|Hello and Goodbye|
by Ralph Rice
The sun shines brightly and, on such a beautiful day, my steps
should be lively as I make my way to the barn, but instead I trudge slowly. The
barn door slides, awkward and heavy. Heavy, too, is my heart and solemn my mood.
I have sold my team. Today I must deliver them to their new owner. I know they
will have a good home where their care will be excellent, but saying goodbye is
Rice's column "Reflections" appears regularly in Rural Heritage. This
column appeared in the
Ten years we have worked together. They are as much a part of this
farm as I am. They helped me revive a land of goldenrod and brush, returning it
to productive farmland. My horses helped me plow and plant, mow and fertilize,
gather and harvest. They worked willingly and steadily, often with just the
gentle guidance of my voice.
Dick and Dan are my friends. They come when called, move when asked,
and stand when told. They taught me as much as I taught them. They are patient
and forgiving, allowing me to make an occasional mistake. They try whatever I
ask of them, at times reaching deep inside themselves, just because I ask. Our
mutual respect is reinforced and permanent.
With a rope in each hand, I lead them to the trailer. One, then the
other, steps in and they wait for the ride to begin. I stroke their noses and
pat their necks. I quietly thank each horse for his help and understanding. I
close the trailer door and a chapter in my life.
Driving down the road I remember them as clumsy colts and our first
attempts with a walking plow. I recall the gallons of sap, board feet of lumber,
and endless supply of manure they pulled. I think of them pulling little boys on
sleds behind a load of wood, laughter echoing around the farm. I think of how
they instilled confidence in my teenage son as he grew to become a teamster, and
how they inspired me as a writer, always impressing me with their awesome power.
These two gentle giants are a credit to their breed. I am and will always be
proud of them. My eyes run over as memories rush in and my love for them pours
Dick and Dan and I arrive at their new home. A crowd has gathered to
see them. As I back them out of the trailer, the crowd greets the boys and a
little girl asks for a ride. Her daddy launches her up on Dan's wide back. From
her lofty perch she welcomes the horses. I pat them both one last time and head
Fifty miles away, another man talks to a young
dapple-gray team. He shares his feelings, too, as he prepares to say goodbye to
a pair of youngsters he bred and broke, full brother and sister just beginning
their working career. He remembers his little girl winning ribbons and sharing
smiles while showing the colts. Friends? Yes. Family? Perhaps. Forgotten? Never.
I'll make the 50-mile trip in a day or two. I contemplate bringing the new
horses home and am stirred with excitement. Soon I will form a new partnership
with Jake and Jill. I look forward to our training sessions and the work to
follow. They already have a great foundation. But first the team and I must bond
and become friends. I expect them to work promptly and willingly, try when
asked, and pull out of respect for me, not out of fear. My family will welcome
them, visitors to our farm will admire them, and I will love them.
Love is a strong word, but so is goodbye. And so is hello.