Part Two – The Making of a Warrior
Chapter 9 – The Horseman – Misty 2
By Ghost Dancer
At that time, I was in the 7th grade. One day I went to school and caught the son of another rancher down the road and two other bullies picking on a young girl with disabilities and making fun of her. One of the bullies was the son the biggest rancher in the area, well known for his prized race horses and stud farm. I have never been able to stand anyone abusing any other being and the sight of these three bullying this special needs child put me on the war path. So I stepped in front of her and told her not to worry, that she was a special little princess and the world needed more people with a beautiful heart like she had. I turned around and told the three guys they needed to know what it feels like to be picked on, then I went to work on them. Needless to say, I was kicked out of school.
It really made no difference to me. I was in advanced studies and had already turned in all the required work for the year. Mom had to come and get me. She was upset until I explained but said I would have to tell Dad because sure as there was sky above, some parents would be calling and coming over to see us. Mom took me to the garage where Dad was working, and she went on to work. I went in and asked Dad if he needed anything done. He asked me why I wasn’t at school, so I told him what happened and why I did it. He listened and then asked how bad I hurt them. I told him not too bad, mostly just their egos and reputations and a few busted noses, mouths, blackened eyes and lots of bruises. He asked if I broke any of their bones. I said no. So he said, basically they aren’t seriously hurt. I said, “No sir,” and explained I made sure I didn’t let it get that far. They were basically just bullies picking on a scared little girl, and I just couldn’t let that go on. He said, “Okay. Don’t worry, we will handle this.” Then he went back to working on the big diesel truck and I helped him.
Sure enough, that evening there were lots of vehicles at the house when we got home. Mom was working late, so Judy had fixed dinner and was in charge of the house. The parents of the boys were there. Dad didn’t even invite them in. He stood outside and told me to go to the house. I told him I wanted to stay. He said I could, but told me to keep quiet. So I did. Dad was a short man, but he was very strong, and he had a temper. I knew he would not put up with any of these guys trying to bully him or us. So they told him they wanted me punished and kept away from their sons, that I would never be allowed back at the school. Dad stood there and listened until they were through. Then he asked them who they thought they were, when their sons were abusing and bullying a little special needs girl. What kind of parents raise their kids to act like that? Then he assured them that their boys were lucky that his son had taken it easy on them because he could have really whipped them a whole lot worse. He told them what he thought of their spoiled kids and demanded, “Get in your cars and truck and get off my land and I mean right now.” And he truly meant it. They may have been a lot bigger than Dad, but my money was on Dad. Besides, I would have been fighting right beside him. I had already grown to more than 6 feet tall at that time and layered in muscle from hard work. Well, they left, but said we hadn’t heard the last of it. And we surely hadn’t.
One of the neighbors had a daughter who was a lot older than me, but apparently, she didn’t realize that. She worked and trained her horses with their handlers and trainers. I had seen them several times and I had seen her riding by watching me as I trained and worked with our horses. I had always respected her and nodded when she waved or said hello but stayed away from any conversations. A few weeks after the incident with the parents, I was out riding Misty before dawn. We were headed to our swimming hole, an abandoned old quarry where the water was crystal clear and ice cold. We had high places to jump from and Misty loved playing in the water. Swimming was a great exercise for her and pulling me around in the water as I hung on to her tail added greater resistance to her workout.
As we headed down a path, we both heard someone coming from behind. Always being cautious, we pulled off the path and watched. It was the neighbor girl and she was riding their prized quarter horse. He was said to be very fast. I had seen him from a distance and he looked built for speed, and very temperamental.
I waited to see what was up. She had him in an easy lope, but was looking straight towards us. When she pulled up and stopped, she asked where I was going. I didn’t want to tell her about our secret water hole, so I just told her I was riding to exercise my horse. I knew her name was Melody and I did not trust her, especially the flirty way she acted towards me. She asked if I really wanted to run and exercise my horse, why didn’t I ever take her to the community track? I told her we didn’t belong there, and she responded that the track is open to any and all to train their horses and added that we definitely belonged there. She said my horse looks like she can really run and that her horse, Red, needed someone to compete against in his training.
I really didn’t want to have her follow me to our secret swimming place, so there was no way I was going to continue. Reluctantly, I said okay and told her we would try to keep up with her. She turned and led us back towards the community track. We didn’t talk much on the way. I didn’t want to get too close to her or her horse. As we rode, I watched her and her horse, analyzing his movements and gait. He was heavy for sure and his long legs would eat up the ground when he got his rhythm going. He wore heavy iron shoes while Misty wore no shoes. Misty was much smaller, but she was strong, light and agile. We would definitely need to get him at the start.
When we got to the track, she explained how this would work; she would get us up to a certain pole and when we were set she would say go. The first one all the way around the track and back to the pole wins. We got to the pole. She looked at me and said, “Go!” I touched Misty’s sides and she was off like a rocket taking us way out front. Misty used short steps when she started and then later stretched her rhythm out. A quarter of the way around the track, I looked back. They were way behind. We kept running and I didn’t look back again.
I rode low on Misty’s neck, with legs wrapping her sides and holding her mane with one hand. I was tall and lean muscled but didn’t weigh a whole lot. At three quarters I touched my heels again. Misty caught her fast gear and off we went. She was low to the ground when we rounded the corner on the home stretch. Misty loved to run, and I could tell she did not want to lose. I didn’t want her to lose either, so I let out a war whoop and she really turned it on. When we passed the starting pole, I asked her to start slowing down and looked behind us. Our competition had just passed the 3/4 turn. I was so proud of Misty and told her how good she had done. She shook her head, letting me know she was having a ball.
I didn’t know it, but we had attracted an audience at the stables and pens up on the hills next to the track. Even the horses were watching, and it seemed to me nobody liked us much. We were not in their class. When the girl rode up, I could see the amazement in her face over Misty’s run. She asked what breed Misty was. I said she was a Welsh and she exclaimed, “A pony?” I responded, “Yeah, but a unique one.” She couldn’t believe her horse had been outrun by a pony and asked me what I was feeding her. I told her, lots of carrots, apples, cabbage, and spinach to go with her feed. Then she got down to examine Misty more closely. She asked if all Welsh’s had such a powerful chest. I told her no and explained that she had been doing a resistance workout that built up the strength in her chest and legs.
She didn’t understand what I meant by resistance workout, so while we walked to cool down our horses, I explained that while her horse had natural strength, he didn’t have the explosive take-off power or digging in power because his legs were small from the knees down and his chest muscles were not fully developed. Resistance training would require him to use his chest and lower leg muscles more, so they would become more powerful. She seemed to appreciate my advice and said she would tell her trainers to start doing that.
While we were talking, I noticed others coming down leading their horses and I didn’t like the look of it. Misty sensed my concerns and tensed her body. With her training, I knew she would be ready for a challenge, but I did not want this. The girl remarked that it looked like we had attracted a lot of admirers. I said, “Yeah, either that or trouble.” She looked at me kind of funny, like she didn’t understand the trouble part.
When they all pulled up in front of us, one of them asked the girl if that race had been for real or if she was just playing with me. She told them it was for real, but for some reason they acted like they didn’t believe her. While they were all looking at Misty and me, down the hill came the highly spirited stud that everyone claimed was the threat to the triple crown. His trainer was sitting on him, but he was being led by the owner and one of his sons, and still they were having a hard time controlling him. When they walked up, the horse tried to kick another horse. The owner didn’t seem to care.
He looked straight at me and said, “It seems like you have a fast miniature horse here.” I didn’t say anything. Then he said, “Why don’t you try racing a real race horse.” The girl standing with me started to say something; the man just held his palm up at her and immediately, she shut up. Wow, is she scared to even speak her mind? Others suggested we all race. I told them I really didn’t want to race, that I was just helping the girl. The big-time breeder huffed at that and said he figured I was just scared and haughtily remarked, “People like you are always scared of facing the truth.” His clear implication that I was just scared, and we were worthless in his eyes, struck a chord in me.
I responded that we had just gotten done racing and my horse needed to rest; maybe another day. We started to leave and they all started laughing when he started making sounds like a chicken. This got to me. I knew Misty was easily in shape to race again and could hold her own. I spun her around and said, “You want a race, well you got it.” They went to hollering and began to get ready. I let them take whatever positions and preparations they wanted.
I would not let this man, or his horse get near Misty. I lined her up well off to the far outside and leaning forward, whispered that they were making fun of us. I told her they would try to pin her in and hurt her and that I wanted her to get out ahead and stay ahead. I reassured Misty that I knew she could do this, telling her she was better than she even knew and with a hug told her to just to do her best. The agreement was that when the big rancher dropped his hat down, this would be the signal to start. The girl didn’t run again. There were seven horses running against Misty and they all wanted to race.
By the time we were all lined up, a crowd had gathered to watch. The rancher called out, “Ready, set, go!” and dropped his hat. Before the start, I did a little trick we had practiced many times to help Misty gather herself even more. I swung off her right side and to their blind before she started, then, taking a quick step, swung back up as she moved forward. Misty shot out like a flash and in an instant, we were gone. I let her keep her pace for the first half mile and then began coaxing her to step it up. I did not want to look back. Right before we made the 3/4 mark, I let out a war whoop and she hit her full speed rhythm. I could feel the pounding hooves behind us. I let out my best panther scream and even Misty hit a super speed.
Before I knew it, we had crossed the line. Misty had run so fast my eyes were watering from the sheer wind. I began easing her back, letting her cool down as we continued around the track. The thought occurred to me that it would probably be best if we just kept right on going. When we got back around to the place we had come in, I directed her to head up the hill and away. We were almost up the hill when I heard someone calling. It was the girl riding after me. She said, “Yeah, let’s go. He is really pissed. Let’s get you out of here.” We left at a good trot and transitioned into a slow lope for a few miles, before slowing to a walk.
She apologized for what had happened saying she just wanted to test and work her big boy out. She appreciated the lesson saying she had lots of work to do, and admitted that it sure had been fun watching the two of us beat all the “know-it-alls.” She formally introduced herself and I told her my name. She said she knew my name and asked if I did anything but work and train horses. I said, “Nope, that’s enough,” and laughing, added, “Other than going fishing or hunting. Yeah, at first, I didn’t catch what she was really asking. She just shook her head and I blushed. Hey, I wasn’t even 14 yet, but I knew trouble when I saw it, and she sure would be trouble.
She asked if I would help her train her horse sometime. I told her I was pretty busy, and I had to help my dad at the garage. She accepted that, but still, I wished she had never followed me that morning. All I wanted was for Misty and me to go swimming and have fun.
After I was expelled from school for fighting, Dad used the garage address, which was in a different town, and got me enrolled in a different school. I went to work with him in the morning, then walked to school. After school I helped him at the garage until time to go home. Just as before, I was placed in “advanced studies” since I had already tested out of the grade. These people didn’t know what to do with me either, so they let me study on my own. They had no courses for me to take, so they got books from higher schools and colleges for me to read and assignments to turn it in, which I did in the principal’s office. Learning had always come easy and I had the ability and determination to focus my mind, so that I could remember everything I read. Answering questions on the papers they gave me was simple, but unfulfilling, with no human teachers or mentors to challenge and stimulate my natural interests. By the time I was 13 and near the end of 7th grade, going to school had become senseless to me.
I always had plenty to do at home, working at the garage, taking care of the horses and the garden or whatever needed to be done around the house. There was always something so I had many opportunities to use my natural ingenuity and creativity. Judy took care of the house and helped Mom by doing the dinner, and helping with the laundry. She looked after Teresa and Greg, and Jackie helped her. Greg had his own chores to do, then always wanted to help me with mine. We all had work to do and tried to get everything done so we could do whatever we wanted. We spent most of our free time outside; there was always something to explore, something to learn, something to build or fix. We were never bored. Getting to sit for maybe an hour to watch tv was a gift we didn’t usually have time for unless the weather was really bad.
Misty did her part too. She loved to play and amused us all by playing with the ducks and the dogs. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen, but she seemed to think it was her job. Misty had a ball playing with the kids too. I’m not sure which one taught her or if they all did, but they got her to play hide and seek. Just picture a horse hiding behind a pine tree. Hiding her head, anyway, and the kids all acting like they’re hunting for her. Misty laughs because they are looking everywhere she is not. Then suddenly they find her, and it is their turn to go hide. Misty always found them too.
One time, Greg and I were in the pasture, training our dog, Brownie, to sneak up and crawl on his belly to get under the fences. We were trying to get him to stretch out his belly and use his front legs to pull himself forward and keep his head down. Greg tapped me and said to look. I turned around to see Misty on her belly, stretched out trying to do what Brownie was doing. Greg cracked up. He said Misty was sneaking up on us! Misty was more than just a horse. She was part of our whole family. Dad, Mom, and everyone loved Misty, and she loved every one of us.
There was one time when Misty and I went to our secret swimming hole that I will never forget. She went in the water to swim and train. While she was at it, I climbed up the cliff side planning to dive from the top. I had seen the cliff divers in Mexico on TV and wanted to try some fancy dives like they did. It was a little scary and it did enter my mind that if I messed up, there would be no one to help me. I stepped back, building up my confidence. When my fear was soothed, I stepped up. Just as I launched myself off the cliff to do my somersault, I thought I saw Misty up on the cliff. I lost my concentration and didn’t hit the water exactly right, but I was okay. When I surfaced, I looked all around for Misty. I looked up just in time to see her jump off the cliff and fall straight down.
I could not control the tears as real fear flooded over me. I knew this was going to hurt her and she didn’t understand. Down she fell, hitting the water feet first. The impact made a huge splash. I waited, expecting the worst. Finally, she surfaced and started swimming towards me looking like she had had the time of her life and wondering if I approved. I was so relieved and happy that I couldn’t scold her. Guess she thought my tears were happy ones. I got her to get out of the water and checked her out all over; she was okay. I know she was proud of herself, but I almost had a heart attack. Guess if Mom had seen me, she would have felt the same way, so I couldn’t be mad; I just hugged her. Misty was my best friend, the one I could talk to about anything. She understood my struggles and not fitting in with others. I was so much more comfortable with four-legged beings than the two-legged kind and Misty was my everything.
This is how important Misty was to me and to our family. I still feel the same way to this day. Here was a young, beautiful spirit who only wanted to have fun and be happy. She didn’t race because she loved to run, she did this because she wanted to please. It made her so happy to know she did something right for me or for any of us. Misty was so full of love that it radiated from her.
Months had passed since the incident of the race when I told Dad and Mom about it. They said what I already knew; that I should not have gone over there. It was good that Misty won, but it wouldn’t have hurt if she lost either and those people surely didn’t like that she beat their horses. Everything had been going on like usual. As was our routine, I went to work with Dad, walked to the new school, then came back to the garage after to help until closing time.
Then one day, when we came home, there were two sheriff’s cars and a vehicle from the County Health Department and several of the ranchers parked at our house. Mom was still there when she would usually have left for work. When I saw all these people out in Misty’s pasture, I jumped out of the car before it even stopped. Mom was crying and ran to catch me before I got to the fence. She grabbed me and held on for dear life. The sheriff and deputies all had their shotguns trained on me and I heard a voice saying, “Now son, this is going to be done. You cannot stop it.”
I saw Misty laying on the ground and screamed, “What are you doing to her?” I screamed. They had her tranquilized and Mom was trying to tell me what they claimed, but I couldn’t hear. They were hurting her, she was down, and she needed me. I saw some guy in a white jacket inject her in the neck with something. I broke away and went over that fence like it wasn’t even there, running at him. The deputies grabbed me. What were they doing? Why? I kept hearing them say she has to be put down. I wanted to strangle the guy in the white coat. Never had I ever wanted to hurt people like this. I could only see red in my eyes.
Mom, Dad, and all the children were crying and screaming. The cops held me, and mom was trying to hold me. They kept telling me she had a disease and to protect all the horses around our ranch, they had to put her down. As they were leaving, I saw the face of the man who had injected her. “I know you,” I shouted. He owned a large ranch several miles down the road and Misty had beaten his horse in the race. “I know why you are doing this, I know why all of you are doing this, you stinking cowards.”
I heard Misty whinny and jerked myself lose. I ran to sit beside her and held her head. Looking into her eyes, through sobs of unspeakable pain, I told her how much I loved her and how sorry I was that I was not there to protect her. Never, never should this have happened. If only I had been there I could have fought and ordered her to run as I fought them. I would not care what happened to me. She deserved a beautiful happy life. Not this! I wanted her to have a family and watch her little ones grow up being taught by her.
They had done what they came to do. I saw them all shaking each other’s hands; the ranchers and the sheriff and the deputies and the guy and in the white coat and the county health people. They said they would have to come back and take her body. I told them to get the hell away from her. They talked to Mom and Dad a few minutes then they all left. Dad, Mom and all the family came to Misty and spoke to her. They all were crying as they hugged and spoke to her.
After they all left, I sat there holding her, feeling so miserable, feeling so helpless. Here I was in my heart and soul, her protector, and I had not saved her. A little while later, Misty passed. I held her all night. Sometime during the night, Mom came and placed a blanket over the both of us. When dawn came, my world was not the same and never would be again.
I said my final good byes, then went to clean up. Needing to clear my mind, I got Comanche and went for a ride. I stayed gone all day. When I came home Misty was gone. They had come and taken her body away. I knew this was all lies about some kind of disease. Misty was not sick. I knew what to check for and checked her every day. This was all about her beating their so-called fine race horses. For that they murdered her.
All that night, I stayed alone, working myself up to what needed to be done. In the morning, I went in the little bunkhouse I shared with Greg. He was sitting up and asked if was I okay. I didn’t say anything. He climbed down from his bunk and hugged me. Then he said, “If you want to get them, let me help you.” I looked down at him. He was serious. He would fight with me against them. I loved my brother. I loved his heart. See, Greg was only 9 years old. He and I are a lot alike. We both hold our emotions in and we don’t like trouble, but when it comes, we explode. We hate bullies or anyone abusing anyone or anything. We may get so upset that we cry, and when that happens, look out, someone has a whooping coming. I could not let this happen. I told him it was okay, “Let me go fix you breakfast, now get ready for school.”
I went in the house and started making breakfast. Mom came out and asked if I was alright. I nodded but didn’t want to talk. I just kept to my work, putting coffee on for her and Dad. Mom worked late at night and I knew she works hard so we all help out. Mom persisted, “You know sometimes it helps to talk about it.” I knew she was trying to help, but she didn’t understand that I felt responsible. Misty’s death was all behind a stupid race that meant nothing.
I woke Jackie and Teresa and hollered for Judy. I knew she was already up. I had heard her moving around when I came by her door. Mom and I finished fixing breakfast. I took my cup of coffee and went back outside. Went to check on all the other horses. They felt Misty’s absence too; kept looking over in her pasture. Even the ducks were unusually quiet and wanting attention. Brownie and Blackie leaned against my legs, just sitting there, respecting my silence. Jackie came outside, wanting to know what I was going to do. I told her, “Go back and eat your breakfast, Euebee.” This is the name Greg called her. When he was little and couldn’t say, Jackie, he called her Euebee and it stuck to her. When Jackie was little, she couldn’t say words with any r’s and so Greg was in trouble too.
Finally, I went back inside even though I didn’t want to. I knew Mom would not quit until I talked to her. Dad would talk to me later, as he preferred. While Dad was eating, Mom called me into the hallway and said, “Talk to me, son.” It was then I told her about the race and all that had happened. I told her I knew this was all my fault. She said, “No, they did this. Not you! Misty knows we all love her. We didn’t do this.” Then she went on to the burden on her mind. “But son, you listen and listen good. You do not do anything back to them! Do you hear me? I knew she meant it. She wanted my word that I would just let it go. She insisted I give my word that I would not do anything to retaliate. She kept pushing me, wanting my word. I gave it to her.
Later, I called my dad in Alabama and asked him to come get me. I had to leave. If I stayed, I was afraid I would break my word to my mom. Dad was there the next day and I left with him to prevent anything more from happening.
MISTY Misty, oh Misty, why did you die? We loved each other so much, I still cry. I remember the times we shared, all the love and care, Riding in the wind, running wild and free. Misty, oh, Misty, please come back to me. Why, Misty, did you leave me alone? Without you, I can’t go on. They say dogs are man’s best friend. But Misty, oh Misty, they are so wrong. You are my true love and my best friend. Now you’re gone, Misty oh Misty, I’ll be coming to you soon. You were such a beautiful lady, a delight to see. Running fast and wild with me. We shared our hearts, secrets and dreams, And you never made fun of me. With those beautiful brown eyes, you would look into mine. Then you were always there when I couldn’t turn to another soul. Why, Misty, did you leave me alone? Without you, I can’t go on. They say dogs are man’s best friend. But Misty, oh Misty, they are so wrong. You are my true love and my best friend. Now you’re gone, Misty oh Misty, I’ll be coming to you soon. Misty, you were horse as everyone knew, but to me you were so much more. You gave me things I’ll always adore. The precious memories that we share, the love, understanding, and the care. Misty, oh Misty, I miss you so. People won’t understand, but now I must go, To once again ride with you, feeling the wind in our hair. Together we will stay, a man and his lady, and we’ll win the race. Misty, oh Misty, I can’t wait. Ghost Dancer Lyric ©1986 In Solitary, Holman Prison, Atmore, AL
Next on Part Two – The Making of a Warrior: Chapter 10 – The Horseman, Sachem 1