Day One Hundred Forty Four
I got up early, but not early enough. A man named Shawn was already in the barn, getting ready to let some of the horses out to pasture. I dressed quickly and offered to help. Instead he put me to work feeding the horses that would be staying in the barn, and then I mucked out the empty stalls and put down fresh hay.
By then it was time to eat. I went to the house, which has a big dining room where hands can take their meals with the family if they choose. It looks like most take advantage of this, even the ones who have their own homes nearby or on other parts of the property. It’s a nice way to start the day, with all of us together. Not only do we plan the day’s work, but people talk about what’s going on in their personal lives, and everyone tries to help each other. They seem to have a lot of inside jokes that get people laughing for no reason I can see. I’m sure as time goes on I’ll understand what’s so funny about giving Lee the spoon with the nick on the handle, or why everyone teases Sabine’s daughter Sandy about her taste for plum jam.
I had hoped to spend today working with horses, but with my background in fighting, I was asked to work security instead. I tried not to show my disappointment. A good attitude was what would get me better work, not grumpiness.
I spent the day riding the perimeter of the fences, and in a way, it might’ve been the best thing I could’ve done because I now have a much better sense of how the farm is laid out. In addition to the regular stables, there is a special stable just for mares and foals, there is an area for yearlings, and of course there are places where they separate the stallions from the mares and geldings.
This is one of the barns. It’s for mares and foals.
This is also a working farm, with chickens, gardens, and a few cows for milk. The farm area is separate from the horse area, and it looks like it’s mostly under the care of the children. There are a lot of children here! They are the sons and daughters of some of the hands, as well as Eli and Sabine, and some of their family members who live on the property. Sabine’s cousin seems to be especially prolific, and I think at least half the kids running around are hers.
Many of the children attend school in Frankfort, which is about eight miles away. They have to get up early and head out on their horses before the sun is fully up, but in spite of such a wonderful opportunity to learn, it seems most of them don’t go to school very long and prefer to hang around the farm, learning the business. Two of the boys are jockeys, which worries me, but it’s not my business to say anything, so I won’t. Not for awhile, at least.
Today was a pleasant day to be riding the grounds, and I wasn’t bored at all, but I hope I’ll be allowed to do other things soon, like maybe work with the foals or help train the two year-olds. Keeping an eye out for trouble has never been my best skill, even back home.
Home. I thought about it a lot today. Riding the fences gave me plenty of time to think, and although it’s going to take me awhile to put my journey into perspective, I can already see how it’s changed me. Back home, I had grown sorry for myself, thinking my troubles were unique. I’ve met a lot of people in nearly five months on the road, and they all had troubles. Who am I to say mine are any worse than anyone else’s? The best people I met were the ones who took their pain and turned it into compassion. There seems to be something healing about offering kindness to others. This is something I want to get better at.
I’ve also learned that the world is a really big and interesting place, and as much as I’ve seen of it, there is still so much more. The world doesn’t end with Kentucky. There are places to the north and south. There is a great ocean to the east that takes weeks to cross, and there are more places to see on the other side—places where they don’t speak any of the languages I know, and where songs, food and customs are different. It’s humbling to consider that the way I do things may not be the only right way. I need to remember this and not become too proud.
And finally, I’ve discovered that I have more friends than enemies in the world. When I set out from home, I considered anyone who had supported the former United States government an enemy. The feds had killed my mother and grandparents, and burned my home. Why wouldn’t I hate them? But I’ve met a lot of people who supported the old government, and they’re not bad at all. They just had a different idea of how things ought to be. It’s not their fault that things got out of control. We were all afraid of each other, and when people are afraid, they do terrible things. I’ll probably always be suspicious of anyone in a government uniform, but I no longer hate and fear them. Most people are decent if you give them a chance.
I don’t know what all this means for me and my future. I’m staying here for now, and maybe forever. I’ve had a long and interesting journey, but I’m ready to have a real home. It doesn't feel normal yet to have a settled place and regular meals. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life, or revisiting my sheltered childhood on the rancho in Valle Redondo. Maybe I’m picking up where I left off that horrible March day when Strecker and his men came raiding. This is my chance to re-do my life and get it right this time.
I’ve written to Auntie, telling her about this place. I’ve written to Robert too, although I wasn’t sure what to say and kept my letter a little more formal than I really wanted to. I’m looking forward to being able to send a letter and expect a reply. Maybe Auntie will send pictures from home. Maybe she'll send news about Will and my friends from Unitas. I would like that.
I think this will be the last of my daily diary entries. My poor diary is beaten up, its pages falling out. I need to put it back in order and maybe organize it in such a way that I can easily revisit some of my favorite memories, like the motorcycle ride with Vince, or the parrot at the carnival. I want to remember all the good people I've met, and I want to think about the White Sands, and dream of the Mississippi River.
For new diary entries, I guess I’ll have to use loose sheets of paper, since there’s no more room in this book.
So yes, I’ll keep writing, but it will be maybe once a week, or when something interesting happens, like Derby Day, which is coming up soon. As much as I think I’m going to love my life here, much of it will probably be very similar from day to day and not very interesting to write about. But it will be a blessed sameness. A peaceful, healing thing.
Maybe I can finally finish growing up.
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