Writing and Expression From The Sunshine Coast

The Shoeless Horse, Episode 24 : Going To The Ground Again

in Spoken Word/Storytelling by

After the high school graduation, there was no university as Bonnie had dreamed. The family bills seemed to be piling up, Bonnie’s father seemed to be getting into more trouble, and the newspapers ran frequent articles about university grads who couldn’t find their dream jobs. She didn’t mind settling in to working.

Even though her brother Steve was just sixteen, he was out in the workforce too. Their mother toiled at the busy restaurant in Vancouver, then found a very different job at an elegant Italian import shop that required an even longer commute. Now, four cars crowded the driveway of the house in Port Moody, one for each of the parents, and one for each of the two older kids.

Bonnie’s mother tried to use public transit. For awhile there was public transit for workers in Port Moody – the Barnet Fast-bus.  It was a help for anyone commuting directly into downtown Vancouver, but Ava had to cross a bridge onto the North Shore and make multiple transfers, so she abandoned the buses in favour of a skinny little Toyota wagon.

‘Everyone in the family uses and abuses my station wagon,’ Ava often fumed. It was true – anytime anything awkward had to be moved, including bales of hay and muddy dogs, Ava’s Toyota was borrowed.

Bonnie and her brother ranged around the hills of Port Moody and into other communities to see friends, and they both enjoyed driving. Having a car was a ticket to freedom. For girls, especially cautious girls like Bonnie, a car also provided the ability to get away from a party that had gone sour, even scary.

Bonnie got her license immediately after turning sixteen. Sometimes she had to drive her Dad around, as he’d mysteriously lost his. After some driving experience, she had a new understanding of the craziness of driving up to a horse at high speed and smacking him from behind.  She shuddered every time she thought of the day it had happened. She knew she’d been bloody lucky.

For Hogan the horse, life was peaceful since Bonnie had stopped putting rude and inexperienced riders on his back. Only Bonnie and her friend Leah rode the horse now. Hogan loved young Dawn and her gentle ways, and seemed fond of the cats, who were still hanging out by the trough when he had his sweet mash. He was tough in all seasons, refusing to use his shelter no matter what the weather did.

The rides grew less frequent as the next hoof-tending session drew nearer.  The horse’s hooves were ragged. Bonnie’s heart was pierced with guilt whenever she looked carefully at those hooves.

It took a few months to save up some money. Her earnings at Roy Rogers Restaurant were barely over minimum wage, and she paid her mother some rent along with a couple of other household bills.  Bonnie had been angry at first about the rent, but later she understood.  Her good-looking Dad had a new job, but spent lots of money everywhere he went, and he was getting around. It wasn’t long before Steve was helping with the bills too.

When Bonnie had enough cash put aside, she called Pete Barker.  Grudgingly he agreed again to help. The vet was summoned.

Few sights are more terrible to witness than a creature of flight that is drugged, trapped and pulled to the earth. The second take-down event in the pasture was just as horrifying as the first. Hogan’s grunts and his desperate struggling again seared into Bonnie’s soul. The pale horse fought fiercely to stay on his feet, to stay up and be ready to run.

This time, though, something was different.

“I had to give him so much,” the vet said of the medication that took Hogan to the ground. “Next time it may kill him. I gave him the amount that I normally use for a much bigger animal, because he wouldn’t go down.”

The vet and Pete looked tired and sad. Bonnie was in a state of numb horror. As the men worked over her crazy-brave, lifeless-looking little horse, the vet’s new recommendation banged in her ears.

“He can’t go on with this. You need to think about putting him down.”

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