Thursday, October 11, 2007

pave paradise

It seems to be a given that any town with any redeeming features is going to be developed and grow over time. I get that.

It still didn't make it any easier yesterday when I took that first Flagstaff exit on the way to the dentist's office (two fillings, thanks for asking. See this post for a simple explanation.) and saw My Pasture all but completely bulldozed.

It's not really called My Pasture by anyone but me, but it occurred to me yesterday that I've though of it that way since the late summer of 1992, when I struck out on my own and left California. My move to Arizona was ostensibly for graduate school, but there were ulterior motives involved. One of these was the potential "horseability" of the town. (I'd also been accepted to a university in St. Louis and another in Anchorage, Alaska, but neither of those seemed overly suited to horses, and there was no question that Zzari would live wherever I would). So, Flagstaff it was.

On a visit to check things out prior to actually moving, I managed to find a place where Zzari and I could both live. It was an old stone homesteader's cabin right at the town limits, complete with old stone barn and a huge 80-acre or so pasture out back for seasonal turnout. Life didn't get much better.


I arrived a week or so before Zzari, who was coming via a big horse transport rig. I'll never forget the day he finally got there. I think I'd chewed all my fingernails down to nubs and was probably eyeing my toenails next, what with all the worrying about him. He arrived in perfect shape, though, well-hydrated and with his shipping boots still velcroed on. The hauler made some comment about hating those narrow Bay Area streets, and I didn't blame him: The road to the ranch where some of my California friends had gotten Zzari ready for transport was a one-lane, winding nightmare encompassing a complete absence of engineering ingenuity.
After the hauler left, I walked Zzari around our new home for awhile, feeling complete in a way I maybe hadn't quite felt before in my twenty-plus years of life. Then, I walked him through the pasture gate, closed it behind us and unbuckled his halter. There were a few other horses boarded at the homestead, and they all watched as Zzari looked around for a minute or two, then walked, then trotted, then cantered, then took off at a dead run across My Pasture. Our Pasture. He headed toward the fence separating the acreage from old Route 66, then veered right, whinnying to anyone who cared to listen.
A few months later the first snow fell, and it was a doozy of a storm. Dyed-in-the-wool California girl that I was, I went out to the barn paddock late that night and tried to take in yet another aspect of this new life I'd begun to forge for myself. Zzari was standing outside, no doubt wondering about this white substance falling from the sky. I went inside the paddock and led him by the mane over to a part of the fence that I could use as a mounting block. Then, sitting astride my horse in the dead of night - no bridle or saddle - just our breath pluming out ahead of us in the frozen fall air, I looked out toward Our Pasture and thought for the first time in my life that I could die right at that moment and it would all be okay.
Not too long after that I was starting to be in serious need of a farrier. I called around until a guy who'd been highly recommended by some horse people I'd met in the area told me his book was filled, but that I should try calling this other young guy who had just graduated from shoeing school up at Montana State, and who did a really nice job. So, I called that other guy, who showed up at the old stone barn one day and looked me right in the eye as I introduced myself and my horse. And the rest, as they say, is history. A few years later I ended up marrying that up-and-coming farrier, the one who, just yesterday, sat across from me in a downtown restaurant and reassured me that our memories can't be bulldozed like that pasture. We're still here, and so (thank you, Lord) is Zzari.
That made driving past my bulldozed pasture a little more bearable, and maybe the lump in my throat won't be as big as it otherwise would have been when I drive by and see the foundation for that first cookie-cutter tract house being poured.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:00 PM

    Gulp...
    I was talking to a client who mentioned raising Arabians and I couldn't remember the name of the famous (grand?)father of ZZari. I Googled every variant I could think of but got nothing. Then it occurred to me to Google you to see if Zzari and his ancestry might show up.

    Thought I'd click around a bit and noticed the story of your pasture. I remember that pasture too. Sometimes progress sucks.

    By the way, if you haven't already, read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

    That's all.
    S

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  2. Hey, Anon, if you're the "S" I think you are, then I bet you do remember that pasture. (wink)

    How the heck are ya?

    Oh, Zzari's sire was named Ben Rabba, btw. He was a Crabbet stallion, owned by Ed Hubbert (I think I spelled that correctly).

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  3. Tears!

    This was so bittersweet and beautifully written.

    I feel the same way when another little bit of the country gets bulldozed. I've been like that as long as I remember. I dread another development in the town I grew up near...Your farrier man is right though. You still have your memories, even if they share space with a lump in your throat.

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  4. Thanks be to God for both forgetting and for remembering. There are lots of things in both categories for me, and I suppose it only gets heavier as we age.

    Whenever I need a dose of good memories I drive by a farm that spreads manure. Not many do that these days. Manure has the ability to take me back to my grandfather's dairy farm. I wonder if there is a similar sensory experience that leads me to forget.

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