Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fond Memories of May 5, 2001

Back in 2001, I was still on active duty in the Air Force, and stationed in Tucson, AZ.

Due to certain circumstances coming together, I was fortunate enough to be able to welcome an Appendix Quarter Horse into my life. His registered name was Wild Stride, but we just called him "Cotton" as his barn name; because he was a Palomino the nickname "Cotton" fit him.

Cotton belonged to one of my great friends, Brenda. She had three horses, and was willing to bring Cotton to me in Tucson from her home in northeast Nevada, not only because she barely had time for all three horses, but she knew I could use a horse of my own.

I'd ridden him once in the autumn of 1999, after I'd graduated from Officer Training School (OTS), and was on my way from Montgomery, AL (where OTS is located) to Vandenburg Air Force Base, in California.  Brenda and her family (and horses and dogs, cats, and other various animals) lived in northeastern Nevada, and they were not far from I-80, the highway I was traveling, as I headed west. I'd stayed with them overnight, and had gone on a trail ride with Brenda the afternoon I arrived. I'd ridden Cotton that afternoon, and found that he was a fun, nutty horse to ride.

So as we spoke that spring of 2001, she assured me that as far as she was concerned, Cotton would be all mine. I was in charge of him, of his training, of shoeing, veterinary issues . . . everything. He would be mine.

So we worked out a date for Brenda and her mom to drive him out to me. After I'd looked around at some area stables, I found a place down the road from my apartment and worked out the details. We agreed on a date I could have a stall available for Cotton, and what kind of boarding services would be included.

Plus, there was a hunter/jumper trainer working out of this particular stables, so not only would I have someone to take lessons from, I'd have someone to provide professional training rides on Cotton, when needed (if I were TDY (temporary duty) and out of town for a number of days or on leave, or such). And she'd give any necessary supplements (like biotin hoof supplements, worming as needed, etc), and she had a farrier she used for all her clients' horses hoof-care (regular maintenance and otherwise - like for a lost shoe).

So the day Brenda and her mom would be driving down with Cotton was set. Saturday May 5, 2001. I was excited, and impatient for the day to arrive.

And then I get a phone call from Brenda just a couple days before they were supposed to drive down to Tucson. An accident happened with Cotton!! I was so worried and disappointed when I first heard it was serious enough for an emergency vet visit to Brenda's barn.

Not that I blamed Brenda, but that this accident may delay Cotton's arrival and that was disappointing, and also, Brenda felt like she was letting me down - she wasn't, of course, because you can't foresee an accident . . . but she was disappointed. And so was I.

So apparently Cotton was bleeding a lot from his mouth. Brenda couldn't figure out what he had cut his mouth on, or where, exactly, the bleeding was coming from. Of course, she was panicked. But she was also disappointed, too, because she really wanted to get Cotton to me, not only because she had promised to, but because she trusted me enough with his care, and training (she and I both rode hunter/jumpers before, during and after attending Culver Academies together).

Brenda was able to catch him and figure out that the wound was not in his mouth, but on his lips, near the corner of his mouth, where the lips wrinkle when a bit is in the mouth. She was able to put a clean cloth or towel or something on it to staunch the bleeding until the vet got there.

He was able to stitch up the area with some of that dissolving thread stuff, so that in a matter of a couple weeks, the stitches would dissolve on their own as the wound healed, and Cotton wouldn't need a vet to take the stitches out once the wound was completely healed.

Of course, Cotton couldn't have a bridle on for a number of days, because a bit would be bad for the wound and perhaps take out the stitches. So the vet said he couldn't have a bridle on for something like 7-10 days. But the good news was that there would be no problem with his traveling in a few days. I'd be able to see him in a few days (though not ride him just yet, as I'd have to wait just about a week before putting a bridle on him).

All day Friday May 4th, I was antsy just waiting for 4:30 PM, when I could head home and go over all the stuff I had ready - all this stuff for Cotton . . . since Brenda was bringing his halter, lead-rope, brushes, and his bridle (and the bit he went well in - an eggbutt snaffle), I just made sure I had various other items - liniment, horse shampoo, a bag of carrots, fly spray, other random horse-care supplies, a clean saddle pad to go with my saddle I'd had for years, which, by the way, was the exact same make and model as the one Brenda used on Cotton. And I had a couple different girths already, so all I had to do was see which one was the best fit.

It was hard going to sleep that night, knowing Brenda and Cotton would be arriving the next day. But I did fall asleep.

The next morning, Cinco de Mayo, a Saturday, I think I may have gone to the gym as I normally did. But I don't remember for sure.

I kept my cell phone near me most of the day, just in case Brenda or her mom called while they were on the road. I'd given them directions to the barn from I-10, and I hoped their drive wasn't too bad.

Brenda had given me an estimate of when they expected to arrive in Tucson, so about an hour before they were to arrive, I headed down to the barn to make sure I had everything in place, and that Cotton's stall was ready for him (such as checking that the stall's automatic waterer was working, there was bedding in the stall, etc).

It started getting dark. I hung out on a picnic table at the front of the barn overlooking the street and the driveway.

Somebody I hadn't met yet - another person boarding his horse there at the stables - asked if I was okay, if I needed help or anything. I assured him, no, I didn't need any help, that I was okay and that I was just waiting for my friend and her mom to drive up with "my" horse in a trailer.

Since it was Cinco de Mayo, and it was Tucson, there were Cinco de Mayo parties around town. And at the bar/steakhouse down the street, there was a Cinco de Mayo party in full swing. I could hear the music, the laughing, partying voices wafting on the evening breeze. I listened to the faint sounds of this party, wondering how many Coronas, margaritas, nachos were being consumed, wondering which friends of mine were out at a Cinco de Mayo party, doubting that Brenda and her mom would want to go there after their long drive from northeastern Nevada (I think it was around 12-14 hours!).

I doubted that I'd really want to go, either. Cotton would be there. We'd have to take care of him and make sure he was okay before putting him up in his new stall. Plus, Brenda and her mom would have to park the truck and trailer in a good spot for the night, so it would be out of the way, but not so out of the way that it was in a difficult-to-park spot.

And I hadn't seen Brenda for a year or two. So it would be nice to talk at my nice, quiet apartment, instead of a loud Cinco de Mayo party.

They got there a bit later than expected, but only because they'd stopped a few times to let Cotton out to stretch his legs, take a rest, etc.

It was good to see him and Brenda and her mom once they got there. It was maybe around 7-8 PM when they got there. Both Brenda and her mom were understandably tired, worn out, glad to finally be there.

Cotton was alert, snorting, prancing around, when we got him out of the trailer. We hand-walked him in the main ring for a few minutes to let him stretch out. I went and turned on the arena lights and we took his leg wraps off (the ones that supported his legs while in the trailer) and the tail wrap off (to protect his tail from rubbing against the trailer's butt-bar behind his rump) and then unclipped the lead-rope from the halter so he could roam about freely for a bit. He felt good roaming about in the arena. He pranced around, sniffed at things, rolled.

So there he was. "My" horse Cotton. He'd finally arrived. And that's why I have fond memories of Cinco de Mayo.

Here are a few photos I took of Cotton 2-3 weeks after he arrived in Tucson:

You can see his golden-dappled coat.

Maybe some day soon, I'll talk about the last couple trail rides he took me on through the washes of Tucson, the golden setting sun, the pack of coyotes, the rattlesnake, how I like to think of the beautiful southwestern landscape bathed in golden light the color of Cotton's coat, and the saudade I inevitably feel when I think about those quiet times he and I shared.

1 comment:

varunner said...

He's gorgeous. I've always thought palominos so handsome - although I've never owned one myself.
I have a few horse/trail/rattlesnake moments myself from the TX college days. Gulp.

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