This summer I constructed a rock cairn to stack sandstone and petrified wood on the ranchito. A few feet up from the cairn in the photograph, I smoothed the soil with a hand rake. The smooth soil and the cairn mark the spot that Lilly*, known also by her registered name, Ima Lil Moore (APHA 111214), lies buried, six feet beneath the surface in a grave dug by the backhoe of a Stephenville, Texas, contractor. The cairn is about four feet in height and I pile smaller stones within the hollow of the cairn as I work through the day.
Cairns are built on top of mountains and within them sometimes a tin box is placed so that mountaineers may log themselves in and make a few comments about the climb to the top. I’ve done that with Mt. Taylor and Pedernal in New Mexico, climbs that I remember vividly and relive in my mind as I grow old. I shall not stop climbing. I don’t have a mountain to climb now as a goal, but the South Truchas peak in New Mexico is the only one of the Truchas peaks I have not assailed. I will find the South Truchas cairn and write of my climb some day.
Lilly’s cairn contains no tin box, but as I look at it during the day I etch comments about her in a notebook that never fades or tears. She was my first and original teacher of horse behavior. I learned the difference between a kick of aggression and a kick of delight. Lilly never bit or kicked in aggression. She suffered to stand in her last days, allowing me to put a sling on the tractor and hoist her up by the neck, whereupon she shook herself and proceeded to the hay bin as if nothing had happened. To her last days, feeble as she was, the powerful King Ranch mare of mine who stood two hands above her always moved aside in respect for Lilly so that she could eat where she wanted. Lilly was alpha among the remuda.
I have thought of writing a post about putting Lilly down, and I will some day, but for now, I fill her cairn with rocks she galloped upon, throwing stones in her run to green pastures and fresh water. I know those stones and pick them up for her cairn. And in my dreams, Lilly walks beside me on a trail to the top of a unknown mountain, and she fills my night with peace.
Notes, corrections and additions:
*The spelling of Lilly is “Lilly.” It is a nickname that originated with my mother. The flower, “lily,” is spelled with one “l,” but this horse has always had it spelled with two “l’s”. Call it quaint Texas spelling. The spelling of names on birth certificates is always interesting. And, unfortunately, sometimes confusing.