Short Story – Nature’s Way by Joel Reiff

Here’s another original short story written by Joel Reiff – it’s a fictional accounting of the writer’s experience at a Colorado auction.  Please be advised that this story contains adult themes.  This story doesn’t qualify for the CHDC’s Short Story Contest since the submissions must be made by Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, but we hope it will pique the interest of those of you who might wish to enter the contest before it ends on January 15, 2018.

 

Nature’s Way @2010 by Joel Reiff (reproduced with permission)

There were about forty horses all told.  They were crowded in pens of four to six that would be claustrophobic to even the most well adjusted horse.  A light brown saddlebred with a majestic long neck had a gorgeous face but hoof problems.  Three pintos of varying black and white color mixes were fighting over some of the hay in their paddock. The food was minimal and the flies were abundant.  Owners who felt they no longer served a purpose had discarded all of these animals.

Howahkan Simchez, or Howard as he was known when not on the Reservation, definitely had a purpose as he climbed up on the medal rungs to get a look at the horses while they jostled and kicked one another.  Most of the livestock were in bad shape.  A dark brown bay in the corner caught his eye.  From the distance, she looked to be older and about 15 1⁄2 hands.  Not a huge horse, but solidly built.  Navigating the metal bars separating the various pens, he dropped down into the section that held the Bay and three other horses.  He waved off a mean palomino that left with a snort and pinned back ears.

The Bay looked at him and blinked its big brown eyes.  Howard could see the horse was unsure, perhaps fearful.  Why not?  Humans were the horse’s worst predator. As a Sioux Indian, he’d grown up with respect for all animals.  He grew up riding horses and appreciated their spiritual nature, dedication and beauty.

Every two weeks, the Continental Livestock Auction sold off horses, cows, pigs and goats to the highest bidder.  “It’s the cheapest way to buy meat,” his buddy said.  “You want a horse for your kid, you might get lucky.”  Trying to locate a horse for his nine-year-old daughter had become next to impossible.  Even with the market as bad as it had become, people were still asking ridiculous prices.  Just when he thought he might have found a suitable partner, he’d make the long trip only to find the poor creature was damaged physically, mentally, or both.

He patted the Bay’s shoulder.  The horse’s ear moved back and forth.  At least he had her attention.  Good, she wasn’t dead to the touch.  Her temperament had passed the first test.  He moved his hand slowly along her back.  Air blew out through her nose.  His hand slid softly along her flank.  He bent down and squeezed her right hock and the horse responded by lifting her leg for him.  To his surprise, the foot was shod.  At one time, someone had loved and cared for this horse.

After checking the horse’s legs and confirmation, he continued the rudimentary exam on the Bay.  Her muscles were taut and well developed but undernourished.  The mane and tail were a little torn up but that was only cosmetic. Halfway through his evaluation the Bay licked and chewed to show her approval and even craned her head to playfully nuzzle him in thanks for the attention.  In that moment he felt a bond, an understanding.

What was a good girl like her was doing in a place like this?  Although a lot of the horses in these pens were wonderful creatures, they were either very old, untrained, or had some kind of structural damage that deemed them useless in the eyes of those who once demanded their loyalty.  Whatever reason she was here, he felt it was a sign.  She would be perfect for his Naida.

He casually scanned the pens to see if others were watching him, nervous that someone else might see in the Bay what he did.  Above all of the pens was a rickety walkway where potential buyers could see all of the livestock from a bird’s eye view.  The handful of cowboys and stragglers up there didn’t seem to be looking his way.  A group of four Twenty-somethings–two boys and two girls–roamed the steel holding pens vocally assessing the horses within.

He climbed back to the front pen where three horses paced in tight circles.  Across the dirt aisle was a pen with a single stallion bucking and snorting.  He couldn’t blame the horse; as herd leader the stallion could do nothing for the stressed pack across the walkway.  A guy with a ruddy face and handlebar mustache stood gazing into the pen.  Unruly chest hairs escaped from his fancy pink shirt.  A huge belt buckle held up his workpants over which a voluminous stomach hung precariously.  The man didn’t look friendly.  He seemed to size up the horse with calculating rather than caring eyes.

Howard hoped the guy didn’t see him checking out the Bay.  To throw him off, he began petting an old swayback quarter horse.  The mare leaned its head gently on his shoulder.  He continued to scratch as the horse closed its eyes and its lips began stretching away from its teeth in ecstasy.

“That’s the last love that horse is ever going to see in this life.”  The voice came from a woman standing outside the pen.  She was a wispy little thing, probably no more than five feet tall, a good foot shorter than Howard.  She had straight white hair hanging down to her hips. Her figure was slight, almost devoid of curves in a loose-fitting T-shirt, but her blue eyes were clear and sharp.  Weathered skin revealed she had spent a good amount of time outdoors.  She had the aura of a hippie that never gave up the mantra of the Sixties but learned to live with reality.

Howard stroked the horse again, almost defensively.  “She’s a pretty old girl.”

The woman smiled knowingly.  “I know that horse.  She’s twenty-six years old.  Spent most of her life bringing up kids on a dude ranch in Wyoming.  As each youngster learned, the next one got on her.  She was a loving teacher and friend.  When the last of the kids grew out of her, the owners figured they couldn’t sell her at that age so they sent her here.”  She looked around the auction pens with obvious distaste.  “This is the thanks she gets.”

“It’s a crime,” he said to be polite.  The last thing he needed was competition when the Bay in the back corner came up for bidding.  A man of very limited means, the only way to get his daughter the horse she so richly deserved was through this auction.

“It’s more than a crime.  It’s cruel and unnecessary.  Those people could have put her out to pasture.  They got the land and the money.”  She shook her head in disgust.  “Nope.  They figured they could squeeze the last dime out of her by sending her here.”

He kept petting the swayback.  “Will someone buy her?”

She shook her head once.  “These horses are sold by the pound.  They don’t put any value on temperament, years of service, or ability to work.  Most of the animals in these pens are going to be shipped off to either Canada or Mexico and turned into food for human consumption.  Only a few will be funneled to another auction in hopes someone will buy them as a pasture pet or perhaps a work horse for three times what they fetch here.”

The swayback got spooked when another horse kicked at her.  She ran around the tiny pen with little room for escape.  Howard climbed back over the bars to where the woman stood.

“Saw you eyeing that little beauty back there.”  She pointed towards the Bay.

“Naw,” he said, trying not to sound alarmed.  “Haven’t seen anything good yet.”

The woman smiled. “You don’t have to worry about me.  I’m not here to buy.”  She jerked a thumb over her shoulder without looking.  “It’s him you need to worry about.”

Howard looked past her.  On the bridge surveying the pens was a thin man with a pockmarked face in ill-fitting brown pants and a blue denim shirt with silver points at the collar tips.  Even his ten-gallon cowboy hat couldn’t shade his ugliness.  “Who’s that?”

“That’s Ewan.  Charlie Macthitehew’s boy.”

“Macthitehew.  That’s an Indian name.”

“Could be,” she said.  “If so, then Charlie’s tribe should scalp him for what he does for a living.  He’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

He looked at her in a new light.  His eyes begged a question that she picked up.

“I work for a non-profit organization.  It’s called Angels Arrows.  I keep track of the horses and how much they sell for.  If I see any that are too weak or lame to survive the grueling trip to Mexico, my organization tries to purchase them from the kill buyers to give them a humane death.  There’s no reason for these animals to suffer.”

“Kill buyers?”  Whatever they were, he didn’t like the sound of it.

“That’s what Charlie does.  He and Dale Brewster are the guys who buy up most of these horses.  If one of those guys gets an animal, it’s going to be sold for meat.”

He shook his head at the state of this great country that horses had helped to forge.  How had Man come to cast aside the one creature that helped pave the way hundreds of years ago?  They had always been a symbol of freedom and the power that came with it.  Their strong legs and back kept us solidly grounded in our spiritual path as they carried men and their burdens with dignity.  And now we sell their flesh by the pound like garbage.

“If you want that horse,” she said, disrupting his thoughts, “you’ll need to register and get a bidding number.  I’ll take you over to the office to get you signed up.”

He followed her as if she had a lead rope on him.  By the time they reached the office, he learned her name was Sherri and that she was possibly his new hero.

The auction pit was in a barn-like circular building.  In the center was a semicircle of dirt where the animals were paraded while being bid on.  The bidders sat in wooden plank bleachers that slanted upwards surrounding the pit for maximum viewing.  The auctioneer was perched in a booth above the pit opposite the seating.  He spoke so quickly Howard wondered how he could see the almost non-existent movement of hands and facial ticks used to place bids.

The auction worked its way through the pigs, often sold in groups of two and three.  The animals were driven into the ring through a big sliding wooden door to the right of the auction booth.  Above that door a digital sign gave the weight of the animal to be bid upon.  A rustler moved the reluctant pigs using a tool with a plastic case on the end filled with rocks to sound like an angry rattlesnake.  On the other side of the booth was a second large door where the animals were forced to go after bidding had finished.  The screen over that door revealed the details of the winning bid.  Each animal had a number on an oval yellow paper glued to his or her hindquarters.

After the pigs came the cows.  Some of the calves had been pulled from their mothers before being properly weaned.  Some of the calves were dragged out of the ring by their ears.  He understood the necessity of this business but still felt revulsion.

The first horse finally entered the ring just after the woman Sherri took a seat next to him.  As a veteran of these sales she had agreed to bid for him and help get the horse for his daughter.  She took out a pad to record the auction results.  The auctioneer spoke so fast that the first horse sold before he could even figure out the bid amount.

Four horses were bought and sold when a bright-eyed mare was bullied into the ring.  She was brown with two white front socks and a healthy, flowing mane.  There were a couple of fresh cuts on her neck.  The number pasted on her back read 6708.  With fear in her eyes she limped into the center of the ring.  Bidding lasted about fifteen seconds as the horse’s life and fate were sold at sixteen cents per pound.  At only 875 pounds, she sold for $140.

Howard looked around and saw the grotesquely fat man he’d seen earlier that day looking at the lone stallion.  The guy leaned in one corner of the semicircle of seating near the entrance.  The walrus mustache under his flat nose had more hair than his graying scalp.  His thick arms were folded as he viewed the scene with an egotistical leer.  Next to him was the thin guy Sherri had warned him about.  Behind them were two guys in cowboy garb.

“See that guy in the pink shirt,” Sherri whispered.  “That’s Charlie Macthitehew.  Over there…” She pointed to the opposite side of the room.  “That’s Dale Brewster.  They’re the kill buyers.”

Howard stared at Charlie who leaned his girth against the concrete wall and handrail with careless abandon.  He watched as the fat man purchased three more horses by barely lifting a finger.

“He doesn’t look Native American,” Howard whispered to Sherri while a 960 pound black horse with stifle problems sold for twenty-two cents a pound.

“He’s no more Indian these days than I am,” she said.

Howard had always been spiritually enlightened, but didn’t believe in leaving things up to fate.  Perhaps the man’s Indian heritage would enable him to appreciate his pure intentions.  What was one horse to this man?  These beautiful animals were marks in a ledger book to him.  Before Sherri could protest, he got up and made his way around the arena to Charlie.

“Excuse me, Mr. Macthitehew.  Can I speak with you for a moment?”

The man didn’t even look at him.  “Kind of busy, buddy.”

“My name is Howard Simchez.  I believe we share Native American lineage.”

Charlie continued to stare straight ahead.

Howard ignored the man’s rudeness.  “I’d like to ask you a favor.  There’s a mare coming up, #6727.  I would like to buy her.  My daughter needs a horse to learn how to ride and this is the only way I’ll be able afford it.  I was hoping you would not bid against me to allow this horse to find a good home.”

Charlie smirked.  He finally turned to look at the man.  “You’re of American Indian descent?”

“Yes.  Sioux.”

“Mighty fine people.”  Charlie turned back to stare at the ring where a new horse was being brought in.  He raised his hand and purchased the mare for sixteen cents a pound.

“Thanks.”  When Howard returned to his seat, Sherri looked concerned.

“He’s a bastard,” she said.  “You can’t trust him.”

“Not a single horse has sold for more than twenty-two cents a pound.  I should be able to get her for thirty cents at the most.”

The Bay was led into the ring.  Howard looked over at Charlie, who hadn’t moved since he had left.  His cronies were talking behind him.  Ewan, his son, stood steadfast next to his father.

Bidding started almost immediately. The auctioneer asked for twenty cents.  He turned to look at Sherri, who nodded him away.  The opening bid price went down to fifteen cents per pound.  Sherri raised her hand to bid.  The auctioneer began sputtering words and numbers in machine gun staccato.  Howard heard the number go to eighteen, and then twenty.  Seconds past and the figure had gone into the thirties.  As soon as Sherri put her hand up Charlie raised the bid.  Before his brain could even comprehend the price escalated into the forties.  He looked back desperately at Sherri.  The bid was at fifty.  She looked concerned and raised her hand a little tentatively to up the bid.  He gazed over at Charlie, who still leaned with that self-satisfied grin on his face.  When the bid went into the sixties, Sherri gave him a questioning look.  The auctioneer asked for a higher bid.  Howard wrestled with the figures in his head and the painful result they gave him.  The auctioneer gave a final warning.  He helplessly shook his head back and forth.  Sherri’s shoulders sagged and she dipped her head as the auctioneer announced, “Sold for sixty-six cents per pound.”  More than three times that of any other horse.  He looked over at Charlie.  The obese man cocked his head with a smug smile and spoke to the men behind him.  He couldn’t hear the words but he could read the big man’s lips: “I’m such an ass-hole,” he said with obvious delight.

The terrified Bay took a step toward Howard.  They locked eyes and he felt something inside curl up and die.  A wrangler shook the rattlesnake tool at the Bay’s hindquarters.  She let forth a long yellow stream of urine that lasted about thirty seconds.  The stable hand aggressively shooed the horse without letting her finish towards the far door to be shoved into a crowded pen to await the long transport to the slaughterhouse.

“Hey, Jerry, that should lower the sales price by a good ten pounds,” Charlie shouted to the auctioneer.  Howard did the math; if he were serious that would be a reduction of $6.60.

“He just did it to be spiteful,” she said.  “He’ll lose money he doesn’t even have just to show he’s the big man.”

He couldn’t speak.  His stomach churned as he sat dumbfounded.  For the remainder of the auction, he stared straight ahead with his lips pressed together.  He refused to look at the rest of the horses as they passed one by one out the door from the chute, were paraded around the pit and ushered out.  Sherri put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

Leaving the auction and still dazed, he followed Sherri outside into the dark parking lot.  The horses were already being loaded into large double-decker trucks with ceilings so low only the ponies could put their heads in a normal, raised position.  They crammed in as many as they could fit using cattle prods to move them onward.  The sounds of their hooves on the metal floorboard amidst their whinnying made him sick.

“They’ll drive over a thousand miles in there with no food or water,” Sherri said.  “A lot of them will get kicked or trampled.”

Howard had to take a deep breath of the cool night air to keep from retching.

Charlie Macthitehew walked up to them with a smile surrounding the thick cigar in his mouth.  “How you doing, kimosabee.  Still interested in that brown mare?”

He stared at the big man with feelings of hatred and betrayal.  “Why did you do that?”

Charlie took his cigar out and spit on the ground.  “Do what?”

“I wanted that horse for my daughter.  You only want her for meat.  Why did you bid her away from me?”

“I tell you what, kimosabee.  I’ll sell her to you.  Right here right now.”

“You will?”

“Sure, man.  Give me fifteen hundred for her and she’s yours.”

The sum was a sledgehammer crushing his chest.  “That’s more than twice what you bought her for.”

“Yeah, well, a man’s gotta make a living.  Normally I’d ask for two thousand.  I’m giving her to you at a five hundred dollar discount, what you and me being almost kin and all.”

“You are an evil man.”

“And a bastard,” Charlie said, obviously enjoying the situation.  He didn’t even acknowledge Sherri, who looked at him with repugnance.

“Come back in two weeks and we’ll play some more.”  Charlie walked off laughing as his enormous gut jiggled up and down.

Charlie stopped at the Golden Corral for a steak after the horses were loaded and on their way.  Hitting on the waitress that served him his Dr. Pepper proved futile.  She regarded him with the same avoidance that he saw on the animals he purchased.  Before heading back to the Motel 6 he stopped by the liquor store.  Picking up a six pack of Budweiser was a hell of a lot easier than the waitress.  When he got into his room he laid back on the creaky bed and cracked open a brew.  He didn’t need the yellow pages to get some room service.  He knew the number by heart.

The girl was somewhere in her low Twenties and plump.  Her pudgy face had too much make up and she moved like one of the pigs down the chute at the auction.  Fortunately, she wasn’t much of a talker but luckily she was a groaner.  It only took him a couple of minutes to finish.

“Can I have one of your beers?” she asked after he was done.

“Sure.  That’ll be two bucks.”

She grimaced and got off the bed to collect her things and leave the room. He watched TV for about a half hour after she left before going to bed.  Sleep came easily as he snored with a guttural rhythm.  A little stream of drool rolled out of his jowl as he tossed and turned on the hard bed.

The door to his hotel room opened and a man walked in.  He’d seen the man somewhere before but couldn’t place him.  Charlie lay paralyzed as the man tied both his wrists and ankles to the solid brass bedposts that he hadn’t noticed when he checked in.  The ropes were thick and dirty, the type he used to lead horses around with their halters.  The room morphed into a corral with the bed at its center.  The man stared down at him for a long while before opening up a pouch that was attached to his belt.  From inside the small bag the man removed some kind of talisman that he placed on the bed beside his head.  He then pulled out two feathers and a vial of something red, perhaps blood.  These also were laid on the bed.  His heart beat double time when the man pulled out a gleaming Bowie knife from a holster behind his back.  With surgical precision, the man sliced Charlie’s right thumb clean off his hand like a butcher would a slab of meat.  Without changing expression the man casually walked to the foot of the bed and sliced off both of his big toes.  He stared right into Charlie’s eyes as he chopped off the other thumb.

He tried to break free but couldn’t.  However much he squirmed made the bonds grip tighter.  The man leaned over and pulled the sheets away to expose his flaccid, naked body.  Just as the knife was about to castrate him he screamed like the pigs he enjoyed slaughtering.

He woke bolt upright to the sound of pounding on the hotel walls from the room next door.  The bed was soaked.  With sweat, not blood.  He wiggled his ten toes and ten digits and waited for his pounding heart to relax.

Howard spent the days following the auction moping and distraught.  His kids thought Mommy and Daddy must have been fighting because he went straight to bed after dinner each night.  In the mornings he left the trailer before his wife awoke.  At night when she tried to find out what was the matter he would shrug and say, “Nothing.”  She knew it was something about the auction that he wasn’t ready to share.

Four days later he finished dinner and went into their bedroom.  When he returned he had on his ceremonial clothes.  His family stared at him is disbelief.  These were sacred garments from another culture to his kids.  When it came to their heritage, they were smart enough not to question the things they had yet to understand or appreciate.  Today was not a tribal ceremony or holiday.  His wife motioned for him to come outside so that they may speak in private.  The time for silence had ended.

“You’re going to see Billie,” she said knowingly.  Billie had been the tribe shaman ever since he was struck by lightning at the age of eleven.  Many of the younger generation and even Howard’s peers wrote the old man off as a loon.

Howard told her about what happened at the auction, how he had bonded with the magnificent Bay for Naida.  He spoke of the light the horse kindled inside of him, and how Charlie the kill buyer had extinguished that flame out of spite.  The desire to somehow hurt or get back at the fat man only made his shame greater.  By now the horse was probably dead, but in his sleep he still saw its pleading brown eyes.  Seeing Billie was the only way to allow both of their souls to rest.

“I only hope I will return as the same good man,” he said with a bowed head.

His wife kissed him on each cheek with the certainty that he would.

Billie Eyota Angpetu, which meant “great radiant day” in the Sioux language, sat facing the healthy fire outside of his dilapidated trailer.  His age was as timeless as the stars that shined above.  Long black hair framed his wrinkled face, but in his eyes sparkled life as fresh as a new morning.  He took a bite from the TV dinner that sat on a hot rock near the fire and chewed thoughtfully.

“You are a man of good soul, Howahkan” Billie said, using his tribal name meaning ‘the mysterious voice.’  “I know this not from what you tell me, but from what I feel in your presence and what I have seen in your lifetime.”

Howard stared reverentially at the old man.  Although there had never been actual proof of his spiritual powers, a lot of strange and unexplainable occurrences had taken place in and around the area.  There was the hunter who killed wolves for sport that was found torn to shreds inside his cabin.  A tea-totaling moonshiner that peddled on the Reservation wound up dead drunk, the victim of a hit and run driver.  Then there was the bank man who maliciously kicked families of Indians off of their land.  He just disappeared one day.

“I see the Bay in my dreams,” Howard said, his voice dripping with emotion.  “She is running towards me.  That horrible man, the kill buyer, is chasing her and laughing at us both.”

“Is that all?”

Howard ducked his head.  “I am in ceremonial paint, a warrior from the old times.  My bow and arrow are poised and ready to shoot the man.  When I let fly the arrow ends up striking the mare.”

Billie nodded once.  “Those who walk with the horse spirit seek awareness along paths they have yet to tread.”

“I wanted the horse for my daughter.  My going to that auction at that particular date and seeing that particular animal was…destined.”

“And so it was.  Just not as you foresaw it.”

Howard watched the flames dance in the fire and felt the heat reaching out to him.  “I cannot be whole until I have cleansed my soul of that horse’s life force.  Till I have done right by her and the bond we shared.  I know it’s stupid and childish, but–“

Billie held up his hand.  “You felt her essence, and that is a gift.  One not given or received lightly.”

“All grand words, but they do nothing to soothe me.  Bad things happen to good people, and men like that bastard…” He could feel his anger rise and closed his eyes.

“You say his name is Charlie Matchitehew.  That name means ‘evil man.’  A fitting title for one who callously plays God with a creature’s life.”

Howard shook his head in a futile gesture.  “He mocks the life force.  There must be something I can do to stop him from getting away with it.”

“Perhaps your role in this human play is not as the champion but the intermediary.”

“For whom?”

Billie nodded at the fire.  “Nature has a way of telling us when something is wrong.  She also has a way of righting those wrongs, although we don’t necessarily see or understand it.  The tsunamis that wipe out thousands…did you ever think that those poor people living in squalor have gone to a more spiritually satisfying place?”

Howard sat back and breathed in deeply.  Maybe he was wrong in coming here after all.  It had taken him nearly a week to gather up the courage, and now that he was here he felt silly.  All they did was speak bloated declarations.  Nothing could be done for the horse.  What justice could be levied upon the kill buyer who hadn’t acted illegally, just maliciously?

“Nature doesn’t play favorites,” Howard said looking down at his limp hands in the firelight.  “I suppose my only choice is to live with reality as I cannot do anything to change it.”

“You already have,” Billie said.  “Go home.  Enjoy of your wife.  Feel pride in your children.  Your daughter and her horse will find each other.  The natural state of all things is harmony.  Find that inner peace and it will find you.”

Howard left the trailer, and although his mind told him that nothing had been accomplished, his spirit felt at rest.

Billie methodically prepared his tools after Howahkan left.  He failed to tell the younger man that the universe is a matrix of interdependence.  He could not control the forces of nature, but he had the power to convince them to align themselves with the earth’s soul.  He worked all night with the wind at his back and the moon as his guide.  Just as the sun awoke he retired to his trailer to let Nature take its cue.

The next Continental Livestock Auction took place on an overcast Wednesday.  Eighty-three horses were packed into the dung-filled pens with enough food for about a quarter of them.  There was no water, but the sky looked like it might oblige at any moment.  Ewan Matchitehew had expected his father Charlie to show up an hour or so before the actual auction.  They had already finished the goats and pigs and were onto the cows.  He knew he could cover for his absent dad but had never done so at such a big auction and without explicit instructions. He gripped his buyer number in sweaty hands and lost a staring match with the clock on the wall over the auctioneer booth.

The first horse trotted into the ring.  Standing in the very place his dad always occupied, Ewan gulped and put up his hand to bid.  Dale Brewster at the other end of the room huffed with delight.  Ewan had just bought the animal for the starting price of twenty cents a pound.  He shouldn’t have jumped the gun.  He should have waited until the bid went down to fourteen cents.

The next horse came up.  A thousand pound brown quarter horse.  Dale picked up the animal for only sixteen cents a pound, obviously amused that Ewan hadn’t bid it up as his father would have.  As each horse came into the ring, he felt as if he made the wrong decision, either buying too high or getting out of the bidding war too early.  The sweat pasted his denim shirt to his back.

By the twentieth horse, he finally got into the swing of things.  He got one up on Dale and let the man have a horse he knew was sickly.  His confidence quickly grew into arrogance.  His father’s son.  By the time they were half way through he was bidding like an old pro.

The next horse to enter the ring was a gelding so white it almost looked pink.  It was the fattest horse of the day by far, weighing in at 1248 pounds.  It didn’t move well as the wrangler had to prod it into the ring.  The creature’s eyes looked terrified, as if it knew the fate that awaited it.  The auctioneer hesitated a moment before getting the bidding started at fifteen cents a pound.  He verbally tripped for the first time in years as the two kill buyers engaged in a furious bidding contest.

Charlie gazed out at the faces in the ring staring down at him.  His terrified eyes went around the semi-circle as he desperately sought someone, anyone to save him.  The two men at opposite ends of the room were going at it, raising the price higher and higher–Dale Brewster and his son.  Each step he took around the auction pit hurt, due to the massive kick he’d received while in the holding pens.  Every time he tried to stop and stand still, he got a jolting smack.

In the middle of the arena he saw a familiar face.  It was the guy from his dream, the one where he almost got his balls cut off.  He sat there staring at Charlie.  The thing was, he knew.  He knew.  Charlie tried to appeal to the man, this Sioux Indian who only two weeks ago had begged him to allow a horse to be purchased cheaply for his daughter.  But, the man just looked back at him.

Please raise your hand.  Please bid for me.  Charlie wanted to say the words, but he couldn’t.  The numbers went higher, all the way to forty cents a pound.  For a moment, he thought the Indian would save him and purchase him for his daughter, but he just got up and walked out of the arena as the auctioneer shouted, “Sold.”  Bidder #310 had won.  That was his number, the one his son Ewan now raised high.

The last thing Charlie experienced was being herded into a putrid smelling truck with a slew of other frightened horses.  A cattle prod jammed his back causing a spasm of pain.  Once in the truck he couldn’t move and could barely breathe.  There was no food to calm him or water to cool him.  A horse to his left kicked his leg while another hit him in the chest with such force he nearly dropped.  Other horses bit him relentlessly.  They were ganging up on him.  As the truck pulled away for its sixteen hundred mile drive, Charlie’s soul cried out for mercy.

* * * * *

This story is dedicated to Horse #6727.  Every year tens of thousands of horses are inhumanely butchered in Canada and Mexico for shipment overseas as a delicacy on some European or Japanese plate.  These are magical creatures whose only crime is in trusting us humans and allowing themselves to be used for recreation, competition, and work.  They are rewarded by being sold by the pound and shipped off amidst horrifying conditions to be killed in a painful and callous fashion thousands of miles from their homes.  Please send a donation to one of the many groups that strive for the humane treatment of horses.

 Written By Joel Reiff

2010

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