Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Once and Future Carpenter
Yesterday we buried our beloved horse, Cotton (his full racing name was "Cotton's Last Hope"). This was the horse that Dad raised, the one he trained and carted across the country (along with his wife and their two loud little girls who enjoyed playing "who brought the skunk?" ... while romping around in an attachable camper separated from front seat sanity by a mere sliding glass window) to race, the horse that has been a farm fixture for 31 years, the horse that symbolized so much more than "longtime pet." This horse gave the farm life and, in the past 14 months, gave me a sense of purpose. Cotton made me feel connected to Dad, as though with each stall cleaned or each bucket of feed prepared or each hug and "you're a good boy" given, I was standing in the barn beside CLT, asking him what I could do to help or listening to him tell some story I should've taken the time to write down. Cotton helped me realize why Dad loved this farm so much. For that, I am truly grateful.
Even if I am sitting here crying my eyes out as I type this, the purpose is not to be dramatic. In fact, I know there is terrible beauty in yesterday's events. Mom made the decision because it was the best thing for the horse. He was simply old; he couldn't see well, he had lost a lot of weight, he had arthritis. Last year when the vet had to come check on him, he implied that he probably didn't have a ton of time left. Mom didn't want to see him suffer or struggle through a tough winter or be left hanging on, but not really living. So, yesterday she made the exact decision Dad would've made. She and I put the racing blanket on him that he won in the 1984 Hope and Dreams Derby, we fed him a huge bucket of sweet feed, we walked him over to Dad's plot and she told me a couple of stories about a wonderful man and the horse he loved, and we hugged him as he lay there in the barn lot adjoining the field he had called home for many happy years. It was the humane thing to do and the right way to do it, even if it was incredibly sad.
So, in one way, I felt like a connection to Dad, one I have desperately clung to over the past year, was disappearing. It just broke, and continues to break, my heart. There's no better way to say it. In another way, however, I smile somewhat coyly, the way I remember Dad doing, when I think about the similarities between the two jokers. When given the chance to be in the cozy barn or in the field last year, Cotton always chose the field, no matter the weather conditions; Cotton, who was a pretty even keel horse, would neither instigate trouble nor take crap from the other horses; Cotton knew the farm better than I do; I feel like if he could've talked, Cotton would've been sarcastic a good portion of the time; He was tough as nails, but didn't mind hugs and pets and silly little comments. He and Dad were a good match.
In the midst of the sadness, I therefore remember these things: we did what Dad would've wanted; we took care of Cotton over the past year and a half in a manner that would've made Dad proud; both are buried in the barn lot they loved; and, I'm exactly where I need to be. Wendell Berry writes about it and CLT always implied it...this is the stuff that matters.