A year ago today, I killed my best friend. I couldn’t handle doing it myself so I asked my dad to do it.
No, I’m not writing this from jail. My best friend was my horse.
I’ve always been that horse crazy girl. I didn’t play with Barbies, I had horses. I pretended my bike was a horse. I’m pretty sure I drove my parents nuts. And finally at age ten, the perfect situation came along and I got my wish.
With dad being in the National Guard, he and his coworkers travel a lot. One of his coworkers was going away for six months, and needed a place to keep his horse and mule. My dad jumped at the chance, hoping six months would break me of the love of horses.
Barney and Ruby, horse and mule, came down the driveway in a big black trailer filled with saddles, blankets, and halters. I had everything I needed and I was absolutely in love. As a horse crazy girl, I refused to ride the mule but Barney was a dream. He was fast, he was solid but most of all, he was mine. At least for awhile.
Six month later, that trailer went back up the driveway and I sobbed like a baby.
Another six months went by, and the trailer was back. Barney officially became mine. I now realize how generous that guy was and I couldn’t thank him enough.
Barney was that once in a lifetime horse.
At 26 years old, Barney carried me in my first rodeo. I was a freshman in high school, riding in a roping saddle with stirrups that were too long and bridle that would make most barrel racers laugh in my face. It was a small indoor arena and we were the only stock trailer in the parking lot besides what they hauled the bulls in. Barney ran with his whole heart and we won.
Barney carried me in rodeo after rodeo and never faltered. At the end of the season, we ended with a belt buckle and a breast collar.
But that wasn’t the reason I loved him. When he came out of the arena, he would prance like a young colt. When I swung off him, he would drop his head and calmly follow me where ever I wanted to go. When I opened the trailer at home, I would slip his halter off inside and he would follow me to the field.
Barney was my solid rock in high school. He got me through tough days and carried me when I needed him. I rode him the day my dad left for Iraq and sat in his field the day of my grandpa’s funeral.
Eventually the years caught up to Barney and my younger horse started to beat him up. The field next to our house became is permanent home. Each morning and night, he would be waiting by the gate for his grain. He loved feeding time. Some days, he would run through the field and roll, just like his younger years. Other days, he would stand in the sunshine and not move all day.
Those days became more and more frequent. His joints got worse and watching him walk almost brought tears to my eyes. I knew his time was coming and I begged him to make the decision on his own. I prayed the one day, I would find him laying the pasture, finally at peace. But that day never came.
Finally, I told dad that this was the weekend. It was Barney’s time. I had to go to work on Friday, knowing that this was Barney’s last day and act like nothing was happening. I went out with friends that night and none of them understood.
That night when I got home, Barney was standing by the gate. I walked over to him and petting him nose, begged him to not leave the decision to me. His big brown eyes stared into mine and I eventually went inside.
The next morning, I struggled to get out of bed, knowing what the day would hold. As I sat down for breakfast alone, I asked mom where dad was. Avoiding eye contact, she told me he was outside. I couldn’t finish breakfast. I found dad covering Barneys body with cedar logs on a wooden structure that was fit for a king. We drag our dead cows deep into the woods, but that wasn’t good enough for Barney. As dad lit the fire, tears streamed down my face. Gone were his days of stiff legs and swayed back. After a life full of love and teaching, Barney was finally where he belonged.