Jennifer and her Horse

My beans are growing! I feel just so proud of them. Just for waking up and growing! It reminds me of this conversation I had with Nate awhile back where he and I were commenting on how little it took for Dad to say he was proud of us. "I'm so proud of you, Nate, you got up this morning and...I'm just so proud." Or sometimes it would be in the middle of a conversation and though it was always nice to hear, inside I was always wondering "Could you be a little more specific?

But now, I'm seeing how proud a person can be just for having something that's still around. My beans haven't given me anything to eat, yet, but I love them just the same. They are leaning to the right because there's not enough light, but i just moved them closer to the window so hopefully they will straighten up. Not that I'm judging--they can choose to go in any direction they want.

My Grandpa Lindgren commented on my 6 year old niece, Fiona's chance of being a tree-hugger not too long ago. I guess instead of squishing a bug she caught it and let it go outside. I don't even know what that makes me. When we were planting my cucumbers, mom decided that one of the pots had too many so she told me to look away and then she pinched one my cucumber plants and threw it over her shoulder!!! I was seriously right in the middle of thinking all sorts of helpful and loving thoughts to help them grow when she did this. I shrieked, I'm ashamed to say. She started to do it to another pot and with tears I begged her not to. "I just can't take that right now, Mom!"

Freaking out about a cucumber plant goes so against my roots. So to speak. On the farm, one had to develop a certain amount of callousness to thrive. Jen, Fiona's mom, is not someone I consider an animal lover. I have too many memories of her pushing cats and dogs away from her. And scowling a lot. I brought this up after writing a story about her hitting a turkey with her car on the way to school. She was clearly upset by killing it. And I remember being a little surprised that she was so upset. It was just a turkey, after all. Jen is 8 years older than I am. So by the time I was of age to remember things, she was in the thick of adolescence and puberty (my mother, until maybe 6 days ago, has pronounced it poo-burty. Which, God love her, may give you a clue as to how much insight she gave us while we were in it. I don't know how Dad pronounces it because I don't think he has ever willingly said it out loud. Or if he did, the moment was so terribly awkward my face probably glowed red giving me a spiking fever that caused memory loss of the event. I can't even discuss this in the regular part of the paragraph.). Which is a little unfair, I think to both of us, that she remembers me with her hormone hawked memory and I remember her with my naive one. But she insisted that she didn't hate animals, but that she actually she loved them and had gotten her heart broken over one.

There were a few certainties I could tell you about my sister when she was younger. She sang well, she had curly hair and she loved her horse, Senator Highacres. She would saddle him up and ride off into the distance like a Jane Austin character. When she came home she'd brush him down, being gentle and thorough and sometimes I would watch her. Which sounds creepy and it kind of was, because in order to be around my older siblings a certain invisibility was required. AKA spying. I loved the smell of horses. And as someone who was afraid of everything alive besides people I thought my sister a giant of bravery. She was gentle yet in charge. A concept still a little difficult for me without also imagining a weapon.

Jennifer (this was before she became Jen) practiced for hours riding without needing to hold on to the saddle horn--i didn't even know it had another purpose besides holding onto until I was in high school. And the two of them were often called upon to help Grandpa move cows. I was called on, as well, but for a very different task. Jen actually helped moved the cows and I stood in a road somewhere as a human road block trying not to pee myself. Senator was a smart horse. He knew what to do around cows and Jennifer trusted him. My family has a hard time communicating instructions. Mom jokes that before we had the cb radios in the tractors, Dad used the same hand signal to mean several different things. That, in fact, it was the cb radios that was the key to their happy marriage. There seems to be some sort of disconnect between what needs to happen and how to formulate that into words. And the stakes were time consuming. If you messed up moving cows, you could spending all day trying to fix the mistake and who knows how many corn fields would have been mucked up in the process. I'm not even going to mention the emotional shame it also would have caused. Most days my grandpa is a witty and pleasant man who can go hours and hours with nary a swear word. But put him near a cow and the man has turrets, calling them and the people near them "a dumb boob"...among other things.

So to negotiate such bumpy pastures, you either needed to be able to read minds or have a good horse (or hope to be stolen by gypsies. Which I wished for even when I wasn't in trouble). I see it so vividly, all eyes intently on Jennifer trying to telepathically tell her what to do. That message instead going to her horse, who in return effortlessly communicated to my sister what others could not. I can just imagine how comforting it must have been to have someone on her side during those tense situations.

But one day the love story took a terrible turn, like in a sad movie. The person you like most coughs and the next thing you know....
One day when Jennifer was out riding Senator, along the road, he cut the back of his leg on a piece of old culvert hidden in the grass. This is the part I can hardly stand to think about. Jennifer standing next to her horse and looking at how hurt it was, not knowing what to do. Having to watch Senator do that really sad limp thing horses do when they are hurt, maybe even listening to him grunt with pain.

Uncle Rick was our vet and he came out right away to look at Senator. But he couldn't give us good news. Senator had ripped his tendon and wouldn't ever be fixed. When I asked Dad about this, it was with tears in his eyes that he explained that when Rick told him there was little chance of Senator being well again, it just broke his heart for Jennifer. That if anything could have been done, he would have done it. If nothing else but for Jennifer's sake.

Shortly after, Senator Highacres was sold away. Away Away Away.

It is those who feel a great deal who become callous. More to lose, you understand. And there is something about living on a farm or out in the country that seems to feel so homey and tenuous at the same time. Like life is always on the brink of catastrophe. What a sweet luxury--a gift really--it is then to see a little girl scoop up a bug and let it go outside.


  1. LOVE this, Mis. I laughed out loud, and I loved thinking about Jen and Senator. My horse's name was Star. He lived at my grandfather's barn, and I'm not sure whatever happened to him. We moved away to the big city of Birmingham, and I had to leave him behind.
    Hope you're enjoying your job.

  2. aw miss, so many many memories with this one... very sweet, very sad... thanks for writing about this.

  3. I teared up a bit at the end there. Phew. Great story. I miss you!!

  4. You are an amazing writer, my friend. I look forward to buying and reading your book.

  5. Geez Miss....this makes me miss home oh so much. Reading this makes me realize how lucky lucky lucky I was to have grown up in such similar surroundings and circumstances. I remember "sortin' cattle" with my family and it was just as "fun" as you describe. Oh those great anxiety-filled days....:-) It's funny how a maverick cow can make the most soft spoken turn sour. I certainly have similar memories of shame for letting a cow or calf sneak through (or sometimes "high tail it" through) a gate and having to hear my Dad rattle off a few choice words of his own about that damned bi*ch of a cow that got away. Sometimes you'd think the way he reacted the cow would never be returned!
    Love, Jac

  6. Hey Miss! I never met Senator, but Jen sent me some pics of her and him one year, many, many moons ago. I still have them somewhere. That was a great and sad story. I always wondered what happened to him.


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