By Lynn Moffett | PREVIEW Columnist
Puffy, white clouds held the attention of the horse named George. He preferred these sunny days to those with gray clouds and sheets of rain. As he surveyed the green pasture and its giant oak, he counted off his friends who were grazing.
Of course, his best friend Nancy, the white pony half his height, topped the list. Then there was Rusty the roan, Stormy the dapple-gray and Morgan, the chestnut broodmare, all permanent residents.
George stood alone at the barn side of the pasture waiting for Mickey. Before they met, the little man made a living as a jockey; that is, until he took the fall that caused his limp. Later, he was George’s trainer when they were in the circus together.
Today, George’s neck needed a touch from Mickey’s gentle hand.
By now, he should be out in the pasture checking on George, Nancy and all the others. That he wasn’t proved unsettling. George decided he’d take a walk around and find out what was keeping his beloved owner.
He took the rope-latch in his teeth and flipped it free.
Curiosity sent him ambling toward the circle corrals, but no luck. From the training area, he searched the white house’s grounds where Mickey slept, all to no avail. George stopped to consider his options. The truck sat in its usual place, telling him Mickey was somewhere on the ranch. He didn’t clean the stalls. That’s why George skipped the barn, but now he would circle back and peek in, just in case.
The sight of his friend’s flat cap lying in the center aisle sent a sense of alarm rolling across George’s hide. “Where is he?”
It took a minute before George spied Mickey at the foot of the hayloft ladder. He lay on his back, lifeless, with his arms spread to the side and his legs at strange angles.
George couldn’t breathe. He sprinted to Mickey’s side and nudged a shoulder. Nothing happened. With his muzzle close without touching the man, he allowed his breath to brush over the long-loved face. Still, no response.
With no clue what to do, George assumed a protective stance over his friend.
Nancy pranced into the barn and stopped short when she caught sight of the trouble. “George, we must ask! Right now.”
Her words shook him out of his stupor, but rather than heed her, he turned tail and galloped for all he was worth back to the oak tree in the pasture, the place where he experienced the teacher’s presence the most.
He shouted all the way. “Teacher, teacher, where are you? I need you.”
The one he had never met face-to-face unexpectedly stood tall before George.
Without a moment’s thought, George bowed on one knee the way Mickey had trained him to do. His head hung low.
“Lift up your eyes, my horse named George. What do you ask of me?”
George couldn’t obey, but whispered toward the ground. “Mickey needs you. It’s bad. He fell off the hayloft ladder and won’t wake up!”
“Rise up, son.”
“Oh, no. I’m not worthy to stand before you. Just speak and Mickey will be OK.”
“Only believe.” The teacher disappeared as he spoke those last two words.
George used his right leg to lever himself off his aching knee. “Did this happen? Was this a dream while I was running? Do I need to say more, ask more? Why would the teacher let me see Him like that?”
He remembered the teacher’s two words. “Only believe.”
He nodded his head and snorted before trotting back to the barn. He couldn’t waste another minute.
Leaving the sunshine, George stepped into the shadowy interior where he discovered Mickey brushing straw off his backside and shoulders. “There you are, George. You must be ready for a pat down and a few strokes.”
Again, the teacher’s words came to mind. “Only believe.”
George swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and rested his forelock against Mickey’s chest.
It was true. He didn’t imagine the teacher standing in clear view and speaking to him. Incredible, but he had no choice, he could only believe.
Nancy’s face spoke disappointment that George had run away. Should he tell her what happened?
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