With Daphne at my side, I walked gingerly to the horse barn where Stonewall had been housed during my convalescence. The barn was constructed of three stalls on each side of the barn facing the central walkway.
I believe Stonewall either smelled me or sensed me before I entered the barn because he let out one of his famous whinnies, which made me smile.
Daphne took hold of my arm and asked, “How does he know that ya were coming?”
As I entered the barn, I glanced up to see Stonewall looking at me out of the middle stall on the right side of the barn. I laughed and answered Daphne, “We have a special rapport.”
In a disbelieving voice, she queried, “Ya and a horse have a special rapport?”
I kept walking toward my faithful steed and affirmed, “Yes. We do.”
Once I got to Stonewall, he lowered his head through the open top of the two tiered gate and I moved to where his head was touching my chest and began our ritual of rubbing his jaws, which sent him into his meditative state. I closed my eyes also, and we held this posture for a long time. I guess we both reached that spiritual position where we were content and peaceful at the same time, because I stepped back as Stonewall raised his head.
I looked at Daphne, who had remained silent while Stonewall and I communed together. She had the most bewildered expression on her face. She reluctantly admitted, “I wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it. Y’all do have a special bond.”
I nodded my affirmation. Then I asked, “Who’s gonna saddle Stonewall?”
Just after my question had been uttered, Ahab entered the barn and said, “I will.”
I looked at him, and making sure my coat was open to my pistols, nodded for him to proceed.
However, Stonewall’s ears immediately lay back and his body went tense when he saw Ahab. I smiled and suggested, “I don’t think so. He might hurt you.”
Ahab came to stand in front of Stonewall’s stall and witnessed the cayuse’s disposition. He didn’t dispute my observation.
I asked if there was another person that could saddle Stonewall. Ahab didn’t offer any help. However, I espied a young servant who had come out of a stall across the walk way. He was no more than eighteen but volunteered, “I can saddle ‘em.”
I nodded and instructed, “He likes the saddle to be clinched tight, but the bridle with plenty of play in the bit.”
Ahab left the barn in a huff as the servant moved to retrieve all of the saddle and tack. With the disappearance of a malicious presence, Stonewall’s ears perked back up and his body relaxed into his usual peaceful state.
Daphne said, “I’ll go supervise the loading of the carriage.” I kissed her on the cheek as we hugged. Then she walked out of the barn toward the house.
The young man expertly saddled and bridled Stonewall, and for some reason, his movements seemed familiar. Then I remembered where I had witnessed the same competent expertise. In a low voice I hinted, “Ya wouldn’t perchance know a horseman by the name of John Lee, would ya?”
The young man snapped his head around to look at me in surprise and answered, “Yas sur. He’s my grandpa. How’d ya know dat?”
“Ya have the same movements and the same way with animals as John Lee. They trust ya and aren’t afraid of ya,” I explained.
The young man said, “Thank ya, sir. I ‘preciate it.”
When he had finished saddling Stonewall, I handed him a greenback and said, “Thanks for coming to our rescue, and tell John Lee hello for me.”
The young man accepted the dollar and summarily put it in his pocket while looking left and right to make sure no one saw the exchange. Then he asked, “What’s the name I can tell grandpa?”
“Tell him Jim Hager said hello,” I submitted.
The young man’s eyes lit up and he said, “I heard tell of ya from grandpa.”
I smiled and said, “If’n it hadn’t been for yar grandpa, Miss Daphne and I would not be here today. He saved our lives.”
The man’s eyes widened and he said, “He nevah told us that.”
“It’s quite a story. Ya need to get him to tell it so ya can pass it down to your chillen and grandchillen,” I urged.
He nodded in agreement.
I offered my hand, which he self-consciously took, and we shook hands. Then pulling gently on Stonewall’s reins, my equine spirit animal and I walked out of the barn toward the big house.