BACK IN NATURE
by T Max
As promised, Pepper’s real name will be exposed in this continuing episode. For those just starting to read this column, Pepper is a horse that I befriended in Topsfield, MA.
Peter Goutzos (Little Hawke) calls and asks if I want to find that bridge again and take photos of it this time. I jump on it because it involves a hike through this big beautiful meadow in Topsfield. Before the hike we decide to go visit the horse I call Pepper. When we get to the fenced in field that holds Pepper, he’s in the back right corner. We try to get him to come to the front corner but he insists we meet him half way. Armed with my camera and brush, we lure Pepper close with some freshly cut grass. Peter and I take turns playing photographer. Then we see a red Volvo wagon heading out from the house behind the field. In it is Pepper’s owner, the man who once advised me to ditch the umbrella if I wanted his horse to approach me. He pulls up towards us with a smile and an opened side window. He greets Peter by name and asked me my mine. People always ask twice when I say T Max—maybe I should just go back to being Timothy. We find out Pepper’s real name is Morris! And the owner is Alan. Two new pieces of info for us to note. Alan says good-bye and we go back to hanging out with Morris for a while. Then we head back to cross the wide meadow. Peter seems a little bit more focused on the direction we are headed than the last time when we got all turned around. After a good hike, we find the old single-person wooden bridge and start shooting photos over the Ipswich River. Little Hawke tells me that he has felt spirits in the area. Walking along the near side of the river we spot frogs jumping in close to the shore. They don’t continue to scurry so I take photos of them too. Then we move upstream to where a small area of rapids creates some white water. We relax and sit there for a while taking in the sights and sounds. I record the audio of the falls on my portable microphone. When it’s time to go we check each other for ticks before we head back though the wide green meadow, picking a load of grass to feed Morris on a quick visit back to his field.
Days pass and Peter and I ask world-renowned photographer Ray Dollard if he’d like to join us in a hike though the woods and get to meet Morris the horris. The day of the hike comes, but Ray is not feeling well and his camera is broken. So Peter and I repeat our woodland voyage. Early on we’re greeted by a slender woman who wants us to acknowledge that the meadow we are planning to cross is private property. It’s no problem—Peter knows the owner. The strange thing about this attractive woman was how nice she said what she had to say. After I thought about the details of our little exchange, I figured out she really just wanted to meet the Native American who frequently stops in front of her house to cross the great meadow. Though Peter and I both admired her natural beauty, neither of us can remember her name. Doesn’t that always happen?
On our way through a wooded area Peter spots a strange looking yellowish-orange mushroom with white textured spots. I photograph it. Then neatly cut it and slip it into my bag. Maybe we can learn more about it online. We arrive at the bridge and hear the clopping of horses on the other side of the river. We ramble across the wobbly narrow overpass to say hi to three women on horeback. They have beautiful horses: two are brown with long blonde mains, and one is entirely white. They’re soon on their way and Peter and I head to the rapids to sit on the rocks and talk about our lives, our music, and a film with the longest build-up to a kiss ever—Persuasion (1995). We check out the fantastic mushoom in my bag. Peter believes it’s a psychedelic mushroom, though he really doesn’t know. We decide we should find out, and start breaking it up into bite-sized pieces. I make believe I’m chewing on a slice so Peter flips a large chunk into his mouth. I can’t let him do this on his own, so I start chewing away on this bitter organic fungus. After 15 minutes we still feel fine, so we intake the rest of the musroom. Five minutes later we find ourself giggling like little children while crossing back over the bridge. On the other side I go blank after the iridescent yellow leaves ask me to dance. Peter remembers being lost in his reflection in the water but has no idea how he woke up in the nook of a tree branch—15 feet off the ground.
The next day I do some research on the mushroom and find it’s a fly agaric. It is poisonous and psychoactive. We’re lucky we’re still alive.