During a recent visit to the ranch, a mother and father came for an advance look-see, to see how the gears turn here, get a lay of the land, and determine, I suppose, whether their kids would be safe here.
In other words, if little Home Safe Horses, cuddled in the back roads of Haywood County west Tennessee, is the real deal.
Whatever their impressions, their excitement and perhaps relief were palatable, after they disembarked from their Jeep after their accent up the driveway. That’s one of the surprising things about it here – the driveway relays visitors in a meandering manner up a hill and out of sight. From the entrance, no house nor barn are within sight. There’s a little mystery here when the horses are not present at the front of the property. Visitors often wonder if they are at the correct location, despite the welcome sign.
As we made our way from the house to the barn, this couple took in the sights – a meager orchard planted years ago, well past its prime; the duck coop that we built; the fenced yard in front of the barn that was completed recently; into the south side of the barn where the stalls are being built.
To the middle of the barn, where the building is divided and the horses stand as they attempt to avoid the heat and flies. It’s here we stand to take them in.
They are still and lounging in their silence except for their tails, which swat and swish the air to clear the flies. The smell of horses clung to the heavy, unmoving air.
The horses are calm, for the most part, unconcerned by our presence, so we watched, the couple taking them in. Until one moved. Snickers came to the gate, she wanted to say hello, so she did.
In the way that only Snickers can, her cautious meandering was led by curiosity. “How was this, who were these new humans,” she seemed to think aloud. While we watched, she made the rounds, which was actually here investigating the line of us as we watched and talked about them, the animals on the other side.
As Kristina and I discussed the children’s programs offered at the ranch with the woman who was curious for her kid’s sake, her husband remained silent, yet apart from the rest of us, close to Snickers. During the course of our conversation, lasting several minutes, Snickers and this man stood holding their own conversation. A silent one, where the only “words” exchanged were the soft touches by the man on the animal’s nose and her, in return, smelling the man’s hand and occasionally licking his fingers.
When the introduction came to a close, both man and animal stood opposite each other, silently assessing one another and seeming to understand their new friendship. Like souls connect without word or based on any previous history, the two seemed to find a peace within each other’s presence. A curiosity became a contentment of sorts, a peace in each other’s presence.
Finally, our worded conversation having reached its goal, we turned to the man and his new friend and watched.
After a few moments of silence, I or Kristina or our daughter said, “She chose you. Snickers chose you.”
There was glee and perhaps a bit of embarrassment at the noticed connection, but the man’s wife immediately began to tell the story of his late mother’s horse, which looked very much like Snickers. The resemblance between the two horses is uncanny, the couple confessed. “Doesn’t she look so much like Angel?” the wife said?
He seemed to settle into the same assessment, and for a moment seemed to recall his mother and the fondness only mother and child can know in each other. He seemed restored, maybe. A little less on edge than when he first arrived.
We prayed together and said our goodbyes, taking leave of each other with the promise of their brining their children to the ranch to experience the horses.
Life went on. A couple days later, the woman called to verify a time for her kids to come to the ranch, oh, how excited they were, but wait, there’s more to tell!
Since leaving the ranch and the presence of the horses, specifically Snickers, her husband has changed. Something is different about him, she claimed. He seems more at peace, but that’s not all. Never one to communicate through communication, since meeting Snickers, the man has been talkative and open with his wife about how he feels different and how he wants to come back to the ranch to visit Snickers.
How Snickers chose him. How Snickers might have seen something in him that only a horse can see. How a horse that most closely resembles his mother’s horse attached herself to him, as if to say hello for more than just herself.
How, perhaps, God wanted this man to know that he is loved and He chose to tell the man in the only way that he might have been able to hear and understand the power of those “words.”