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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
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... previous verse ...
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Blessings Of The Circuit Rider
The worst part at first wasn’t that it made his ass hurt, it’s that it made him look like he was a mortician. Later on, of course, the ass hurting rose to prominence, especially at first. Though he knew, like the stableman told him, his ass would get used to the wider girth of the new horse and the mortician thing would again be the paramount complaint. His old horse was smaller in both width and height, and she was a pleasant light brown and white, and no one could see him upon her and mistake him for anything other than the circuit preacher he was. But this new one was jet black as a collapsed coal mine, tall and broad and looked all the part of a funeral horse. “I can’t ride this,” he told the stableman. “People will think I’m coming to town to bury them alive in the wrath of god.”
“It’ll be fine,” the weary stableman told him. “He’s a mature mount, been rode hard, and ain’t got much buck left in him. But he’s fit and strong and not so fragile as your last one. He’ll be a slow and gentle ride you can rely on. Besides,” he added, “Just ain’t got nothing else that’ll see you to the next town.”
Well, he actually had a little more buck in him than the stableman gave him credit for, and the preacher could see right off that he jerked a little more and carried himself with a bit more tension. He could see the effect the horse had not half-an-hour down the trail when he met two riders, looked like farm hands, coming the other way. When he rode the old horse, people would meet him and smile and take on a friendly air. But the farm hands took one look at him on his big black horse and he in his preacher-man’s suit and clammed right up, went ridged and stopped talking. He could almost hear them say, ‘Cheese it! It’s the Man!’ And as they passed one of them actually solemnly said, “Blessings to you, Father.” Father?! He’d never been called ‘Father’ on the trail. How, he thought, could he preach the gentle blessings of Jesus Christ when he looked like the Angel Of Death?
But he admitted, the big black horse availed himself well, seemed to calm and smooth his gait when he saw the travelers coming, held his head up high. He patted the horse’s neck when the men had passed. Maybe they just had to get used to each other, he thought. Maybe he wasn’t giving the big horse a chance.
Early afternoon that first day he came around a bend and saw the wagon he’d been hearing the squeaking wheels of for a piece. It was being pulled by mule, he saw, and driven by a lone woman, the wagon itself covered by a tarp. The big black horse wasn’t moving fast, but it was moving faster than the wagon and he was overhauling it quickly. The woman turned when he heard the hoof beats behind her. Her face was mature and weathered, and her head was covered by a scarf. He waved to her in hello, but she scrunched her head around and seemed to pull it lower between her shoulders. Shoot, he thought, then took his hat off, thinking he might look a little more welcoming as he passed. “Hello, friend,” he called as he pulled even with her and slowed.
She looked up at him, guarded, and nodded. “Howdy.”
He smiled broadly, took on the most pleasant demeaner he could, hoping desperately not to seem so grim. “It’s a fine, lovely day the Lord has given us.”
She shrugged. “You say so.”
“Do you have far to go, ma’am? Do you have family waiting?”
She looked at him. “Hey, you’re that preacher.”
“That’s right,” he told her. “I just read services back in town. Probably same one you’re coming from.”
She looked straight ahead again. “How’d that work out for you?”
“Well,” he said, “I had to put my horse down whilst I was there, a sweet little thing I was much attached to. Me and this big fella here are just getting acquainted.”
She asked, “That mean more to you than the services you read?”
He hadn’t prioritized it before, but, yeah, it did. He said finally, “Well, you know ma’am, you read a lot more services than find horses that will carry you well.”
They rode in silence a bit. He asked her, “You do OK in town this trip.”
“Not so well, then. If you don’t mind me saying, I thought you seemed a little down.”
She reached back behind her, grabbed the corner of the tarp, and whipped it aside. The coffin it’d been covering gleamed in the sunlight.
He said, “Oh, my.”
She said, “You lost a horse. I lost my son.”
“My goodness, what happened?”
“They hung him.”
It hit him then; that’d be the hanging that had brought so many into town and provided him so many churchgoers to swell the collection plate.
She said, “I guess ain’t right to call him my son; I raised him after his mom died when he was just three. But he felt like a son to me.”
“I’m so sorry,” he told her, and he was.
She whipped the tarp back over. “Kid didn’t never have no chance. Dad ran off before he was born. Mom died, Me and Pa took him in, but shoot, we’d already raised five of our own and he got everything handed down. We’re getting’ on in years. We couldn’t give him much, can barely keep the farm goin’ anymore. We did what we could, but he was always angry. Angry, angry child. He started acting out early. Thiefin, lyin’, cheatin, didn’t want to work for nobody, felt he was owed.
“And, Preacher, he likely was. Lord’s got to be takin’ better care of people.”
She was making a statement, a judgement. More often as not, people would ask why the lord let bad things happen, asking questions; why? She wasn’t. She was drawing a firm line in the sand. He understood the attitude.
He said after a long pause, “I know it seems so.” Then, “May I ride with you a spell; perhaps say a little verse?”
She shook her head. “I believe I’d enjoy this quiet ride to myself, thanks anyway.”
He tipped his hat, “Peace be with you then,” and let the big black horse trot past her, even prance a little. Oh, here was something the old, little horse couldn’t do, he thought, and that was put a quick distance between himself and anything he’d rather be away from. The blessing of being a circuit rider; never being caught next to something he didn’t want to be.
But boy oh boy, his ass hurt.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.