On March 1st, 2010, my friend Walter and I set off on an adventure with my Arabian horse, Sojourner. I rode Soj across America and Walter drove our little truck (with no trailer). The trip began in Los Angeles, California and successfully ended in Bath, New Hampshire 8 months and 14 days later. It was a 3,700 mile ride.
We rode in celebration of family and as an outreach to those dealing with divorce-related depression.
This ride tells a tale of love in many forms - through the people we meet along the way, our connection with the horse, with the land, and with each other.
As this blog goes on it gets more and more in depth with tons of photos and experiences. Snuggle in with a cup of tea and read this like a book. I have switched the blog around so it reads start to finish so you don't have to read backward (except the first entry).
Here is our story...
It meant something
"That meant somethin', you seein' that, by golly, that meant somethin'!"
Kirk laughed as he crooked his head to see the picture I was showing him on the camera.
"Can you believe it? Oh, it was so beautiful. You told us we had to go there, Kirk, and you were right! It's just so beautiful down there!"
I didn't know about going down to the river. I had a horrible headache and I was really tired because Soj had kept me up the night before. But Kirk insisted. In fact, as I was pulling away in the truck from the Rough Riders get together I could hear Kirk in the distance saying, "Well, hold on a minute. I've gotta see where this little one is headin' off to!"
Not seconds later Kirk was beside me on his horse looking down at me through the truck window.
"Well, where are ya goin'?!"
I explained to him that I was going to follow everyone in the truck. I was heading to the river, but I just wanted to take the truck because my head hurt so bad and I wanted to be able to duck out to find a place to lie down for a bit.
I ended up staying at the river. Kirk was right. It was so beautiful.
"It is, by golly, I know! It sure is...and that meant somethin'."
The next morning Jordan, Walter, and I slowly woke up to a misty river and chirping birds. I went to look at the river and stared at what looked like the roots of a tree floating downstream. When I looked at the river, though, I realized the water wasn't really moving, the thing was.
"Oh my goodness, guys!", I said, "Come here! You're not going to believe this!"
Round and round and round he went. I was watching Soj very carefully for any signs, any twitches to show annoyance, but he was as calm as ever.
I had gone to sit with Soj while Kirk and Walter were in the office looking over the map. I heard Kirk's grandson's footsteps as he ran toward the corral where Soj and I were. Kirk said his grandson loves to be out with those animals in the barn.
I turned to see the three year old boy hanging on the fence, kind of swinging on it, as he watched me and Soj.
"Do you want to brush him?" I asked.
He didn't answer. He's not much of a talker. He just looked at me, but when I headed to the truck he followed understanding what I had asked.
I handed Anthony the brush and the two of us walked into the corral. Sojourner stood as the little boy jumped up to try to reach the top parts of his mane.
I tried to teach Anthony that the hind legs of a horse can be dangerous. I was a little worried because he ran up quickly on Soj's back legs. Soj wouldn't kick, but another horse in the future could. Anthony wasn't quite understanding what I was telling him so I held Soj's back legs and said, "These. These can kick!"
When I said "kick" I kicked out with my back leg to try to show him what I meant. Anthony quickly turned around and shot his back leg out just like I did straight into Sojourner's hind leg. Soj twitched his ear back at the boy.
I tried to explain more and then we continued brushing. I stood back and let Anthony brush on his own. Every few strokes he would look back at me for reassurance.
"Perfect", I would say, "That's good."
As I watched he would run back and forth between Soj's mane and tail until he was off in an imaginary land and was eventually running circles around Soj. He would stop every so often and run the brush down Soj's mane or bend down to his hooves and brush them. Then around and around again he would go, flitting Soj's tail into the air as he hit it with his head. Once he even went straight under Soj's stomach to the other side.
Kirk came out and laughed, "You've got a real horse!"
"Eaaaasssy", Kirk said to his Grandson, "Nice n eeeeaaaasy."
Kirk has been watching over Anthony for the last year or so because his mother is dying of cancer. He said as hard as it all is, it's been a blessing to have his grandson with him so much at the barn.
The next morning we headed over to Kirk's after camping out at the river. His daughter had gone into the hospital earlier that morning and a couple hours later Kirk's phone rang telling him that hospice was coming in.
"Just stay here, Kirk, really, let us just ride out", I said.
"No, this is what I want to do", he said, "Let me do this. I want to get you out to where it's safe and see you on your way. I said I would do it and this is what I want to do."
We went round and round about this (much like Anthony the night before) until Soj was loaded and ready to go. Kirk brought us up the road to where it was less narrow and curvy and also gave us a little jump start on the day since we took an extra day off the day before. Kirk had a bunch of kids and adults coming out for the Rough Riders get together the day before and hoped we could check it out as well. We decided to stay for it knowing we would have a jump start the next day and figured it was probably something to stick around for. It was. Kirk was. Everything about it all was.
After Kirk hung up the phone that delivered the news about his daughter we all got in our trucks and headed down the road.
Then....there was a huge bang. I put my head out of the window and saw that Kirk's tire had blown out.
"No", I said, "This is the last thing he needs."
Thankfully there was a pull off right around the corner so we pulled into that. I got out of the truck and seconds later Kirk got out, walked to the back of the truck, and let out a great big laugh!
"Ah", he said, "Would you look at that? Well, you know, it could be worse. We're here in a nice safe pull out and, well, if it weren't for bad luck we wouldn't have any luck at all!"
Kirk's youngest daughter, Amanda, and her boyfriend came out and brought another tire for the truck. I couldn't believe his composure through it all. He saw it for what it was. Even with all that was going on with his family, he saw it for what it was.
Kirk was a huge lesson for me. He is an exceptional person with an exceptional heart. He hugged me when we were leaving and said through laughter, "Well, I've made a friend, by golly! I've made a new friend!"
Kirk's daughter died this morning. Walter called him this evening to check in and that's when we found out.
"It meant something, by golly."
It did. It meant that there is magic in this world that can sometimes only be witnessed in little moments. It meant that people can touch one another so deeply in such a short amount of time that it can take your breath away. It meant that there is beauty that is so magnificent it can't be expressed through words. It meant that no matter how fragile we are, there is life everywhere, and no matter how long our time here, we can have an impact, we can touch a person, we can make a mark, we can last a hundred life-times.
May your daughter rest in peace, Kirk, and may you continue to teach. You are a hero to me.