Slowly climbing the big grade the next morning up to the Mount Hood Summit, Mike grabbed another gear, allowing his thirty tons of precious hay to inch closer to his destination near Seattle. He was up early that morning putting together his combination of truck, forty-foot trailer, and twenty-foot dolly trailer. The dairy cattle would get four deliveries a week of these twenty-two bales of alfalfa, and each bale weighed about 1,400 pounds. It was hard work strapping down the hay and possibly having to put a tarp over it to keep it dry. Living in the great Northwest, there was a saying that liquid sunshine is the forecast for the day. He usually didn’t take that trip, but what occurred that night across the street at the barn had bothered him.
The depression that had been eating at him was like a thick fog that would not leave him. It was hard, not to go over there that morning. He just wasn’t ready. Just imagining someone doing something normal in their lives was very difficult for Mike. That’s what his depression did. It was painful. Somehow, being in the truck took away that fog and gave him something to do. For three years that’s how his life had been.
Long stretches of time driving gave Mike the opportunity for deep thoughts that he would share with me. With God as his only companion, he shared his feelings, emotions, heartaches, dreams, and desires with Him. “I’m sorry, God, I just don’t have courage anymore, but I sure loved seeing that horse last night. After looking at that pedigree and seeing that it was a mare that had come from my breeding program, I just broke down. The Peters’ must have thought I was inconsiderate, excusing myself. I feel so bad about that, dear God.”
He’d always been attracted to horses, and then he saw that first Arabian horse that he fell in love with. He remembered his Mom telling him that he couldn’t go down to Catalina Island by himself at sixteen years old and work on an Arabian horse ranch. But he did anyway. It was hard for his mom to control him. He was so hardheaded. The image in his head of that magnificent horse was too deep in his spirit. He just couldn’t shake it. He remembered praying at night thanking God for creating the horse and allowing him to be with them. Nothing would stop him. He really drove his mother nuts, building a little paddock in his backyard, spending all the money he had and all the time he had after school just being with his horses. There were motorcycles, music, band, singing, sports, and so many distractions. He was so ADD.
He remembered that night after the senior all-night party after graduation. He had to be over in Middletown California on an Arabian horse ranch at eight o’clock in the morning and literally got no sleep that night. But he was there. What was the use of being in one place seeing only a few horses when he could go out and see the world, see as many horse ranches as possible and as many Arabian horses as possible. It was a real slow start trying to get his horse transport business started. He wished there had been more people to help him. His poor old truck and trailer weren’t holding up. He was getting as many hauls as possible. He remembered that time when he was coming home from San Francisco after delivering a horse when he was running out of gas and rolled literally into the gas station out of gas. That was not very much fun. He was thankful that Robert Thompson gave him that job in his horse transport company.
He told him, “Don’t waste all that money getting your business going when you can just work for me.”
That was a good idea because that summer he drove thousands of miles exhausted, but he was just in heaven.
He had never seen so many horses in his life and met so many people that share the same passion that he did. When he got so tired he thought maybe a little change would be good for him. Well, what an abrupt change he made going up there to the Seattle area to work for five different horse ranches. He sure didn’t make much money doing that plus working at McDonald’s to try to make enough money to at least eat. That didn’t last long! Somehow, he finagled a job down in Shreveport, Louisiana, working for a rich guy who wanted to start an Arabian horse ranch and spend about $3 million doing it. He was his man.
“Come on down, and we’ll do it together,” he’d said.
Well, he sure did go down there. He went for about six months. He did all the odd jobs but never laid a hand on a horse while the man tried to decide if he wanted to follow through with his idea. Then he brought him into his office and told him, “Well son, I decided to go into Appaloosas instead. My lawyer raises Appaloosas, so, you want to work for me now?”
He couldn’t believe that, sitting there just literally in disbelief. He had wasted all that time.
“Of course, I don’t want to work for an Appaloosa rancher,” he said. “I came down here to work with Arabian horses. Gads no, I’m going back now to a truck that’s broken down, after giving away everything I had, selling all my horses, and giving my dog Jake away just to come down here!”
He was so glad that those people back home took him in and let him sleep on the couch while he got his life back together. Well, one good thing was that he learned a lot. He learned how to put everything he knew into building a horse ranch. Learned a lot about bloodlines, and especially, he had learned to trust his intuition about who he shouldn’t work for.
With no wheels, hitchhiking thirty miles every day built his character. Nothing was going to keep him away from Arabian horses. What an opportunity it was to go down there, to the McKenzie River Valley, and work for that Arabian horse ranch. For two years he took care of forty horses by himself: working, building, conditioning, training, and breeding. He especially gained a lot of knowledge there. He saw to it that twenty out of twenty mares got pregnant. Next year, he had sixty Arabians to take care of. He thought he was in heaven. Something that really drove him was this thing in his head: that Arabian horses were a part of him, that he had been with them forever. He thanked God for creating them.
Frustrated, Mike would wish he could get out of that truck and be back with his precious kindred spirits. But the reality was that he had to make a living, and this is all he had at the time.