The crisp, unmistakable clopping of horse hooves echoed in the still morning air, and I stopped weeding to listen. “Kirby!” I yelled toward the elm tree. “A horse is coming!” His face appeared amid the budding leaves for a second; then I heard the wild rustling of branches as he scrambled downward.
I sprang to my feet and ran to stand on the flat brown rock. Craning my neck to see around the long-stemmed hollyhocks, I watched the bend in the lane. Soon I saw sunlight shine on silken red hair and glisten on a polished leather bridle. My heart pounded against my chest as I skipped to the middle of the lane to get a closer look.
The horse’s mane was rusty brown, and his eyes shone like lustrous coals. His hooves hardly seemed to touch the ground as it pranced toward me. Then I felt Kirby’s hand on my arm as he jumped up and down excitedly. “Settle down,” I cautioned. “You’ll scare him.”
“Do you think Marilyn will stop and let us pet him, Cathy?”
“I doubt it,” I said as horse and rider drew closer, “but you never know.”
Kirby danced to the side of the lane and fidgeted on the flat brown rock. I kept my eyes on the approaching horse as I moved out of his path. As horse and rider passed, the horse bobbed his head and looked at us out of the corner of his eyes. Marilyn nodded and smiled but did not stop, even though we tagged along until they reached the next bend in the road.
As we walked back home, Kirby scuffed the dust with his worn shoes. “She could have stopped!”
“It certainly wouldn’t have killed her!” I agreed.
When Dad pulled into the driveway at noon, he slowed enough for me to jump onto the running board of the car and ride it to the side of the house. Climbing out of the car, he gave me a quick hug. “Have you been helping your mother this morning?” he asked as we walked hand in hand toward the house.
“I weeded the flowers and thinned the radishes.”
“I’m going to help her stretch curtains this afternoon.”
“Good girl.” He held the screen door open for me, then entered the kitchen and gave Mom and Grandma each a hug and a kiss. Kirby raced in, and Dad picked him up and slung him over his shoulder, laughing.
During lunch, I cleared my throat. “Mom, Dad?” I hesitated, then blurted out, “Marilyn went by on her horse again today. Why can’t I … we have one?”
Mother smiled patiently. “Cathy, your father has explained that we can’t afford—”
“We could keep it in the garage,” I interrupted. “And it could eat grass. Kirby and I would comb it and keep the garage clean, honest!”
Dad wiped his mouth with his napkin and frowned. “Your mother is right, honey. It’s too big an expense and a responsibility. But beyond that, horses are sensitive animals. There’s a lot more to having one than just keeping it in the garage and feeding it.”
After lunch I helped Grandma. The sharp needles of the curtain stretcher pricked my finger, and I rammed it into my mouth and scowled.
“You’ll feel like a pincushion if you’re not careful, child,” Grandma cautioned.
I examined my finger, then attached another loop of curtain. “Did you ever want anything really bad, Grandma?”
“Oh, my, yes!”
“What’d you do when your parents said no?”
“I prayed about it,” Grandma told me, “and I always got an answer—one way or another.”
That night as I said my prayers, I added, “Heavenly Father, I am grateful for all Your blessings. Mom and Dad say we can’t afford a horse, but if there is any way, please make it possible for me to have one. Thank you. In Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”
The next several days were filled with chores, tree climbing, berry picking, and hiking in the woods with Kirby. Each night I repeated my plea for a horse as I tried to wait patiently for an answer.
Then one bright sunny afternoon I heard a welcome sound and looked up to see a horse galloping through the fields toward our place. His mane flowed wildly, and his tail waved proudly. I sprang to my feet and raced through the high weeds to meet it. My prayer was being answered!
“Cathy,” Kirby shouted from behind me, “I brought a rope!”
I grabbed the rope he offered and smiled. “Good thinking,” I said breathlessly. “We’ll lead him to the garage. Mom and Dad will have to let us keep him because they’ll see that Heavenly Father sent him to us.”
When the horse was really close, he suddenly stopped and pawed the ground. His head bobbed up and down, and he snorted loudly. Then, slowly, he moved toward us, stretched his neck toward my trembling hand, and let me stroke his velvet nose. A long strap hung from his bridle, and I clicked my tongue as I slowly grasped the strap and looped the rope through a metal ring. I was filled with joy as he watched trustingly.
“Yahoo! You got him!” Kirby shouted.
Instantly the huge horse shied and raced off, with me still holding the rope. I bumped along the crop-stubbled field for a few yards, then lost my grip and clutched desperately to regain the rope.
“Are you OK?” Kirby hurried over and sank beside me in the dust, his face furrowed with concern as he looked at my skinned knees and rope-burned hands. “I scared him, didn’t I? I’m awfully sorry.”
“It’s OK,” I told him. “For a little while we had a horse, didn’t we?”
Kirby’s face lit up instantly. “Yeah,” he agreed happily.
We watched two men catch the horse and lead him away. He could never have been ours, I thought.
I stopped praying for a horse—not because I no longer wanted one, but because I finally knew what Mom and Dad had known all along. A horse would be too big a responsibility for us—now, anyway. Heavenly Father had known it, too, and He let me find out for myself. I had my answer, and I was content.
Kirby and I still rush to the side of the lane each time we hear a horse coming. And sometimes Marilyn stops and lets us pet her horse or give him a carrot. For now, that’s enough.