We called it grim necessity, even though we knew that what we were doing amounted to torture. We never laid a hand on him, never whipped him or branded him, but we knew that we had broken him. We had destroyed the wild freedom that defined him. Enticing him with apples, we felt fraudulent, evil, for we were the only ones who knew of the Snow White deceit of our crisp treats. Eventually he trusted us, allowed us to come closer, until we could touch his nose and rub his mane. After a while, he blindly followed us into the corral, as if anticipating something even grander than the juicy red morsels we’d given him. All we greeted him with, however, was the buzzing flick of a lasso, the chaffing of a saddle, and the harsh jab of alien metal spurs. Once inside the corral, he changed. He paced back and forth at the fence as if contemplating an escape. When he grew tired, he hung his head, the majestic rise of his shoulders becoming sway-backed in defeat as he half-heartedly snuffled at the grass and dandelions. Occasionally, when he raised his head and the breeze ruffled his mane, we could see some of his soul return, even if only for a moment.
That was three years ago. Sometimes he still stands next to the fence rail, his gaze distant, but now he doesn’t looks as if he’s plotting his escape. Instead, it’s as though he accepts his fate. I follow his gaze to the horizon, and when I see the meadows dotted with wildflowers and surrouned by craggy mountains, I share his existence and my heart breaks for him.
07/22/08 Inspired by a story on NPR about coralling wild ponies and the concept of the Judas horse