STORM by Cynthia Smith
I first saw him silhouetted against the evening sky. My fascination was immediate and I felt compelled to get closer. Walking stealthily towards him, I hid behind a tree a few yards away. He was so beautiful that I hardly dared breathe, lest even that gave away my presence. He looked so strong and powerful, almost arrogantly at ease with his surroundings. I longed to reach out to touch him but knew he would disappear if I moved. As I watched him, crimson and gold streaks began slanting across the sky. The spectacular sunset was a fitting backdrop for his perfection.
As the great red orb sank slowly behind the hills it was followed by darkening clouds. Rain began to fall, soft warm drops on my bare arms. Soon the wind rose, lashing the trees around me and whistling through the long grass, as though urging the elements to a frenzy. It was time to get indoors before the storm hit. Soaked to the skin, I raced homewards as thunder crashed and lightening forked across the sky.
We had moved to this area recently and I was enjoying exploring the neighbouring countryside. On my daily walk a few days after the storm, I thought I would climb a hill to see what was on the other side. The ground was littered here and there with storm debris, but on reaching the ridge the valley below appeared pristine. Verdant meadows basked in the sun, backed by trees dappled in shade. Hawks rose and wheeled, looking for prey; bright flowers fringed the woodland; a glittering stream snaked towards the horizon. It was the kind of vista that Adam and Eve might have seen.
Glancing to the right, I caught my breath. Just a few yards away a group of wild horses was grazing, a dozen or so mares and a similar number of foals. But where was the head of the herd? A stallion does not leave his mares alone for long, for fear of other males stealing them. Sure enough, with a thunder of hooves, Storm arrived. I had decided to call him Storm after the wild weather when I first encountered him. Now he circled his mares and foals as though making sure they were all there. I watched him for a few minutes, delighting again in his beauty and vigour. How I wished I had the talent to paint a picture of him. How I wished …
That evening I told my husband, Jeff, about Storm. He too loved horses and I felt sure he would understand how I felt about the stallion.
“We could ask the Brennan boys to help us round him up – Glen’s a master at lassoing – and of course we would register ownership with the authorities!” I was so excited at the prospect of Storm becoming mine.
“But he’s a wild animal Jenny, wild and free. I can’t believe you want to take the most precious thing from him.”
I felt ashamed that my passion for the horse had made me want to possess him. Jeff was right: it would be cruel to traumatise him with capture. Instead I dug out the camera I had not used for years. Gradually Storm became used to my presence and I was able to get closer for some brilliant shots.
That was more than sixty years ago. Jeff has gone now; many other people and things I loved have gone. There are no wild horses left in America either. But sometimes on stormy nights I could swear I hear thundering hooves and the exultant neigh of a horse, wild and free as the wind.