REPAIRING FENCES AND FRIENDSHIPS
by Tona Rebstock
(Poplar Bluff, MO USA)
On a hot, sticky summer day in the late 1950's, a twelve year old boy rushes to change his clothes after finishing practice at baseball camp. He can't wait to get to the horses. He has rehearsed his speech to his Dad a hundred times, hoping Dad will go for it. Gary goes over each approach in his mind and mumbles, "They've just got to say yes!" He is quite proud that he found a job on his own and that he saved all of his money, hoping his Dad would allow him to have a horse.
Gary reasons this should be enough to prove he's capable of taking care of a horse, and as a bonus, he says, "I can pay for the horse out of my own money." How could his Dad say no to a win-win situation? Gary finishes lacing his dirty tennis shoes and runs all the way to the stables.
He waves to everyone and shouts, "Hello." and eagerly begins cleaning out the stalls. After the dirty stalls are done, Gary rubs the horses down as they are brought back to the stables. This is his favorite part of the job. The animals are tall and sleek, and they feel so strong under their shiny coats. The horses appreciate his gentleness and one of them playfully nudges him. As he wraps up his chores, he bids each horse goodbye and approaches his boss, Mr. Bryant. Gary asks, "Can I have my last paycheck, sir?" Mr. Bryant flips through the checks in his front shirt pocket and hands him his check. He shakes his small hand and says, "Good work. Will you be back next summer?" Mr. Bryant chuckles when Gary nods and races off to meet his parents.
He swiftly assembles his clothes and crams them in the worn, brown suitcase. Gary lugs the luggage down the front steps. He perches atop the case and patiently waits for his parents arrival. He sees the black sedan turning the corner and jumps up waving chaotically.
Gary gathers his courage and hollers, "Over here." He runs up to the car and blurts out, "I got a job working with horses, saved all my money. Can I have a horse?" He quickly adds, "I can pay for all of it."
His Dad laughs and replies, "Hold on. Son, give me a hug and you can tell us about this job of yours on the ride home."
Gary hugs them both fiercely and pleads, "I found a job cleaning the stables and rubbing the horses down for Mr. Bryant. I saved all of the money. Can I please have a horse?"
His Dad answers, "We'll think about it. Let's get your things and head home." The ride home seemed shorter than usual because Gary was busy catching his parents up on all of his summer activities at camp, his new job, and his new found love of horses. His parents let him choose between baseball camp next year or a horse. Gary excitedly shouted, "A HORSE! A HORSE!" He briefly thought about all of the friends he would miss from camp but he couldn't wait to have his own horse. So Dolly was purchased.
She is a three year old Tennessee walking horse and has a beautiful white blaze down her nose. After Dolly was bought, Gary gallantly insists, "Dad you ride her first." So his Dad rides her from the previous owner's pasture about two miles from their farm. They take the muddy back roads and then ride through the neighboring farmer's cotton fields and finally arrive at the farm first.
Gary, riding in the car on the gravel roads, follows their progress as far as possible but eventually looses sight of Dad and Dolly as they ride off. When Gary arrives at the entrance to the farm, which is adjacent to a huge fenced in pasture that contains about one hundred head of Black Angus cattle, his Dad is laughing his head off and can only point to the pasture.
Gary says, "What on earth?" His Dad can only laugh and point.
His Dad took the saddle and bridles off Dolly and turned her loose into the pasture with all the cows. Well, Dolly has never seen a cow before and she was running all over the pasture as excited as can be. The cows had obviously never seen a horse either. They were running all over the pasture too. Cows were jumping the watering trough, running into the pond, and jumping over the fence. Some even went under the fence! Three of the cows were going "lickety split" through a cornfield.
Mike the bull, the sheik of the harem and the daddy of all the calves in the pasture was headed into the next county by way of the railroad track. Gary turns to his Dad with a wide-eyed look saying, "He's such a big bull, I never even knew he could run." In the distance you could barely hear the clickety-clack of the train coming down the tracks but every time the train whistle blew, Mike the bull would pick up more speed and run like lightning. Gary joined in with his Dad and laughed uncontrollably for a good ten minutes. He couldn't even talk.
After rounding up all the animals, Dolly had to be boarded up in the barn for a few days until she and her new friends became better acquainted. Sometimes it takes more than a first encounter to become friends. They all got along just fine later. That one summer, Gary learned the responsibilities of a job, how to take care of a horse, how to repair fences, and also how to repair friendships.