Here recently I am reminded me that though the milk of human kindness continues to freely flow in many places, not everyone out there is a milkman.
Whether it’s through a series of choices that taint the soul with lies, greed, dishonesty and fear, whether it’s a certain natural bend to the meaner sorrier side of life, there are some people out there that are just up to no good.
Around them are usually some who are in the process of making their choices of who and what they intend to be, at the end of a day they don’t know is soon upon arriving. Everyone always thinks they have time and just about no one bargains for the correct set of consequences.
That’s been me, more than a time or two. I was never the baddest of the bad, though through some form of mistaken bravado I’d often take the dare no one else would, ride the horse they said I shouldn’t, push the envelope just a little farther.
Even at my worst I had some margins and some scruples. As the years went by, the margins got a lot narrower, a shape of things to come and echoes of a future I did not want.
As I believe we all do, somewhere along the line in the midnight hour, I looked up and didn’t care for what I saw in the mirror. I didn’t like saddling a horse a couple hours before the prospective client arrived to take a look. “Working the fresh off” is what we told ourselves, so that the horse looked his best. Of course, we didn’t mention that to the client. We’d say, you might want to give this one a job or some nicety to that effect.
I got tired of buying horses “for my kids” to get the better deal. I know most if not all the tricks to cheat a horse through a sale barn. How to bounce them off a wall, picking up my reins at the last minute, making it appear as if the horse is turning snappily to my request, rather than me just staying alive to survive the ride and get the bid. I know how to bute a horse for five days in a row before the sale so the chances are, he looks pretty sound when the buyer glimpses him in the pen or the ring. I know how to make them look quiet as a lamb . . .
Anyone with an eye for real horsemanship can spot that phony bull in a hot New York second but unfortunately most of the people going to horse sales lack the ability to discern the difference. The allure of that mythical “best $300 I ever spent” horse brings ‘em back time after time.
Try to tell somebody to spend a little real money for one that will ride and vet even a week after you buy him and they look at you like you’re trying to steal something.
“Is he sound”
“This horse is so broke your Grandma can ride him!”
“Is he sound””
“This horse is so broke, if you can ride a stick horse, you can ride this one!”
But is he Sound??
“Does she buck . . . like ever just buck for fun?”
Nope. Not ever.
She’s deadly serious, every time.
Later than it might have should, my lifelong goal to be a “right kind of human being” came smooth up against “standard operating procedure” with a resounding thud. “Everybody does it” just wasn’t good enough, anymore.
Every trader I have ever known, from Vegas to Louisiana, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri had a drawer full of registration papers. Have a customer that insists their Bucephalus comes with papers? No problem.
Need a buckskin with a couple of socks and a star? Lemme look. How’s this? Socks on the wrong legs, oh hell, they’ll never notice.
This of course is back in the day before DNA tests. I am firmly of the opinion the horses now tested might likely not be exactly who their lineage says due to this extremely widespread practice but whatever.
I share this because the other day I saw a bad guy for the first time in awhile. I know the type. They are clever in their way, and dangerous to underestimate. They are also unbelievably stupid in many others, at the least the ones at this guy’s level. The smart ones? Well, I’m pretty sure they’re in government or trying to be. . .
It’s been quite awhile since I decided that twisty road was not my path. I grew to not care if I missed a sale because the horse was green and the prospective customer greener yet. I made it my business to thoroughly check out my horses and pay close attention to my customers.
“Ride all your life, you say? Well that’s great, glad to hear it. You won’t mind starting in the round pen, right?” The ones that really could ride never minded. The ones that pitched a fit and tried to tell me what they knew, they weren’t going to find their horse at my place.
I pulled the shoes to see if they were sound that way. I rode them everywhere I could think of and if they were to be kid safe, I put my kids on them before I’d put yours.
The really rank bad ones that once in a while I found myself in possession of, those I hauled to the sale because that’s where those kind go. I would warn the audience, for adults only but sales are what sales are and anyone thinking any different is nothing but naïve.
What benefit this kind of education gives me is that if you are bad guy, I can pretty much see you coming from way down the road. I know your tricks and games, I’ve seen them played by likely better than you.
I have no interest in joining in the game but if you come for me or the people I love, be warned. I am watching and I’m not afraid to fight back. I’ll do it legal and I will do it above board but you won’t run over me or anyone around me. I will shine the brightest light I can find in your squinting eyes and send you scurrying down the road with your tail tucked.
The other day I am reminded, they still walk among us. They are smiling at you, promising you the best deal you’ve ever had. You might have a little warning in your gut, telling you not all is as it seems. They will smooth that away with reasonable sounding talk and cheery good fellow grins.
The better of you will shake your heads and say no thanks because that’s what the right kind does. Some of you will think you are getting that deal of a lifetime, getting something for a little bit of nothing and I wish you luck with that.
Some of you will fall in, thinking that the straight life is for rubes, marks and the weaker of the specie. You’ve got it backwards, my friend. To stand up straight will take everything you have, once you get to that place.
To decide to protect the weak rather than to prey, to quietly take a stand and not be budged, even when it appears it’s in your best interest to take the advantage. That takes some strength and internal fortitude.
Here’s the good news. If you are hanging in the balance of who and what you want to be in the world, the choice stands there in front of you. Right now. You can make that choice today.
I don’t think a person is ever too far gone. Sometimes, to right the wrong, the price will be very, very high. Might cost you pride, time, and heaven forbid, money. There will always be a way to do the right thing, at the right time. To turn about and be that right kind of human being you were born to be. If I can do it, anyone can.
Today I look into the mirror of my horses’ eye and I’m proud of what looks back at me.