Saturday, September 10, 2005

Captain and Black

Riding through the woods in the dark of night is eerie to say the least, especially when my mount's name is Black, but more about that in a moment.

The trail was narrow in places and hemmed on either side by trees so tall they obliterated the stars. Then there were times when we were out in the open, when the moon guided our progress. Here the trail was narrow, the drop-off dizzying. Black though seemed sure-footed so I gave him his head ands allowed him to pick his own way. Why he seemed to prefer the drop-off side of the trail was unfathomable to me. Perhaps he was testing me and my faith in his sure footedness. Whatever it was I wish he would accept my faith in him and lean toward the up-side.

Soon enough though, I got used to his ambling gait and nodded off in the saddle. I think I nodded off, but maybe it was that I time-traveled back to my childhood and remembered another Black. Captain and Black were a team, a team that stayed in my memory. Here is their story and part of mine, too.

Captain and Black

Captain and Black,
Shires true and stout-hearted,
pulling their load,
bringing coal by the cartload
for warming the hearth.

Once or twice every month,
they pulled that old cart,
so heavily laden,
from town.
While there at the gate,
I was waiting
to be lifted,
to ride in style
on Black's back
all the way to the house,
and back.

I waited for the load to be dumped
in a corrugated enclosure.
Then, with their load lightened,
I fed each, Captain and Black,
a hard, juicy apple.

Then, once more I would ride
high on their backs,
sometimes on Captain,
sometimes on Black.
I was a knight
on a stout-hearted war horse, a warrior
with arrows and bow,
a dreamer on Pegasus' flight.

All too soon
the fantasy ended.
We had reached the gate
and this knight was dismounted.
Captain and Black,
pulling the cart,
went off down the road
with a spring in their step
and much tossing of heads.

Was it me or my apples
that lightened their steps?
As an old woman I know
it was really because
of the coal left behind in a pile.
Captain and Black,
I know you're long gone.
Proud Shires true-hearted,
harness adorned
with high polished brass.

Are you now
pulling chariots of angels,
your harness adorned
with the finest of gold
and stardust galore?

Captain and Black,
I'll never forget you,
prod Shires you are,
and brave.

And now as I ride Black through the night, I'm willing and able to believe that I've been on Black's back before, a long time ago. It was a time when we heated our houses with coal and he and Captain pulled the load so we wouldn't run out and be cold on those long winter nights.

The moon casts its shadow and yes, I'm sure that Captain is beside us, carrying his share of the load.

©September 10, 2005