Don’t Give Up the Ship

THE HORSE I CALL PEPPER

by T Max

Last month we left off with Little Hawke and me lost in the woods—and when we finally found our way out, I spotted a white horse with some grey speckles. Since then, I’ve gone back to see the beautiful horse that I’ll call Pepper until I find out his real name.

The following time I went to see Pepper, I had my guitar in the car and decided to play a whole set of my songs for this captive audience—Pepper is fenced in on a large field of grass a little bigger than a football field. The horse listened to the whole set without running off. At one point, I could tell he was interested in the guitar and wanted to touch it. He moved his nose towards the instrument, and when the vibrating steel strings came in contact, they buzzed his delicate lips. Startled, he jump back as though he got a little shock. After 45 minutes of T Max songs, I gave my audience of one a break and said goodbye.

A week later, I went by while it was raining. Pepper was in the middle of the field.  In the distance on the same property, I saw a man and his dog walking away from me ’round the far side of the fence toward the barn. I stood there under an umbrella trying to get Pepper’s attention. He saw me, took a couple of steps toward me, then stopped. He was looking at me when he took two more steps and stopped again. I whistled a lame whistle and Pepper turned around and moved away from me. I kept calling out, but two steps were the best I’d get. Then I saw the man and his dog walking in the distance.  Feeling that they might be coming to me, I moved out from under the trees in the corner of the field and walked toward them. As they got closer I could see it was a handsome man with an even more handsome German Shepard.  When they reached me, the man ordered his canine to sit—in French! He looked at me and said, “He won’t come to you because of the umbrella.” Wow, he was giving me advice on how to correctly approach his horse. He also told me the horse recently had some kind of operation. I fumbled out something to the effect of having made friends with his horse and that I had played music for him. The man nodded and said, “I know. I saw you.” Then as quickly as the man and dog appeared, they disappeared back down along the long fence. I ditched the umbrella, but it was too late—I must have spooked Pepper, and I didn’t have the time to slowly gain his trust again.

Another week passed and this time I remembered to bring the brush I had brought to my weekly softball game to dust off the plate. I cleaned the brush and noticed it was more suited for animal grooming than home plate cleaning. It was drizzling, but I knew not to use an umbrella, and Pepper appreciated it. I brushed his back, neck, and upper legs. It wasn’t a long visit because I was off to the Topsfield Fair.

Two days later while distributing the Noise, I detoured to visit Pepper again. This time I had a big McIntosh apple that I had bought at the fair. I knew that Pepper’s teeth were large and made sure the apple was on my palm, without my fingers wrapped around it. Pepper broke the crispy red and green fruit into about five pieces and munched it up quickly. I could tell he wanted to know where the next one was. Sorry Pepper, this was just a snack, not a meal. I had my camera with me this time and took a few shots that showed off Pepper’s good looks. Those photos are laced in around the text of this edition of Don’t Give Up the Ship.

Next month: I find out Peppers real name, and revisit the old wooden bridge in the woods with Little Hawke.

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