The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said "Talk, child."
Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: "Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one alive before!"
"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, "If you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”
How to Capture a Unicorn
a. Be a little girl, in a cotton dress with a bow at the back. You are wearing leather Mary Janes with the slippery soles that you have to scuff up in the gravel to make them not-so-slippery. Your hair is in some sort of pigtail. You’re tired and grumpy cause you just had to sit through church and you’d like a snack.
1.b. Be any little kid, 5-6 years old. The uncomfortable shoes are a given either way.
Your dad takes you to see your grandpa, and they are visiting friends in the country who have a farm. On the way, you see pastures and fence lines where wildflowers and oak tress grow. Grazing cows flick their tails and chew. There’s a white slat-board fence, a tidy white house and barn. A barking, wagging dog greets you and runs alongside as your dad parks the truck.
You’re greeted with hugs and you explain to your grandma about the snack thing. She asks you if you’d like some apple slices and then you can go meet Charlie.
You’re led by hand to the barn where it’s shady and cool and smells like sweet earthy grass. You come to a stall carpeted with straw and occupied by a white horse. Your eye-level is just above his knees and he looms over you, reaching his head over the gate to sniff the top of your head. His hot breath huffs baptismally onto your scalp as you squeal and duck away. Your grandma gives him a slice of apple and shows you how to do the same: palm flat, keep your fingers out of the way, don’t flinch.
She places the slice of apple on your hand and gently supports you as you approach the gate. You hold your palm up in offering as Charlie comes in for his treat. Another deep whuff startles you into a little jump and the apple rolls off your hand. “It’s ok,” says Grandma gently, and places it back in your hand. You wipe of a few bits of dirt and offer it to Charlie again.
The horse sniffles softer this time, whuffling puffs of air towards the apple. His whiskers tickle your fingers, lips nibbling to his reward.
You’ve Captured the Unicorn.
Your grandpa picks you up to where you can see Charlie and gives you a proper introduction. He shows you the place on Charlie’s forehead where he like to be scratched. You hesitate. “Go ahead,” says Grandpa. You hold your hand out, almost touching…and Charlie nudges forward to meet you. You scratch him right there in the good scratchy spot. Charlie reaches up and allows you to pet his soft muzzle.
The Unicorn Has captured You.
That’s all it takes: A little kid, a horse and an apple = MAGIC
That was my first meeting with a real life horse, close up. Later horses in my life would be:
A Palomino Trail Horse Whose Name Escapes Me - At 7 years old, on a trail ride in Mt. Rushmore State Park, South Dakota. It was our summer vacation. We had a pop up camper that we hauled behind the truck, and explored the forests and the Badlands. My dad got dangerously close to a buffalo. We even went to the Corn Palace. I was a real horse person now.
Brownie - A 4-th grade friend’s bay quarter horse mix who I tried to ride but he always ended up going back to the barn. He would behave for my friend and so we would ride double, just around the pasture. One time we rode to the creek and got yelled at for going too far.
Dapper Dan - I got to go to a YMCA summer camp in Wisconsin when I was 12. We took canoe trips around the lake, sang songs, put on a show, made arts & crafts, went swimming, and learned how to saddle, care for, and ride horses. It was like a dream come true. Dan was a dapple gray and was a gentle horse who let me learn. We rode on trails through the woods and the highlight was an exhilarating cross-pasture gallop. Whoo!
Booger - another palomino trail horse I rode for a weekend outdoor retreat in the beautiful White Mountains of AZ.
Bosker & Reddy - Two sorrel been-there-done-that mules we purchased from a friend after my husband and I bought our place. They were solid gold as far as riding mules go, but they were a little grumpy with us greenhorns. Besides. They weren’t a Horse.
Rooster - A sweet appaloosa that someone tried to sell me under false pretenses. Grr.
Continued in my next post… Anatomy of a Painting: The Unicorn