The Trucker Across the Street
We had a lot of work to do that day if we wanted to put this horse outside somewhere. Our fences were in bad condition and not safe. The two stalls we had in the barn were knee deep in manure. With our severe lack of tools, we were not prepared. I ran into the house with an idea to pass by Mom.
“You know the man across the street looks like he might have some tools that we could borrow. I should go over there and ask him,” I told her shrewdly.
“That’s a good idea.” She grinned.
I peeked out the door that direction and said, “I see him working on his truck. I’ll be right back. Wish me luck.”
The day was getting warmer as I ran across the street to approach this man who was busy underneath his truck. He was a middle-aged man with gray hair. He was wearing some old dirty overalls.
“Hello,” I said. All I heard was hello coming back from underneath the truck.
“Who’s there?” he asked.
“My name’s Mathew. I live across the street.”
Out from underneath the truck appeared a smiling face squinting at the sun as he looked at the sunrise in the distance. “What can I do for you, sonny?” He reached out his greasy hand for me to shake.
I didn’t hesitate but clasped his hand eagerly.
“My name is Mike.” As he withdrew his hand, realizing that he had just gotten grease all over me.
“Sorry about that,” he said as he wiped his hands on his overalls. “Your name is Mathew?” Mike asked.
“Yes sir, we just moved in across the street, and I wanted to come over and introduce myself,” I said.
“Where did you move from, son?” asked Mike.
“We’re really new to this area. We came up here from LA,” I answered.
“This is really way out in the country. What made you come way out here?” he asked
“Well, my mom and I came up here after my Dad died. My Mom said that it would be good for me.”
“Hey, how do you like it up here kid?” Mike asked.
“Well, I’ve never been anywhere so dark in my life. Down in LA, we had streetlights all over the place, and I’ve never seen so many animals before. There aren’t any streetlights anywhere here either. You drive this big truck for a living?” I asked.
“Yep. I’ve been living in this truck for the last three years. I’m seldom home, but it’s a living.”
“You sure have a nice place here,” I commented.
Mike longingly answered, “Yes, I really love it when I’m home.”
“The reason why I am here, Mike, I wanted to ask you if you might have some tools that I could borrow. There are so many chores I have to do. You know, we just got this horse, and there’s no place to put her,” I told him.
“You just got a horse?” Mike asked.
“Yep. Just yesterday we went down to the auction and saved her from a killer buyer.”
“Really!” You know what; I’ve been under this truck for so long. Maybe I should help you. I’d be glad to get you those tools. I’ll help you take them over. Maybe you can show me this horse you have.” “Thanks so much,” I said with gratitude.
“Just give me a second to clean off my hands. Here, come clean yours up, too. What do you think we’ll need?”
“I have to clean out some stalls, and I have to fix the fence because it’s down over there,” I answered
“Let’s see, shovels, pitchforks, and a wheelbarrow or two would probably work. I’ll throw in some wire, a hammer, and nails with some staples. Once we get there, we can check things out,” Mike suggested.
We went out to the barn and opened those big doors.
“Wow, look at all this stuff,” I said.
“Yes, it’ll be good to put this stuff to good use.” Mike smiled.
“Look at all those saddles!” I said.
“We call that tack, and it has been gathering dust for the last three years.”
With all the necessary items gathered together in two wheelbarrows, I was thankful that Mike was there to help me out. A nicker rang out from the barn as we opened the door. There were two ears pointing at attention with big eyes looking our way.
“Is this the horse you’re talking about?” Mike asked.
“Yes, it is, what do you think?” I responded as we approached the door of the stall.
“Is it okay if I go in with her?” Mike asked.
“Sure, this is the first horse I’ve ever had, and I sure need help. I know that she’s really a pretty Palomino, but I need another opinion. You know anything about horses?”
“Yeah, a little bit,” Mike answered as he went up to the door to let the horse see him.
Curiously, Babe moved closer and smelled Mike’s arm.
“Good girl,” praised Mike.
I was really glad that Babe was interested. It seemed like Mike was able to help her feel at ease. It looked like Mike was getting her permission to enter the stall. I stood there watching curiously as Mike opened the door gently and proceeded inside. Standing inside quietly, Mike allowed Babe to approach him. Reaching out, he touched her softly, “It looks like she’s in pretty good shape. Do you know how old she is?” “No, I don’t,” I said.
“Well let me see.” Mike gently reached up and opened her mouth. He just looked in there and said, “Well, looks like she’s about seven or eight years old.”
“How do you know that? You can tell by looking in her mouth?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m just looking at her teeth,” Mike answered.
“Wow, you can really do that?”
“You’re just full of questions, aren’t you.”
“Well, this is new to me, but, do you like her?” I asked.
“I do.” Mike smiled. “She’s a good size. What do you want to do with her?”
“When I was young, I saw a bunch of horses at a racetrack, and since then I wanted a horse so bad. I really want to ride her,” I replied.
“Do you know if she’s ride-able?” Mike asked.
“I really don’t know. This horse is all I’ve got. I don’t even know her history.” I said.
“Well you know, from what I can tell, this is an Arabian. Not only is she purebred but she is well bred. Is there any way that you can get her history for me?” Mike asked.
“Wow, they said she came from an Arabian breeder! Maybe I can go and find out some more information about her,” I said excitedly.
“That would really be a great idea,” Mike told me.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us. Let’s get started,” Mike said as he looked at the stall next door. “Let’s clean that stall first, then we can move … what’s her name?”
I answered, “I call her Babe.”
Mike continued, “We can move Babe to the next stall when we’re finished. I can almost guarantee you that she has a real name. We can find out that from the breeder, I hope.”
Boy, that stall was deep. It took about two hours with both of us working hard in the heat with sweat rolling down our brows and our T-shirts all wet. Mom came out and offered us some lemonade.
“Oh, hi Mom. I want to introduce you to Mike.”
As Mike reached out with his dirty hand, he said, “Pleased to meet you, Ma’am.
“My name is Marcia,” she said as she gingerly shook his hand. “I wanted to thank you for helping my son. Mathew is so excited about this horse. He didn’t even sleep last night.”
“You’re welcome Ma’am, I mean Marcia, if you don’t mind?”
“Sure, can I call you Mike?”
“No problem. With us hot and sweaty, I appreciate your thinking about us Marcia.”
“It looks like you’re getting along there pretty well,” Marcia said as she noticed that it was almost noon. “May I invite you for some lunch?”
“Well, that’s very kind of you Ma’am, but we just have one more stall to do here., We’ll be in when it’s finished,” he said. Mike turned to me. “What do you think Mathew, it looks like you can handle those tools very well. Have you ever done this before?”
I looked at Mike and said, “I really never have. I’m just following what you do.”
Mike continued, “Now that we have this stall done get that bale of straw, and we’ll put it in here. Hey, do you have a halter?”
I got the halter off the wall and handed it to Mike. He quietly entered the stall and put the halter on Babe. We went ahead and moved her over to the next stall, which was freshly bedded. Mike then took the halter off, and we moved the water and some fresh hay over. She proceeded to roll in the new bedding, almost like she was thanking us for the trouble that we had gone to. We went ahead and cleaned the other stall and got it prepared. By that time, we were both pretty hungry.
Mom had lunch ready in the house.
Before we got into the house, Mom called out, “You guys’ better cleanup. You stink to high heavens.”
“Yes Mom,” I answered. “Follow me, I’ll show you to the bathroom, Mike.”
Marcia had the table nicely set with some ice-cold lemonade. She had made grilled cheese along with some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I devoured four sandwiches to feed my growing body. Mom was glad to provide us everything we needed to refuel us, so we could get back to work. Living in the city was definitely a contrast compared to all this hard work. “I really appreciate you helping my son, Mike.” Mom said with gratitude.
“You’re welcome, Marcia. I thought it would be important to help Mathew get this mare situated so she can be safe. We just have to get some fencing outside taken care of. I have time today to help him before going to work tonight, on another run.”
“Sure appreciate it,” I said thankfully.
There was already a corral that needed repair, with a few boards down. We repaired the boards and rehung the gate. That corral was right outside, adjoining, both the stalls. We opened the door, and Babe curiously ventured out to her new surroundings.
As Mike watched Babe, he said, “This is one step closer to turning her out into the big pasture. It looks like she’s eating all her feed, and she’s drinking her water. When I get back from my run, I’ll come over and help you fix the wire fencing in the pasture.”
Mike continued, “While I’m gone, could you check at the auction yard regarding any information you can gather on her background and breeding? Here, I’ll write it down for you. She is bay, around seven or eight years old with a star and stripe on her face, a sock on her right hind leg and a coronet on her left front.”
“I sure will. Thank you, Mike.” I answered.
“Let’s leave these wheelbarrows and tools here, they are just gathering dust at my place,” said Mike.
I went ahead and accompanied Mike across the street back to his barn. Mike invited me into his tack room. As we sat down Mike’s demeanor became rather serious. He had something important to share with me.
Mike began, “I have an assignment for you, Mathew. When you’re there with your horse, go into her stall and her corral and just sit there. I want you to just sit there quietly and let her get used to you. Just let her come up to you when she’s ready, don’t reach out to her. Let her touch you first. I want you to write down anything that you see and note your observations. When I see you next, I’ll ask you what those things were, okay?”
“Sure I will,” I answered. “How long do you think you’ll be gone?”
“Oh, usually, about two days.”
“All right, be safe out there. Bye,” I said as I ran across the street and headed over next to Babe’s stall and just stood there at the door, looking in on her. It’d been a long day with a lot of hard work, and the realization of what she now meant to me. Wishing I could wrap my arms around her, I gave my new mare a flake of hay and some water. I headed into the house where my mother met me at the door. I hugged her like I’d never had before. Mom, knowing my heart, sweetly hugged me back. Dinner was ready. I ate a hearty meal and headed right up to bed. I could hardly wait to get back to work tomorrow with the assignment that Mike had given me. No sooner had I hit the pillow, I fell fast asleep.