For the Love of a Horse
by Ute Carson
Sassafras Magazine, Issue 5, October 2013

Children run away from home for various reasons, often neglect or fear. I was neither neglected nor fearful, and knew myself loved. There was no money. My mother starved herself instead of letting me go hungry. She was also a magician at crafting things. When I wished for a hobbyhorse, she made one from brown sackcloth with black buttons as eyes. Bridle and reigns were braided, the nostrils stitched so the toy horse could neigh. My stepfather was mostly jobless and a womanizer but indifferent to me.

I was horse crazy. A stable where I helped with chores in exchange for riding lessons became my castle. I relished the scent of leather, manure and steamy hides. I buried my nose in the windblown mane of Sport, a spirited gelding that belonged to the wealthy sheepherding Harrison family. Sport become my first love. He was intelligent and responsive to my touch and soft voice. I was devoted to him and considered him my own. He was ridden by others only on weekends.

I saw Sport's owners from afar, a couple with three teenagers and a son who arrived at the stables in his sports car in elegant equestrian attire. I fantasized about the family, and when I got a lime-green bicycle with a Bismarck insignia for my 12th birthday I pedaled around the neighborhood to find out where they lived. The Tudor mansion with a blooming manicured lawn and two friendly German shepherds matched to what I had imagined, a life without sadness and worries, and horses of your own. When I saw an old woman rocking under a canopy, I thought of my grandmother whom I adored. Once, watching Mrs. Harrison join the grandmother with her fine knitting basket, I thought of my mother knitting beautiful garments with left-over yarn. On the spot I decided to move there.

I packed my rucksack with clothes and all my school supplies and late one afternoon rode out to the Harrison's estate. I peeked through the thick ivy covering the wrought iron fence and when I was sure everyone was home, I rang the doorbell, "I have come to live with you," I announced. If they were surprised they didn't show it. I was invited to dinner and then they made up a bed in one of the upstairs rooms with a view over the lush garden. They only made me promise that I would go to school the next morning.

We had no telephone, so one of the Harrisons must have driven over to my house to inform my parents. When I left school the next afternoon I ran and fell into the arms of my sobbing mother. There were no accusations, only floods of tears. I became a frequent visitor at the Harrison's and befriended them all. This was a friendship that lasted for the entire life of Sport, the horse, spanning 32 years.

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