During dinner Mickey found it difficult to concentrate on eating. He kept returning to his encounter with Jackson. Other children were talking excitedly about how they were going to spend the next two months. They were busy making NBFs (new best friends) with one another; some even approached Mickey. But Mickey’s eyes let them know that he was somewhere else, inaccessible to them.
Dinner was just about over and the campers were sitting around the evening campfire until it was time to turn in for the night. Lights-out was about 10 PM. The only thing on Mickey’s mind was Jackson. How was he to wait until the next morning? And then what? Jackson would be plowing the fields all day. Mickey knew that he could not wait until the next evening. He had to come up with a better plan.
When got to his bunk Mickey saw the solution. Hanging from each bunk was a flashlight, just in case a camper needed to go to the bathroom or if the electricity failed as it often does in rural areas. Mickey was hatching a plan to sneak off during the night when every one was asleep to visit with Jackson in his stall down by the barn away from the stable where the riding horse were kept. This adventure excited him.
Once the counselors called for lights-out, all of the campers retired to their bunks and quiet – except for the occasional whispers common to tweens and teens – descended in the camp. Even the animals seemed to hunker down. Besides the occasional howl of a coyote, moo of a cow or whinny of a horse, everything fell quiet.
Mickey, who had not changed into his pajamas, slipped into his shoes as he slid out of bed, grabbed his flashlight and jacket, and as quiet as he could be, hardly breathing, left the bunk house and made his way to the barn.
Fortunately, the barn door was left ajar so he would not have to chance startling anyone while opening it. He softly entered the large barn. Hay was strewn all over and farm equipment hung from the walls and rafters. He heard a whinny – must be Jackson, he thought. He moved slowly in the direction of the sound with the beam of the flashlight directed toward the ground in front of him. He could hear the big plow horse shuffling about in his stall. As he approached the stall, Jackson moved toward the gate and made the blowing sound that horses make with their jowls. He was telling Mickey where he was so that he would move closer.
Mickey approached Jackson with caution. He had brought with him an apple and a carrot that he had taken from the dinner table. He had heard that horses liked carrots and apples. He put a carrot in his hand and held it out toward Jackson. With his big lips Jackson gently took the carrot, nodded his head, and stomped one foot in appreciation. This made Mickey smile. Mickey then reached out and stroked Jackson’s nose and forehead. Immediately he felt the spark, the same spark he felt earlier that afternoon. And just as suddenly he could see a picture in his head of the big, beautiful horse standing in the winner’s circle. This time he was sure that the handsome thoroughbred with the garland of flowers around his neck was Jackson.
Jackson whinnied, pawed the earth with both feet and then rose up on his hind legs showing his full size. And then just as quickly the picture faded from Mickey’s mind. The same Jackson, with those forlorn eyes, was back as the plow horse.
Once again Mickey was puzzled. What was going on here? He reached out and touched Jackson again, and again the picture of the thoroughbred appeared. Suddenly Mickey understood. Whenever he touched Jackson, he was able to see what Jackson was thinking. It was as though he could read Jackson’s thoughts. He wondered whether Jackson was sharing with him his dream of becoming a racehorse, or whether he was saying that he had been a racehorse before he became a plow horse. How was he to find out?
Mickey wondered whether Jackson could also read his thoughts. He decided to experiment. He touched Jackson again, only this time he conjured up his own image. He saw himself as the isolated kid back in the city spending time alone with his books or working on his computer. Always alone. As he had this picture in his mind while stroking Jackson’s snout, Jackson moved his head closer to Mickey’s cheek and nuzzled him, letting Mickey know that he understood. He showed Mickey a picture of himself standing alone by the fence in the field while the other horses were riding through the hills. They were both lonely, but now they had each other.
Showing each other pictures of their lives, Mickey learned a lot about Jackson. As it turned out, Jackson was not born a plow horse. He was a thoroughbred racehorse. And he won. But then his owner fell into economically tough times. He could no longer afford to keep Jackson. The country was in a recession. Jackson was sold to a farmer who needed a horse to plow the fields. He was mean to Jackson often hitting him a stick or a whip whenever Jackson showed any spirit. The farmer called it sassy and uppity. He wouldn’t stand for it. He worked Jackson hard, eventually breaking his spirit. And then he sold Jackson to another farmer who was not as cruel, but who also worked Jackson hard in the fields. Eventually he ended up with the Wheatons. They treated him with kindness they, did not know of his history, and simply had him work the fields. But he remembered his glory days on the racetrack.
Each night, after everyone was asleep, Mickey would sneak off to the barn where Jackson would tell him stories about racing, the tracks he ran on, the jockeys that rode him, and the other horses against which he raced. Mickey began to imagine himself on Jackson’s back wearing the colors of a jockey uniform.
During the day, Mickey went to the stables where the others horses were kept. He did not ride the horses with the other children. Instead he stayed in the stables with either George or James learning how to groom the horses, feed them, and clean the stables. He learned how to put saddles on the horses and take care of the tackle and bits.
After a day in the stables learning about how to care for horses, Mickey would go down to the barn where he practiced what he learned on the horses with Jackson. He began to brush him, clean his hooves, and feed him carrots and apples he took from the dining room. He took him for walks in the moonlight. He began treating Jackson like the thoroughbred racehorse that he knew he was. And gradually Jackson began to look more like a thoroughbred. He began to stand a little taller, his eyes were more alert, his mane and tail were trimmed and his hide took on a shine.
During the day when Jackson was working in the fields plowing the lines of soil for the next planting, George began noticing the changes. He noticed that rather than just plowing along the rows, Jackson seemed have a bounce to his stride. He couldn’t figure out why there was this sudden change in Jackson.
That night, George went down to the barn to investigate. He heard footsteps, so he hid in the rafters where the hay was stored and watched. He saw Mickey enter the barn with his pail of soapy water, brushes and a handful of carrots and watched as Mickey washed and brushed Jackson. He watched Mickey stroke the big horse and watched Jackson nuzzle Mickey. They seemed to be talking to each other, Mickey laughing and Jackson snorting. As George shifted his position to get a better look he accidently kicked some of the hay in the loft. As it fell to the ground, Mickey looked upward. Jackson began pawing the dirt, ears back preparing to either fight or run. Mickey noticed George as he climbed down from the hayloft. George asked what he was doing out there.
Mickey explained the whole story. Of course, George didn’t believe him at first, but Mickey insisted it was the truth. He went over to Jackson, touched him, and sent him a picture of Jackson kneeling. Jackson dropped to his front knees as Mickey leaned against his neck and held on as Jackson rose up with Mickey on his back. George could not believe his eyes. Mickey pleaded with George to teach him how to ride Jackson. George told him that it was James who should teach him as James had been a jockey before he grew too big and tall to ride in competitive horseraces. Jockeys must be small in stature and light in weight.
The next night George brought James with him. They met Mickey in the barn for his first lesson. George had told James about Mickey and Jackson. He wanted to help Mickey learn to ride the big thoroughbred. Within a few weeks Mickey had learned how to ride. Fast. Jackson ran like the wind. And Mickey was was a natural. He sped around corral, he ran in the hills. Jackson carried him like never before. They were both feeling powerful.
James told George and Mickey that he had read in the town newspaper that in three weeks there was to be a County Fair held in the neighboring town. At the fairgrounds there was a racetrack and every year the fair hosted a horse race where the local farmers would bring their favorite horse to compete with the other horses for a trophy. James suggested that they enter Jackson in the race with Mickey as his jockey. This both excited and frightened Mickey. He had never ridden a horse before Jackson, did not know anything about being a jockey, and did not have a uniform. And besides, he had asthma.
George and James said that they could make it all happen, but they would need help from Karen, Jeremy, Bob, Lynne, and Bonnie.
This is Part II of a 3 part series. See Part I by clicking here.
[Dr. Dreyfus is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist, relationship counselor, sex therapist, and life coach in the Santa Monica - Los Angeles. The profits from his latest book, LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT along with his other five books, are being donated to charity through the website Book Royalties for Charity and can be purchased through Amazon.com. Please become a friend on his Facebook Fan Page by indicating "like" on the page by clicking here. You can also find more tools to help you experience a more fulfilling life by clicking here to visit his website.]