The other day I took a walk up in the mountains. I thought I’d walk on horse trails, and see where they would go. Although I knew all of the trails would eventually lead to water, I just didn’t know exactly where. All horse trails in the desert and mountains lead to water. It is the life’s blood of the desert. As I traveled along, I heard a horse whinny. As I looked up I saw a bay stud looking at me. At first I didn’t recognize him, but as he turned to move on, I realized he was the one I had given water to last year.
I called him; Howdy.
He and his mare and colt were at the water tank and it was dry. I could see they were in a tight spot and really needed water. I had some in my ATV, and went and got it. They didn’t want to drink out of the bottle, so I just poured some in the bottom of the tank. The mare drank first and then the stud. I moved around and got in between them and gave them more. Not a real good idea, as these mustangs are really wild. When it was all gone I moved to the other side of the tank. It was then; more horses came to the tank. With wild animals it is always – I am first, and they will fight to defend that right. Howdy went right to the other stud, as he was the intruder. A fight like I had never seen before took place. They squealed and snorted and kicked each in the ribs with their back hoofs. Howdy grabbed the intruder by the back of the neck and put him on the ground. All the time the mares were standing away from the fight, waiting to see what the out come might be. All this time I was thinking about me standing right beside him and he didn’t offer to fight me. After Howdy let the other horse up, he came back to the tank and watched all the other horses. As he stood there, I moved a little ways from him, as he was still a little surly. Such was one of the days of the horse called Howdy. This was a fighter and protector of his family.
As I traveled on I came to a little stream. I could see many trails from different parts of the mountain and desert had all merged unto this little oasis. I sat down on a rock and begin to gaze into the water. I begin to see faces of all my friends that I had throughout my life. Outlaws in-laws, they all were friends of mine. Most have passed on by now, but never the less, I can still see them. I though back to the time I was at a meeting and a fella came up to me and said, “Hi, how are you doing?” I said, “What are you doing here?” You doen’t live here anymore. He said, “ I knew you would be here, so I came to tell you thank you for all the things that you did for me. I knew you didn’t need to do that, but because of it, I am now a foreman with a crew of my own.” After we talked a while we said our good byes and out the door he went. That is what I call a friend. He didn’t need to do that, but I’m glad he did. It gives you some faith in your fellow man. I never saw him again, only in my memories. And that was over forty-five years ago. As I looked into the water I could see way back when I was a boy. Many old folks helped me along. I just didn’t realize it at that time. Many fellas that I traveled with all over the country, and the ones I were in the military with, have now passed on. Many old friends. I thought of the dogs that I had. You know, when a dog comes up to you and puts its head in your lap and wants a pat on the head or a for you to pet its side, all the while it’s baleful eyes plead with you, you know you have a friend for life. As I was staring into the water, Howdy came down to get a drink of water. When he saw me he nickered softly. Yes, here was another friend. I’m a little surprised he remembered me, but I think we have to give them a little more credit than we do. They know who is in their domain and who wants to hurt them or wants to take them away from the place that they were born in. I don’t know why, but I think they should let them alone. There is a lot of land in the mountains and deserts that supports wild animals, and nothing else. They live off of what we consider weeds, and browse that other animals won’t eat, and they are in good shape. I think they should leave them alone to live out their life as it was intended. I picked up a stick and muddied up the water a little, and as the stream pushed the cloudy water down the gully, the faces of all of my friends started coming back. I really didn’t think I had that many, but as you look back into the past the reality of it becomes apparent. Howdy got finished drinking water by then and stepped back, and with a toss of his head he drifted away. I will probably see him in a day or two, but for now I could see it was time for me to move on too.
You know, you can find friends in the most improbable places.
Don’t let them go, as they are hard to replace. The gist of this story is, solitude is good at times, and I know where to go when I need to see some of my friends.