Some summers hold sweet memories, others may not be quite as sweet, but what they all share is the promise of brighter days, longer sunsets, and the realization that they end all too soon. One summer in my childhood stands out above the rest. Summers in my youth were long, blissful events, seemingly endless, full of catching butterflies, baseball games, swimming, playing with cousins, and exploring the twenty-plus acres and beyond where we grew up. The majority of the hours in my summer days from the time I could walk were spent on horseback. At the age of 11, I had saved up money earned in the 4-H program and my Dad was able to set up a surprise dinner with friends. We hauled a trailer into town one summer night. I was curious what was going on, but since we often used the trailer for different things I just came along for the ride, or so I thought! When we finished and went outside, they brought out Beau, a beautiful two-year-old palomino to call my own.
That first fall with him, I spent every waking minute either planning, training, grooming, or running him through the exercises that would allow me to one day ride him. He was sweet but spunky, not afraid to show me his heels in dislike of my training efforts. By the spring of the next year I was astride, tentatively at first and then off for our own adventures as our confidence grew. With acres and acres of wheat fields to cross, we quickly gained a lot of experience! Needless to say, I lived, ate, and breathed to be on his back, chasing the wind and the occasional deer, feeling the heat and cool at sunset as we ran over the wheat fields. He was my horse and promptly told anyone else who tried to ride him.
On another summer a few years later, an event occurred that had a profound effect on my life. We had a long beautiful driveway, full of tall grass, perfect for horses to graze down. Each morning as I slept late during those summer days, my Dad would leave our horses out to graze; with gates at each end of the driveway, they were happy to do so! Mid morning, I would gather them up and return them to their pasture and out of the way of grain trucks that often came by our home. We grew up on an old dairy farm, tons of out-buildings, tons of mice, and not a few barn cats! One summer morning, I called and all the horses came running, all except one. Beau was at the far end of our driveway; he lifted his head to look my way but made no attempt to come. Unusual, as he was always first in line.
I closed the gate and walked down to catch him and bring him along. As I got closer he turned to me and I could see blood running down his side, staining his golden hair brown. He had weeds sticking out of a puncture wound, a deep, ugly gouge. I let out a cry. Too far to return home quickly, I ran across the road to my neighbor’s house. Their oldest daughter was home and came running to help. She took one look, gave me a desperate glance, and we raced to get a truck and trailer ready to make a trip to the vet, a thirty minute drive away. I’ll never forget her kindness, a horse lover too; she understood this beloved horse was in a fight for his life. I, however, was naïve and did not quite understand the severity of what was to come.
I ran back to my home to let my sisters know what had happened and that I was leaving to go to the veterinarian. As I ran up the driveway, I could see a place in a dry creek bed that our horses had been rolling in. As I looked closer I saw an old, rusted pitchfork. A remnant of dairy days on the farm, who knows how many decades it had been buried there, hidden deeply in the tall weeds. Two of the four tines were bent upward and I found Beau’s hair on them and realized what had caused his wounds. They looked so menacing, rusty and brown. My parents were called and met us there as we arrived. Our vet was an amazing man, kind and gentle and skilled. I spent the next hour in my parents’ arms as the tears would not stop coming. The vet did his best to clean things up, pulling dirt and weeds out of Beau’s side for over an hour. When he was through, he sadly shook his head and said the tines had entered his intestinal wall and they had punctured through. There would be no saving him, no procedure possible to undo the damage done. They would keep him overnight, but he told us not to expect him to be alive by morning. Devastation. That sums up how we all felt.
I had been saved and received my salvation at a young age. I knew and believed God answered prayer; what I didn’t know at that age was that He could answer mine. I hadn’t yet developed my relationship to the point of deep trust. It was the first time in my young life that I needed my Anchor, my Father, to hold my heart and bring peace to my mind. We called family to agree and pray with us, for comfort and yes, for a miracle. My little world was crumbling to pieces with each passing hour. I still recall spending that night beside my bed on my knees, asking for more than could even be spoken.
Beau lived to see the next morning, and the morning after that. On the third day, I met with our veterinarian who took me aside to talk. He let me know that my horse would have a long road ahead, weeks of recovery, but it looked like he would make it. His blue eyes sparkled a bit and he said, “This horse is truly a miracle. He shouldn’t even be alive; I don’t know how to explain it.” No explanation needed! That one experience solidified so many things about my faith growing up. Beau came home after two weeks under care. I learned how to dress a wound, how to give him daily shots, and we did our best to make sure he healed up well. A large scar formed where his wound had healed, serving as a reminder to anyone who knew his story of a faithful God who cares for his creatures, large and small.
Many summers have passed since that time. Seasons of life have come and gone: high school, college, marriage, children, and less time available to spend with an old friend. This year he turned thirty, which in horse years is pretty amazing. He is missing nearly all his teeth, but still has kept some pep in his step these past years and always offers a welcome as we come to say hello. I said goodbye to this amazing animal just yesterday, my oldest by my side. Explaining so many things I wish didn’t need spoken, but alas, time waits for no one.
“All horses deserve, at least once in their lives, to be loved by a little girl.” Surely this one horse was, and by a teen, and an adult, a wife and a mother, and many children. So many lessons learned, so many miles ridden, so many seasons lived. My forever friend, so blessed to have shared so many memories and so grateful for many lessons learned.
Summers That Changed Us Series
This post was a part of the “Summers That Changed Us” series going on this month at Managing Your Blessings. Be sure to check out other great posts in the series!