• Jo Ellen Lyons

THE LAST SUPPER (Okay, Breakfast)

In the time of a pandemic . . . or as I like to call it the 'damn pandemic' . . . normal life events that would evoke emotion are now greeted with an almost blasé attitude. An anticlimactic acknowledgement. Oh, you had a baby? Cool. Got a new job? Nice. Yawn. Our senses are heightened. Our radar is attuned to a higher and more shrill frequency. Everything else is just mundane. Even big honkin' deals (BHD) are taking a back seat to Corona.

Yesterday came and went. But it was a BHD in the Daddy O's world. It was the last day he 'fed the horses'. Let me give a quick history on this. Back in 2004, when he moved into his neighborhood, I crashed a Horse Party at the 'arena' near the entrance to the neighborhood. It was acres of mesquite and scrub oak, a ramshackle stable, haphazard fencing with a full sized arena stuck in the middle. That was in October and by January of '05, Dad had bought a horse and joined the Sheriff's Posse. So for 15 years, his grandkids have called him the Old Cowboy because his life has centered around those 20 odd acres and its rotating equine residents. Initially, he was just having his horse Uno stabled there. Uno was a big old gelding who had a serious case of equine mange when dad bought him. Gosh, he was ugly! But underneath that mess was a horse with racing in his bloodline and experience as a civil war re-enactment horse. The two of them never quite made it onto the drill team of the posse though there was a lot of practice. Mainly because Uno wanted to race the other horses. But they practiced alone a lot. There were many late afternoons, I'd drive past and see him sitting on top of Uno and talking into his cell phone and selling pipe. Not exactly the cowboy riding off into the sunset but you get the picture. Although Uno threw dad more than once and actually bit him in the cheek one day, it was a sad, sad day when he had to go to a rescue to live out the rest of his days. He had coliced more than once and whatever his health issues were, Dad couldn't help him much. So he took his first horse, since he'd been a kid, to a lovely facility and then cried on the day they called to say that Uno had breathed his last. By then, Dooley was part of the family. He'd come to the arena when he was just four months old after being rescued from practical starvation. His young fur coat was soft and the color of cafe au lait. He was named Dooley by the owner and then one day, Dad said, "I bought Dooley. He'll be the family horse." Sweet Dooley was perfect for the job. He'd grown to be a white strawberry roan and his extended hunger belly took about four years to return to normal but his swayback from poor nutrition never did. Despite that, he loved children and was patient with them. Dooley quietly endured many, many sob stories from me as I brushed him and poured out the woes of my failed marriage. A couple of years ago, he went to a family with a young girl and as far as we know he's happy. Somewhere along the way, Dad was hired to feed the horses for a whopping $150 month. He did that faithfully for the last ten or so years. The number of horses varied . . . sometimes there were as many as eight. That was always a sight to see: Dad's head just barely visible above the backs of the hungry horses moving in to get their pellets. It was also something to hear. He always talked to them as if they understood nuance and humor. He always used a Mexican accent when he called to them: "Vanomos, muchachos!" I think this was a throwback to his childhood in West Texas. There have been wonderful horses over the years. A grand half-thoroughbred named Major who was chased by coyotes and got caught in the barbed wire fence. When he didn't make it, he was buried at the arena. Smoke was one of my favorites. He was a white quarter horse with a long, luscious mane and penchant for rolling in the mud---almost like he need to downplay his beauty for the sake of the others. However many horses were there, Dad took his job seriously. He hated to go out of town because he was afraid his replacement wouldn't do a good job. He worried about and repaired so much fencing. He's on the Wilco animal rescue speed dial list and gets calls regarding loose horses. For the last year, it's just been Rojo--a bay gelding with one brown and one blue eye. Dad says that Newt, my granddad, always said that horses with a blue eye were crazy. Frankly, if Rojo ever acts wonky, I think its because he's lonely. I bet he was a bit wonky this morning when Dad didn't show up to feed him though I guess he's not there to be fed but is at his new stable getting fed. All of which means the Daddy O is out of a job. (Don't worry he's still selling pipe and had a big sale yesterday!) His mornings, though, will now be drastically different. No more heading to the arena to haul hay and pellets to the fence. No more calling out "Rojo! Vanamos, amigo!" No more turning on the pump and filling up water troughs. No more runs to Taco Cabana afterwards for his own breakfast--even if it's just the To Go window. No more driving back by to see if Rojo had made it out the big grassy area. No more hay making its way into the refrigerator.

My granddaddy Newt fed a mess of horses the last few years of his life. Then Dad did it. I sometimes wonder if I'm looking at my own future? Of course, in the midst of our current situation, I have very little grasp of what the future will hold. Whatever the future holds, I'm taking away some lessons from watching my dad for the last decade . . . One, be the CEO of the job you've got. Do it with consistency and treat it like it's vital. No matter what the pay. Two, being physically strong in your eighties is smart. Dad could lift hay bales all day long. As well as 50 lb bags of pellets. Three . . . sorry, that's all I got. I'm going to be spending some time blogging again. Maybe I can get the Daddy O to tell some stories or even write a few. Maybe he could use the extra time to start a survival page on Instagram. Yesterday he was ready to teach me how to use a rifle--in the living room!! This morning he told me wasn't worried about a food shortage because he could always find acorns on the ground to eat. Don't think the Old Cowboy is riding off into the sunset just yet.

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