It's that time of year again! Crispety, crunchety leaves all a-swirl as the chilly wind casts snowfalls of brilliant colors around your feet...
You curry your four-legged friend, using a step stool if you have to, to get all the dust and grit you can from under the saddle blanket. He sidesteps with anticipation as you come around the trailer with his tack, and you let him sniff it and begin to chew out of recognition, signaling he knows what this is and that he is relaxed about it. He doesn't even flinch when a stirrup falls over the side, and is still as you work your way around and under, straightening and attaching and cinching. At last you slide the hack up and around his nose, over the ears, and clasp the cheek strap. Step stool ahoy, you slide your foot in the stirrup and flip a leg over in one graceful move, then nose your other toe in the other stirrup. Smooth pets down the side of his neck tell him thank you for agreeing to do this again. The two of you walk around, doing some drills to see if there is any soreness, stiff limbs, or emotional ghosts hiding in the closet. It's amazing how sometimes the most familiar things can become frightening because of something that happened that day - to the both of you - so we scare them out into the open and watch them vanish.
It doesn't take long for the scent of hot horse hair to begin emanating, mixing with the leather rigging, the neoprene belly band, and the fleecy saddle pad, wafting its way up through your nostrils and out the top of your soul, a giant imaginary flag set to winds unseen. You ride through the wide open spaces, beside the gurgling waters of yesterday's torrent, until the inner darkness between young trees begins to disappear the details of the forest, and vapor breath creates dew on long whiskers. The end of the day is coming, and he walks with the swagger and grace of a half-drunken dancer up to the trailer and stands there after you dismount with no need of being tied as you peel off the sensitive layers that comforted the ride on skin and bones for the both of you. Naked and free, he begins to graze at your feet, and you pick up your brush to whisk his aura clean, walking behind him step for step while you comb through the long, variegated strands of his tail. The last golden rays outline each member of the herd dotting the hill, as they connect again to the ancient rituals of their ancestors.
Travel across country. Interview and get job. Find out the immense training requirements that need fulfilled. Cat diagnosed with unknown tumor. Can't afford pathology so wait and see what happens. Sift through what's left of stuff from not being employed last three years to see what I can bring with me. Move to Seattle. A horse goes lame. VERY lame. Vets want like $500 to find out what's wrong (and then talk about what it would cost to get him better). Can't do that either, so wait and see what happens. Meanwhile the nerve damage from my neck makes my arms tantamount to useless and turns my hands into more like paws. Brain works about 60% of time, and saw fit to just open the pasture gate and let the horses out to run up the driveway. Half a mile later, I recapture... you get the idea.
And Monday is an early day, first day of the rest of my job. Cross your fingers!
Apparently there is this seemingly little-known veteran's organization (to me) although it is 90 years old and the third largest of its kind. The Disabled American Veterans is a private, federally-chartered organization whose mission is to better the lives of all disabled vets and their families. There is SO much they do, one must really check out their website for the variety of services, not to mention the colorful history. As for me, I have begun my long haul of training, which will include doctor-level anatomy and physiology, attorney-level veterans' benefits laws, and also some public speaking and legislative writing.
One week I may find myself interviewing soldiers just returning from the Middle East for any possible claims processing, the next week I may be giving a speech in state or federal Congress proposing yet another new law, while the following week I may be riding with fellow service officers in a mobile office motorhome in the nooks and crannies of our great nation seeking veterans who may still need help.
They say not a day will go by that I won't have helped at least one person better their situation. Most days it will be several. I know this, mine will now be among them.