Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Blog The Man Cave
My Orphan Horse

Shadow was an orphan colt who my father let me raise from a bottle. His mother had died at birth. We called him Shadow because he was my shadow, followed me everywhere. I had him from age 8 to 18.

He was a chestnut quarter horse thoroughbred mix with black socks and a white star on his forehead. He was one ornery character. I was a barrel racer, won three championships. Shadow was not my only racing horse, but he was my best. I rode him left-handed and right-handed, because you never know, in a given barrel race, which side of the barrel will be dug up from the hooves. So if you can work to the other side of the barrel you might avoid an injury to your horse, not to mention gain some time.

I would definitely say that Shadow was the best horse in all of Illinois. I loved that horse and he loved me. One time, when I was twelve, my older sister’s husband was cursing me for back-talking him and tried to hit me in the barn, so I ran out into the horse pen with him on my heels and ducked under Shadow. As I ducked under Shadow he turned and bit that no good so-in-so on the shoulder. It looked like giant molar marks all the way around—bruised that shoulder so bad he couldn’t hit no body for a while. Don’t you know he complained to my father about the horse and my father said, “Well, you no good son-of-a-bitch, you’re better off for havin’ been bit on the shoulder than shot through the brisket for laying a hand on my daughter.”

She eventually got rid of that poor excuse for a man, you better believe.

We made a lot of money, Shadow and me, racing those stupid boys. Those fool boys thought they were all hot stuff with their racing cars and would challenge me to a race. Well, I always stipulated that the race would be from one pole to the next, a quarter mile or there about, and we could not be beat. Those boys just could not get their cars into high gear before we crossed the finish. If we had raced a half mile, I’d lose every time. But my daddy didn’t raise no fool. I made twenty dollars a race off those fool boys.

Shadow was such a character, always getting into mischief. One winter we had a terrible blizzard and were snowed in. The snow pushed open the barn door and Shadow got out and went down to the river bottom and fell through the ice. My daddy managed to get him out with a tractor but it was too late. He didn’t drown. But the leg was so broke he would have died. A horse can only lay down for a short period or its weight will cave in its ribs.

I have never been more sad than that snowy day. That ended my racing ways—never raced again. Shadow was the best horse a little girl could have ever had—he’d a fought hell for me and when he was gone it broke my little heart.

-Jenny, on a West Bound Train

Masculine Axis: A Meditation on Manhood and Heroism

Add Comment