It was a bright, beautiful, Saturday morning. I got in my car. The plan was to get some breakfast. Instead, I decided to head just north of town, where there were still open spaces that had not yet been developed into the apartments and business complexes that were beginning to sprout up everywhere, and are there today. I guess I just wanted sometime to myself to think, so I turned up the radio and just started driving. I was cruising along when I saw a small farm house with a garage sale sign out front. In a small corral off to one side was a beautiful, black and white, paint horse. I had always dreamed of someday owning a black and white paint horse. I had always loved horses, and the old westerns on T.V., like Big Valley, and bonanza, were some of my favorite shows. Little Joe, played by Michael Landon, always road the most beautiful black and white paint horse, and I was in love, with the horse, of course. I don’t really know why I did it. I had no intentions of doing what I was about to do. I guess it was just fate. One right turn into the drive and my life changed forever and headed in a new direction.
I got out of my car and browsed the items for sale, but could not take my attention off that black and white horse standing in the corral. The man, who obviously lived there, noticed me looking at the horse, and began a conversation typical of all proud horse owners. We walked over to get a better look. I don’t know what possessed me. I had no intention of buying a horse, but I asked the man if the horse was for sale. He said, “no. I don’t want to sell him.” My heart, for some reason, just sank. Being a typical horse trader, the man seized an opportunity, and didn’t hesitate to mention that he just happened to have another black and white paint horse for sale. She was three years old, green broke, and after sharing a pasture with the black and white stud horse I had just been admiring, probably pregnant. In case you haven’t guessed, by the end of the day, and $400 later, I had become a horse owner.
Yes, I bought a horse at a garage sale. It was one of the best purchases I ever made. That day, a dream came true, and a horse purchased at a garage sale changed my life. I still own her today. She is now 24 years old. I never really named her, or even thought of actually picking out a name for her. I, for some reason, just started calling her Baby. And the name just stuck.
Baby and I have seen, and done a lot together. It makes me smile when I think about all she has taught me. Some of those lessons, she had to teach me the hard way. Some of those lessons, we both learned with maturity and experience. Responsibility, compassion, patience, respect, and trust, are character traits she has truly helped me understand, and appreciate, not only in myself, but also in others. Thinking back over the past 21 years of our friendship, I truly have some wonderful memories. One that comes to mind is, just after I had bought her. I would saddle her up, and ride down in the river bottoms just as the sun would be coming up. There was a large herd of cows grazing on the pastureland along the banks of the Trinity River, next to the pasture I rented for her. As we rode out, we always searched the tall grass and clusters of scrub trees for any newborn calves, which might be hiding, as well as, keeping an eye out for any overprotective mamma cows. Once the major part of the heard was located, we would find a shade tree, settle in, and just sit for hours watching the calves play together. There was something so calm and peaceful about sitting out there on the back of my horse, just watching the little ones run, buck, kick, and butt heads. Sometimes, they were so cute and funny; I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at their antics. I think I understand what the old cowboys must have felt as they kept watch over the herds, and why they chose such a lifestyle. Sitting there watching the momma cows care for their little ones, the quiet stillness of nature, and the very large, not so pretty, bull, in all his power and strength watching over it all, I understood how the wonder of it certainly is capable of touching the soul of a man in a very deep way, or in my case, woman.
Even though Baby was very young, still very new to being ridden, otherwise known as green broke, and knowing very little as far as training, she always just stood quietly, never getting restless, or fussy. I think she must have enjoyed that time as much as I did. I wonder if she ever thinks about those days so long ago, and remembers them as fondly as I do?
Another fond memory is a spring trail ride we once joined in on. It was a huge ranch, just outside of Cleburne, Texas. The ranch covered several thousand acres. WE could ride for what seemed like forever and never even cross a road. The pastures were completely covered in bluebonnets, so thick, it was like a carpet of dark blue velvet, with specks of green mixed in, along with the occasional red of an Indian paintbrush, for just the right amount of added color and contrast. Even now that I am blind, I still remember the beauty of it all. I can picture it in my mind even all these years later. It was a picture only God could paint. No artist painting, or photograph you’ve ever seen, could ever do it true justice. I remember stopping in the middle of one of these fields of blue bonnets, with occasional Indian paintbrushes thrown in, and just being totally in awe of nature, and the privilege of witnessing such a natural work of art not possible by the hand of man, but only by God. I honestly believe Baby was as mesmerized as I was by all the beauty that surrounded us. She never seemed to tire. She was alert, her pace being light and brisk, and she was full of energy throughout each day. However, we were both completely worn out by the time we returned home at the end of that weekend. I wonder if she remembers that weekend of beauty and bluebonnets as vividly as I do?
One of my favorite memories is the day she gave birth to her foal. She had indeed been bred by the black and white stud that had first attracted my attention at the garage sale. It was about 7:00 a.m. when I pulled up to the pasture where I boarded her. Not thinking anything of it at the time, I got out of my truck, grabbed the bucket of feed, and headed for the gate. I didn’t see her at first. As I opened the gate, I heard her whinny. I looked up to see her coming at me full speed. I was a little taken aback, when she slid to a stop about 10 feet in front of me, spun around, and headed back around the barn. What in the world had gotten into her? She sure was feeling frisky this morning. Next thing I knew, she was coming back around the barn, again at full speed. This time she didn’t come to a stop, she ran around me, and headed once again back to the barn letting out another loud whinny. I wondered out loud, “What in the world has gotten into her?” When I finally reached the barn and turned the corner, I immediately saw what had gotten into her, or maybe I should say out of her? There standing next to her, on some very wobbly legs, was the most adorable, little, black and white paint foal I had ever seen. Baby, the proud momma, stood next to her new foal, head up, ears forward, with all the pride any mother has ever had for her accomplishment of giving birth. I imagine had she been able to speak, she would have said, “Isn’t my daughter beautiful?” That, of course, would immediately have been followed by, “Now put that bucket down. I’ve worked up an appetite, and I’m hungry.” She certainly had worked up an appetite. It wasn’t but an instant an her head and nose were buried in the feed bucket, all but knocking it out of my hand. A typical Texas, spring thunderstorm had pass through during the night, so I named her little filly Stormy.
My proudest memory is that of our first horse show. It was our first class of the day. I was so nervous and scared that day. We had worked hard getting ready for this day; our debut, as I like to call it. This was another dream of mine. Would we be good enough to win? It was our first class, a simple, warm up, western pleasure, walk trot class. We were competing against more experienced and seasoned horses and riders, not to mention, better bred. I am positively certain, not one of the other horses attending that show had been purchased at a garage sale, or from a horse trader. I was definitely nervous, and, honestly, didn’t hold much hope for winning a blue ribbon that day. I would have been satisfied just to place in the ribbons, but a first place ribbon? Dare I hope?
As the class started, I smiled at the judge, rode into the ring, and just did my best. As we were standing in line waiting for the results, I never thought my number would be called at all, much less as, would you believe, the first place winner? I was so shocked. They had to call my number three times before it started to sink in. Finally they said, with a bit of a chuckle, over the loud speaker, “Yes, you.” I guess I must have had this look of disbelief on my face. I still, beam every time I think of that day so long ago. That garage sale horse sure made me proud that day, and many days to follow. We came home with several first place ribbons that day and one second. What a day it was! It’s one I’ll sure never forget.
Several years later, while attending a show, a judge, who, I found out later, apparently didn’t like my horse, or me was placing me in the ribbons at one show, but never placing me higher than a 4th place, finally, after the last class, walked over to me and said, “You know. This is a nice little horse, but she just isn’t a “show” horse.” He then turned his back on me and walked off before I could respond. I was mad at first, but then I thought to myself, maybe she isn’t the best-bred horse here, but all those ribbons on my wall at home just go to show, “breeding” isn’t everything. Thinking back, I bet it pissed him off every time my little, garage sale horse, and I, beat any one of his “well-bred show” horses, which I, apparently, had been competing against all season. I can sit here now laughing at that situation, and know for a fact that little, garage sale horse loved strutting her stuff. It sure was fun going to those shows, competing against all those expensive well-bred horses and coming home with those blue ribbons. That incident was just another lesson in life I was able to learn thanks to that horse, and something I am proud of. That judge may not have realized it, but what a compliment he gave me that day.
I think Baby understood and enjoyed that time in her life as much as I did. She sure could turn it on in the show ring. Her “diva”, “queen of the barn”, attitude at home is proof enough to me that she knew she was just as good, and better than those well bred, expensive horses she had competed against. Yes, sir, she was not intimidated in the least by those high dollar, well-bred horses. When she entered the show ring, she thought she owned the place, and most of the time, she did. Every time our number was called, even if it wasn’t first place, well, I don’t think I can put that feeling into words. It was wonderful, and something I had never in my life felt before. It is something I cherish, and a time I will never forget. I wonder if she ever thinks about, and remembers, those days?
Now, some 20 odd years after that fateful day when I bought a horse at a garage sale, we are both still together. We are both getting older, both getting arthritic, and both, well, not in as great a shape as we once were. I am now blind, and she is now going blind too, but we have over 20 years of memories, friendship, and love. When my reunions with my birthparents really began to take their toll emotionally, and the issues of my adoption all came erupting to the surface, the first place I would always go was to the barn and Baby. She seemed to know I needed her security and comfort. Now that my reunions have not worked out so well, and I have begun to heal from the pain, and rejection, of the past several years, as well as my adoption issues, Baby is still there, still nuzzling me looking for treats, and yes, even though we haven’t been to a horse show in years, she still thinks she is a diva and “queen of the barn”.
Because of her age, I don’t ride her as much anymore. On the rare accession I feel her saying to me, “Let’s go for a ride just for old time sake.” I’ll saddle up, and she will still get a little excited when we head for the arena, and we go through the paces like we once did years ago. Yes, I still ride even though I’m blind, though it’s a little trickier with Baby’s sight not so acute anymore. We can still do it.
As painful as the past several years have been, with all the losses I have suffered, that little, garage sale horse is a bright spot in my life. For that, I am truly grateful. “Thank you Baby, for being a true friend, one of the few things in my life I have been able to depend on, and giving me such wonderful memories.” I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like without that horse in it. All these years later, I find myself sitting here amazed that one of the most valuable things in my life, and one of my best friends, was found at a garage sale. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was one of the best days of my life.