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An Old Friend

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I have spent two years on the Thoroughgood’s farm in the care of Joe and have wanted for nothing, not even a companion, for I have one in the form of an ex-war horse named Captain.

He is, as one would expect of a war horse, of great character and with a great strength to his shoulders that says he could succeed anywhere if given enough time to adjust. He is, as all horses that carry great men (and he insures me he carried only the greatest when we speak of our lives), a horse that was once a beautiful dapple, but it is fading with time to a deep white color, making him seem all the more like a war horse that charges fearlessly into battle that is pictured when one hears tales of such things, at least according to the people in our lives, though Joe no longer has such foolish thoughts.

Captain, like most of the horses here on this side of the Thoroughgood farm, are horses that are being retrained or healed. Captain says that the injury he sustained that lead to him being taken to the horse fair came from a cab accident and, had it been any farther on his chest, could have meant his life, either by a bullet or in the coal mines.

And Captain believes that his previous owner (a man by the name of Skinner) would have done so, or maybe even to the knacker’s, and he is very thankful that Joe found him and bought him.

However, neither of us are fools.

This is a working farm, admittedly for the breeding or training of horses and Captain cannot be used for breeding.

As much as I have enjoyed Captain’s company these past two years (and I have seen one of the colts I sired, as black as anything, and Joe asking if he should name the colt ‘Ebony’, like how our former Mistress from so long ago wished to name me, and I had whinnied long and loud at that, for it was as amusingly painful to me as it was to him, but the name on the colt stuck), I know that it will not last.

Captain is as younger then I, something that surprised me, and he is stronger every day, the stiffness practically gone as he tears his way around our pasture.

So, we take our days as we gain them; one at a time.

I have lost many friends, but I know Joe will make sure that Captain goes to a good home and, while I will miss him, it will not be as painful as when I parted from Ginger the last time.

So, I rest on the ground, in the shade near a pool of water, while Captain tears around, his stiffness gone, and I call him over before deciding to tell him my story, when he has told me his.

I talk of Farmer Grey and my mother Duchess. Of the Gordons and meeting Joe the first time and how he became mine. Of the Duke and Duchess and of being a job horse, and of Jerry, my Jerry the cab driver who I would have died happy had we stayed in London, no matter that I never would have seen Joe again, because Jerry was a kind soul, but his customers rarely were. I spoke of the corn dealer who overloaded me and of being a job horse again, worse than before and then the horse fair.

The horse fair where I found Joe again and refused to stop calling until exhaustion had forced me to drop my head, but he found me anyway.

And when I was done, Captain is staring at me (and most likely wondering how I was still the Beauty my Joe knew so long ago), and I merely standing back up. “How did you remain Joe’s Beauty?” he asked.

“My mother taught me long ago that I should be as good and as kind as I can be and to never bite or kick. I followed her sound advice and I have, in the long run, been better for it,” I answered.

Captain doesn’t have a chance to answer, for Joe is whistling and we are gone, Captain and I, racing up to where Joe is waiting.

As always, I am there first, carefully pressing my nose against his cheek.

Life is good and I am happy.

But, having told my story and thought of Jerry, I do miss him so.

Captain and I have another month together before Joe starts doing his compulsive brushing. He saves Captain for last, because the ex-war horse loves to roll in the grass and stain his coat green after every brushing, so I am enjoying the gentle way the brush moves along and I turn, gently nudging his elbow and he pauses to place the brush down before gently walking around so he can rub my forehead, right on the white upside down heart that is there.

That was what Dolly always called it, anyway.

“Hey Beauty,” he greeted softly and he pressed his forehead to the same spot he had just been rubbing.

I let out a low snort and he moved to lean against me, much like he had at the horse fair two years ago. I waited calmly and he rubbed my neck. “Mrs. Fowler’s coachman is going to be coming up here today. I think that Captain would be a good fit there; they needed a good strong horse to take over for the one they already have and it is a good place. The coachman is very kind and…maybe we can move you to the big pasture Beauty my Beauty?” Joe explained softly, running a comforting hand over my neck, but I merely snorted and shook my head.

I would be lonely, yes, but I would not want to leave this fine pasture so close to Joe. He laughed softly and continued to rub my neck. “Yes, well, I am sure there is another horse on the farm that could use your calming influence. I shall talk to Farmer Thoroughgood about it, if Captain ends up being a good match for Mrs. Fowler’s horse,” Joe answered and I let out a low nicker of approval and he went back to brushing my coat until it gleamed.

He released me then and I trotted off, wondering why the name ‘Fowler’ was so familiar to me. I snorted and watched as Joe continued to brush Captain until he shone in the sun. However, Joe was not so foolish as to let him run off, and instead put him in a halter.

“Mrs. Fowler’s coachman should be here soon. I hope you aren’t going to be partnered with anyone until you get along with them. You know, if Beauty there hadn’t been so good-tempered, I am sure neither he nor Ginger would have been able to work together. She was always trying to bite him, or kick him, until he got sick. That was my fault, in my ignorance. Thank God my learning that lesson didn’t cost Beauty his life,” Joe said, running his fingers through Captain’s mane.

Joe was still Joe, even all grown.

His nervous ticks were always focused to the horses around him. Petting was expected when around him and he wasn’t feeling sure of himself or just needed to reassure himself.

Even as I walked over to where he was, snorting softly and nuzzling Captain before deciding here was a good place to graze, I contented myself in the knowledge that Joe was nervous in hopes that Captain would get along well with the coachman.

I snorted softly as I began to walk around, wandering over to Joe’s free side. He smiled and rubbed my shoulder as I walked past, heading for the fence line that separated the pasture I spent my days in from the small house Joe lived in and the two-stall stable that I spent my nights in.

I was tempted to go down to the pond, but I felt I should remain and I have always listened to my horse sense.

After a time, I heard Joe walking Captain around so he wouldn’t get snappy and, distantly, I thought I heard someone talking to Farmer Thoroughgood. “Joe took a special interest in our Captain. He was a fighter and, well, Joe owns a horse he looked after as a lad they have a special attachment to each other, so Joe had the room. We put Captain there, in hopes that it would settle him and allow him to heal. For the past two years, Captain has recovered fully from his injury, and I firmly believe he would not have done so without Joe’s Beauty or Joe’s own steady hands,” Thoroughgood stated and I heard a soft laugh I had not heard in some time.

“You said something to Mrs. Fowler about a driving harness coming with him?” a voice, a voice I knew, stated and I looked up, to see Jerry walking toward my pasture with Farmer Thoroughgood.

My ears flicked slightly and Thoroughgood nodded. “Joe had it made when none of our harnesses fit quite well enough and felt that they should be part of the price Mrs. Fowler was paying for him,” the farmer answered and Jerry smiled, focusing on the pasture, his eyes landing on Joe.

“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Green. Jeremiah Barker,” Jerry greeted and I watched quietly.

“Pleased to meet you as well, Mr. Barker,” Joe responded.

Joe moved to open the gate and Jerry asked, “What about the other horse?”

“Beauty? He hasn’t run out of a pasture since he got better and took me with him,” Joe laughed and opened the pasture gate.

“Well, that’s g-…” Jerry answered, stepping in as he turned to look at Captain, only to have his eyes stop on me.

“Mr. Barker?” Joe questioned, but I was moving forward.

Without pausing, I stepped up and pressed my head against Jerry’s shoulder. “Black Jack?” he questioned, soft and pained, but I merely rubbed my head against his shoulder before backing away calmly.

He pet my cheek, as he had always done and Joe watched, curious.

Nervous too, scared I would leave him for Jerry.

But no, Joe had promised that, even if he had to become a peddler and travel all over England, I would never be sold.

I snorted softly and nickered quietly, responding as I always had by backing up and tossing my head from side to side, whinnying excitedly while Jerry watched, a shaky smile on his face.

Jerry smiled and then turned to Joe, noticing his face. “Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Green. It…it’s just that I knew him as Black Jack. I bought him at a horse fair, a while back now, back when I was a cabby. He was my cab horse. Never a gentler horse that I had ever worked for, and always willing and ready. I had thought…I had thought when I sold him, it was to a good place, but I guess it wasn’t so. But…I am glad he’s here. Mrs. Fowler won’t buy from anyone but Farmer Thoroughgood and he’d never hire anyone who didn’t feel as he did,” Jerry explained, and I wandered away to go graze.

Joe and Jerry bonded over me, finding themselves to be common souls on the same road and Captain was sold.

Afterwards, Joe’s days off were met with a new routine.

I would be saddled up and we would take a leisurely ride to where Mrs. Fowler lived. And there, Dolly and Polly greeted me, for it was a Sunday afternoon.

And while they were no longer in the city, Jerry still had Sunday’s off, omitting the daily chores he had to perform with his son, Harry.

Life is not nearly so lonely anymore, but I am still happiest with my Joe, and it shows with every whistle that sends me back to my youth and charging to where he is waiting for me, ending with me pressing my nose to his cheek.

And, of course, there is always my newest companion, a smart horse who shies at everything. Joe is thinking of putting us in tandem and seeing if my calm influence in the face of everything that scares him will help.

I think it will and, when he’s close to being sold, I shall tell my story again.

And this time, it will have a horse named Captain in it and include meeting Jerry and Polly and their daughter Dolly and their son Harry again.

And so it will go on for the rest of my days.

I find I do not mind such a fate, not one bit.