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A Lot of Want

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

July 4, 2001

I know an old cowboy. His blue eyes sparkle when he talks to me. “Where’ve you been girl?” I stare at the ground, knowing there are no words to describe the barren places I’ve occupied lately. “Why don’t you come ride with me sometime?” he says.The sun hurts my eyes as we stand in the parking lot of the farm supply store and I shift the bag of chicken feed I’m holding to my other hip as I contemplate a reply. He’s the kind of person that wouldn’t understand not wanting to live, so I agree to go on the pretense of not wanting to have to explain not living.The next morning I am standing next to one of the tallest horses I’ve ever had the privelege to ride. Her name is Cheetah. Running a soft brush over her sleek muscular body I start to anticipate the ride. Harrold and I pass the afternoon on horseback through fields of tall prairie grass, meandering through dry creek beds, galloping up steep embankments. I feel the saddle creaking beneath me and a sheen of sweat darkens the mare’s necks in the mid-morning heat. We pull our horses beneath the shade of a mulberry tree and pause there to pick the ripe sun-warmed furit. The sticky, sweet juice stains my fingers and mouth. From Cheetah’s back I can reach the dark purple berries. They are perfect and delicious.In the months that follow, I let Harrold’s horses carry me through my own personal “valley of the shadow of death.” Harrold follows me through that valley.I think he knew all along that I needed an escort out of that dark formidable place.I think he knew I needed a fire lit under me and that Cheetah had it in her to light it.“Horses get bored just like people.” Harrold tells me. So we drive cattle and take rides down by the river. We go out for long walks after dark in the snow or take treks through the hilly pastures, winding our way through fallen trees and splashing through small streams. The older horses get used to help break the “green” ones as we pony them through plowed fields and knee high lavender blossoms of alfalfa. Our favorite thing to do though, is to let our horses run.We have raced the mares a time or two before. I can feel Cheetah pulling at the bit when Sugar gets a little bit of lead. That’s my cue.“Harrold, this mare sure feels good today!” I hint.He looks at me with a knowing wink, and tips his head in the direction of the road ahead of us. “What’d ya say? From here to that driveway?”I say, “You’re on!”I swear Cheetah knows what we are talking about because immediately she starts prancing, her body tenses, and her hind legs coil up beneath her like springs.On Harrold’s count we “GO!” and our horses bolt like lightening. The mares are neck and neck at first. I never even kick Cheetah, I just lean forward and let her run. When Sugar starts to pull ahead, about a half of a horse length, I lay on Cheetah’s neck. Still not kicking, but gently pulling my legs into her sides, I use my voice to encourage her. “C’mon Cheetah! C’mon!” “Let’s go girl… He’s beating you!” She seems to catch the fervency in my voice and I feel her stretch her neck out and her whole body is flattening lower to the ground. We are flying and the thunder of her hooves and surge of muscle beneath me is exhilarating. In a flash she has pulled ahead of Harrold on Sugar and we win our back road derby. We pat our mares on the neck and walk them to cool down.Harrold looks at me and Cheetah with admiration and says, “Boy that mare’s gotta lotta want. Look how proud she is!”I know. I can feel how she carries herself. Her head is curled around like a swan and her feet step high and light with this little bounce that wasn’t there before.“I told you she feels good today,” I remind Harrold. He nods and smiles. He knows its more than that.“Its easy to run races when you’ve got the want. Lots of people try to live without that,” he says, “but not me. I can’t live like that.”Then he looks at me squarely, and says as only a cowboy can, “and neither will you.”

A Lot of Want

Dawne Olson

Vermillion, United States

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

This story is my own testimony to the truth of what Ronald Reagan said, “There is nothing so good for the inside of a man (or woman) as the outside of a horse.”

Artwork Comments

  • Larasolnishko
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