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Wild Horses & a Senior Citizen

May 10, 2010

 If I thought I was getting old, I’m seriously over it.  Traveling with my father, Cesar Padilla,  has been a jolt of youth serum.  No longer am I the parent, the slower moving one, but the young whipper-snapper that can still do it all.  And, even though I  think of my father as a young senior despite his 84 years of life lived, he mentions frequently with fondness how much he could do when he was only in his 50s.  Simple things like jumping down off the deck and moving rocks, are remembered skills for Dad.  Yes, rocks – I am an obsessed rock mover here in Idaho, building rock walls whenever I get the chance.  I stoop, squat, lug, shot put, Dad has to drag me inside.  The results are tangible and I figure it gives my neighbors something to talk about. 

 We left Santa Cruz early in the morning, our first true destination, the Litchfield Wild Horse Adoption Facility east of Susanville, CA .  We lunched in Greenville, just before you get to Lake Almanor.  It is a cute Sierra town with original buildings and delicious Hamburgers.   Then we got our first glimpse of the immense Lake Almanor, turquoise blue in the sunlight.  We stopped to get some pictures and I billy-goated my way down a steep bank while Dad remained safely on level ground.  Finally, after many hours in the car, we got to Susanville.  We needed coffee badly and Dad’s woman, the bossy GPS, was not happy with our unscheduled stop.

It was nearing the hour when the wild horse station might be closing, although the woman I spoke with said that she always stays late.  Finally we saw the sign and pulled up to a locked gate.   Heartbroken, I stared at the chain and wished for something different.  My wish was granted and a woman appeared.  She wasn’t the woman I spoke to, but she believed that I had called in advance and the the gate


swung open.  Inside the office, I met with helpful and knowledgeable Videll and she gave me the full rundown on the process, as well as some encouragement that I could actually do this thing.  I ventured out to the pens and caught my first glimpse of these wild creatures who eyed me with caution before turning tail and running away.  My confidence was shaken as the reality that these horses were not exactly wasting away and longing for a human to load them up in a trailer and whisk them to a foreign reality.  Frankly, if they would have had zero interest in me, it would have been a more positive response.  They shied to the far extremes, next to the distant fence and I felt unconnected and disheartened. 

As I wandered around the facility, a wrangler approached me.  We spent some time talking about the horses and what it meant to take one on.  The love and dedication for these animals that emanated from his manner was like a restorative elixir.  Moments ago, I had a chance to download the pictures I took of the horses.   My chest is tight from how much I think at this very moment that I want to join the fraternity of humans who, like generations of people before us, have walked toward a wild creature to extend a friendly gesture in the hopes of forging a life long partnership.

When Dad and I drove off and headed toward Oregon on the next leg of our journey, the weight of the moment, the ramifications implicit within a decision of this magnitude, sat between myself and this man that was just getting to know the real me.  I thought about how children are with parents, perhaps a bit like the wild horse, keeping something back to claim a sense of independence, yet now for the first time, I felt like I could say anything to Dad.  I wonder how much we canknow about our loved ones, how much more we could know about the animals that share our lives as companions, and the will to venture further has grabbed me. 


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