Tom the Wonder Horse Saves the Day
Copyright © Judith ShawTom was an amazing horse. The only time I ever saw him afraid was in a town parade with the bagpipes playing right behind him. Otherwise, his reaction to scary things happening was to sigh. Deeply.
Except for the (first) time we got lost.
I’d gone for a hack with a friend who lived on the other side of Lebanon Mountain. We’d had a good ride, though it was brutally hot. As we split up, Cathy told me to call her when I got home. Tom and I trotted and cantered up the gas line, looking for the trail that would take us home.
There were a few trails off the gas line, and I was pretty sure I knew the right one. I found it, and we started walking up the trail, which suddenly got much steeper than I remembered. I turned Tom around, but the trail was too steep to go down. Things really didn’t look right but, since I couldn’t go down, I had to keep going, right?
I got to the top and the trail disappeared. Completely. All I saw were knee-high ferns, rocks and close-packed trees. I tried to find my way through the trees, but the ferns hid any obstacles. I didn’t want Tom to step in a hole and break a leg, but I couldn’t see how to go forward.
The mountain was deserted. No squirrels, no human tracks, not even the sound of a bird. And time was passing.
Tom took control. He turned around until he found a gap in the trees and went through it. He stopped and looked around, found another gap and went through it. There was no pattern to the gaps, but Tom kept finding them. I gave him a few suggestions; he ignored me. After what seemed like a long time, I realized that his choice of gaps was not arbitrary. He was doing his best, given the dense growth of trees, to go in ever-widening circles. Thank God one of us knew what to do.
Finally, the trees thinned out, and a faint trail appeared.
Tom walked with determination down the trail. After a while there was a crossroads. He stopped and sniffed the air. His walk lengthened, and he moved confidently (and smugly?) in a new direction. All I could do was sit in the saddle like a lump. We broke out of the woods in a meadow above our house. Nearly three hours had passed.
I took Tom to the barn next door where he boarded. The owner was there, and I asked if he’d been worried when I didn’t come back. He said I had come back. No, I’ve been lost on the mountain. But I saw you . . . Oh. That wasn’t Tom, it was Cody! They really look alike, ha ha.
I called Cathy on my cell phone. Weren’t you worried when I didn’t check in? No, I thought you’d gone swimming in your pond. What?!
I undressed Tom and hosed him down. We both were hot and sweaty. Then I put him in his stall with a flake of hay. His dinner would be coming soon. I went home to make mine.