I wrote a short story titled Horse Dreams about an “older” married woman who had always wanted a horse. A lot of little girls are seeing themselves looking for the horse of their dreams. I was, of course, one of them too.
I’d been lucky to own a Shetland/Welsh pony, Blackie, at nine. As a teenager, I owned Sandy, a buckskin mare. Later Sandy had a filly I named Trampas. I now own Poppy, my little bay mare. So I’ve been blessed with horses in my life.
I got to thinking about what if a young girl went through her life, into marriage and still hadn’t fulfilled her dream of owning a horse. The results of those thoughts came out in my short story Horse Dreams that I share here.
I entered Horse Dreams in a Writers’ Intl. Forum general fiction contest back in 1999. I won First Honors and received a certificate which I include the pic on this blog.
Enjoy. If you do please leave a comment. Thank you.
A blackness enveloped her as she wandered farther into the trees growing so close they shut out the daylight. The evening made it darker. A movement up ahead caught her attention. She cautiously walked to where she’d seen the brush move. Nothing was there, not even tracks, but then the ground was spongy and mossy and any prints would have sprung back.
Another noise caught her attention. Suddenly the whole area came alive with a snort and heavy tread of hooves. Before her stood a magnificent horse. He took command of the situation since all she could do was stand in awe. His pretty spotted coat rippled as he trotted around her. In amazement, she watched as he put his head against her chest and nudged her gently. Even more to her surprise the horse knelt down on one front leg and continued to nudge her till she realized he wanted her to get on his back.
She climbed on and buried her hands and face in his wild mane. He trotted through the trees and out into an open meadow where he broke into a lope. She had no trouble staying on. His gait, so smooth was like being in a rocking chair.
“Ma’am? Can you help me?” “Ma’am?”
Startled, Josie came back to reality. “Oh, I’m sorry. How can I help you?”
After waiting on the rather persnickety elderly lady who had come into the store, Josie put her daydream away and tried to concentrate on the rest of the workday. She had always wanted a horse. She had prayed for one starting at age ten. She remembered because on that birthday she had especially prayed hard for a horse, but was disappointed. Now as an adult at times like earlier she let the majestic animals gallop around in her head like the pictures of horses on cards and gift bags at the store where she worked. The dream penetrated her thoughts at odd times; she needed to be more careful. Leave the dream at home.
It was a selfish wish anyway. When would she be able to afford to buy a horse? She turned forty-six a few days back. Shouldn’t a forty-something woman, wife, mother of two have other things on her mind besides a horse?
Well, Josie did, like paying off bills and fixing up the house was high on the list, but at odd moments her horse dreams pranced around in her head.
Josie and Ben married nearly twenty-five years earlier. Like all young couples, they had their ideal of good jobs, a nice house, children and just a good life. She found life has a way of telling people differently.
Josie’s parents couldn’t afford to buy her a horse. She thought she’d buy one herself, but she discovered maybe she didn’t have the grit and confidence to do something of that magnitude on her own. Then she met Ben. He had the confidence, the exuberance and vitality enough for both of them. Everybody liked Ben. Josie fell in love with him.
Ben supported her dream to have a horse and he encouraged her. She’d get excited and plan how they could come up with extra money, but something always happened. The car broke down; they needed more insurance or a medical emergency. She cut her hand on an old glass window they were taking out to replace with a new one. It required five stitches. Ben broke his ankle playing touch football one summer.
Three years into their marriage a baby arrived. Josie and Ben became parents of a tiny boy. They loved their little bundle and wanted to be good parents. For Josie that meant her dream horse went back in a dusty stall of her mind.
Another baby joined the family four years later, a girl. Josie and Ben felt complete. His job at the sawmill kept him working steadily. Josie was content with her children and the activities of youngsters.
As the children grew, Josie noticed her horse stepping lightly out of the corner. The dream changed slightly. This time she and the kids rode together and explored the wonderful life of being a horse owner.
One day Ben came home early, “They’re shutting the mill down,” he said.
After the shock wore off, Josie and Ben rallied together, looked at their finances, cut here and there and decided their next moves. Ben found part-time work as a carpenter and Josie started work at a local gift shop. She also swept her dream horse and all the dust back into the corner stall of her mind.
Now the kids were nearly grown. Both graduated from high school and were mapping out their own futures. Josie walked the isles of the gift shop day after day. She waited on customers, cleaned and rearranged shelves and wondered where her dream had fled to.
The dream horse kept trotting around the corral in her head. She knew he wanted to jump the fence. The power rippled in his sleek muscles. It got stronger every day. She felt herself in the saddle as they galloped through a field or trotted down a mountain trail.
A customer walked in jingling the bell that hung over the door. Josie shook her head and sighed. The dream faded as she went to take care of the here and now.
It had been a frustrating day. Not many customers and the same elderly lady who seemed to always be disagreeable had nothing but questions and didn’t like Josie’s answers. She locked the door and flipped the closed sign and the lady was still asking questions. Josie flopped on the couch at home, exhausted. Ben came home shortly after.
With the dinner dishes cleaned up, Josie and Ben sat together to watch a couple of television shows. Automatically Josie reached for her plastic canvas craft project. She liked doing different kinds of crafts and didn’t take her long to become absorbed.
“Josie, am I talking to myself?” Ben asked.
“W-what?” Josie looked up. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”
Ben indulged her with his special smile for her and she knew he wasn’t really annoyed. “I said, why don’t you see about selling your crafts and paintings? Maybe through the store or the Farmer’s Market.”
Josie stared at him. She honestly had never considered selling any of her crafts. This was her little enjoyment to while away a few hours. It relaxed her.
Josie slept little that night. Ben’s comment opened up new possibilities. What if she could sell her creations? How long would it take to save enough money for a horse? Her heart thrilled at the idea and the horse galloped freely around, mane and tail flying.
The next day she didn’t have to work. After getting Ben off to his job with lunch, kisses and a promise to think more about his suggestion, Josie got out all her crafts and paintings. She mulled over the real possibility of selling them.
Later that morning Josie found herself at the library reading up on craft business. She learned how to set prices and ideas for displaying items. By the time Ben walked in the door, Josie had a practice display set up in the living room and all her projects taking up every available sitting place.
“Wow!” Ben said as he picked up a watercolor painting and held it at arm’s length. “Didn’t realize you had so many projects.”
“Neither did I till I started looking at them. I’d almost forgotten about some of these paintings. I think they are pretty good.”
Ben chuckled. Josie glanced up. “What?” she dropped the paintings to her side. “What’s so funny?”
He took her in his arms. “Nothing’s funny. I like seeing you happy and excited about your talent. I think its past time for you to show your crafts to the public.”
During her next day at work, Josie asked her boss about selling some of her crafts through the store. To Josie’s surprise and delight her boss was more than willing. She confided to Josie she’d been thinking about taking in local art talent. She encouraged Josie to bring in her paintings on her next day of work.
The following Saturday Josie arrived at the Farmer’ Market. The man in charge helped her find a spot to set up her display. Josie thoroughly enjoyed her market. She proudly held out her earnings to show Ben.
Ben whistled. “Hey, great. Thirty-five dollars. I knew we had an entrepreneur in the family.”
“Oh, Ben, you are a sweetheart.”
Josie dropped her earnings into a can she’d designated as The Dream Horse.”
The weeks went by and turned into months. Josie watched the money slowly accumulate in her can. Some weeks were better than others. Her art seemed to sell better during Farmer’s Market then through the store. But Farmer’s Market closed for the season.
Josie and Ben faced a long winter with a little indoor carpentry work for Ben and fewer hours at the shop for Josie.
In the past, the winter was a source of depression for Josie. She read a lot and would dabble with her crafts periodically. This winter proved different. Josie could be found in her workroom every possible minute.
Before Ben and Josie knew it, the weather turned to April and Farmer’s Market opened. Josie was one of the first to arrive, feeling like an old hand at this market selling.
At home, her can was filled to the brim. She planned to start looking for her horse around the end of the summer. Mid-summer Ben and Josie’s daughter bounced into her craft room. Her smile lit up the darkest corners.
“What is it?” Josie asked. “Who lit a firecracker under you?”
“Mom, you won’t believe it. I’m getting married.” She held out her left hand showing off the diamond engagement ring.
Josie stared in astonishment. This hadn’t occurred to her. She saw her can of money drain away. She quickly shoved the thought away. Her daughter wanted to marry and she was happy for her and knew Ben would be pleased. They both thought a lot of their daughter’s young man.
“Oh my, I’m a little surprised but happy. Have you set a date?”
“Not yet, mom, but it’ll be soon.”
As it turned out they had three months to plan. To Josie’s amazement, her daughter insisted they wanted a small, inexpensive wedding. They would make their own invitations and thank you cards. Two friends offered their talents, one made the wedding dress; the other would bake the cake. Her brother played guitar and with some other friends they made up a band.
Josie became a little apprehensive thinking they should do more for their daughter. “This is the way we want it, mom. You and dad have always helped and been there for me. You’re not cheating me. I love you, mom.”
Josie wrapped motherly arms around her daughter. “Oh, sweetheart, I love you too.”
So the wedding went as planned and the happy couple was sent off on their honeymoon.
Josie had a bit of a surprise when she looked at her can. Not much was gone. In fact there looked like there was more in it. Ben came up behind her, peeking over her shoulder. “There’s more money in here, Ben.”
Josie looked at her husband. He shrugged, but a little grin gave him away. “Ben?” Josie set the can down and stood in front of him. “You know something.”
Ben still acted ignorantly, but Josie could see through it. “Okay, okay, I’ll fess up. Could never keep much from you anyway. I’ve made more money on my last couple of jobs then I’ve let on. I know you’d use your money for the wedding. I wanted to put it back.”
“Ben, I love you.”
“Well, I love you too. I think it’s about time we start looking for this new member of the family, a horsey one.”
Josie found her dream horse. He was a part quarter horse, part Arab gelding. He was only about five years old but had been misused and abused. Josie saw something in his eyes. A look of kindness in spite of his upbringing. Josie’s heart went out to him and she bought him and brought him home the same day.
A few weeks later Josie had Trampas’ full confidence. The horse was finally out of the corral of her mind. And it felt good.
They rode the hills and country roads in real life. Josie joined a horseman’s organization. When she discovered part of their agenda included teaching handicap children to ride and take care of a horse, she volunteered. It gave her a chance to give back and share her knowledge.
As she galloped across the fields or rode quietly through a country lane, she’d pat Trampas on the neck in happiness. In answer, Trampas let out an excited whinny and Josie laughed. She’d be back in the shop tomorrow and this evening she would paint. But now she reveled in the sound of the squeaky leather saddle and clomps of hooves against the dirt road. What a pleasure to live out one’s dream.
© 1999 Judy Blackburn