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Joshua Whiting

learner, writer, creator, librarianish person

notes photos i wish i had taken demos drafts fragments improvisations librarianish longer things

A Horse Called Dreamer

The school district received a herd of ponies. I was supposed to catalog them, barcode them, and figure out a good protocol for checking them out to students.

They were all in an old corral out in the desert, and seemed wild and restless, as if perhaps they had just been captured and swept in from that desert and we hadn’t exactly been told the truth about their (lack of) training. Also, it didn’t seem like anyone was taking care of them out there so it was maybe going to fall to me to feed them, scrape out their hooves, and do whatever else needs to be done for horses. I don’t know anything about horses.

I felt I needed to learn all the proper descriptive terms for horse coloration so I could create accurate descriptions in the MARC records, but I was afraid to admit my lack of knowledge of horse culture to anyone. I’d never even ridden a horse.

I remember thinking I would probably put the barcodes on their saddles, until I realized that horses only wear saddles when a human is riding or about to ride on them. I was reluctant to brand the barcodes on them, and it would be tedious work to get the symbology and coding correct each time.

Years ago I was driving around out in some rural area and I turned a corner on a lane and in front of me were two pickup trucks, engines running but stopped in the middle of the road while going opposite directions. The drivers were chatting with each other through their windows, and had been for who knows how long. I want to say one truck was brown and the other tan or grey with some white or turquoise trim, but I can’t truly remember. Their colorings definitely weren’t entirely un-horseish, though.

In the pastures parallel to where the trucks were idling, two horses stood on either side of a fence. They were doing that thing horses sometimes do where they stand next to each other but face opposite directions, their tails occasionally flipping a little bit in each others' faces. Like idling engines.

Two trucks and two horses, opposite but parallel. Perfect composition if I could pull it off. It might have even been the golden hour; let’s go ahead and say the lighting was good. I was too afraid of what the drivers might say or do about a random city kid in a tiny Japanese car taking their picture. They just as likely might not have even noticed if I had stopped and taken the picture, though.

Encountering horses in the human world often just makes me feel sad, guilty, a little bit afraid, and like maybe what I should do is sneak back at night and set them all free. I’m occasionally concerned that if I get too close they might bite me, kick me, or trample me, and I’d deserve it for standing there gawking at them or otherwise being complicit in the nonsense. A horse certainly doesn’t owe me anything. But in actuality I understand they are mostly too broken to ever attempt such things against a strange human.

I said “herd” above because it sounded better to me, but in the dream it was definitely first described to me as a “set” of ponies. Catalog our new set of 40 ponies and prepare them for checkout.

I’d settled on a 1 week check out period per student. They could walk or ride the ponies home from the school, but I wasn’t sure how they were going to be able to take enough hay home to feed the pony for a week. We’d need horse carts, or a delivery truck.

At one point a vice-superintendent and a district PR person videocalled me at the corral to check in on “where we were at” in getting the ponies ready and out to students. It was a district priority.

My wife’s cousin’s horses were being ridden around in circles by my nieces, my kids, and some other cousin kids. Everyone needed multiple turns. I was informed that one of the horses was called Dreamer. Right as I was told this I noticed an insect crawling around the edge of Dreamer’s deep, brown eye, accentuating the misty, faraway look I saw there. However faraway and inscrutable that look, I intuited that the dreams that Dreamer dreamed behind those eyes were reasonable and close, centered in the here and now: I think that Dreamer longed to stop walking around in circles in the heat. I think this dreamful creature, itself fulfilling the dreams of so many cabin children with its steady legs and unfathomable eyes, actually just wanted to eat some fucking grass. It was growing all around the edges of the riding ring, and Dreamer kept breaking the circle to go snag some bites of green stuff, before being pulled back into semi-compliance by the child at the reigns.

I could be wrong about all of this, though; I don’t know anything about horses.

Last Updated:
Format / Genre: essays
People: me
Places: in the desert at work
Series + Sources: Photos I Wish I Had Taken Demos Drafts Fragments Improvisations librarianish longer things
Topics: cataloging dreams horses
Works Cited: May the Circle Remain Unbroken by the 13th Floor Elevators

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