We lived in the country, my wife and I, for nearly thirty-two years, Lake Wilson Road, Hillsdale, Michigan. The address was 2220 when we bought the house and stayed that way for a good number of years until I needed to go to the county court house for a building permit. I sidled into the clerk’s office, her domain, this woman, I think. Her perch was up high and behind a counter that came up to about my chin. I told her what I needed and she took a “tome” from a shelf and dropped it dustily on the counter and started flipping pages looking for my address, “You don’t live there,” she said.
Perplexed, I said something about what was on the mail box at the drive way’s end.
Things then went sideways: She looked at me down her nose glasses and said the house numbers had been changed way back in well, way back in. I said I was unawares. She said I would have to be sure to change the house number above the garage and the mail box.
I asked why? The mailman was delivering mail and the UPS man was well aware and the pizza man had no issues. She said I would have to do so in case the tax assessor needed to find me.
Well, that was one too many for this old Huckleberry.
Anyway, the road ran south to north and on Saturdays one could expect the road to be a thorough-fare for Amish buggies on their way north to Wal-Mart, clop, clop, clop, clop.
Two acres we had, a little more or a little less, a rectangle cut from our neighbor Larry’s alfalfa fields, south, west, and north and lovely to see when he would cut and dry hay.
Larry lived about a fifth of a mile south and owned an auto-repair business, transmissions and Volkswagens his specialties. And horses, beautiful horses, trained trotters and pacers. And he had trouble keeping a wife. About which he occasionally became sentimental.
He had laid out and then gouged out a half-mile track in the alfalfa field just to the west and would gravel the track nicely and grade it and plow the snow when a Michigan winter came along. And would exercise those horses. Since there was also more than one he needed a fenced in pasture enclosure just a bit off to the west, maybe three-quarters of an acre with an enclosed barn-like shelter.
Larry would pasture a brood mare with colt and maybe another yearling. I would jog on that track, mornings usually, year-around. Those horses would gather along the fence to the north side and then with tails lifted and heads high trot along the fence and then turn and wait for me to come around and do the same thing with the eight laps I would usually make around that track. They were gorgeous and high-steppers.
Best to bring them something though, a treat now and again, carrots, apples, and sugar cubes. One moon-lit night the German Shepherd, Emma, was whining and excited. I got up and went to look out the front door and lo’ there were those three horses standing in the front yard looking in having somehow escaped. My job? Get dressed, get some carrots and apples and sugar cubes and back to the pasture and repair my neighbor’s fence, with thanks to Mr. Frost especially on this frosty, moon-lit night. They followed along behind and dutifully meandered back to their barn having been sweetly satisfied. Beggars all.
The brood mare was a chestnut brown and the new colt and yearling were both hers, and so a little family. Mama to them both. She had one large brown staring eye, liquid and deep and reflective.
There’s a common eye disease among horses, though, called “moon blindness.” The eye looks whitishly cloudy; I called that brood mare, “Old Moon Eye”
It was late fall, then, this spot of time, and coming on frosty and cold but the night sky was bright and brilliant, Orion hanging in his usual constellation spot, the Big Dipper off to the north. Emma and I took a walk, she running freely; Moon Eye and her family came up from their cozy little barn, slowly, and then to the fence, heads hanging over. I went down the line, one-by-one, carrot, apple, sugar cube. I held Moon Eye’s bridal and stroked her nose and stiff ears. She snuffled and then turned her head so her one good eye was looking at me. And she held it still, the depth of it looking back at me.
And that’s when I saw it, the night sky reflected deeply in her eye, deep and profound. Flecks of starlight and then a moving streak, a falling star reflected on or in the liquid of Old Moon Eye’s one good eye which I thought of oddly as an immortal moment.
I could have missed it, I know, had I stayed and continued reading for next day’s class, Great Books I.
Did you know that Balius and Xanthous were two immortal horses in that Trojan War battled narrated by Homer or another guy by the same name? Their charioteer, Patroclus, had fallen at the hands of Hector. Warm tears ran earthward from underneath their eyelids, those two horses who “longed,” their nature upset deeply.
Well, Emma and I walked home through the new soft snow. She racing on ahead. I looked back when I was about thirty yards away. The two colts had gone back to their barn. Old Moon Eye, though, was still standing there, her heard turned, watching me, looking at me with that one good eye. She seemed at that moment like something out of the past, a mythical creature, the two of us sharing for the moment isolation, and a certain kind of hunger.