The Life Of A Horse

They named him Bacon and they had him for . . . well, forever. He was a young horse, about eight months old, when my uncle (really my great-uncle) bought him as a wedding present for his new bride. They say she cried when they led him out and introduced them. She used to say to me, "It took me three years to love your uncle Alan, but with Bacon it was love at first sight."

I met him when I was about six months old. Uncle Alan was my mother's favorite uncle and she was his favorite niece, so we were always visiting. She climbed up on Bacon and Uncle Alan handed me up to her. We sat there together and got our pictures taken. (Nobody ever believes me when I tell them I was riding a horse, before I could walk. My mom had to hold me in the saddle, but I have home movies of us bouncing around on that first day. Everyone is always amazed.)

He died this past week of old age. (Although I just read about a horse a long time ago who lived to be 62 years old.) My mom called me on the phone and told me and I started crying and couldn't stop for about an hour.

I called my aunt Anne up and we cried together. She told me about how she used to sit in the field and study (she was a junior in college when she married Uncle Alan) and Bacon would come and stand and look over her shoulder and blow and whinny at her as if trying to encourage her. He must've done a fairly good job of it. She went on to medical school a couple of years later and runs a general practice from an office Uncle Alan built for her.

I was at their house every day for the first ten years of my life. I learned to ride a horse by riding Bacon. I learned to care for a horse by caring for Bacon. I won first prize in a competition when I was 9 years old, by showing off that beautiful old horse. He was about twenty-four by then. (Twenty-five years is the average lifespan of a horse. Bacon beat that by about ten years.)

When we moved away -- sixty miles, so my Dad could build houses in Montgomery and so we could have our own house -- I cried and cried and hid in the stables with Bacon and told him they'd have to pry me out with a crowbar. He was a sympathetic old horse and let me hug him and cry on his neck until dinner time when I got hungry and my Dad came and found me and told me to come in and eat.

I still went every weekend for the next seven years. I never saw that horse look weak. I never saw him stumble or even look sad or tired. He was a brave, healthy old horse and he was that way the day I drove out to the farm to say goodbye to Uncle Alan and Aunt Anne and him.

That was just three weeks ago. I was missing that sweet old animal and thinking about calling home to ask about him when the call from my mother came through. That night, my cousin and a few of her friends and I all went out together. We toasted his life with food and drink and I made them cry with some old memories.

I'm still sad. But I shouldn't be. He was a good horse. He lived a fine life and a long one. He passed quietly and without ever really being sick his whole life. Wherever the good ones go he has gone and he's as happy there as he ever was here.

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