Day One Hundred Seventeen
The day started off well enough, with a pretty sunrise and birds singing in the trees. I made coffee and ate the last of the bread Howard gave me. Then I saddled Flecha and strapped all my gear onto her, balancing the load carefully just like I always do.
We made good progress all morning, stopped for lunch, and started out again. The road was worse than before, full of broken asphalt and rocks. I could see why it wasn’t used very often, and why Craig in Springfield had recommended I take the interstate to St Louis, even though it was the longer route. By now the sky was becoming overcast. I could smell rain in the air. I was wondering if I should make camp early when Flecha began limping.
I got down and checked her hooves. To my relief, it was just a stone, so I removed it. But when I walked Flecha back and forth along the trail to make sure she was okay, she was still limping.
I stopped her and felt her legs, terrified that there might be a more serious problem. But no, her legs were cool. It was only that one hoof that was giving her trouble. I lifted her foot and checked again. There was no obvious sign of a crack or that the stone had injured the frog, but in the shade of the trees and with the sky clouding up, who could tell?
So I decided to let Flecha rest for a little while. Maybe she would feel better soon. I shared some dried apples with her and waited. After about half an hour, Flecha seemed to be walking normally again. I climbed up into the saddle and we went on. But about half a mile later, she started limping again.
This time when I checked her feet and legs, the hoof where the stone had been felt warm. A light drizzle was starting to fall, and I wondered how far I was from the nearest creek or river. I had been coming across them so regularly it seemed impossible that one wasn’t nearby. Finding water was more than just a luxury. I needed it to cool Flecha’s foot.
So I took as many of the packs off of her as I could carry, strapped them onto my own back, and led her along the trails, picking out the smoothest spots for her and going at her own pace, no matter how slow. When we finally came to a rocky riverbed, I bathed her wound in the cold water.
By now it was raining in earnest, and all I could think was that I needed to somehow get Flecha warm and dry.
Where was a cave or abandoned cottage when you needed one?
I found a clearing with some good trees, and with the aid of some twine and long branches, I managed to rig my tarp into a sort of roof. But when I tried to take Flecha under it to get her out of the rain, she balked. By now I was drenched through, and half mad with frustration. I had to put my jacket over her eyes to get her to go under the shelter, and even now, a couple hours later, she’s tossing her head and tugging against the tether, still nervous about that piece of canvas over her head. Well, too bad. It’s raining and I can’t have her getting sick, on top of the possible damage to her hoof.
I’m exhausted and my shoulders ache from carrying those packs on my back. It will be worse in the morning, but I don’t care. I only care that Flecha be well and that this bruise to her hoof not abscess. Out here, I don’t have the things I need to properly treat an injury. I’m at least fifty miles from the Kentucky state line and I have no idea how far I am from the nearest town.
What am I going to do if my Flechita isn’t better in the morning? How the hell am I supposed to get a lame horse out of the wilderness? How am I supposed to get out of here myself? It was a dumb idea to come this way. Why didn’t I just go to St Louis? I would’ve gone to a hundred awful cities, if it meant my Flechita was okay!
Don’t be badly hurt, Flecha! Let it just be an ordinary bruise! I’m trying not to panic. I know I have to stay calm and think. I need to try and remember everything I’ve ever learned about horse injuries. But what if it’s not enough?
Please, God, let her be well in the morning!
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