From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

Of Wind and Dreams

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in a manner so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.

Native American Proverb

I could hear their whispers as we began cantering around the rodeo grounds after our number was called, “I can’t believe she’s riding that horse in this competition, look at him!” “There’s no way she can place on that animal, no way!” As if in tandem, still echoing in my ears, were the words of my guidance counselor the morning before, “There’s no way you’ll get into that Eastern college you’ve got your heart set on. No way! Your test scores just aren’t high enough. Maybe a secretarial school or a community college . . .”

Monte snorted as if he heard their collective voices in the wind. Yet, as always, his head was up, proud as ever and so was mine, hearing a stronger, unwavering voice. If the truth were told, he wasn’t the most beautiful horse in the world. His huge workhorse body and thoroughbred legs made him appear clumsy and out of proportion and, for my part, I certainly wasn’t a top intellect in the left brain way of being. Yet, Monte had learned a grace that could only have come from sheer spirit and determination and, despite all predictions to the contrary, I was graduating with honors at the top of my class. So much of what we become is born on the backs of dreams or nightmares. Monte and I had dreams fueled by a fire there was no accounting for other than blind faith, a survival strength from birth that was kindled by those along the way who believed in us.

Monte was found by the river bank by my adopted uncle when he was a colt, barely alive, unwanted from birth. The same man befriended me when I was ten. He had given Monte to me and me to Monte. We were spirit mates, Monte and I, from the beginning.

The first place I had gone after hearing the guidance counselor’s dire predictions was the ranch. Monte was far out in the pasture but heard the sound of my old Studebaker and was at the gate before I got out of my car. I met him at the gate, his halter in my hand, and tears streaming down my face. As on similar days in the past, clouded by the same predictions of my unworthiness, we rode hard and fast into the desert, leaving the echoes of voices behind, our spirits fueling each other, until the voices in the winds changed and belief returned.

Soon in the distance, I could see the familiar house of my adopted grandmother and grandfather, two elders who had given life to my spirit as if they had given me birth. The smile on the aged face of my grandfather assured me of my worthiness, “Look a bit down today, Sunshine. Looks like Monte brought you to the right place.” His voice, as always, followed me on the ride home, “Remember, Sunshine, no one will ever hurt your spirit but you. You are in charge of your dreams. Without dreams and visions, we will be paralyzed never knowing on which path to place our feet. You and Monte make believers out of all of them tomorrow!”

“No way! No way!” The voices in the wind followed us as Monte galloped faster around the ring. My butt firmly in the saddle, my back straight, the reins held just right, we smoothly turned into the barrels. Western equitation had been as unfamiliar to Monte and me as five forks in a place setting in an upscale restaurant. Far from the bareback rides across the desert we had cherished over the years, it was a large part of the scoring and we had mastered the rules and were making believers out of the disbelievers in the crowd. Monte, now almost on his side, was racing around the barrels as gracefully as if he had wings touched by angels, not grazing even one barrel.

I glanced at the crowd as we cantered out of the ring and suddenly all I could see were the faces of my adopted aunts and uncles and the gentle nod from my adopted grandfather. “No one will hurt your spirit but you, Sunshine,” echoed in the gentle wind that kissed my cheeks and my spirit, “No one!”

Before the judges called out our score, one came over and asked me to dismount. “We need to check for rosin on your saddle, little lady. It’s hard to believe you could ride that huge animal, your rear never leaving the saddle, without some help, which you know is against the rules.”

“No rosin, judge,” I replied, “Check for yourself.”

Monte and I tied for first place that day and he looked as proud as if he had run for the roses and won. I finished college and went on to graduate school, never learning until I was thirty that I was dyslexic—not just an “under-achiever,” as I had been labeled. I finished writing my thirteenth book a month ago; copies of the first two were sent to my high school guidance counselor. Although Monte died when I was in graduate school, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and all those in my life that believed in both of us. In some strange way, I also often recall the gifts of those who didn’t believe, who served to strengthen both my determination and the voices in the wind that have always gently guided me, challenged me and allowed me to follow my dreams.

Jane Middelton-Moz

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