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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Riding Around New England Part Two

        When you think Massachusetts, you think Boston, traffic, congestion, and other sordid things. Boston is not really sordid. It is a beautiful city and it is so full of history. You can feel it in the air. You breathe it when you are there. But getting there makes you sigh, just a little. Surprise! There is a lot more to Massachusetts! Head to the west and it doesn't take long to be in the wilderness. It is lovely. Hilly, forested, green. Rivers, wildlife, the works.
         We headed out to the Deerfield Valley. Here you will find no traffic, winding roads, peaceful scenes. Not much different than when the first brave settlers came here all those many years ago. After you cross the French Kings Bridge, you are there! It's a beautiful, high, arching white bridge, as far as bridges go. I am not a fan of bridges. We parked in the pull off after crossing. Brash teenager walked across. I stood near the towers, my heart doing flips as the semis rolled across and the big bridge trwembled and shook. Thats where I found this swallow tail, lying lifeless near the curb. It is still beautiful, soft and the wind flutters the delicate wings.

               The view from here is lovely, though, all rushing mighty waters of the Connecticut River. Green hill upon hills fading into the distance. Not much human habitation to be seen.

               I had conjured up ramantic reasons for the name. What wonderful things had french kings done in Massachusetts? But I find it is named for French King Rock, a formation near by. No one can tell me why they named the rock that, either!

          The road takes us along the old Mohawk trail. It is still here, the tress come right up to the edge of the road. I think some shadowy warriors still walk silently through this , their old traveling places. I think they hear the fluting song of the wood thrush, like I do. I think they hear the splash of falling water. I think they hear the whisper of the summer leaves. There is much history here, too. Once these woods were all cleared away, and farms filled the valleys. Cows grazed. Orchards bloomed. Corn grew. Mill wheels turned. Every small town you go through has crumbling old brick factory buildings by the rivers.

           Therer are still sweet little farms here and there. Farms with tractors, and cows and meadows and orchards. They sit snuggly in the valleys, still. Mostly there is no manufacturing any more. Thats the way of progress. The Deerfield River is wild and foamy after all the rain. The white water rafters and kayakers are out gleefully bouncing along.  Oh, I remember the stories I read. About the Indians who swooped down and burned and destryed, and brought their captives walking through the dark forests to Canada. That would be an awful long, weary hike.

              We come to the Hoosic Tunnel. Trains still come through it. Not like they used to, in its heyday, but they still do. You don't have to walk in very far, and it's DARK. Dark and dank and cold and clammy. It is four and three quarters miles long. It goes through Hoosic Mountain, called so by the Indians, meaning place of rocks. It was the only way to get through to Albany N.Y. They wrangled over it for years. The official ground breaking on the north end was in 1851. They began the east side in 1852. The official opening was not until 1876. Hundreds of men worked three shifts, blasting and pick axing through the mountain. Hundreds of them died. Some years nothing was done, because of money and changing government, and the Civil War. Lots of money was spent, and wasted. But it did get done. For awhile it was the longest tunnel in the United States. Lots and lots of trains went through it.

         Now only a few freight trains go through, The lonely track goes on, out of sight, winding across the country. Of course there,s plenty of Ghost Stories. It did have a bloody past. People hear horrible noises when they go deep inside. Why do they go? I wonder..the very rocks probably moan and the winds are frightened when they blow through that utter darkness! I'll stay on the outside, thanks.  Wild strawberries grow along the tracks, and thimble berries, and wild flowers.

        We wind along the river, past housed and hills. Past towns and bridges. Up into Vermont, and home. Someday, go to Old Massachusetts. Let your imagination run free. Feel the sunshine. Hear the birds. Smell the new mown hay. You won't be sorry.

              See you in the misty hills!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Girl Who Loved Horses

  She came reeling in through the door. Her eyes were glazed. Her long hair was tangled and red with blood. Blood ran down her legs. She only wore one shoe. She cried, leaning into the wall. She didn't talk. Her mother took her into the wash room and cleaned her up. She staggered to the sofa and curled into a ball, crying silent tears. Her brother went looking for the horse. She was calmly grazing in the neighbors lawn. Farther on, he found her shoe, lying forlornly in the ditch. The ER finds she has a severe concussion. She lies in limbo for three days. Her heaad hurts. Her eyes can't stand any light. She's too dizzy to walk. Food and drink make her nauseous. She mutters gibberish about snakes, and the horse's legs, and her leg. The purple bruise on her calf looks just like a horse hoof.
   Her father paces the floor, and winces every time she cries. Her mother gets up every two hours in the nights to check on her. Her friend comes every afternoon. She sits patiently beside her, rubbing her hands, smoothing her hair, trying to get her to drink something, not talking, because noise hurts her head. She sits in the dark, because light hurts her eyes. One day she guides her, staggering to the kitchen. They try to get her to eat. Some icecream? A popsicle? No, nothing. She asks for some carrots. But when she gets them, she puts them in her pocket, and they stumble out to the pasture. They feed a carrot to each horse, and she touches them, blindly, her eyes covered with a dark mask. Satisfied, they make thier way back to the darkened bedroom. We cry,because such a true friend is so rare.
    She had wanted a horse all her life. Every night she had prayed the good God to find her one. "All girls go through that stage," they said. "She'll get over it," they said. They were wrong. She didn't get over it. She didn't just go through a stage. She wanted a horse. She found an old neighbor who needed help with her ponies. She helped. Faithfully, every day, learning how to love and care for the ponies. They were show ponies. They had traveled far and wide in the show circuit. Now the ponies and their owner were all too old for shows. Smoke was the girls special pony. He was dappple grey. His mane and tail were as white-gold as ripe wheat. As white-gold as the girls hair. Smoke was a little stallion. He loved getting his coat curried. He loved getting his mane and tail brushed, and braided and beribboned. He loved being hooked up to the pony cart, and trotting proudly around. He loved it when she drove the cart. He loved it when she gave the children rides. At first, she was small enough to ride on his back. All the proper things and manners, and grooming and carting, she learned from her small, old friend.
      Finally the old neighbor sold the other ponies, and gave Smoke to the girl. How unbelievably happy she was. How faithfully she cared for Smoke. How hard she worked to earn money for supplies, feed, hay. How much they loved each other, Smoke and the girl. But she was growing up. She could no longer ride Smoke, but she still cared for her faithful friend. And having seen the power of prayer, she prayed for a real horse. "They cost too much money," they said. They are too high maintanence," they said . "You have to wark hard on your schooling."they said. "you won't have time," they said.
      The girl did not hear them. She saw beautiful horses walking through her dreams. She searched ads in magazines and papers, and Caigs list. She believed a horse was coming her way. Lo, and behold, one did. She was a chestnut mustang. A wild mustang from Montana. Caught by the Bureau of Land Managment, United States Government, because the herd was starving during a drought. She was pregnant. She was chased by coyotes. She had lost her foal. She was afraid of all dogs because of this. The man who had bought her named her Missy. He had tamed her and taught her manners and trust. Then he became partially paralized and couldn't care for her. He asked at the feed store where the girls brother worked, if anyone knew of someone who would want a horse. The girls brother talked to the man about the girl. The man liked what he had heard, and called her to come meet him and Missy. It was love at first sight. The man worked out a deal with her to pay him some money every month until Missy was paid for.

     So Missy came home. The hot North Carolina sun beats down on the pasture. The two horses stand there, nose to tail, in the shade of  Crepe Myrtle tree, with its bare bones trunks and its high leaves , and its patch of shade. Their tails swish . They nudge noses. She towers above him. They nicker to eachother and whoosh into the grass. Some times they walk slowly, grazing side by side. Sometimes Missy lifts her head. She whirls and gallops along the fence. Her shiny chestnut coat ripples as she goes. For a moment you are in Montana. In the wild wind, hot and sweaty, the tall grass parting beneath her hooves. The shadow herd runs with her, wild and free, thundering unhindered by fence or folks. Is she remembering?  Is she breathing in once more the air coming down off the mountains?  She stops at the end of the pasture and walks slowly back. Smoke noses her affectionately.
      The girl lives in a little cottage here by the pasture. The windows smile and the doors swing open easily. Flowers spill down by the steps. Honeysuckle grows over the fence. There is an old barn. Its metal roof is saggy. It is rusty metal from years in the sun and the rain. You can see through it. The cracks in the walls are wide. No one uses it any more, except her brothers have painted a bulls eye target on one wall. The horses that stand in that barn are play horses, ridden by long ago children. A new barn shaped shed is there , too. She has painted the trim bright red. A hitching post stands by the porch. A hitching post with a black horse head, given to the girl by a far away friend.

      Every day the girl brings the horses out. They take their turn at the hitching post, while she grooms them, checks their hooves, washes them, sprays them with fly spray. When it is Smokes turn, Missy paws the ground, making the red clay fly. She whinnies and snorts. She doesn't like it when Smoke is out of her sight. True friends, that little dappled pony and the leggy chestnut mare, and the girl who loves horses.
    The girl is feeling better. She is not afrid to get back on the horse. She knows this: Dreams do come true. Horses come walking out of the mist. Little girls grow up to be strong young women. God is there, in every thing we do. The Girl Who Loves Horses.    
        Long ago a little boy loved this horse. Now it stands gaurdian between the barn and the pasture, looking longinly at the girls horses, day by day. Perhaps it still wonders where the little boy went, Perhaps it knows. It has aged gracefully, patiently waiting. The girls knows about him. Perhaps that is why she loves horses.