Animals: They were here first
“How do you like living out there on the Hunter’s Star Route?” she asked.
“It’s nice and quiet. Not too many people come out that way. Mostly logging trucks,” I replied.
“You’ve got a nice piece of land with good pasture.”
“Yeah. I like the way it’s in front of the property. Like a buffer from the road. Don’t have to worry about the kids. There’s plenty of room for them to play.”
“Listen. I’ve got a horse that needs a good pasture for the next six months or so. I’m going to be in Alaska. Could you take care of him for me?”
“I don’t know anything about horses!”
“What! You look like the kind of girl who rides horses.”
“I’ve never ridden, but, my husband is an excellent horseman. Jack’s standing over there, the guy in the green shirt.”
Ona marched right over to introduce herself to Jack. I rounded up the kids and told him we’d be waiting in the car.
The very next day Ona drove up our long driveway towing a horse trailer. Jack was so excited as were the kids. I hung back. I figured I’d have time the next day when the kids were at school and Jack at work where I could get to know Indian on a one-to-one basis.
We had moved to Camus Valley not less than a month before. I was adjusting to our new life in the wilderness. It was the late ‘70s during the back-to-the-land movement. I was six months pregnant with our fourth child. We had left the urban chaos of Berkeley, California for a place of peace and quiet.
The property was undeveloped. No outside water source for Indian nor a hose I could drag even halfway out to the pasture. The next morning, I filled up a water bucket in the kitchen sink, then ambled out. I approached Indian quietly. Told him I had some water. He looked up, walked slowly toward me. I put the bucket down in front of him.
I had no idea how fast a horse could suck up five gallons of water! Indian looked at me, “Hey, lady, I’m a horse. You gotta do better than this!” Then he stepped closer and rubbed his nose across my pregnant belly to say thank you. I brought him a few more buckets of water. He rubbed his nose across my belly again. I told him I’d be back later.
Even though Jack built a water trough for Indian and got a hose to boot, I still liked bringing him a bucket of fresh water. It was about me and Indian. Every day. Out in the pasture. Him sucking up buckets of water. And me getting plenty of exercise. In the afternoons when Indian would get bored, I’d see him out my kitchen window, start running from the far side of the pasture and leap over the fence, heading for the farm on the other side of the valley. The one with the huge field of alfalfa. There was no way I could go get him. That was for Jack to do when he got home from work. It was Indian’s scheme, anyway, to get Jack to take him for a ride in the hills. I knew that the farmer wasn’t going to put up with Indian’s impositions indefinitely. One afternoon I sat down at my kitchen table to have a cup of tea before the children came home from school, and sure enough, saw Indian start to run for the fence. I hopped up, ran out on the porch and yelled, “Indian!” He came to a halt like you’d see in a cartoon with his front legs pushed forward. Then he turned around and began to walk steadily toward the house. I stepped back inside to get him an apple out of the fridge, then met him at the fence. We had a talk. He never ran off again.
Indian taught me a lot about enjoying the better things in life, like the pleasure of sharing a long cool drink of water, and a pregnant belly to rub up against in thankfulness. The baby must have felt those horsey massages, because to this day, Allison is a great horsewoman, one that would have made Indian proud.