One day I came home from work and discovered a horse tied to a tree in my backyard. “Holy Molly”, I said, “what is a horse DOING in my backyard? Who could’ve left their horse in my backyard?”
Living in a large metropolitan area, I realized my house was not an ideal place for a horse. My backyard is quite small. Really, it’s just a small grassy plot of land sandwiched between two fairly tall houses. Behind me stands a blank factory wall (not much to look at), and in front a road. The neighborhood isn’t much different, and for that matter, all of town is an unbroken concrete jungle. It’s the very definition of urban. There are shops, and malls, the business district, and all the typical trappings of a modern city. We do have a few parks, but they appear only as an after-thought; as if someone had to run ahead of the galloping bulldozer, spread out their arms, and push the sprawl to either side of the cramped swing sets.
My lot does, however, have a little patch of grass. Somehow I got the luck of the draw. Most people in the city get a single plot, but me, no sir, I got the plot-and-a-half. The ‘half’ indicates that there’s just enough grass to catch a few earthworms after it rains. But today I wasn’t catching earthworms. I seemed to have caught a horse!
Approaching the animal from the side gate I peered over to get a closer look. It was a brown horse, tall, and from the look of it pretty healthy. His muscles were strong and his skin taut over the big bungling legs. He had a broad back and a long silky mane. A single strip of white ran from his bulbous nostrils to the place right between the eyes- the only alteration of color.
Somebody loves this horse, I thought. That was the only way to explain his up-kept appearance. But why? Why would such a magnificent animal be tied to a tree in my backyard? And how do you even get a horse this far in the city anyway?
The answers I sought weren’t coming. Perhaps a closer inspection would reveal more. Lifting the lock on the gate I nudged the gate open and stepped into the backyard. The gate clicked shut quietly behind me. The horses ears perked and he turned toward me. I froze. I didn’t want to startle him. The horse turned his head toward me. The white stripe on his nose caught my attention and I followed it up to where our eyes met. There was kindness in his eyes. Almost familiarity- a gesturing look as if to say, “It’s okay. Come on.” There was no alarm as I took more steps towards him. A slight stammering of the feet. Was it impatience?
Finally I was right next to him. Again, I marveled what a beautiful beast he was. Somehow I got the words to speak, “Hey there big fella, how’re we doin’ today?” My new friend just snorted back at me. I reached out and touched his velvety skin. He turned his head toward me and I could see his big black eyes were measuring me as well. He seemed to be waiting. “This is impossible!” I thought. “What is a big horse like this doing in MY backyard?” Well, one thing was for sure- he certainly couldn’t stay. A horse like this belongs in the wild.
Just then I knew what to do. “I can’t let him stay here. He must be free.” Filled with sudden resolve, I began untying the rope from around the tree. All of a sudden the horse came alive. He started pawing the ground, his feet clamoring for a new place to step. I threw the rope up and over his head, and in response he bucked his long neck up and down. “It’s you and me, buddy” I said. “I don’t know who put you here. And I don’t know if they’ll ever come back. But today, we’re going for a ride! Today I will call you ‘Derelict'”.
Derelict had on a harness. I put my foot into the first stirrup and swung my leg over the other side. Up in the air a feeling of power came over me. I felt like royalty. I could see over the fences, into the yards, and the whole neighborhood. Off in the distance the sun was just starting to set. Never in my life had I commanded such a view before. I never realized how small our neighborhood was. Never mind. We turned around, facing the street, and with a single ‘heeya’ we bounded off. Leaping over the fence we hit the road in stride, took a quick shuffle, and then were galloping along. Neighbors’ heads turned. Cars honked and swerved as we sprinted along. The feeling of the wind through my hair spurred us on, faster and faster. We passed by buildings, billboards, and stop signs. We billowed through intersections, speeding our way past startled onlookers.
We finally hit our stride. Galloping as fast as the wind would take us, the sound of hooves was only a faint echo. My mind was fully engaged in our flight. The sidewalks and building facades started to blur together into a kaleidoscope of color. In the distance I could vaguely see the edge of town. We were so close.
Then with one final lunge we were there. We slowed to take in our new surroundings. The buildings turned into fields. The road narrowed into a single lane. And the grass! I had never noticed it before. We were free!
Back in town someone closed the hatch of an empty circus trailer, and drove off.