It was a fall day today of no particular note. The golden leaves of the alder trees dropped at the hint of wind, onto ground covered with brilliantly green fall grass. The sky was blue, yet clouds edged in with the afternoon, adding a hint of autumn to a weekend that boasted t-shirts.
Despite all this normality, it was not a normal day for the farm. Today was Chaco’s day to die. A pre-planned day. Not pre-ordained, but chosen from so many other days. Chosen in the middle of the night because this is not a decision made in day. A slow decision that has been a long time coming. And then it was made and here we are.
How does a horse survive when he can no longer see where he is going? How many fences will he have to run in to, with cuts on his nose and legs to prove? Will a raging creek in winter sweep him off his feet for the last time because he doesn’t trust knowing where the bridge drops off at the edge? In the end, what does our love count for if we can’t be responsible to end his life well, after so many years of cantering on the correct lead, learning to jump as a team, riding trails?
For Chaco, it was a normal day. He ate grass. He waded across the summer creek. He was surrounded by the baaing of sheep and the companionship of the other horses. Sure, we paid him extra attention in the past few days. He was brushed and fed treats. His mane and tail were combed. And he was brushed again.
But for the farm, this day had been hanging around for a week. Time to do something, anything, that would make a memory or a kindness to add to the memories and kindnesses that have followed us for the past 14 years. So, we took photos and even a last ride around the property. And then today we took some family photos with Chaco, the kind that sport all the kids, except here we had the donkey and the other horses butting into the picture too. And it was a beautiful day. And we were all very much aware of our personal sorrow for a horse we had come to love over time and who would, in a short while, be gone from our world.
They tell me it was quick and he didn’t feel a thing. The horses in the barn spooked at the shot and then went back to eating their hay. The sheep lifted their heads from the pasture. I looked out through a screen of trees where I had last seen the whiteness of Chaco’s coat as he stood in the sun. He was gone. And the tractor quickly filled the hole with dirt and the field took on the surreal look of peacefulness and quiet. But for the fragrance of fresh dirt, I could have closed my eyes and thought I imagined it all.
“…may you run joyfully with the big herd in the sky, may you clear every jump you attempt, may the fields be bountiful and filled with your favorite grass, may there always be a big mud puddle to roll in, and may there always be someone there to brush you while saying sweet nothings in your ear. I (We) will truly miss you Spuds McKenzie (Chaco).”
– Facebook post by Emery Jones 10/3/10
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