Writing & Writing About Writing
Nell Parsons is the student of a friend of mine. They sensibly figured that I would be a natural choice to review a horse book. Unfortunately, I wrote book reviews professionally for many years and currently have no enthusiasm for the form. Instead, I offered her a space to tell the story behind her book. Welcome Nell.
The Big Bay Horse Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Memoir by Nell Parsons
The reason I had to write this book!
A year or so before my husband retired, he told me he wanted to purchase a good show horse and compete in horse shows. I laughed and said, “You can’t ride and you are 59 years old.”
He became angry when I didn’t take him seriously. I asked him, “Where can you find a show horse?” He knew of a Quarter Horse farm on Sand Mountain not far from the farming area where I grew up. We went a few days later. It was a working farm with many horses of all ages, mothers with babies, yearlings, one stallion, and plenty of older horses for training and riding.
This visit lit a fire under Bob that could not be put out without owning one of these horses. After more visits and watching horses being ridden, he bought Dan and started taking lessons with one of the trainers. This became the number one topic of conversation in our house.
Two years later I had become the chief groomer and horse holder. I felt unimportant and angry. When I complained, Bob didn’t listen. He was having too much fun. I knew then that I wanted my own horse. You are nobody at a horse show if you don’t have a horse.
The search began. I wanted a calm older horse that was well trained. I saw a seven-year-old gelding who was a winner in the show ring advertised in a horse magazine. He was located in another state so I hired a vet to go check him out. The vet passed him with flying colors. Someone at the barn where he was located was driving to Kentucky to a horse show and they agreed to bring him. Bob and I met them there.
When I saw this gorgeous horse with the large, liquid brown eyes that appeared to be bottomless, I knew he had to be mine. He stood quietly and stared at me. His demeanor told me he needed me as much as I needed him.
Bob said, “What do you want to do?”
“I want him.”
We brought him home with us and soon he began to colic regularly. The vet was called. Sometimes he was so sick, we had to walk him all night to keep him from laying down. After doing extensive blood work, he was found to be dangerously anemic. I was told to give him liquid iron with his feed. As he became stronger, all hell broke loose and he became meaner by the day.
I was now fifty-nine years old and couldn’t ride, with a flawed, high-strung, mad-at-the world horse whose many struggles had left him starved for affection. It was a long, terrifying journey for me to convince him I was on his side.
I didn’t get on Marlon that first year. I worked to calm his anger, earn his trust and to stay out of his way, so I wouldn’t get run over. Learning to ride over the next several years, I fell off six times and was thrown once. It was a miracle that this sixty-plus, year-old lady didn’t get seriously hurt. After landing on the hard surface, I’d get up, walk around to see if everything worked as good as it did before, then this wannabe cowgirl climbed back on her horse.
It was years before I could look forward to riding. To Marlon there was always something lurking in the shadows to scare him or give him terrible flashbacks. I was scared most of the time. As the years rolled by, I realized I loved a good challenge, just not such an impossible one.
Then one day we started understanding each other and things began to improve rapidly. I had discovered that he wanted to know when I got his message. My real adventure was beginning. He told me how he felt continuously as I learned to read him. I was amazed. I started jotting down a few lines about the incredible things he did, so I wouldn’t forget.
My earlier life challenges – the first in my family to go away to college, becoming a military wife amidst family squabbles, and watching my newborn struggle for life in a military hospital – gave me the courage I needed to never give up on Marlon.
Fifteen months after my husband passed away, I lost both horses. Dan had injured a back leg several months before and it became so bad that he could no longer stand on it. Marlon developed Cushing’s disease and the pain became too severe for him to tolerate. He had been with me for over 17 years and words can’t begin to express the grief and deep sorrow that I felt. My heart was broken again.
Then one morning, like being struck by a bolt of lightning, I had a burning desire to write my story about Marlon. The only problem was that I was a chemistry major in the old days and I had never done any serious writing. I had heard of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for seniors connected with the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The next day after having my epiphany, I drove to the campus and searched for the OLLI office.
Another tough adventure began for me. I later joined writing groups and attended Writing Conferences. It was a long learning experience, often exhilarating as well as humiliating. Encouragement from my writing groups and family convinced me to put it into book form, and to publish it. I am happy to say that I accomplished this before I became too old and that it is available on Amazon!