Just come look at him," the fat little man pleaded
with me. I noticed there was a stain of some kind on the front of his
shirt, probably gravy… but from the looks of his teeth, it could have
been tobacco. His satin coat read Twitty’s Spring and Axle.. We give
I waited impatiently as the waitress rang up my
order, I checked my watch… only 10 minutes until sale time and I wanted
to get there early to look the horses over.
Finally the total managed its way out of her mouth
around a mountain of pink bubble gum. I shoved my card at her, trying to
ignore this funny little man who had suddenly attached himself to me.
"Sorry Hon," she drawled. "Nothin’ but cash, we don’t
take no charge cards."
"It’s not a charge card," I pleaded, "It’s an instant
check card, it comes right out of my bank account." She batted her eyes
at me, "Sorry…" and she tapped a red glitter fingernail on the cardboard
sign I now noticed taped to the register.
Great, I fumbled in my heavy coat, not wanting to
pull the big wad of bills out of my jacket in front of this strange man
who was now standing even closer , I could smell the onion on his
I pulled a hundred-dollar bill off the outside of the
roll and handed it to her folded.
She popped her gun as she unfolded it, and then shook
her head before she spoke again, "Sorry Hon, can’t break nothin’ that
Why? Why was this happening? I was at a loss, I had
planned this trip for eight months now, and here I was, a long way from
home, all the way in Indiana, with some guy who is probably a deranged
psycho at my side and now I can’t pay my lunch tab.
What’s a poor girl to do? I counted out the change in
my pocket and managed to find two one-dollar bills. Great, I had $2.87…
I was $5 short.
I cursed myself for having ordered the hot beef, I
knew I should’ve stayed in the truck and just stuck to jerky and a Twix
bar. The man, seizing his golden moment, spoke up with new fervor, "Tell
you what little lady, I will loan you the fiver if you will take just
five minutes to look at my wares. "
Perfect, a deal with the Devil.
Reluctantly I nodded, and as he paid the tab, he
smiled at me as though he had won the lotto. How do I meet these
people?, I wondered, I swear, I felt like a loser magnet.
The January wind was strong and it whipped open the
door like the gate of a bull shoot.
And as the cold rose up to meet us, I pulled my
Carhardt cap down hard on my head.
I wished my Grandpa had come, he usually kept me out
of these messes. He told me when I left, not to go without him. "Jo, he
said, just wait and we’ll go next week. I will feel better by then." We
both knew that wasn’t true, so I kissed him on the head and headed for
I had waited all Summer and Fall to get a horse and
now that I had the money I couldn’t wait to get there. The auction was
the biggest around, and I felt very positive and happy as I strolled
down US 23, the roar of my grandpa’s duals in my ears, my dog Sadie at
Sadie couldn’t help me now, though. I wished my
grandpa were here.
The fat little man didn’t walk very fast and as we
made our way across the parking lot
People continued to file out of the restaurant behind
us, it must have been time for the sale to start. I tried to hurry him
along, anxious to get over there. The rig he stopped at surprised me, it
was not one of the smaller ones, but instead the biggest one in the lot,
a whale-like aluminum, attached to a shiny black crew cab with tinted
windows. He made his way toward the truck and opened the door and began
fumbling through a folder of registration papers.
"You’re going to love this gelding, I knowed the
moment I seen ya that I had the horse for you. Golden horse for the
golden girl, and this horses is GOOD BRED!" He laughed loudly at the
sound of his own voice and some tobacco snaked down his cheek.
The trailer was all enclosed, with no windows, just a
small air opening near the top of the side, and this was covered with
black Plexiglas. See no evil, I thought.
I noticed there was an eye peering through a quarter-
sized hole. It looked at me, solidly for a moment and then disappeared.
I pretended to study the papers he handed me, but
couldn’t help but notice he was missing a thumb. I wondered if some
horse, or perhaps a woman, had bitten it off.
He looked at me expectantly, now huffing and puffing
in the cold, and I nodded and smiled, following him toward the back of
the trailer. The heavy hinges creaked and groaned like a dying animal
and the gate swung open to reveal a young looking buckskin horse. He
whinnied when he saw us began to paw recklessly at the side of the
trailer. The floor was deep with manure and it sprayed on the wall
behind him like a fountain.
"HERE, HERE!" the man shouted, waving a hand in the
air. The horse pulled back in fright and his legs buckled as he strained
at the rope, which held him to the wall.
"Well, he’s a beaut ain’t he? Didn’t I tell ya? And
rides good too, a real sweetheart of a horse. What did you say you
wanted to do with one?"
"I want one to drive," I said "…my grandfather made
me a beautiful cart and we are going to drive it around the neighborhood
since he can’t walk that good any more."
"Well," he said, "this here horse would be a beauty
in harness, can you imagine?" "Why this here horse has just the right
look and they just plain don’t come any sweeter."
I stepped a little closer toward the buckskin and he
laid back hard on the rope again. His golden eyes wide with fear.
"What do you want for him?" I asked. "To you?" he
"I don’t have that much…what else have you got?"
Onion man looked stunned and he moved some tobacco in
his mouth before he answered.
"Well, that’s it Little Miss, last horse I got on the
Curious, I tried to peer over the center divider.
"What’s up front ?"
"What do you mean?" he said.
"In the front of the trailer, isn’t there another
He hesitated, before spitting and said… "No, that old
bastard ain’t nothing for a pretty little girl like you, I can tell, you
are a real dainty kind of girl. I know my horses and my women.
Tell you what $1650 and I will load up Goldy here for you, and you can
get out of sitting in that cold sale barn all day just waiting for a
horse this nice to come through."
"I really don’t have that much money…. Can I please
see the other horse?"
" Nah" he muttered, "Better not, if you don’t want to
spend any money then I can’t help you."
"Come on Mister," I said, "Just show me what you’ve
got, I really do want to buy, I just need something cheaper."
"Oh, alright I reckon I can show ‘em to you, but you
know what they say about curiosity and that there cat!" At this he
laughed again, this time even louder, his voice echoing in the trailer
like a megaphone.
"Now, I won’t take nothin’ but cash on this here
horse," and he said as he swung open the center gate to reveal the
poor creature, I could see why.
He looked as though he might not make it until
dinner. His head hung low, its full weight resting in the halter, which
held it like a hangman’s noose. He didn’t raise his head at the site of
us, his only greeting a loud cough which was followed by a fart.
His coat, reminiscent of black, was sunbleached and
ragged, the hair of old horse that had seen many Winters. He looked more
like a yak. His markings, probably once were pretty, but time had robbed
him. Now, his glory past, they were nothing more than an old ragged
uniform. He was colored like a Holstein, and the black hair on his face
was gray with age. His sides, which were supposed to be white, were
stained and yellowed with manure. This coat of many colors he wore
tightly stretched across a tall raily frame which it looked too small
for, its highest point a snow-covered wither, its white mark, a
testimony to his many days of toil. He didn’t look at me, his eyes were
tightly shut, only his nostrils were open, flaring as widely as a tuba,
their breath laboriously making its way in and out.
I thought instantly of the saying in my grandpa’s
kitchen, it had been there on the wall, for as long as I could remember,
it was the "Horses Prayer." I thought of the part about "…when my days
of usefulness to you are done, do not cast me aside to suffer and die."
I cannot tell you why I did it. I can only tell you
that I pulled the wad of money from my pocket and handed it to the man.
And as I led the old horse away across the snow-covered asphalt, I felt
that at that very moment, I was truly good, that I was someone who cared
and might someday save the world, or at least all of the animals.
I had found my diamond, I told myself… a diamond in
My euphoria was short lived. In fact, it was the
shortest trip I have ever taken, because everything good and everything
nice ended when Diamond found out he had to go into my two-horse
trailer. Granted, it wasn’t shiny and fancy like his former coach, but
the way I saw it, it was a heck of a lot better place to be, considering
where we were headed.
Unfortunately, Diamond didn’t see it that way. In
fact he didn’t see anything my way and he let me know it.
The soft brown eye that had so innocently peered at
me from the hole, was not looking that same way at me now. His eyes were
wide and white and as he broke the snap on lead rope number two, and
fell down on his side into the snow, I was amazed how youthful he looked
as he sprang up and ran across the parking lot. His burr-filled tail was
like a banner, high in the air and his head was upright, almost proud.
For one fleeting instant, he was almost pretty, until
he nearly ran into the side of the van. The driver blew loudly on his
horn and it was very close, as they drove by me in the parking lot, I
could see a little boy inside peering out of the foggy window. He was
sucking his thumb and looking at me as though I were crazy.
I follow along behind, calling "Diamond.. Diamond,
please…" as tears made their way to my eyes. Sadie barked excitedly from
the truck window, franticly wanting to come and help. I could hear her
teeth clicking on the window as she barked.
"Shut up!" I yelled back, and then felt even worse.
I must admit I did have thoughts of just going back
to the truck and leaving, I thought perhaps I could drive away and that
no one had to know, I could leave my problem behind, but would have also
had to have left my money and my pride.
I wiped my nose on my frozen glove and continued
across the parking lot that I was beginning to know so well. I followed
the tracks, it was easier this time, because there were little spots of
blood in the snow, evidently he had hurt himself on the trailer in one
of our struggles. I followed the trail and found him standing over near
a blue Buick. He looked as though he was an ostrich who was trying to
hide his head so that he wouldn’t be seen.
I inched toward him, my voice quiet and low, I spoke
to him, softly."Here you sweet boy, here you good old man, here you go
honey… come to Mamma."
He eyed me suspiciously but didn’t move. I patted him
gently on the rump as I reached out to him and worked my way toward the
half a halter he now wore.
BINGO! I grabbed it and jerked his head perhaps
harder than I should have, my tone changing. "Come on, Cash, that is all
you are to me, NOTHING but cash! And you are on a one way trip!" "You
are going to the AUCTION."
His expression didn’t change. Head lowered, he
obediently trudged along beside me, now limping on the hind leg that I
noticed was bleeding near the ankle. "Serves you right you good for
nothin!" I sniffled, as we limped along together, like two refugees
coming home from war.
Now, I can’t tell you for sure that God was testing
me that day… but I can tell you that Cash was, because even though Sadie
is my only witness, you have to believe me when I tell you that he
walked right up to that trailer and nearly pushed me out of the way to
And it was just the beginning, believe it or not.
Cash had a mind of his own. And he wouldn’t let me
forget it. You see he was not mean, exactly ... he was just "scared." It
took me a long time to learn that "scared" can actually be more
dangerous than "mean."
The main reason being, is that "scared" can sometimes
get you hurt a lot faster than "mean." A mean horse you learn to be
afraid of and watch out for. A scared horse reacts when you least expect
it, because you can’t predict or even begin to understand what will set
And he wasn’t afraid of everything, you see, just
scary things ... like brushes, spray bottles, rags, ropes, wormers,
whatever happened to be in you hand at the time, really ... once he
flipped over in the cross ties because I tried to give him a carrot. My
grandpa reminded me, not everyone likes carrots, you know.
And he didn’t do it all the time, either, sometimes
he wasn’t scared at all, he was just plain bored. You could tell when
Cash was bored because he would give you the signal. When Cash got bored
he reared. He just couldn’t be a normal horse, and just sit there and
paw at the ground, or chew on his bit, that would have been too
predictable. No, he preferred to do a tiny pirouette, very controlled
and fluid, he just raised up his front end, like a low-rider at a
stoplight, just enough to let you know ... all right already, lets do
SOMETHING. It scared me the first time, but over the years I have grown
used to it. We are like an old married couple. We know the ins and outs
of each other. I do not bring him carrots, and he in turn does not flip
We never did hook him to the cart. We showed it to
him, but knowing his nature, we didn’t try taking him too close. But,
that didn’t matter, really. In retrospect, I am not even sure Grandpa
wanted a driving horse, I think he just wanted something to feed. And
when he gave me a saddle on my birthday, I was kind of scared and happy
at the same time. I wasn’t sure if Cash would want to be ridden
considering all of his hang-ups on the ground. But oddly, he was a dream
to ride. He was fearless as a trail horse, roadworthy as could be. He
and I rode over overpasses, swam in lakes, were chased by the hounds of
Hell (my neighbors’ beagles) and once a stud horse even jumped up on
Cash while we were riding. He was unflappable. All of this, to him was
just an average day. And he had, had many, I was told. Upon examination,
my veterinarian said that I probably didn’t want to know how old Cash
was. I told him, he was right. That was ten short years ago.
Since that fateful day that Cash and I wrestled over
whether or not he was going to agree to get into my trailer and come to
live with me, we have had many fine times together. I remember the day I
brought him home.
It was like a Disney movie where an animal is
rescued, only it had a little twist because Cash just wasn’t too keen on
being rescued. I started to get nervous as I neared our house. And as we
pulled up in the drive, I could make out my grandpa sitting on the porch
waiting for me. I must admit, my grandpa’s life nearly ended early when
I unloaded my prize. This is because I could have killed him. I suppose
he tried not to laugh, but he couldn’t contain himself and my ego,
already fragile from the whole experience ... was crushed. I started to
cry, and soon I was sobbing wholeheartedly. Cash stood next to me and
nibbled at a tiny patch of old grass exposed by the snow. He coughed and
looked at me innocently. My grandpa consoled me, "Jo, dry those eyes
love, we’ll feed this guy up, why he will be the talk of the town when
we’re done with him ... shoot, he is colored up nice, he’ll be a real
looker once we get him spruced up, you’ll see." I sniffled and nodded,
upset that I had spent the money I had worked so hard for on such a
horse as this. I was scared, scared that I had bitten off a little more
than I could chew or ever hope to swallow. But, as usual Cash proved me
Eating, was his one real talent. He is very good at
it, and it’s something that we all enjoyed. Grandpa, Cash and me.
There is something to be said for feeding a thin
horse. It is a pleasure to watch them eat. Maybe it’s the way they push
their head hard down into the grain as if they must eat it quickly,
before it disappears. Or the way they wring their tail to warn the other
horses (imaginary ones of course) to stay back, that this is their feed
and it won’t be taken without a fight.
Grandpa loved feeding Cash. And so Grandpa grew to
love Cash and gradually so did I. We knew we had succeeded, when one day
a man in a big fancy Cadillac pulled in and asked if Cash was for sale.
It stumped me for a moment when he asked about the horse in the field.
He said he had admired it from the road many times and wondered if I
would be interested in selling it. I peered around him on the porch to
see whom he was referring to, thinking that perhaps our neighbor’s
stallion had broken out and run in with Cash. But, to my surprise I saw
only one horse in the lot, and for a moment I almost didn’t recognize
him. It was almost as though I were seeing him for the first time. He
was as shiny and as fancy as the man’s Cadillac, black and white,
colored like a Holstein, but as fat and as round as a weight lifter,
muscled to perfection. His long black tail was dragging the ground and
his mane, now long and curly was falling all around his neck, his big
brown eye peered at me behind his forelock which hung nearly to his
nose. The white mark on his wither was still there, but all other traces
of his life before me were gone. I smiled at the man and shook my head
before answering. "You wouldn’t want him, Sir, believe me."
"I have cash," he offered. It was then that I
realized, that some things are priceless, and that for me, Cash had
become one of them. "What would you take for him?" he asked. "Nothing."
I answered quietly. I smiled to myself as he turned and made his way
back to the car.
I checked my watch, nearly time to feed Cash ... he
didn’t like his supper to be late.
Horses are very special creatures, and they fill a
variety of needs in a variety of people. Each and every one, is as
unique as his owner.. This story is for all the "Cashs’" out there, and
all the people who love them. God Bless the animals, for they give us
what we need without even knowing it.
The author and her horse Cash, live on a farm in Fenton, Michigan