Sam's Blog, continued from the last newsletter

May

I didn't recognize the wild horses, and I would have, if I'd ever seen them before, because the mare and her leggy filly had the most unusual markings I've ever seen.

Both horses were grays -- the filly dark storm-cloud gray and the mare an ash gray verging on white -- and their shoulders were covered with splashes and splatter-dots of red.

"What are they?" I asked. "Appaloosas? Some kind of pinto?"

"Bloody-shouldered Arabians," Jen said.

"Wind horses," Jake announced at the same time.

"What?" I wondered if those were two names for the exotic horses. "I've never heard of them."

"The name's based on an Arab legend," Jen said, without looking at Jake. "A Bedouin warrior had a starlight silver mare he'd treated like a dog -- no," Jen corrected, "Like a daughter! She slept in his tent, drank water from a brass bowl and lipped fruit from his cupped hand. In return, she always brought him safely home from battle."

Jen stopped for a breath. I noticed Jake had crossed his arms, waiting for her to finish up.

I liked the story so far, but I had a feeling a tale about a "bloody shouldered' horse wouldn't end well.

"Until one day --"

"Of course," Jake muttered.

" -- the warrior was terribly wounded, many miles from his tent and family. Hands fisted in her silvery mane, he fell forward on the mare's neck and whispered for her to run home.

"When she finally reached the circle of tents, the mare's shoulders were streaked with the blood and the Bedouin warrior was dead. Although they mourned their leader, the people were amazed at the mare's strength and determination, especially since she was about to foal!

"They cleaned the mare with cloths dipped in warm goat's milk. Soon, she was starlight silver, again and, despite her marathon gallop, her filly was born healthy and so energetic, she stood at once, to nurse. As she did, the tribe gasped. The filly bore the same blood-red marks on her shoulders as the mother had shown hours before.

"And ever since then -- "

"Now, you want to hear the real story?" Jake interrupted.

"That is the real story," Jen argued. "That coloration only occurs in --"

"Do those horses look like Arabians?" Jake asked.

Jen and I studied the horses. The mare was small, probably no taller than fourteen hands, but her resemblance to an Arab ended there.

"Those hairy fetlocks?" Jake asked. "That blocky little head and muscled, go-getter hindquarters?"

"Not very Arab," I said, since Jen wasn't about to admit it.

"Wind Horse lived long ago, but he too, has a legacy. It was his job to carry those who were mortally wounded -- not just warriors in battle, but children who'd forgotten to listen for bears as they picked berries, or women who climbed rocky paths too quickly and fell, anyone too gravely injured to make their way alone to the Afterlife.

"Wind Horse slipped his muzzle, then his neck, under the helpless ones, and slid them onto his back, knowing, even as he carried them on their last journey, he could never return, either."

Both Jen and I sucked in breaths, surprised by this twist in Jake's story.

"So if the first time he carries someone to Heaven--" Jen broke off, shaking her head as Jake raised his eyebrows.

"The Great Spirit gives the People horses like this whenever they are in need," Jake said. "We know they are special because the blood markings show up on their shoulders once they have proven their strength and bravery."

Jen mumbled something about liking her story better, but thank goodness they didn't ask me to judge which legend was the true one! I've heard that cultures in different countries share myths and stories, but I was pretty sure than would satisfy either of my friends.

"They're grays!"

"Good eye, Sam," Jen teased.

I must have said it pretty loud, because the mustangs bolted through sagebrush. Even though they raised so much dust that they were out of sight, they stayed in my mind. I couldn't help wondering if they were from the Phantom's herd.

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