I was but a sixth grader, a wide-eyed kid going onto a small ranch in the rich part of town. Ms. Barb, the owner, was a crotchety old lady, but I put up with it, just to be in the presence of her horses.
I had studied horses all my life. I had memorized every inch of their bodies, but hands-on experience, I sorely lacked. I went to work as a simple ranch hand. Ms. Barb threw parties for kids, all western themed, and it was my job to watch over her horses and care for them.
As I surveyed them all, a small dun gelding, almost a pony, stood in his paddock. He was swaybacked, but I hardly noticed. He had a fire in his eye, the likes of which I had never seen, and will never see again. His bones were old, his fur was dirty, and he was definitely not a show horse. But I loved him. His name was Shotgun, and he became my Christmas present later that year.
He was a mustang, said Ms. Barb. She claimed he was my age, 12, but in the back of my mind, I knew much better. I didn't care. I wanted a horse, and he taught me more than I could ever learn from a book. He led me into a pond and started a splash fight, and when I fell off his back, he'd stare me down, as if to say, 'What are you doing? Get back on, we aren't done.'
We found out later he was older than I could have dreamed: somewhere in the area of late 30's. I gave him to a sanctuary, sobbing and apologizing to him the whole time. His brown eyes glanced at me, not the least bit angry, but moreso sad that he was to leave me. I never saw him again, but I felt his presence with me every day. He was with me. And when he passed away in his new home, I knew he was at peace, as was I. I miss that old swayback dearly. He was my best friend, my brother. And when I look at myself in the mirror today, I still see a little gleam, a glimmer, that tells me he's right there.