together, no lead rope needed, leaving Johnston to fend for himself.

— Earl Chessher

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