[drivingpairs] A Christmas Fable

  • From: "Jay Hubert" <jhubert@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "WelshMountainPonyList" <ponies@xxxxxxxxxxx>, "WelshMPL2" <wmp2@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "welshponycob" <ponycob@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "NCDC" <NorCalDC@xxxxxxxxxxx>, <RecreationalEquineDriving@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "PONYDRIVING" <ponydriving@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Pairs List" <drivingpairs@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2005 21:57:52 -0800

A Christmas Fable

The old gray horse sidled up to the pasture fence with little dancing steps.  
The 
place seemed familiar, yet! somehow strange.  The grass was greener than any 
grass he'd ever seen, and when he looked closely at the white paddock gate it 
had 
a kind of pearly sheen.  And there was another funny thing.  A big, black cloud 
hovered just inside  the gate. The cloud wasn't up in the sky where it properly 
belonged. It was like a great puff of black smoke rising from the grass.

Suddenly the cloud dissolved and revealed a horse.  He was a small chestnut 
with 
a blunt head and one white stocking and brownish hairs in his tail and mane.  
The 
gray horse thought he had a kind of old timey look to him. "Hello, old gray 
horse," the chestnut from the black cloud said.

"Hey, that's a real good trick!" the gray horse exclaimed.  "Where'd you learn 
it?"

The chestnut disappeared into the cloud again, but emerged immediately. Learned 
it the day I was born," he replied, with a whinny that sounded like a chuckle. 
"You see, I was born on April Fool's Day and there was a total eclipse of the 
sun.  So they named me Eclipse.  I was always playing tricks on people too.  
Used 
to kick my grooms and try to throw my riders and
I bit the auctioneer that sold me."

"My name is..." the old gray horse started to say politely, but the tricky 
chestnut ducked in and out of his cloud and interrupted rudely.

"Native Dancer," he said.  "I ought to know you.  I'm your 
great-great-great-great-great - I always lose count of the 'greats' -  but 
anyway, you're a descendant of mine.  Almost everybody is, in fact. The 
Thoroughbreds, that is."

"Are you the gatekeeper?" Native Dancer asked.

"Mostly," Eclipse replied.  "I'm on duty whenever one of my descendants is 
coming 
up.  That's mostly so far as the Thoroughbreds go.  Old Matchem has a few left 
and he takes over when one's due.  And poor old Herod, he's posted here 
occasionally, but there's not many of his male line that aren't here already."

"What is this place" Native Dancer asked.  "I guess I'm kind of lost."

"The Green Place," Eclipse replied.  "That's what it's called.  The Green 
Place. 
Most of the horses that get lost, come here.  We have to send some back of 
course."

"Why?" the Dancer asked.

"Because they don't belong here, that's why.  Long before I came up there was 
this fellow Bayard, for instance.  He was a devil-horse.  Belonged to an old 
necromancer named Malagigi and he did the devil's work.  Helped that villain 
Aymon of Dordogne to triumph over Charlemagne, they say.  And a wizard named 
Michael Scott had a big  black beast who used to stomp his feet and set all the 
bells of Paris ringing. He even caused the towers of the palace to fall down 
one 
day. The Big Guy doesn't want that kind here.  But we ! have Jesse James's 
horse, 
and Dick Turpin's too.  The Big Guy says they did nothing wrong themselves. The 
were just faithful to their masters, and The Big Guy thinks that's a virtue."

"Who's the Big Guy?" Native Dancer asked.

"You'll find out!"  Eclipse answered airily.  He lowered his muzzle and pushed 
the gate open. "You might as well come in.  You understand you're on probation 
though.  The Big Guy makes his decisions about new arrivals every Christmas. 
Let's see, it's November 16, the way you figure things down there.  So you 
won't 
have long to wait anyway."

"I'll bet The Big Guy is Man O' War," Native Dancer said as he moved inside and 
gazed over the emerald green expanses that seemed stretch into infinity.

Eclipse snorted.  "Don't get smart, boy" he said.  Then he added maliciously 
"You'd lose your bet too. The way a lot of people lost their bets on you at 
Churchill Downs one day."

Native Dancer felt hurt, for his ancestor had touched a raw nerve.  His lip 
tremble a bit as he replied defensively, "That Derby was the only race I ever 
lost."

"I never lost even one race," Eclipse said unsympathetically. "So don't get 
smart 
up here.  The Big Guy doesn't want any smart-alecks in the Green Place.  
Remember 
that."

Native Dancer was a sensitive sort.  He felt as if his eyes were teary and he 
hoped Eclipse didn't notice.  "I won 21 out of 22, and Man O' War only won 20 
out 
of 21" he declared.  "And my son Kauai King won the Kentucky Derby."

"My sons won three Derbys at Epsom" Eclipse said.  "Young Eclipse took the 
second 
running and Saltram won the fourth and Sergeant won the fifth, and I'd have won 
the bloomin' race myself, only they didn't run it in my time.  So quit 
bragging. 
Somebody's coming and they might overhear you and tell The Big Guy, and that 
would be a mark against you."

A bay horse who seemed even more old-timey than Eclipse ambled up.  "Is it my 
time now?" he asked eagerly.

"Not yet, Herod," Eclipse answered in a kindly fashion.  "Old Fig's on duty 
now. 
One of his is on the way."

"Who's Old Fig?" Native Dancer asked.  "I never heard of that one."

"There's a lot of things you never heard of, boy," Eclipse replied.   "His real 
name is Figure, but down there they called him Justin Morgan, after his owner. 
Here he is now."

A very small, dark bay horse with a round barrel, shiny feet, and furry 
fetlocks 
came bustling up to the gate.  "OK, OK, I'll take over," he said busily.  
"Where 
is that boy?  Can't stand tardiness.  I've got things to do. A load to pull, a 
field to plough, a race to run, a trot to trot.  No time to waste.  Where is 
that 
boy?"

In the weeks that followed, The Dancer met hundreds, maybe thousands, of 
horses. 
Some of them were famous, and some of them are his ancestors and a few of them 
were his own sons and daughters. He met a snorting white stallion named 
Bucephalus who had been approved for the Green Place by The Big Guy even though 
he was rumored by some that he was cursed by the deadly sin of pride because he 
had carried a conqueror named Alexander.  He met another gray horse who limped 
because he had stepped on a rusty nail back home just before he became lost 
forever.  His name was Traveller, and he was a war-horse too, in the days when 
a 
man named General Lee had owned him. There were other soldier steeds, two of 
them 
descendants of the bustling little stallion they called Old Fig up here.  One 
was 
Phil Sheridan's black Rienzi and the other horse called both Fancy and Little 
Sorrel who had been the mount of Stonewall Jackson.

Native Dancer found Man O' War an amiable sort despite his proud aristocratic 
bearing, and he grew especially fond of a bony old fellow named Exterminator, 
who 
patiently answered all but one of his questions.  He asked the question of 
everyone:  "Who is The Big Guy?" And the answer was always the same:  "Wait 
till 
Christmas."

He met Messenger and Hambletonian and Hindoo.  He met horses that had dared the 
dreadful fences of the Grand National.  He met a horse who stared blindly into 
the emerald darkness.  His name was Lexington.  He met horses who had pulled 
circus wagons and horses who had pulled brewers' trucks and horses who had 
drawn 
man's ploughs over the fields of earth, and he met others who had been the 
mounts 
of kings and captains.

Always the answer to his question was the same:  "Wait till Christmas."

Eclipse fussed over him and kept a watchful eye on his behavior and said he 
neighed too much and asked too many questions. Eclipse could not stand the 
thought of The Big Guy banishing one of his descendants from the Green Place

 And Native Dancer did not wish to leave.  He doubted he could ever find his 
way 
to Maryland again if The Big Guy disapproved of him. And the Green Place was 
very 
pleasant in all respects.  The grass was lush and he met so many
interesting horses.  Back home he had sometimes been troubled by nightmares, 
for 
a Dark Star haunted his dreams, but now he slept peacefully and rarely 
remembered 
the Derby he had lost.

He became nervous though, as the weeks went by and the stars grew brighter.

And finally it was time.  On a night when the skies burned with starlight, all 
the horses gathered as near as possible to a little hillock of the vast 
paddock. 
There were hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of them, a murmuring and 
expectant 
throng that seemed to stretch over the emerald grass beneath the diamonds in 
the 
heavens.

Eclipse was very tense.  He hovered over Native Dancer, whispering, "Look your 
best now.  Be quiet and humble.  The Big Guy will be here any minute."

Suddenly the vast throng was as silent as the stars themselves. The Big Guy 
stood 
on the hillock in a blinding blaze of starlight, and Native Dancer could barely 
contain himself.  He choked back a whinny of derision and whispered to Eclipse, 
"Is he The Big Guy? He's so little!  And he's not even a horse!  What did he 
ever 
do?"

Eclipse whispered, "He's a donkey.  He carried a woman heavy with child to a 
small town on another night when the stars were bright. It was a long, long 
time 
ago." 

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