The men didn’t lift me this time—not like they did when they threw me into the box. Instead, they put that same dirty rope they used before around my neck. Downward they pulled me into what seemed like an overwhelmingly large crowd of humans.
A male human took my rope and led me into a small yard where the smells were better. The smell of death was gone; in its place was the clean smell of farm life. In front of the barn stood a woman in a billowing red skirt, “Dinky little thing isn’t he? He sure smells terrible,” she said to the man.
I heard other animals calling, “Who are you?”
Still fearful and unsteady, I held my head up high and called back, “I am beautiful and strong. My mother told me so.”
So loud were the humans, I could barely hear their replies, but I thought I heard them laughing at me. That made me sad.
The man leading me wore blue from head to toe. Deeper into the dark barn he led me. Finally he pushed me into a small room with little patience for my unsteady legs or for the bruises that covered my body from falling.
In the dim light of the room, I heard a voice, “Hi. My name is Lucky. What’s your name?”
Afraid, tired, and hungry, I asked, “I don’t know, Lucky. How do you get a name?”
“Oh, sooner or later they’ll call you something. Then you’ll know your name,” he said.
“Then I guess my name is Dinky, because that’s what they called me.” I couldn’t manage anything more. Before looking around the room, I went over and drank some of the water in the pail. “I’m hungry.”
“There will be nothing more till morning,” Lucky said, licking my wounds and comforting me while I cried. We snuggled close and slept. Each time I woke up weeping, he calmed me down and reassured me.
Cock-a-doodle-doo filled the room. It was the strangest sound I ever heard. “What’s that noise, Lucky?”
“It’s called Mac Rooster, and he’s greeting the dawn and telling everyone it’s time to get up. We’ll get our breakfast soon now. It always comes after Mac Rooster calls,” Lucky said.
Lucky wasn’t my mother, nor was he an adult horse. He was too young to teach me manners or the ways of the herd, yet he’d been here longer and knew things I could learn. He was bigger than me and brown. With him near, I felt a measure of safety. Each day at the farm shortly after Mac Rooster called, they brought us our breakfast. For a while they only brought us the milky stuff, but soon the humans began putting hay and grain in our room along with our pail of milk.
“Dinky, I overheard the humans talking. Soon they won’t give us the bucket. If you don't learn to eat hay and grain, you’ll die.”
So each day I tried to chew it, but it didn’t seem natural. “Lucky, are you sure it’s normal for us to eat this when we’re so young?”
He just grunted and went on eating. Sure enough, the next morning the humans put only water in our bucket. Gone was the milky stuff.
Our room was old and smelled of other horses even through the thin layer of new shavings on the floor. That morning we woke to rain. It came down exceptionally hard, so instead of taking us out into the little yard, they tied us up inside the barn.
“Lucky, this is horrible just standing here unable to move around. Even being in the little room is better. I like it best when they put us out into the little yard, don’t you?”
“Yes, Dinky, but I heard the woman say if we get sick we will be worth nothing, and they will have wasted their time and money on us. So we have to stay in here if it’s raining,” Lucky answered.
“I guess we are fortunate not to be on the cross ties. See those chains hanging over there on the wall, Dinky? Ole Jack told me, they are called cross ties and humans hook the chains one on each side of a horses halter. Then the horse must stand still, held between them, unable to move around much at all. We are too little for halters, so they tie us up instead.”
“I don’t think I would like cross ties Lucky. It is bad enough having a rope around my neck and tied to the post. Why do you suppose the rope is tied so high? I feel like my neck is being stretched off my head.”
“Me too Dinky, I don’t know why the rope is up so high though. I think it would be worse though to be on the cross ties.”
“What are halters Lucky?”
“I don’t know, Dinky, all I understood was they are something that covers the face. It doesn’t sound nice at all.”
Each day I learned a little more about life on the farm. “Dinky, don’t try to socialize with the chickens. They’re snobs and only like to talk amongst themselves. Besides Ole Jack told me they were just big gossips anyway.”
I wondered if there was something more to it, but I didn’t think Lucky would know. Maybe if I was here long enough, the chickens would talk to me, I thought as the woman led us out to the little yard.
“Hi, young’uns. How’s it going?” a strange looking little light-brown fellow with horns on his head and whiskers on his chin yelled from across the fence.
“There’s Ole Jack now,” Lucky said. “We better go over and talk to him, or else there’ll be too much ruckus, and they might not let us stay out in the sun today, Dinky.
“Howdy, Ole Jack. Where have you been?” Lucky asked as he trotted over to the fence.
“They lent me to another farm for breeding. Woo hoot, did I have a grand time, little ones. Who’s your buddy, Lucky?” Ole Jack asked.
“This is my new friend, Dinky.”
“Is he okay? Looks a little skinny and wobbly to me, Lucky.”
“Yah, Ole Jack, Dinky is still recovering from the trip and losing his mother.”
“Ah, another nurse mare’s foal, eh, Lucky? Hi, Dinky, welcome to the farm. I advise you not to get too comfortable here.”
“Why’s that, Ole Jack? And what’s breeding?” I asked shyly.
“Well, your mothers were bred to a stallion, and you were born. Your mothers were nurse mares. Unfortunately, a nurse mare is only useful for the milk she produces, which is why you were taken away from her. Her milk was needed to feed another horse’s foal. You two are just a byproduct of the breeding.
“Nurse mare foals have no real purpose. You’re not much use here on the farm. Chickens give eggs, goats and cows give milk, but the humans here think they can make a little money by selling you. Likely you’ll both end up at the meat market or the tanners. There are a whole group of humans here today. Likely as not, one of them will buy you, if not now then next time.”
“Does that mean I’ll never see my mother again?” I asked.
“I expect you won’t, Dinky,” Ole Jack said.
I started to cry. At least I understood why we were separated, though it didn’t make the separation any easier.
“Now don’t cry, youngster,” Ole Jack tried to console me. “It’s just the way of the world.”
I tried to think of something else instead. “What’s a tanner, Ole Jack?” I asked, because he seemed to know a lot.
“I don’t want to frighten you two, but a tanner is where they take the hide off your back and make bags and shoes for humans to wear.”
“But what does that mean? How could they take my hide without me dying? I don’t think it’s possible to live without it. What are bags and shoes anyway?” I asked.
“Dinky, calm down. I said I don’t want to frighten you, but it’s true. You’d die if they took your hide. Bags are what humans carry things around in, and shoes go on their feet.” Ole Jack answered.
“I don’t want to die! I don’t want to have my hide taken to make bags or shoes, and I certainly don’t want to be eaten,” I said tartly.
“You sure are a sassy little fellow aren’t you? Maybe that will help you survive. Sometimes, you nurse mare foals find homes. You might become one of the privileged ones, but I recommend you don’t count on it. I don’t want you to get your hopes up, little ones. You won’t stay here long.”