Many moons ago and far, far away (well not that far… it was in the Gold Coast hinterlands) I lived in a barn on a farm and looked after a motley crew of animals. There were bulls (like the well-hung Henry) and his harem of girls but my faves were the horses. There was Beau (a beautiful big chestnut), Molly (a cunning old circus pony who could count to six with his hooves) the royal Widge (amazing bloodline) and Blue (who I affectionately referred to as “Old Man Blue” or “Bluey“).
Old Man Blue was old. I average really, really old… at the minimum 30 summers under his belt. He was white and bony (but he ate like a horse and was wormed and all, so he was just born that way, you understand). He was a loner and didn’t like the other horses much and he was irritable with chronic sinusitis. He spooked easy. He didn’t like many folks either, but he tolerated me… most probably because I held the food bucket. In the winter time when it was cold, cold, cold and the frost in the mornings bit like a Kilkenny cat, Old Man Blue would use an especially warm blanket on his rickety old body. Every evening when the sun was slipping away, I would throw his blanket on and tighten up the strap under his belly and smooth it out to make sure it fitted him just right.
But every morning just as the sun was rising by the mist, I would see Bluey with his blanket twisted upside down, with the buckles on his back. “Damn… that blanket” I’d mutter as I strode outside and pulled and twisted it back into position. It was hard work. It seemed to want to stay that way and it was a struggle to get it back into position. Weeks went by. And we were all happy in that secluded little place called paradise. But one dark moon evening, a huge storm gathered menacingly on the horizon. I quickly rounded the animals up, fed them and placed their blankets on. “You keep your blanket on right tonight Bluey” I said.
That night it howled and howled, lightning flashed and thunder boomed. The animals were restless and so was I. A huge tarantula (no exaggeration he/she was as big as a dinner plate) had crawled into the barn and sat down beside me on the couch for comfort, and his/her hairy legs twitched with every bolt and clap from the skies. “Just keep your distance Big Fella and you can stay, otherwise I’m wrangling you outside” I warned. Another flash and a expansion that shook the barn made me jump up and head towards the door. I grabbed my whip with a combination of fear and defiance and strode outside, bold the heavens to strike me. It was wild out there… the animals were going crazy.
There was a flash of lightning and I could see Bluey standing nevertheless… all alone… in the middle of the paddock and his now (of course and as expected) upside down blanket. expansion! The thunder made me jump. FLASH! For a divided second I saw Bluey again, but this time there was somebody standing beside him. An old man in a checked flannelette shirt. WHAT THE… ????? expansion! The storm held its breath… and so did I. It went very, very silent and very, very dark. WHAM! Another flash of lightning. And there was Bluey… standing nevertheless… all alone. It was all beginning to get a little creepy. “I’ll just head on back to the barn to me old mate Big Fella” I thought. Like a coward, I bolted back as fast as I could, but Big Fella had disappeared (no doubt lurking somewhere dark and crevicy) so I only had myself for company. The night and the storm passed. It was a long, long night. Next morning I went outside and there was Bluey standing in the middle of the paddock as I had seen him the past night. As I strode towards him ready to fix his blanket I stopped short and my heart skipped a beat. His blanket was sitting perfectly.
A few months later when the stormy night had become nothing more than a faded memory, I had a visit from an old lady who lived on a farm nearby. We were just casually chatting (as you do) when she starting reminiscing about the old man who lived on the character before I moved there. “He was a bit of a loner” she said “Poor old coot… died of a heart attack right there in the barn”. We were silent for a few moments. “You know he was a horse whisperer… ” she said “… could make ’em do anything”. Right at that moment Old Man Blue had decided to wander over our way. “That one… ” she said pointing at Bluey “… that was his favorite”.