"I'm sorry I got you into this," my boss, Rainie, told me,"she didn't give many details."
The red colt spun around in the stock trailer. He whinnied a scared baby call to the horses in the pasture. The plaintive sound was enough to make the broodmares raise their heads and nicker back to him.
"How many days have I got?" I asked her.
"30, from what I understand," Rainie told me.
"Huh," I shook my head and walked to the front of the trailer to look at him again.
"It sure didn't take 30 days to turn him into this," I grumbled.
I opened the back of the trailer and walked to the divider in the stock trailer. The red colt flattened himself against the far wall. He pinned his ears and drew his nostrils back in disgust, or hate, or rage. Whatever it was it sure wasn't love.
"Hey Bud, hey Bud, hey hey hey," I talked to him in a low sing song,"C'mon you stupid bastard, come on now, come on, how am I going to get your lead rope, hey Bud, hey Bud."
He relaxed a little. I put my hand through the slats in the divider.
He whipped across the floor like a snake and lunged at my hand. I pulled my hand through the bars and slapped the wood a few times. He bit the slats and the splinters flew.
I kept slapping and brought my other hand through, hooking the lead rope. I worked the rope through the divider and pulled the colt up against the side of the trailer. He squealed and kicked at the restraint, but I was able to reach through and make sure his halter was knotted tight.
I attached a second lead rope to his halter and my boss and I took a strong hold on him and we eased him out of the trailer, keeping him balanced between us.
The shape he was in became evident once we had him out in the sun. His harsh, dry coat stood out stark against his ribby sides. His matted mane and tail were thick with manure and his long feet had big chunks broken out of the side. He was just a little thing.
He glared at us from under his heavy forelock.
"He looks like the horses we rode back in high school," I said.
"His head is sure Arab-y," Rainy said, "he'd be kind of cute with a couple hundred pounds on him."
"He's barely bigger than the dogs," I said, "I don't understand why he's a stud."
The colt decided he had stood long enough and we soon had our hands full wrestling him to the barn.
When we brought him into the barn he completely lost it when he saw the pricked ears and curious faces of the other horses.
He hollered as loud as any herd stud and reared his full height. He hit the ground running and charged the horses. They spun and roared in their stalls and Madonna started to kick the walls. It was complete chaos.
"I have about had enough," I said,"let go of your rope."
Rainie let go of the rope and scooted out of the way.
I gathered up her rope and started swinging. I would snap the end of one lead rope and swing the other at his shoulders. The bull snap on the end of the lead would pop him in the jaw with every swing. The knot at the end of the lead rope left welts.
I jerked and swung and cursed while he squealed and charged and struck.
I was the grown up. He was the baby. Within minutes he stood at the end of the rope, his legs spraddled and his head down low. He shook all over.
"Hurry up and open the stall door, could ya?" I asked Rainie,"he's going to catch his air in a minute."
Rainie slid open the door and I turned and headed straight for it. When I hit the end of the lead rope the red colt jumped forward and ran past me. He shot into the stall and about pulled me in with him.
I stood in the doorway and tried to catch my breath. The colt cowered in the corner. His head was rubbed raw from the halter and his jaw dripped a steady stream of blood. The bull snap had really torn him up.
I stepped in a few feet and his head shot up and he pinned his ears. I backed off a step and he lowered his head just a little.
"Get out of there," Rainie said, "what are you doing?"
"I want to get the halter off of him," I said, "he's a bloody mess."
"He's going to eat you. Get out of there."
"It's all right,hey Bud, hey Bud, hey little Bud," I was already lost in our song.
I'm not sure how long it took, but Cupcake finally agreed to let me untie his halter. There was a long moment when I was wrestling with the sweat soaked knot and I looked deep into his rolling, white rimmed eye. He looked back into mine and I felt he was taking my measure. His ears flattened for a brief second and I held my breath. The sharp smell of sweat and old manure filled my nostrils. I could see his pulse beating in the hollow over his eyes.
He relaxed his ears just a hair and I was able to loosen the halter.
I turned and left the stall, letting the leads drag behind me. I could feel his hot breath and his teeth sinking into the meat between my shoulders with every step.
When I stepped out of the stall and turned to shut the door Cupcake was still, pressed as far into the corner as he could go. I shut off the light and left him in the dark. I heard his sigh of relief.
Rainie was sitting across the barn on a bale of hay.
"Either she gelds him and he stays at least 60 days or she can come pick him up," I said.
We started the evening chores in silence. I was too tired to talk anymore.