Four winters ago, my neighbor, Jerry Wood who lives two miles south of me on County Road 114 stopped at my mailbox as I retrieved letters one morning. We chatted for a few minutes as he kept his diesel truck running and as we closed our conversation he said, “I have a horse, Jack, [words unintelligible over the engine noise] I’ll give her to you!”
“I’ll give her to you?” I had three horses at this time, two tobiano black paints and one quarter horse, Sweet Hija, and another horse added to the remuda would not be a problem to train and feed. But, a gift horse? I thought as Jerry drove off that he must be terminally ill or something drastic was going on like divorce or bankruptcy. I immediately decided that if the horse was sound, I would take her off Jerry’s hands and ease his problem — whatever it was.
Within the week, I drove down to Jerry’s with my trailer hitched up, pulled into his corrals and saw Wild Flower Gal, a sorrel tobiano paint that was drop-dead gorgeous. “Why would he even want to get rid of this beautiful creature?” I quietly thought. In any case, he took her through her paces, showed that she was healthy and halter-trained and I liked her behavior so she would fit in after getting to know my other three horses.
After seeing her training, paces and overall friendliness, I asked Jerry, “Are you sure you want to give this beautiful horse to me, Jerry?” I thought he was making a big mistake to give Wild Flower Away and I did not want to exploit Jerry’s problem — whatever the heck it was — in his hour of crisis.
“What?” he said.
“You did say, didn’t you, Jerry, that you were giving this horse to me?” This was quickly going in a perplexing direction I did not like.
“Oh, no!” he quickly replied. “I said, ‘If she isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, I’ll give her to you.'”
“Oh, you did?” This was definitely in embarrassing territory. “How much do you want for her?”
“One-thousand dollars,” he replied.
I became a tad dizzy in my thinking at that point, but my mind quickly cleared the confusion: Jerry’s diesel engine had blocked out his words, “If she isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen…” And I had slammed his statement into, “I have a horse to give you, Jack.”
What to do? Buy the horse and lighten my bank account? Probably the best exit strategy. If I did not buy Wild Flower Gal, I would probably be the center of an oft-told tale at the Hannibal Country Store concerning my over-eagerness to gainsay another yegua for free. I did not want that circulating around the cracker barrel.
So, I bought Wild Flower Gal, loaded her up and brought her to my stables. Jerry signed over the pedigree, pocketing a thousand.
Wild Flower Gal was pretty, but not the prettiest gal I had ever seen. But, pretty enough to buy and train and sever any anecdote about my confusion. Several months later I snapped the photograph of her in late winter browsing through the wild verbena. It was fitting, this photograph, because she was in a pasture of wild flowers that reflected her namesake. I sold her a year later for a thousand dollars to a family near Abilene, Texas, that showed her at halter and loved her well.
A lot of lessons emerge from this story. Verify and clarify conversations of commercial intercourse. Cut your engines when conversing. Above all, there’s no such thing as a free horse.
- Bird nest with horse hair (swamericana.wordpress.com)