Yesterday I took a break from the screen to stack some hay. My stack is small, only 4-5 high, but it still gives a guy something to do. The beauty is what the hay does to the mind. Body works, mind wanders. Forward in time, backward in time, remembering acquaintances that were exhaled long ago and dear friends who are out-of-touch or gone.

Yesterday I thought of Juan. Years ago I kept a horse out at an awesome little ranch in East County. Juan took care of the horses at the ranch. He fed and mucked, but also did countless other jobs. Juan was a horseman. Though he may have shied from the label, we all knew it because we saw how the horses were around him.

In those days I was riding really early in the morning, getting my head screwed on nice and tight before going off to a job that could be a little rough-around-the-edges.  I’d often arrive at the crack-of-dawn when Juan was feeding.  

I remember watching him load hay into the Gator one morning, 80-100 lb bales moving though the air as if they were light-as-a-feather.  Juan had to have been in his 60s then and I just sat and watched in amazement.  How did he do that?

After Juan left to feed I just had to try.  I was in my 30s at the time, working out a bit, trying to maintain an appearance of strength; an effort that never really did pan out too well.  I grabbed the hooks, sank them into the bale and lifted.  Nothing happened.  I mean NOTHING, the darn thing did not move one inch!  I pulled the hooks out and repositioned them to get a better angle.  Again, I lifted, this time with a grunt (as if somehow that would produce a gravity anomaly).  The bale slid along the ground like I was pulling it through thick mud.  My efforts were interrupted by a sobering thought.  Had anyone seen these events?!  In terror I looked around, eyes darting, and to my relief found myself alone.  I quickly hung up the hooks and acted like nothing had happened.  To be honest I tried to forget about that day for a long time.  Until yesterday.

Yesterday, stacking hay.  This story has a happy ending you see because twenty years on I can move a bale of hay.  In fact, believe it or not, I can get ’em 5-high.  What little appearance of strength I might have had in my 30s I don’t have anymore.  I keep my shirt on these days due to some gouges in my paint job where some after-market parts were installed.  But even though the outside might not look like much, there’s strength on the inside, and the hay knows that.  Hidden strength.  I like to think maybe I’ve got the beginnings of some of Juan’s “old-man” superpowers.  Don’t know thats the case, but it sure was a great place to muse yesterday for a little while.   

I wonder if turning 50 had Juan shaking in this boots too.

Published by Mike Deal

I am a husband and father, I am a scientist and teacher, I am a horseman. At night all the "I am's" go in a box and I shut the lid. I sleep like a dog.

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