I canted my neck toward the passenger side of my car. There’d been no person traveling with me, so my view was unobstructed. Out and away, my vision, if only for a moment, sought respite from the dire monotony of interstate movement. Instantly, I honed one gimlet eye along a sloping hummock of sedge grasses and daffodils. Then, displayed a little further beyond all the emerald and saffron, was what appeared to be a fairly hefty wire-mesh enclosure, a woven metal cylinder with a conical opaque rooftop. The object appeared a bit rusty, yet formidably built. No corn kernels of any sort observed. Only a solitary roan-colored creature, shimmering glossy from a patina of sweat in mid-day’s high sun, caught my attention. (Distant blur of the equine.) The animal had not been so much a full-fledged horse as an empowered pony, charismatic in its gentle undulations, tail swishing jollily in the gathering breeze. Fine teeth flashing earnestly.
As my car slowed to the minimum legal limit, I next saw a man trudging amid a rutted trail, scuffling up desiccated soil in great powdery wisps, burden atop his wide back grasped with one forearm, looking like a decades-old grayish canvass sack – apple picker’s bag, perhaps – in any case, object of numerous usages and inestimable utility.
Suddenly, this man released his burden to the ground, the thing falling with a desperate thud, I imagined, fleck of barley grain and unshelled chestnuts galore at his feet. The man’s face, oddly, reflected golden glitter about his skin, and I was certain a glint must have been from a peculiar diffusion of sunlight off the corn crib. However, there’d been a sensation that it was not so. The man slid onto the pathway, scooping into his soft hands a good dollop of grain and chestnuts. The movement appeared such a choreographed act, akin to a ballet dancer’s glissade atop ash wood planks of a theatrical stage. He entered the metal mesh through a vaguely hinged crib door, beginning to feed the marvelous pony. What I viewed, fleetingly, was joy given to both man and animal. Timeless gratification – untaught trait in every creature, which requires no explanation.
Tellingly, the urge for feeding this pony overmastered me. I could not discard the notion. I must veer off this wretched four-laned amalgam of rubber and steel… (I must ardently seek out the corn crib.)
Gratefully, a ramp-off presented itself within a couple of miles. A ribbon of hard road immediately spanned away parallel to the interstate. I was certain the tarmac would end up near to the corn crib. And so it did, only thirty yards into a field, where the man continued feeling the pony, his face yet of golden glitter and careful satisfaction.
“Come out of your car. I know what you desire,” announced the man in a mellow, gleeful voice.
“Desire?” I responded in my most dunderheaded shout.
The man grinned with a leer, toothsome as any bright October’s jack-o-lantern. But he said not another word to me, only picking up the gray canvass sack on the little pathway near to the corn crib’s wiry door. This man still maintained his grin, bounding into his palms more of the pony’s food from the sack’s hold. The pony chewed rhythmically and thoughtfully, showing me no attention whatsoever. In a most subliminal manner, the animal signaled I was the one needing to acknowledge him – but only if I was so inclined; he would never force such an act upon me, I swiftly sensed, for that had not been his way.
I took the man’s meaning and exited my car, heading in the direction of the fine pony and imposing corn crib. Sunrays were hot and strengthening, and my head was without a hat. Sweat started its itchy wending through my scalp. I glimpsed the pony’s sheen and wondered offhandedly if my own face would become as radiant.
I explained to the stranger “Saw you from the interstate. Wanted to stop…stop and bask in this fantastic field with…”
“With me and the pony. Isn’t that right?” The man cut me off in mid-sentence, but I really hadn’t minded. His words sounded so perfectly adequate for the situation, all the gold glitter escaping from his face as if it had never been there at all.
“Yes, with you and the pony…that seductive pony,” I mewed dizzily. There was a narrow slough, half-filled with very clear water, running not five feet astride the corn crib, and I must be careful not imbalancing myself, so that I would slide into it.
“Then enter, friend, and ply your fingers down into what’s left at the bottom of my sack.” The man edged toward the front end of a muscular neck and tightly woven mane of the creature. I was reminded of a Chinaman’s flopping queue. “When you’ve swollen up your hands with food, go around to his mouth and offer it to him – he won’t nip at you. In fact, relish all the goodness he has to bestow in your direction.” Then, before I could bend downward toward the canvass bag, the man gimped away toward the rear of the pony, and grasped an object on the hay-strewn floor near to the door.
Passionately, I weighted both hands with all the barley and chestnuts able to be had from the sack. Before having the chance to circle around to the pony’s mouth, incredulously, the man showed up there before me. How could it be? The object off the floor was within his finders, singularly the most riveting thing I’d ever seen. Tenderly, and with incomparable reverence, the man secured a perfect black-leather show-halter about the pony’s muzzle; pink nostrils flared eyes afire, ears hugely pricked at attention. Ineluctably, I viewed that the pony and the man possessed a very special connection. The man needn’t display four legs, or wiry tail for embracing the notion that this creature sometime, somehow, sprung from him.
And thusly, my first feeding of the fine pony stamped its mark as an indelible impression. Every year for just over two decades, I arrived upon one day in June to feed the pony amid the corn crib. There he would dwell, show-halter affixed, flex sleeves from pastern to well up over firm cannons graced his legs; bling brush rested atop on old orange crate at his flank. And the man attending him was invariably there, always with gold glitter embossed across his face when viewed from a distance, never, however, close up.
Right after my fifth year nourishing the pony, I spoke ardently with the man who’d forever been present at these encounters. I confided to him how wonderfully my life had been transformed since paying homage and devotion to the creature with the corn crib. I declined pointing out specific examples, for they were just too numerous. Of course, the vicissitudes of life were always present, but clearly since visiting the fine pony those several years, an ineffable quality of
dealing and accepting these trails had been made remarkably easier. Some people surely may conclude the act off the interstate seemed as mindless surrender. But I did not fall under the lash of that sentiment – not once. Still, what transpired between myself and the man and the creature was an event no person could ever pigeon-hole.
Another thing I brokered to the changeless gold-gilded man was how well the pony fit into the realm of where it dwelled. That is to say, every sinew, muscle, delicious expanse of velvety skin and shined-on hair appeared an incarnation of all things surrounding him. Perhaps, the pony, in an odd sort of way, was the true mirror-image of his surroundings.
After my twenty-fifth year of frequenting the corn crib, I decided to end my yearly pilgrimage. The baton would be passed onto my only son. Begrudgingly, he accepted his fate, traveling down that hateful interstate toward the mysterious place amid the field of spiked grasses and dervish daffodils.
Shockingly, the grand pony vanished from within the metallic corn crib, my son told. The man who’d always attended was indeed present, but languished quite a distance from the cord crib, , easily fifty yards away from a zigzag runnel of water now substituting for what once had been that clear slough of water. My son unveiled all of this to me, disconsolately and beaming with raw inquiry. Moreover, he cried, the man was shorn of any gold-glitter about his face.
Tellingly, the very next day, I remanded myself back to the corn crib. I would discover firsthand what the meaning of this profound change had been. Piteously, there was indeed no pony present for me, either, and the man now, quite expectedly, sequestered himself some ways from the corn crib. Like my son, I could detect no shine issuing from his face. I supped tremulous hands to my lips, pressing out my words screamingly, “Where is that pony? You cannot imagine what dejection arises when your only son is spurned, and all promise is taken away.”
Instantly, the man in the field rose up, appearing so much older and larger than I’d remembered, gray canvass sack along his hip, golden hue now spangling his features – a shouting back uproarishly, “Envision … my only son is also spurned. Reviled by the day, by the hour, by the millions.”