Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blogging a dead horse

Henry died yesterday. Jay and Melissa had four horses here: Big Mama, Chance, and two white ones: Gracie and Henry. And now Henry is no more. He lay down in a rain puddle at the end of the pasture, and died. In the evening mist it was too late to deal with his body. We covered him with a blue tarp, and secured it against coyotes with wire pegs. There were lots of tears. Melissa had given him extra shots, vitamins, special food, and he had put on 50 pounds. Had we done enough? Could we not have done more? Measuring his girth, he weighed some 747 lb. With dirty, wet,straggled hair, and half-bared teeth, he looked very dead. The people they got him from late last summer said he was 17, maybe 20. But from his flattened teeth he was clearly much older - over 30. (Perhaps one should look a gift horse in the mouth!!) Had they lied to get rid of him? And if they had lied? Had Melissa not taken him, he would have had a quick bullet in the head and missed out on those good last months. Are we not all tempted, at times, especially as we get older but feel young, to lie about our age? Kant worried that the practice of truth-telling would break down. How is it that white lies do not destroy truth? The question now was what to do with the body. Priscilla told me a while back that the pit down near the bottom creek bed had once been used for dead animals. But after the downpour it was full of water; Henry would just float. I phoned Tom to see if he had a backhoe so we could make a hole, but he was out. I later checked on the web about horse disposal. Seems there are laws in some states about what one can do. Important to keep dead horses out of water courses, away from neighbors yards, and to avoid critters you don't want turning up. (Hey - I got to use the word 'critters' - not previously part of my vocabulary.) Last year, a tree of vultures greeted me on a dead-goat day. I would like to have exposed ol' Henry on the hillside. Those winged butchers would have stripped and carried him off in no time. Instead we strapped him to a sheet of plywood, and skidded him first with the 4x4, and then with the tractor, to the far end of the Peace Circle field, and covered him on the ground with cedar branches. The kids were not with us. Alexis (aged 8) had wept all night and she will want to visit the grave. Jay said they will take her to some other patch of disturbed ground. I don't want to lie to her, said Melissa, but ... (But Alexis would not want to see a half-rotten, worm-infested Henry?) Could an eight year old child understand ashes to ashes? Horse to worms? Don't those horribly graphic Roald Dahl children's books suggest kids delight in the gruesome? And is it really gruesome to think of nature's little helpers (worms, ants, bacteria, vultures, coyotes ...) welcoming Henry's substance back into the mix. The people who gave us Henry lied about his age to smooth things along, and now we will lie about his resting place. Nietzsche says we cannot take too much reality, and yet he wants to rub our nose in this truth. Sartre imagines a world of brutal honesty as a healthier place. Jay told sobbing Alexis that Henry was in a better place now. Should we say these things? Unlike animals, we say we understand the meaning of death, so why not come clean: Henry is history. While we were folding Henry onto his plywood gantry, Chance, Big Mama, and Gracie galloped over menacingly. Would they charge us? - they acted as if we were intruding on their grief-space. Instead, they kept back and watched us intently. And when we skidded Henry away from the field, they followed, as if part of the cortege. What were they thinking? Do horses have at least the whiff of the abyss? Do they perhaps at least catch the drift?