“I've wanted life to be easy for you. Easier'n 'twas for me. A man's heart aches, seein' his young uns face the world. Knowin' they got to get their guts tore out, the way his was tore. I wanted to spare you, long as I could. I wanted you to frolic with your yearlin'.”
In Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, Penny Baxter echoes what I think every parent feels. We dread the day when our children must face the world, yet we know we cannot shield them. Yesterday we got the phone call horse owners dread: “He’s down.” Now, horses do lie down occasionally, to roll around in the mud, which our horse loves to do, or to soak up the sun. But yesterday, Legend was in obvious distress. Out to the pasture we flew, although we had several pounds of shrimp thawing for a birthday dinner for my mom and sister and had planned on a quiet family evening. Sometimes, there just aren’t options or decisions. You do what must be done.
Knowing the symptoms of colic ,Kara, the young lady who cares for our horse as well as four of own,contacted the vet at the equine hospital. Still in her church clothes, she went to her job at the small animal clinic and cared for the dogs as quickly as she could. Meanwhile, my daughters got Legend on his feet and began walking him. He was reluctant, in pain, confused. It was difficult to see him that way. As the afternoon wore on, even though Legend did manage to expel some fecal matter (being as delicate as possible here) , he nevertheless would try to lie down and roll as soon as the girls stopped walking him. Rolling is the worst possible thing a horse with colic can do, so we had to keep him on his feet. Five times he went down. The last time, it took four people to get him up. No more waiting now. A horse trailer was procured. The owner of the trailer, Susan Somebody, did not even KNOW us, yet she came from Mobile as fast as she could. Kara called Dr.Stewart, who also did not know us, and told him we were on our way. He said he would meet us at the equine hospital. No questions asked.
Through it all, my daughter Raina maintained her composure and her humor. She said she wasn’t scared, but I know she was. She is fifteen and this colt means the world to her. For my part, I had in the pit of my stomach a dread that was doubled. I love Legend, too, but I love Raina even more. I did not want her to lose her horse. Back at home, my mother and my son, who was sick, sat a vigil, waiting for updates. Finally, my husband took Ally and my sister home while Raina, Kara, Susan, and all the people who happened to be with Susan and Kara headed for the hospital. I sat with Raina and I prayed with all my might. Earlier, my husband had anointed Legend and prayed for him, too .God’s eye is on the sparrow, is it not? Then His eye must be on a sorrel colt with an r-shaped crescent on his forehead.
Arriving at the hospital, all I could think about was How will we ever pay for this? What if he has to have surgery? But to do nothing was not even a consideration. We got Legend into the examination room and Dr.Stewart, who has graying hair and kind eyes and gentle hands, gave the colt a quick once-over and began treatment. It didn’t take long. Raina stood by Legend’s head and helped and watched. Legend was very calm, especially once the pain medicine kicked in. Dr.Stewart said that we could take him home, but that he would have to be watched carefully all night. We live twenty minutes away from where he is boarded. Kara said she would do the night watch. To say we were grateful is a staggering understatement.
I could only pay half of the two hundred dollars we owed right now. Dr.Stewart agreed-again, no questions asked. He said that if Legend did not get better, to call him and he would do whatever was necessary and we would work out a payment plan later. Wow. Who does that? And who volunteers to get up every two hours to check on a sick horse when she has to go to work the next day? And who on earth puts everything on hold to come rescue a horse belonging to people she doesn’t know? God’s emissaries, that’s who. Salt-of-the earth folks with caring and compassionate hearts. See, we tend to think that we can figure out who the good people are based on their appearance or social graces or level of education, because man looks at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart. I know all I need to know about these people because in the Bible it says, “By this they shall know you are My disciples, that you have LOVE for one another.” Love was in great supply yesterday.
We settled Legend in for the night and went home and had some butt-kicking shrimp scampi. We were tired, all of us, including my sister who had walked the horse as much as she could despite her bad knees and my mom who gave support simply by staying there at the house praying with my son. Raina in particular was exhausted, her feet blistered, but she said she was glad she had had the experience. I think sometimes she doubts how much we love her, as all children do and adopted kids in particular. I think yesterday dispelled any doubts she had. She saw her father, who is not really a “horse person”, walking the horse when she and Ally just had to rest. She saw how her grandmother shed tears of worry and concern, even though she doesn’t like horses AT ALL. (“I don’t like any animal that’s bigger than me,” is what she says. She prefers cats and small dogs.) She saw how our friend Kara was willing to sacrifice her afternoon and evening and night and go in to work on almost no sleep. And she saw how people we didn’t know came through because it’s just the right thing to do. Additionally, she knows that we are far from wealthy, that we live, like most people these days, from paycheck to paycheck. Yet we did not hesitate. We want her to be able to frolic with her yearling for many years to come, for them to grow up together. The r-shaped mark on Legend’s forehead is God’s mark. R for Raina. They belong to each other.
I believe that all things happen for a reason. Last night I connected with my daughter in a special way. Last night we were reminded, once again, of God’s grace. And as we hauled the colt to his feet over and over again, and he became angry and frustrated and bit Raina on the arm because he could not understand that she was doing what was best for him, I thought about how we are much like that. God knows what is best, but we resist. We don’t trust Him enough. We don’t get that He is always teaching, helping, leading, and guiding. However big Raina’s love for her colt may be, and even bigger our love for Raina, God’s love is infinitely greater. It cannot be explained, defined, or measured. In time of need He sends blessings-maybe in the form of kind hearts and country vets.