By Monty Wheeler
Melinda stood outside the barn, just where her daddy said, and waited with just one part hope and three parts of pure dread. She hated surprises for too many times her hopes were shattered and scattered like broken roles of shiny, thin dimes. The worst was when Daddy took Mama to that germ free place; she didn’t come back to dry the tears from one scared little face; they said she was dead and gone to God’s grace. But Melinda knew better, and so many nights Mama held her with care.
The big barn door opened, and Daddy walked out. She peeked through the fingers of hand-covered eyes; she couldn’t imagine what was her surprise. Daddy led out a huge dappled gray, and oh, how she loved that horse right away. Even his gait had some special sway. The gleam in his eye gave Melinda to cry; but happy tears she spilled. Her uncle asked her, “How many hands?” All she could muster was clapping with joy; her hands were for petting, not measuring that boy.
She’d never been of lace or yarn, no pearl one, knit two, she’d urge to learn. She loved the farm and barnyard scents at dawn. But how they laughed at her in school; they always said, “Your daddy dresses you funny!” when she wore her little girl Roper boots and Wrangler jeans and snaps on shirts, and oh, how those snaps always shined so nice, like little bitty chips of colored ice in full sunlight. Some days she cried and others denied her wounded, hurting heart.
Out came the tack; Melinda stepped back and screamed, “No! Don’t want that stuff, Daddy; it hurts my new horse!”
“Without the saddle, I can’t let you ride,” her daddy said in voice just as soft as goose down bed. “And without the bridle, there’s no way you can guide.”
“I don’t care, Daddy,” Melinda pouted. “Don’t want that shiny thing hitting his teeth, and don’t want those straps to go tight underneath!”
“But, Melinda, you can’t ride—“
“Just watch me, Daddy,” Melinda cried. She led the large steed to the old well house, climbed the rock wall, and with handful of mane, she went for it all.
The big, gentle breed of remarkable steed—as if he knew the little girl’s need—walked to the fence but stopped to return to the bucket, as Daddy rattled the corn. But Melinda had none of that corn-spoiled fun. A cowgirl’s instinct tugged at his mane; he turned down the fencerow as if it were plain the big, ol’ horse the little girl wanted much the same thing.
“Melinda!” her daddy called and started their way. She set him to trot; it bounced her a lot, but with both hands deep in his natural mane, she stayed on his back, ne’er noticed the pain of bouncing on his hard knobbed spine. At canter he smoothed the rough-on-her ride, and more she urged by rubbing his side. His gallop was smooth as riding on air; Melinda clung tight to his neck and cackled, for freedom was hers, a cowgirl unshackled.
She failed to see with her wide-eyed stare the far north fence across the “out there.” But oh, how her horse could set a girl free; ne’er could she run as fast as he. And bigger he grew in her mind’s eye until he loomed large as big ol’ blue sky. And nearer the fence, but still they’d not slow, and nearer the fence at full gallop they’d go. “Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!” She cried reindeers’ names, and none seemed to fit; her horse was a dasher, but that name was not it.
She felt her steed tense, and then came the sense of dangerous barbs in that five-stranded fence. He drew his legs under and gathered his force, t’was naught she could do but hold fast to her course. Behind Melinda, she heard Daddy scream, “Hold on to him, Baby!” His voice seemed extreme, for ne’er had she felt so lighter than air, as the horse cleared the fence with inches to spare.
As Pegasus rose, he caught an updraft, and far below, she saw Daddy’s arms waving so fast like he tried to fly. Melinda waved “bye” and called “I love you! I’m going to see Mama! I’ll kiss her for you and tell her you love her and miss her lots too!”
Pegasus flew into the bright morning sun. A horse and a cowgirl—two to share one dream of forever, and friendship begun.