A Lesson Learnt
by Wendy Burtt
in the spirit of Mark Twain
“I betcha hunderd bucks you can’t make it back here in a minnut.”
“He’s the fastest horse in this barn. I betcha I can too.”
“Go ahead then if you think he’s so fast.”
Reachin’ down, I gave Kane a pat. “We’ll show ‘er.”
“Alrigh’ then.” We turn’d towards the field. “You time us.”
“How do I know you won’t cheat?”
“You callin’ me a cheat Tammy Flynn? I ain’t no cheat! I’ll git down off this horse and thump you one!”
“Aww go on then. Yer jus scared that stupid horse of yours ain’t that fast!”
“You count. Once you git to a hunderd, you start countin’ ta sixty. I’ll be here in flash!”
“Awright then, go on.”
Kane and I started down the hill to the bridge crossin’ the crick, then cross’d the flat pasture. We come to another hill where the path cut through the Osage Orange and Sycamore trees to the Back Forty.
We kept walkin’ down the strip of weedy land flanked by trees and the cow fence to the north. He started prancin’ and a-flaggin’ his tail in the air and actin’ real proud and fancy like. I wrapped a big chunk of his black mane round my hands to help keep my seat. My bare feet clung to his sides, and my knees hung real tight behind his shoulders. He bounced and hopped all the way to where we couldn’t go no further and then I pulled him up. I hunkered down a bit and tightened my grip on his mane and then spun him real fast! He took off like a runaway train!
The monkey grass slapped at my legs as we whipped down the lane. The trees blurred to my left, and the cows scattered away to my right. The reins didn’t do no good, so I just clung to his mane like a burr. The wind stung my eyes and tears a-streamed, makin’ rivers down my cheeks.
We launched up the hill and come out onto the grassy field. I grinned and whooped, and my boy just run harder. I could see the barn now, Tammy a little dot wavin’ at me. We flew over the bridge and up the hill. As we clattered into the lot, we scattered the sleepin’ horses, a dirt cloud risin’ behind us. I quivered in excitement as I looked at Tammy, her hand wavin’ away the dust from in front of her face. “How long? He did it didn’t he?”
Tammy looked kinda sheepish like. “Yeah he did it. I made it ta 53 fore you got ta the gate.”
“I told you so! You didn’t think he could do it, but we showed you!” I crowed my delight and gave Kane a hug ‘round his sweaty neck.
Feelin’ cocky, I reached down and slipped the bridle over his ears. “Here, take this.” As I leaned over, Kane suddenly whirl’d away to his left. I dropped the leather and grabbed his mane. “Whoa!”
But that ole’ horse didn’t listen to me. Instead, he took off through the lot and run back down the hill. I grabbed his mane tighter and hung on, but couldn’t do nuthin’ ‘cept hunker down. Instead of crossin’ the bridge, he leapt over it. He swung a wide arc to the right, and galloped down the hill and turned left. Skimmin’ the tree line, he run all the way to the corner of the field where the path led back towards the cow field. Instead a-goin’ down the path, he turned and run up the hill again. Seein’ where we was headed, I thumped him with my heels and got him to run faster towards the barn. “Go on then you ole mule. You wanna run then go on!”
He gallop’d all the way up into the lot, skiddin’ to a stop at the gate. I was fair to shakin’, and clean outta breath. “You see that? Tammy he run faster than before!”
“You better git off then. Why’d he do that?”
As I went to slide off, dangit if that horse didn’t bolt again. He wouldn’t let me git down, instead run off on exactly the same trip. So help me I swear that horse was a-laughin’ at me! I ain’t lyin’! We run down the hill, jumped the dry creek bed, and run the circuit to the left this time. He turned right up the hill, run cross’d the bridge, and back into the lot. I didn’t have no words for Tammy, and she didn’t have none for me. Our eyes met real wide and scared-like. I reached a shiverin’ hand down to pat Kane on his neck; now I ain’t a liar, but that horse took off again!
This time, the other horses followed us down the dirt hill. I could barely hold Kane’s mane, and my legs was so covered in sweat, I nearly fell off fifty times. Kane had his head stuck out low and his nostrils flared. He looked kinda angry, and his eye gleam’d. He run through a grove a low hangin’ branches and one caught me unawares and sliced my chin open. I got the scar to prove it, honest.
We thundered ‘round that field, and the dust rose in a fog behind us, up the hill, and into the lot. The horses all slid to a stop, buckin’ and rearin’ and carryin’ on about their fun. Kane pulled right up at the gate again. His sides was a-heavin’ and his nostrils was a-flared so wide the bright pink insides glared in the sun. Great gobs of white lather dripped off ‘im. It fair flowed offa me too. I daren’t move, so I stuck tight, a-huffin’ and a-puffin’, a-shiverin’ like a leaf. Tammy’s eyes were wide as dinner plates and her mouth hung open in a silent “O” of amazement.
Finally I slid down, and laid a shakin’ hand on Kane’s neck.
“Well, you weren’t a-lyin’ Wendy. He shore is fast.”
Wendy Burtt writes from her home in Chicago where she lives with her fiancé and daughter. Her work can be found in Mindful Metropolis, Shark Forum, Common Ground, and DOPE magazine. And “A Lesson Learnt” is true, she swears!