As White As This Page...

And cold as a banker's smile when he's foreclosing. Actually that's a warm sort of smile, as jolly as they get. So, as cold as the steel flagpole where the kids double dog dare you to put your tongue on. Colder.  This is rural Kansas, people, where that damn wind from Canada blows through with nothing but barbed wire between it and the polar north.

The horses are waiting at the corral fence for their pittance of grain, a mix of sweet feed and crimped oats, ears back while they eat, don't bother me, Mr. Food, you brought the stuff, now scram. I put half a bale of hay in the feeder by the loafing shed, half a bale in the one by the big cedar where they like to stand butt to the wind.  The long hose is, of course, frozen, so I lug rubber buckets out to the stock tank, just two this time. I'm keeping up with their minimal winter thirst, keeping the tank full so the stock tank heater can reach the surface, keep it from freezing.

To think, during fly season, the boys and I looked forward to this. Or at least fall and frigid nights, warmer days. With wind chill it's 10 below out there right now. The boys are Mighty Mouse, a lame cutting horse, and Harley, a big buckskin. They are well into their 20's.

snoBarn 000_2366.JPG

I buried Blue, Dutch, Lopez and Jack Ford, all good horses in their day, all gave it up here--they seemed to like it here. They were all so different in their ways. Blue had two speeds, standing and flat out--he'd been a roping horse and thought the touch of a spur was break-the-ribbon time, through the gate. Lopez rode like a Cadillac--he came up from Mexico when they retired the mounted patrol down there, sent them up by the hundreds for the packing houses. I saw him, a small bay who hated humans (he had seven brands) and bought him. Took me weeks to coax him out of the woods here. Dutch was a big gentle appaloosa, always ready to have some fun and ride; he began to stumble though and I found he was going blind, When he did, I laid 2x4's here and there so he would step on them and realize there were objects near them, so he wouldn't bump into them. Jack Ford was the first horse out here, given to me by a friend when I moved back from Los Angeles.

He babysat Harley when we separated Harley from his mama. That was trauma of a dramatic kind. Poor Harley. But he finally got over it. Jack and he were inseparable.  When Jack Ford passed away, it was mighty sad here.

I had horses many years before Kansas, up to a dozen at a time, but two stand out. Percy my friend who did everything he could to stay underneath me when I'd had a few. Senor, another good friend. Percy I had for 17 years. He was probably 15 when I bought him in Iowa. He was a story all by himself. I'll tell it sometime. Part of it is in an anthology called "Roll."

It's white out. And cold. If I win a lottery I'll get Mighty Mouse and Harley a warmup shack like they have in the mountains for skiers--only theirs will be bigger. Knowing them, they wouldn't use it.

The book "Roll" by the way looks like this--and that's one of my sculptures on the cover. CoCo Harris, the editor, named the book after the sculpture. She put together some pretty good memoirs in "Roll."  The story of how I acquired my good friend Percy is one of them.

Stay warm.