The best intentions
November 20, 2013
"Good morning, Romeo! How you doin’ this beautiful Utah bluebird day?" Romeo is my favorite. He knows it and the other horses have learned it over time. The interaction I have with them as part of my horse-watering chores is almost always the high point of my day.
"Thanks, by the way, Romeo, for remaining in the lower pasture out of line-of-sight of me and my hose as I dispensed the water into your trough. I know it’s a hassle but we’ve decided to adopt the same rules here in the Heber foothills that restaurants operate under over in Park City when a customer wants a drink.
"The Republicans in the Utah legislature assure me from their pulpit that it’s the moral high road and that we’ll have much less crime and bad behavior if it’s instituted, so we’re going to follow suit. Don’t ya just love it when big government comes from that side of the aisle?
"What can I say? They are afraid that if you actually witness me concocting your liquid refreshment of choice that your moral center of gravity will be put into jeopardy by influencing you to binge drink. Yeah, I know — that horse is already out of the barn.
"Romeo, now I know you’ve already had breakfast but I still can’t in good conscience allow you to dip into the water trough until I first find out if you are INTENDING to dine with us again this evening. Sure, I’m quite aware that you haven’t missed a meal around here since they rescued you from that abusive owner up in Duchesne a couple of years back but that’s beside the point.
"It’s the somewhat recently modified "Intent to Dine" law we’re talking about here. It came in the same box as the "Separate Dispensing Area" edict. Myself, I usually inform them that, indeed, I do intend to dine on all the various fruits and vegetables that adorn my "Bloody Maria" cocktail. Following the spirit of the law is important to me.
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"So all you need to do is come up and nuzzle me a bit, Romeo, and we’ll call it good. Nothing says "intention" like a good nuzzle. That’s it! Good boy! Have at it! Drink to your heart’s content! I’ll bring you your menu after I water the others. Our special today, by the way, is a layered hay and alfalfa casserole.
"What? Where are you going? Quit following me! Oh, I see what you’re up to, Romeo. You don’t think Midnight will put up with this continued mandate of jumping-through-hoops before he can knock back some trail dust. Well, admittedly, he is a cantankerous sort and a rather slow study when it comes to the behavior-modification curve."
Midnight has never taken much to waiting out of sight while I fill his trough. He’s much more of a drink-straight-from-the-hose or, better yet, from the freeze-proof yard hydrant kind of guy. You get the feeling that if you gave him a shovel he would locate the aquifer in question and set up a lounge chair beside it.
That’s why I am much more covert when dispensing his quaff of choice and why I save that chore for last. Fire is the "alpha" of the quartet, but you’d never know it. He’s much more subtle than Midnight, who has filled the "bully" role since he first arrived on the scene back in the day.
Fire doesn’t allow rules of behavior, no matter how seemingly childish they are, to get in the way of his "Wah." (I think I got that from James Clavell in "Shogun.") In other words, Fire has a dignity, a nobility if you were, that transcends orneriness or the throwing of tantrums as is oftentimes the case with Midnight.
After just a bit of "tough love," Austin, the new kid on the block, has accepted the new paradigm with not much more than a shrug and a rolling of the eyes. "OK, I get it," he seems to say. "I’ll pretend that’s not you out beyond the corrals hooking up the hose in that ridiculous get-up of yours. It’s not like we can’t spot a "dude" when we see one."
Austin’s right. I’m not much of a horse person. But, as they say, any port in a large-animal husbandry storm. There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. Churchill said that. I’d rather water a horse than nuzzle a Republican legislator. I said that!
So, keeping my portly profile close to the ground I sneak from corral to corral dragging my hose behind me. With Midnight, it’s all about stealth. You lurk, then creep and slither until the gaping mouth of the target water trough is at hand. So far, so good. The trough is now full. And, by the looks of his approaching gallop, he knows it. I think I’ll forgo questions as to intent with him, today. He needs to work on his nuzzle.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.