A special contribution from Mistin Wilkinson
I was only seven years old when I came to live on the Back 40. My memories are vague before this. I know I had a keen desire to please others and so was very well trained in all the manners that would make me most desirable.
I arrived with a boy who was quite a lunker. I was small and quick, and while he was large and faster yet, he sometimes had to be smacked with a board to encourage him in the right path. To my great delight, there were others — three girls ages 13, 10 and 7. I formed a special bond with the other seven year old and we spent all the time possible together. Although I had already mastered my education, she still had to attend her classes. She frequently feigned illness to remain home with me and those days brought the most delightfully unhurried adventures through corn and canola fields, spying on neighbouring cows and exploring new paths through the expansive forest.
One such adventure introduced us to an interesting family of an Argumentative Arabian, a Gentle Giant, and a most Mischievous Midget. Once we met their companions, our adventures expanded and my dearest friend had to learn new ways to survive as they were occasionally inflexible and insistent upon their own ways.
We were quite far from home on one of these new adventures when there was a dramatic fight and I was sent away. I didn’t know what to do, but guessed that if I stayed on the road, I might be able to find my way home. When this altercation occurred, my dear friend ended up alone also, but she bravely found a house and asked to use their phone. She was beginning to understand friendship and loyalty and perseverance. Her mother came to pick her up and helped her search for me. How relieved I was to see her leap from that car and come to walk the rest of the way home by my side.
That was not the first time she poured out her angst to me and it would certainly not be the last! I wish she could’ve known how dearly I cherished her words and longed to comfort her even though I could not speak the same language.
It was only five short years after my arrival at the Back 40 when I sensed a big shift in my peaceful field with the singular tree atop the ridge. Something awful was happening and my dear friend seemed to think it was her fault. I’m sure it wasn’t her doing, but she cried many, many tears on my shoulders.
Etched firmly on my memory is the day my dear friend returned from a week-long trip, and upon her return discovered I was leaving. Oh, it wasn’t my choice! I didn’t want to go, but I knew better than to fight – I’d been brought up to be obedient. It was quite obvious it wasn’t her choice either and she let everyone know! She cried and hollered and begged me to stay. When the kind man drove me away, she chased the car, and my heart hurt.
Life would never return to those carefree days for either of us, but I took comfort in the memories of my dear friend and that beautiful field where we met.
My new home was a good one. The man was kind and his family treated me well. They recognized the bond I had with my dear friend and invited her to visit for two whole weeks! What a wonderful time we had even though she had to divide her attention with the others. It wasn’t the same, but still so good to be with her again. She tried to explain why I had left. She said it had to do with her dad and the field being sold and that mother was just so sad. Me too.
I suppose this is just how life goes. You lose your best friends and places… can we ever return?
Years passed, and I grew old. The kind man treated me even more gently, like I might have been his favourite. Although my sight dimmed, my hearing and sense of smell remained strong and one day I thought I heard the voice of my dear friend again. It had changed, matured maybe, but it sure sounded like her! I wondered if maybe I was dead, and this was the afterlife where we could be together again? No, this was real. I called out gently to question my senses and then I felt her touch and I knew… she was alive and by my side and suddenly I felt young again! I tossed my head in delight! I tried to tell her how much I’d missed her and how happy I was to see her, but I could tell she felt the same and there was no need for words.
This became my best memory and I carried it with me through my final days.
It was the reunion of a horse and his girl.