Will Kimmy trust Butch? Will she be able to take that leap of faith?
I looked in the mirror. The prettiest sky blue eyes looked back at me, but the face was far from peaceful. Something was bugging my granddaughter, but she wasn’t quite ready to let go of it. I continued to brush her fine blond hair, stroke after stroke patiently waiting, humming an old song my grandma used to hum when she was brushing my hair.
I picked up the ribbon and started to tie her hair back with a pretty bow, just like her mom would do. I smiled to myself knowing that the ribbon wouldn’t last the morning. Having a girl around here was kind of nice after all the boys we raised in this old house. In a day or two, this little princess would be a real rounder and out do any boy in town.
Kimmy’s mom was a city girl, all prissy and such, but her daddy insisted that she spend the summers out here in the country. I loved having the company.
The old place just isn’t the same without a bunch of hollering youngins. Over the next month, this place would really be jumping as the grand kids showed up for their summer visits. Kimmy was always the first to arrive and I just loved having some girl time with her before all the boys barreled in.
“Well girl, you going to spill the beans, or what?” Her eyes met mine in the mirror. I could see a touch of fear, and a subtle hint of how did you know, meeting my gaze. I sat on the foot of her bed and patted the old quilt. “Well?”
“Oh, Grandma,” she snuggled up to my side. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder. It felt great to comfort my granddaughter.
“Kimmy, you can tell me anything. Something’s got you spooked. I don’t know what, but I’d like to help.”
“Grandma, you said we were going riding today.”
“Yes, honey. You've always loved riding down to the pond and having a picnic.”
I looked in the mirror, that meek little face was about to break my heart. “Now, honey, if you don’t want to go for a picnic today we can do something else. There are lots of chores to get done. I was just thinking it would be a great day for us to goof off together.”
“That’s not it, Grandma.”
I turned to face Kimmy, gently placing my finger under her chin so she’d have to look up at me. “Child, what is it then?”
“Last summer, before I went home, you said I’d ride Butch all by myself this year.” She swallowed hard.
Riding Butch? Now that just doesn’t make sense. Butch was simply the gentlest horse I’d ever owned. It was kismet, Butch and Kimmy were born on the same day. I’d promised Kimmy’s dad that Butch would always be hers. We had ridden him every time she came to visit. She’d always loved being around him. The pieces of this puzzle weren't fitting together.
“And, Grandma,” she paused thoughtfully. “I think he’s grown,” her eyes grew larger, “a lot… a whole lot!” She finally squeaked out. She gazed at me, searching my face to see if I was finally getting it.
Alright, talk about feeling dense. When I finally got it, I felt downright stupid. “Oh honey, is that what’s bugging you?” I pulled Kimmy closer and hugged her tight.
“Grandma, he’s gigantic!”
“Well,” I nodded my head, “it does appear that he’s a mite bigger than you.”
“I’m still the smallest kid in my class!”
I chuckled, “Butch hasn’t ever been able to say that! He’s always been big for his age.”
“Come on, Kimmy. Let’s go see the big old lug. We’ll figure it out. We’ve got other horses if you‘d rather ride one of them, but I think it would hurt Butch’s feelings.”
We went to the kitchen and made quick work fixing a couple of peanut butter sandwiches, cookies and some lemonade for our picnic, and grabbing some carrots and apples for the horses.
The pond where we would picnic wasn’t that far. We could easily walk there but I really wanted to get back to some of the trails that led to the old home place. Kimmy had never been there and I wanted to show her where her great grandparents lived before vegetation and decay took it over completely.
Kimmy grabbed my hand as she hopped off the porch, and we swung arms singing silly songs all the way to the barn. Butch started singing too when we rounded the corner of his stall. I had to laugh. He couldn’t carry a tune either.
I looked up at Butch, and then looked down at my granddaughter. I nodded silently. I get it, little one, I really do.
Kimmy climbed up the stall gate and straddled the top. “Hey, Butch!”
It wasn’t seeing the horse that made her nervous. It was getting up there and riding all by herself that was bothering her. It was a long way down.
Butch looked up from his grain bucket. His big brown eyes sparkled. His girl had come back. I could just see him smiling at her. He moseyed over and nuzzled her side. I had to hold in myself in check to keep from laughing. His head was as long as her torso. She snuggled up against him and he whispered sweet nothings to her. I swear, I think that horse misses Kimmy just as much as I do when she’s gone.
Butch walked up beside the gate. He lowered his head and bumped Kimmy’s leg with a soft whimper. It was like he was begging her to hop on.
Kimmy warily looked at me.
I smiled. “I think he’s asking for this ride, honey. Are you going to give it to him?”
She was still scared, you could see all of the gears churning in her head, trying to figure out if she should or shouldn't. I wouldn’t put it past her momma, putting such foolish notions in her head.
Butch backed up, putting his head over her lap. His big brown eyes stared at the tiny girl. He whimpered and nodded. He moved back in position beside the gate. All she had to do was get both legs on Butch’s side of the gate and slide onto his back. Butch would take care of it from there, if she would just trust him and get on.
Kimmy stroked Butch’s mane, “It’s been a long time, feller. You've gotten even bigger. Do you really want to take me for a ride, like Grandma said?”
Butch looked back over his shoulder, and nodded at Kimmy. Those two were in sync, just like always.
Kimmy carefully turned and pulled her other leg over the gate. She bit her lip. Her nerves were still getting the best of her. She balanced on top of the gate with Butch standing so still right beside her. I crossed my fingers and hoped that she’d take that leap of faith, but if she didn’t that would be okay, too.
With a deep breath and all of the grace of her citified mother, Kimmy eased onto Butch. There was still a touch of trepidation plastered all over her face, but she was up there. That was a start. I beamed up at my brave girl, and patted Butch’s shoulder. I don’t think I’d ever been prouder of either of them.
“That’s it boy. You show her. She’ll remember how sweet you are in a heartbeat,” I whispered in his ear.
Butch slowly walked around his stall. He knew exactly how to build Kimmy’s confidence. I stood waiting for my cue, from either the horse or the girl. After a few trips around, I got it… from the horse. He went to the door and stood there, staring at it. He looked over his shoulder at me and whinnied like what are you waiting for, old woman?
I hustled over, placing my hand on Kimmy’s leg. “Are you ready to go out to the ring?”
Kimmy smiled, she was still nervous but she was willing to try. “If Butch is, I am.”
I hooked him up, opened the door and followed Butch and Kimmy to the training ring. Butch was amazing. You could see him training Kimmy, gently showing her how to use her body to guide him through his paces. I stood in the center, carefully monitoring their progress as horse and rider found their old friendship again. You couldn’t ask for a pair to be more in tune with each other. Each trek around the circle, her smile grew bigger and bigger. I could see her confidence was soaring like an eagle in just a few laps.
Butch turned slowly walked toward center ring. Kimmy laughed when he nudged my shoulder, almost hard enough to make me fall over. I looked into those big brown eyes, and started baby talking to the enormous horse that was holding my granddaughter way above my head. He nodded and whimpered as we had our secret conversation. I looked up at Kimmy. “He says that he’s ready to go for a real ride, how about you?”
“I think so Grandma.”
Well, it took a while, but we finally made it down to the pond. Kimmy rode Butch like she’d been riding by herself for ages. Butch ambled up to the climbing tree. I shook my head thinking what a smart horse; we’d have to have that tree to get Kimmy back up on his back after our picnic.
I stood under the old oak tree looking up at the prettiest little girl with sky blue eyes and a smile as big as all outdoors. She stretched out on Butch’s strong back and gave him a big old hug. “Butch, I love you.”
Now I ask you, what could make a day any better than that?