Animal Stories

June 4, 1996


The Good Ride


Cheryl Walker

            The horse opened his eyes sleepily.  His friend was lying across the way from him, nestled in the straw.  Joe decided he wanted to get up, eventually.  He had dozed for a few more minutes when he noticed Dolly was awake.

          "I wonder if there are any grass sprouts in the pasture to eat?” Joe asked.

          "There weren't any yesterday so I don't think there are any today", Dolly replied.

          "There could be", Joe said to himself, thoughtfully.  He lumbered to his feet and strolled outside.  There were new grass sprouts like Joe had hoped.  But they were too short to eat.  So Joe began to sniff the ground to see if any animals had been in the pasture that night. 

          Sniff sniff sniff...  "There was a possum here last night.  And I didn't even hear him!"  Joe was sniffing the trail of the neighbor's cat when he heard the farmhouse door open.

          "Food!" he exclaimed to himself loudly. 

          Back in the barn, Dolly heard the farmhouse door open, too.  Finally, she had a good reason to get up out of her warm straw bed.  Both horses were ready and waiting by the time the farmhand got to the barn.  "Good morning, horses", she said.  She went into the feed room and scooped grain into two buckets.  Then she hung the buckets in the horses' stall where the horses could reach them.

          After pitching some flakes of hay into their stall, she patted each of their necks and said good-bye.  "Bye Joe.  Bye Dolly.  I'll be back to feed you this afternoon."


          "This is the best part of morning", Joe said between bites of food.  "You really know they care about you."  Dolly and Joe ate contentedly until all their food was gone.  Then they stood around swishing their tails.

          "I sure wish the pasture grass was grown already.  Eating grass would be something to do." 


          "It won't be long, Joe", said Dolly.  "Do you think anyone will be riding us today?"


          Joe answered, "I didn't see any signs of it.  No lead ropes, no saddles or blankets or bridles." 

          "Good", said Dolly. 

          "If Jasper weren't away at college, you'd be out with him on your back for sure, Dolly", said Joe. 

          "Yes, Jasper.  He's a good lad.  He won't be home until after the first of May.  I have almost a month to wait before then."  Joe and Dolly dozed on their feet for a while and then they talked some more.  Then they dozed some more.

          Meanwhile, Jasper was driving home from college.  He was going way too fast.  He had quit college.  After he got the scores from his last tests, he decided he would never do well in college.  He thought the college would kick him out.  So he was leaving before they could kick him out.  He was very disappointed.  He kept driving faster and faster, hoping that if he drove fast enough, he would not be disappointed anymore.  But it doesn't work like that.  You drive faster and faster and eventually either you will get killed or you will slow down.  Jasper finally figured out that going fast wasn't helping him, so he slowed down. 

          After two hours, Jasper pulled into the driveway of the farm.  The farmhouse was on his right and the barn was on his left.  Jasper drove to the left and parked his car in front of the barn.  He got out and went in.

          "Hi Joe, Hi Dolly", he said.  “Dolly, do you want to go for a ride?"  And without waiting for an answer, Jasper ducked into the tack room to get the tack - saddle, bridle, and blanket.  He needed to get back in touch with the simplicity of farm life and to appreciate the countryside he grew up in.  He needed to think.

          He got Dolly out of her stall and tied her in the middle of the barn aisle.  Then he brushed her.  Then he put on her blanket, her saddle, and her bridle, in that order.  He was careful to lay the blanket on her back just right so the hair on her back was still lying straight.  The saddle was placed on top of the blanket so that the saddle never touched Dolly's back directly.  This prevented saddle sores.  Jasper knew it was his responsibility to make sure Dolly was as comfortable as possible when she was carrying him on a ride.  He was considerate of his horse’s well-being.

          Jasper felt like he had done a good job when Dolly was finally saddled.  He couldn't wait to go for a ride.  After leading her out of the barn, he hopped onto her back and they started their adventure.

          Dolly clip-clopped down the driveway,across the road, and into the big field.  Jasper sat on her back trying not to feel bad about college.

          When they had reached the big field, Jasper yelled, "Yaw, Dolly!  Yaw, yaw!"

          She broke into a fast run.  They ran and they ran.  They went so fast that the wind in their faces made their eyes water and their ears roar.  They slowed down when they got to the edge of the woods, though.  They didn't want to run in the woods because of all the trees.  Also, if they ran, they would miss seeing animals, trees and plants.  So they walked into the woods.

          As soon as they had walked a few steps into the woods, Jasper and Dolly noticed something in the mud.  It was a deer's hoof print.

          "My what a big deer that is!" exclaimed Jasper.  "It must be a very big buck.  I bet he has big antlers, too!"

          Dolly could tell by smelling where the deer had been that it was a male deer, a buck.  She thought Jasper was probably right.  He was a very big buck.  They decided to follow his hoof tracks.

          They were concentrating so hard on following the buck's trail that they almost didn't notice the big tree that had fallen and was lying across their path.

          "Whoa!" Jasper said in surprise.  "Dolly, can you jump that?"  It was a big tree.  The trunk was 2 feet tall as it lay on the ground. 

          "Can I jump that," Dolly thought.  "Of course I can!"  And away she sailed, right over the top of that tree trunk.

          Jasper held on, laughing.  He loved jumping things when he rode his horse.  He loved the feeling of the horse gathering her strength, launching into the air, sailing over the obstacle, and landing on the other side.  It always made Jasper feel like it was possible for him to overcome troubles, just like horses sail over trees. 

          They came to what Jasper had named "Mirror Lake".  It was a small pond in the middle of the woods.  It was surrounded by trees and had very clear, pure water.  It was fed by an underground spring.  It reflected the woods in its waters.  With the trees around it, the pond looked like someone had laid a big beautiful mirror amongst the trees.  Jasper let Dolly get a drink of water.  After she had finished drinking water and blowing bubbles in it with her nose, she lifted her head.  Jasper watched absent-mindedly as she did this.  They were about to move on when suddenly they heard a rustling noise from across the water.  They both looked and there they saw the biggest buck deer either of them had ever seen before.

          He was magnificent.  He was a very mature and wise buck.  He had gray hair on his muzzle and dark, deep-set eyes glowing with wisdom.  He had survived many hunting seasons and had successfully avoided the clutches of his natural predators.  This proud animal had never been overcome. 

          He had 14 points on his antlers.  He stood majestically, calmly surveying them from across the pond.  Horse and rider and deer must have stood, frozen, for at least five minutes.  It seemed like forever to Jasper.  He lost all sense of time.  He just looked in awe at this wonderful animal.  Finally, the deer shook his head, stamped his feet, then bounded off through the thicket.  When he finally vanished out of sight, Jasper and Dolly shook their heads.  Had they really seen such an animal?  Yes, it had really happened.

          As a very relaxed Dolly made her way back to the farm, she could sense Jasper on her back, deep in thought.  His mind was quietly turning in rhythm to her hoof beats.

          Finally he announced to Dolly, "You know, Dolly, I think I will go back to college and finish the semester.  They may eventually tell me to leave, but at least I can stay as long as possible and do the best job I can.  Then, after I get my grades this summer, I will have some decisions to make.  If the grades are bad enough, I will figure out something else to do besides college.  A college education is nice, but I know some fine people that never got one.  I think that even if I don't get a college education, I can be a good person.  But doing your best at whatever you are doing is the right thing to do.  So I will go back.  And who knows?  Maybe things will turn out better than I think.  If I stayed here, there would be no chance of that."

          By this time they had reached the barn and Jasper got off of Dolly's back.  He led her into the barn and tied her in the aisle.  After he took off her saddle, bridle, and blanket, he brushed her all over.  When she had run, Dolly had sweated and her hair was all matted down and itchy.  When Jasper brushed her, he made sure the hair was ruffled so air could get to it and it would dry sooner.  After he brushed her, and she nuzzled his shoulder in thanks, he put her back in her stall.  Joe came in from the pasture to greet Dolly.

          As Jasper was leaving, he called over his shoulder, "See you in May!"

          Dolly felt relaxed and said contentedly, "That was a good ride."  She then headed to the pasture where she could roll in the nice cool mud.