He's in the big pasture down the road where it turns and slopes downhill, there by the barn that has a fading painted smile. He appeared last winter: a bony brown critter with ribs and hips jutting. He kept his head in the hay feeder or eagerly devoured the sparse tufts of dead grass. Rescue case, someone said at the feed store. Over the winter he gained back all his missing weight and rolled his chestnut coat clean in the grass. He's filled out. He feels good. I've seen him bucking and chasing the old pinto draft horse he's pastured with. He pesters like the two- or three-yearold stud colt he probably is. Lately I've seen him in the corral, maybe in time-out. Give the old horse a chance to catch his breath.
I slow down my truck as I drive by. He's a tough little colt with that short-backed rugged look that appeals to me like sideburns on men and a cerain kind of mustache. Maybe he's a mustang from the adoption program. Maybe he's quarter horse crossed with a pony, with a little Arab thrown in. I've thought about stopping my truck to say hi.
It's the spring that does this to me. It's that colt's look. It takes me back to horses that got under my skin, a few out of hundreds I've met, fiesty fillies and capricious colts that lured me into their lives whether it was good for me or not. Tough little horses to trot down dirt roads, stroll between hardwoods and pines on the hills, lope along logging trails and over the downed trees. Hard-headed overgrown ponies to gallop across a hayfield and then hose clean, step right into the trailer and head for a parade or show.
Yeah, some were heartbreakers; I was lucky they weren't bone-breakers. But none of that matters. The leaves are budding, grass greening up, and I gaze at the colt as I drive by.
I'm not twenty anymore. I'm certainly not fearless. I don't even have two legs. I'm in a committed relationship with a fabulous mare at home, my sane and sensible mount, the only horse I've ridden since my amputation. I should know better.
But I feel this ache. I know the woman who owns that farm. She's got llamas and peacocks and a camel, too. (She gave me a ride on the camel). She swims the lake every summer with me. I could ask her about the colt.
I'm not going to. I don't want to know. The colt looks like frosty October trails with an exuberant buck saved for when a deer dashes across the path ahead. He's the dust and blistering sun at the summer 4H shows, and the bareback jump course of plastic barrels in the pasture after supper. I'm going to keep watching him wistfully with this sweet arrow through my heart for what I've had, for what I wish I could have one more time. He's one of the colts of spring. I'm glad to recognize him. And let myself imagine what we might have had.