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Afternoon Ride

  
It rained most of yesterday evening into Sunday. When the sun finally came out in the afternoon, the air was cool and fresh like the start of spring. We listed the mule for sale – he tried to run down the 6 week old colt, and when it comes to stud fees and babies, the baby usually wins. At 16 hands tall, the mule looks like he is on the awkward side of a growth spurt: long legs, a long face, a narrow back and those ears that go for miles. He’s a goofy thing, but my Uncle loved him. A woman came to look at him and put a deposit down, I hope she will pick him up next week. I took Rocky back up the hill to his pasture and put the halter on Tug, leading him back down the driveway to the barn – after a partial sale, I felt like a ride would be a good reward.

The horses have completely slicked off their winter coats, standing in the fields in sleek shades of black, brown and copper. I brush Tug’s dappled brown neck and sides until he gleamed. For being a rough tough no-nonsense cow horse, he loves being brushed. His lip goes slack and his eyes and ears droop, he usually kicks one foot out to rest, and lets out this big sigh when I scratch his cheek. Such a serious animal. We took off down the road at an easy walk, both our heads up to look around and take in the sights. Our neighbors across the street have horses, and everyone greeted each other until the whole place sounded like a reunion.

We walk down the road until the trees open on either side, revealing a dark green lawn and pond on one side, and a rolling hay field on the other. John Case owns the hay field, He’s the man who bought my Grandfather’s 100 acre farm before I was born and knows the area well. His 50 acres slopes down from the side of the mountain, and the grass looks like a big blanket thrown over stretching roots. A small creek runs down through the middle, and you can’t see any part of the fence line from the road. A big, red hay barn sits near the road across from the pond. The birdhouses my Uncle built for Mr. Case rest on the fence posts leading to it. The grass is so tall, it bends over in the wind and shimmers in the sun. He hasn’t cut it yet so the barn stands empty. As Tug and I walk by the wind rushes through the hall, lifting his black mane and tail.

Leaving the road, I steer Tug towards the grass, it swishes around us, leaving a faint trail where we came and went. It reaches well past his knees, brushing under my boots – It feels like we are swimming, or floating above the ground. Crossing the creek, we head up the side of the mountain. I look back and see the red barn and imagine how it would feel if the land belonged to me and Tug, instead of Mr. Case. Would I keep it for hay, or put a herd of cattle there? I could use the barn for Tug and section off a place for me to sleep. I could make trails up the ridge lin, and clear the underbrush for paths to wander. The deer come out in the evenings, I am sure I could watch them from the old loft. My Aunt calls this ‘playing pretend’ and it seems to be my latest hobby. At the end of the day, walking back to our old tobacco barn, I don’t think Tug minds it isn’t painted or marked by matching bird houses. Maybe he prefers our dusty, hay strewn hall over pavement or gravel. It’s enough that we get to ride in the afternoons. It’s enough that we can borrow the land for pretend, dreaming up a world where fence lines disappear into the sunset.

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