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Nothing But Cash
By AíLisa Denny

Just come look at him," the fat little man pleaded with me. I noticed there was a stain of some kind on the front of his shirt, probably gravyÖ but from the looks of his teeth, it could have been tobacco. His satin coat read Twittyís Spring and Axle.. We give a Twit!

I waited impatiently as the waitress rang up my order, I checked my watchÖ only 10 minutes until sale time and I wanted to get there early to look the horses over.

Finally the total managed its way out of her mouth around a mountain of pink bubble gum. I shoved my card at her, trying to ignore this funny little man who had suddenly attached himself to me.

"Sorry Hon," she drawled. "Nothiní but cash, we donít take no charge cards."

"Itís not a charge card," I pleaded, "Itís an instant check card, it comes right out of my bank account." She batted her eyes at me, "SorryÖ" and she tapped a red glitter fingernail on the cardboard sign I now noticed taped to the register.

Great, I fumbled in my heavy coat, not wanting to pull the big wad of bills out of my jacket in front of this strange man who was now standing even closer , I could smell the onion on his breath.

I pulled a hundred-dollar bill off the outside of the roll and handed it to her folded.

She popped her gun as she unfolded it, and then shook her head before she spoke again, "Sorry Hon, canít break nothiní that big."

Why? Why was this happening? I was at a loss, I had planned this trip for eight months now, and here I was, a long way from home, all the way in Indiana, with some guy who is probably a deranged psycho at my side and now I canít pay my lunch tab.

Whatís a poor girl to do? I counted out the change in my pocket and managed to find two one-dollar bills. Great, I had $2.87Ö I was $5 short.

I cursed myself for having ordered the hot beef, I knew I shouldíve stayed in the truck and just stuck to jerky and a Twix bar. The man, seizing his golden moment, spoke up with new fervor, "Tell you what little lady, I will loan you the fiver if you will take just five minutes to look at my wares. "

Perfect, a deal with the Devil.

Reluctantly I nodded, and as he paid the tab, he smiled at me as though he had won the lotto. How do I meet these people?, I wondered, I swear, I felt like a loser magnet.

The January wind was strong and it whipped open the door like the gate of a bull shoot.

And as the cold rose up to meet us, I pulled my Carhardt cap down hard on my head.

I wished my Grandpa had come, he usually kept me out of these messes. He told me when I left, not to go without him. "Jo, he said, just wait and weíll go next week. I will feel better by then." We both knew that wasnít true, so I kissed him on the head and headed for Indiana, alone.

I had waited all Summer and Fall to get a horse and now that I had the money I couldnít wait to get there. The auction was the biggest around, and I felt very positive and happy as I strolled down US 23, the roar of my grandpaís duals in my ears, my dog Sadie at my side.

Sadie couldnít help me now, though. I wished my grandpa were here.

The fat little man didnít walk very fast and as we made our way across the parking lot

People continued to file out of the restaurant behind us, it must have been time for the sale to start. I tried to hurry him along, anxious to get over there. The rig he stopped at surprised me, it was not one of the smaller ones, but instead the biggest one in the lot, a whale-like aluminum, attached to a shiny black crew cab with tinted windows. He made his way toward the truck and opened the door and began fumbling through a folder of registration papers.

"Youíre going to love this gelding, I knowed the moment I seen ya that I had the horse for you. Golden horse for the golden girl, and this horses is GOOD BRED!" He laughed loudly at the sound of his own voice and some tobacco snaked down his cheek.

The trailer was all enclosed, with no windows, just a small air opening near the top of the side, and this was covered with black Plexiglas. See no evil, I thought.

I noticed there was an eye peering through a quarter- sized hole. It looked at me, solidly for a moment and then disappeared.

I pretended to study the papers he handed me, but couldnít help but notice he was missing a thumb. I wondered if some horse, or perhaps a woman, had bitten it off.

He looked at me expectantly, now huffing and puffing in the cold, and I nodded and smiled, following him toward the back of the trailer. The heavy hinges creaked and groaned like a dying animal and the gate swung open to reveal a young looking buckskin horse. He whinnied when he saw us began to paw recklessly at the side of the trailer. The floor was deep with manure and it sprayed on the wall behind him like a fountain.

"HERE, HERE!" the man shouted, waving a hand in the air. The horse pulled back in fright and his legs buckled as he strained at the rope, which held him to the wall.

"Well, heís a beaut ainít he? Didnít I tell ya? And rides good too, a real sweetheart of a horse. What did you say you wanted to do with one?"

"I want one to drive," I said "Ömy grandfather made me a beautiful cart and we are going to drive it around the neighborhood since he canít walk that good any more."

"Well," he said, "this here horse would be a beauty in harness, can you imagine?" "Why this here horse has just the right look and they just plain donít come any sweeter."

I stepped a little closer toward the buckskin and he laid back hard on the rope again. His golden eyes wide with fear.

"What do you want for him?" I asked. "To you?" he said "$1800."

"I donít have that muchÖwhat else have you got?"

Onion man looked stunned and he moved some tobacco in his mouth before he answered.

"Well, thatís it Little Miss, last horse I got on the load."

Curious, I tried to peer over the center divider.

"Whatís up front ?"

"What do you mean?" he said.

"In the front of the trailer, isnít there another one?"

He hesitated, before spitting and saidÖ "No, that old bastard ainít nothing for a pretty little girl like you, I can tell, you are a real dainty kind of girl. I know my horses and my women. Tell you what $1650 and I will load up Goldy here for you, and you can get out of sitting in that cold sale barn all day just waiting for a horse this nice to come through."

"I really donít have that much moneyÖ. Can I please see the other horse?"

" Nah" he muttered, "Better not, if you donít want to spend any money then I canít help you."

"Come on Mister," I said, "Just show me what youíve got, I really do want to buy, I just need something cheaper."

"Oh, alright I reckon I can show Ďem to you, but you know what they say about curiosity and that there cat!" At this he laughed again, this time even louder, his voice echoing in the trailer like a megaphone.

"Now, I wonít take nothiní but cash on this here horse," and he said as he swung open the center gate to reveal the poor creature, I could see why.

He looked as though he might not make it until dinner. His head hung low, its full weight resting in the halter, which held it like a hangmanís noose. He didnít raise his head at the site of us, his only greeting a loud cough which was followed by a fart.

His coat, reminiscent of black, was sunbleached and ragged, the hair of old horse that had seen many Winters. He looked more like a yak. His markings, probably once were pretty, but time had robbed him. Now, his glory past, they were nothing more than an old ragged uniform. He was colored like a Holstein, and the black hair on his face was gray with age. His sides, which were supposed to be white, were stained and yellowed with manure. This coat of many colors he wore tightly stretched across a tall raily frame which it looked too small for, its highest point a snow-covered wither, its white mark, a testimony to his many days of toil. He didnít look at me, his eyes were tightly shut, only his nostrils were open, flaring as widely as a tuba, their breath laboriously making its way in and out.

I thought instantly of the saying in my grandpaís kitchen, it had been there on the wall, for as long as I could remember, it was the "Horses Prayer." I thought of the part about "Öwhen my days of usefulness to you are done, do not cast me aside to suffer and die."

I cannot tell you why I did it. I can only tell you that I pulled the wad of money from my pocket and handed it to the man. And as I led the old horse away across the snow-covered asphalt, I felt that at that very moment, I was truly good, that I was someone who cared and might someday save the world, or at least all of the animals.

I had found my diamond, I told myselfÖ a diamond in the rough.

My euphoria was short lived. In fact, it was the shortest trip I have ever taken, because everything good and everything nice ended when Diamond found out he had to go into my two-horse trailer. Granted, it wasnít shiny and fancy like his former coach, but the way I saw it, it was a heck of a lot better place to be, considering where we were headed.

Unfortunately, Diamond didnít see it that way. In fact he didnít see anything my way and he let me know it.

The soft brown eye that had so innocently peered at me from the hole, was not looking that same way at me now. His eyes were wide and white and as he broke the snap on lead rope number two, and fell down on his side into the snow, I was amazed how youthful he looked as he sprang up and ran across the parking lot. His burr-filled tail was like a banner, high in the air and his head was upright, almost proud.

For one fleeting instant, he was almost pretty, until he nearly ran into the side of the van. The driver blew loudly on his horn and it was very close, as they drove by me in the parking lot, I could see a little boy inside peering out of the foggy window. He was sucking his thumb and looking at me as though I were crazy.

I follow along behind, calling "Diamond.. Diamond, pleaseÖ" as tears made their way to my eyes. Sadie barked excitedly from the truck window, franticly wanting to come and help. I could hear her teeth clicking on the window as she barked.

"Shut up!" I yelled back, and then felt even worse.

I must admit I did have thoughts of just going back to the truck and leaving, I thought perhaps I could drive away and that no one had to know, I could leave my problem behind, but would have also had to have left my money and my pride.

I wiped my nose on my frozen glove and continued across the parking lot that I was beginning to know so well. I followed the tracks, it was easier this time, because there were little spots of blood in the snow, evidently he had hurt himself on the trailer in one of our struggles. I followed the trail and found him standing over near a blue Buick. He looked as though he was an ostrich who was trying to hide his head so that he wouldnít be seen.

I inched toward him, my voice quiet and low, I spoke to him, softly."Here you sweet boy, here you good old man, here you go honeyÖ come to Mamma."

He eyed me suspiciously but didnít move. I patted him gently on the rump as I reached out to him and worked my way toward the half a halter he now wore.

BINGO! I grabbed it and jerked his head perhaps harder than I should have, my tone changing. "Come on, Cash, that is all you are to me, NOTHING but cash! And you are on a one way trip!" "You are going to the AUCTION."

His expression didnít change. Head lowered, he obediently trudged along beside me, now limping on the hind leg that I noticed was bleeding near the ankle. "Serves you right you good for nothin!" I sniffled, as we limped along together, like two refugees coming home from war.

Now, I canít tell you for sure that God was testing me that dayÖ but I can tell you that Cash was, because even though Sadie is my only witness, you have to believe me when I tell you that he walked right up to that trailer and nearly pushed me out of the way to get in.

And it was just the beginning, believe it or not.

Nothing but Cash (part two)
By AíLisa Denny

Cash had a mind of his own. And he wouldnít let me forget it. You see he was not mean, exactly ... he was just "scared." It took me a long time to learn that "scared" can actually be more dangerous than "mean."

The main reason being, is that "scared" can sometimes get you hurt a lot faster than "mean." A mean horse you learn to be afraid of and watch out for. A scared horse reacts when you least expect it, because you canít predict or even begin to understand what will set him off.

And he wasnít afraid of everything, you see, just scary things ... like brushes, spray bottles, rags, ropes, wormers, whatever happened to be in you hand at the time, really ... once he flipped over in the cross ties because I tried to give him a carrot. My grandpa reminded me, not everyone likes carrots, you know.

And he didnít do it all the time, either, sometimes he wasnít scared at all, he was just plain bored. You could tell when Cash was bored because he would give you the signal. When Cash got bored he reared. He just couldnít be a normal horse, and just sit there and paw at the ground, or chew on his bit, that would have been too predictable. No, he preferred to do a tiny pirouette, very controlled and fluid, he just raised up his front end, like a low-rider at a stoplight, just enough to let you know ... all right already, lets do SOMETHING. It scared me the first time, but over the years I have grown used to it. We are like an old married couple. We know the ins and outs of each other. I do not bring him carrots, and he in turn does not flip over.

We never did hook him to the cart. We showed it to him, but knowing his nature, we didnít try taking him too close. But, that didnít matter, really. In retrospect, I am not even sure Grandpa wanted a driving horse, I think he just wanted something to feed. And when he gave me a saddle on my birthday, I was kind of scared and happy at the same time. I wasnít sure if Cash would want to be ridden considering all of his hang-ups on the ground. But oddly, he was a dream to ride. He was fearless as a trail horse, roadworthy as could be. He and I rode over overpasses, swam in lakes, were chased by the hounds of Hell (my neighborsí beagles) and once a stud horse even jumped up on Cash while we were riding. He was unflappable. All of this, to him was just an average day. And he had, had many, I was told. Upon examination, my veterinarian said that I probably didnít want to know how old Cash was. I told him, he was right. That was ten short years ago.

Since that fateful day that Cash and I wrestled over whether or not he was going to agree to get into my trailer and come to live with me, we have had many fine times together. I remember the day I brought him home.

It was like a Disney movie where an animal is rescued, only it had a little twist because Cash just wasnít too keen on being rescued. I started to get nervous as I neared our house. And as we pulled up in the drive, I could make out my grandpa sitting on the porch waiting for me. I must admit, my grandpaís life nearly ended early when I unloaded my prize. This is because I could have killed him. I suppose he tried not to laugh, but he couldnít contain himself and my ego, already fragile from the whole experience ... was crushed. I started to cry, and soon I was sobbing wholeheartedly. Cash stood next to me and nibbled at a tiny patch of old grass exposed by the snow. He coughed and looked at me innocently. My grandpa consoled me, "Jo, dry those eyes love, weíll feed this guy up, why he will be the talk of the town when weíre done with him ... shoot, he is colored up nice, heíll be a real looker once we get him spruced up, youíll see." I sniffled and nodded, upset that I had spent the money I had worked so hard for on such a horse as this. I was scared, scared that I had bitten off a little more than I could chew or ever hope to swallow. But, as usual Cash proved me wrong.

Eating, was his one real talent. He is very good at it, and itís something that we all enjoyed. Grandpa, Cash and me.

There is something to be said for feeding a thin horse. It is a pleasure to watch them eat. Maybe itís the way they push their head hard down into the grain as if they must eat it quickly, before it disappears. Or the way they wring their tail to warn the other horses (imaginary ones of course) to stay back, that this is their feed and it wonít be taken without a fight.

Grandpa loved feeding Cash. And so Grandpa grew to love Cash and gradually so did I. We knew we had succeeded, when one day a man in a big fancy Cadillac pulled in and asked if Cash was for sale. It stumped me for a moment when he asked about the horse in the field. He said he had admired it from the road many times and wondered if I would be interested in selling it. I peered around him on the porch to see whom he was referring to, thinking that perhaps our neighborís stallion had broken out and run in with Cash. But, to my surprise I saw only one horse in the lot, and for a moment I almost didnít recognize him. It was almost as though I were seeing him for the first time. He was as shiny and as fancy as the manís Cadillac, black and white, colored like a Holstein, but as fat and as round as a weight lifter, muscled to perfection. His long black tail was dragging the ground and his mane, now long and curly was falling all around his neck, his big brown eye peered at me behind his forelock which hung nearly to his nose. The white mark on his wither was still there, but all other traces of his life before me were gone. I smiled at the man and shook my head before answering. "You wouldnít want him, Sir, believe me."

"I have cash," he offered. It was then that I realized, that some things are priceless, and that for me, Cash had become one of them. "What would you take for him?" he asked. "Nothing." I answered quietly. I smiled to myself as he turned and made his way back to the car.

I checked my watch, nearly time to feed Cash ... he didnít like his supper to be late.

Horses are very special creatures, and they fill a variety of needs in a variety of people. Each and every one, is as unique as his owner.. This story is for all the "Cashsí" out there, and all the people who love them. God Bless the animals, for they give us what we need without even knowing it.

The author and her horse Cash, live on a farm in Fenton, Michigan.

 

"Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness."
         George Orwell


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