Why they named me Frank Sinatra, I am not sure. The neighbors laugh every time they say the name. From what I understand, Frank was a singer. Perhaps they named me because of my voice. I wouldn’t say it’s mellifluous, like the birds that live at the borders of our pasture, but to my ears the intake breath sound of Hee and outflow breath sound of Haw have a nice, solid sound, like large farm machinery scraping across the floorboards of the barn. I like that. It makes me less lonely for my kin.
I do have a friend. He’s a horse who shares the pasture and barn with me. His name is Fred. No last name. Wherever he goes, I follow. Mostly he doesn’t mind, but sometimes he swings around toward me with flattened ears, so I back up a few paces. A little later, when he’s not paying attention, I sidle up and stand near him. I’m quite a bit shorter than Fred, but I feel that my being near him somehow adds to my stature.
We came here from different places—here being this roomy pasture with a barn, and a man and woman who live in the stone house. Fred traded hands many times. He made friends at the first few places, but with each subsequent trade he kept more and more to himself. He told me, What’s the use in making friends when humans can decide at any time to send you somewhere else? Horses have no choice. We’re compliant, and we withstand all sorts of things. But that doesn’t mean that our hearts are resilient.
Fred came here five years ago. I don’t think he or I are going anywhere. That’s the feeling I get from our people, and I’ve overheard them talking about letting us live out our days here. Still, Fred keeps himself a little apart from me, just in case. Once in a while, Fred touches my neck with his nose and I bow my head in gratitude.
The man and woman take him on trail rides now and then. Sometimes I go along, led by a long rope. I like the change of view and I’m happy not to have all that saddle and gear strapped to me. We go down to the end of the pasture, out through the gate, across the cool stream, and up into the woods.
Unlike Fred, I wasn’t so much as bought and sold as shunted from one place to another. Children at one barn rode me a few times before becoming bored with me, so I went to another place where men in straw hats and suspenders and women in long, dark dresses worked me hard.
I pulled some contraption across a field, back and forth, back and forth. I wasn’t fast or strong enough to suit them, and more than once they lashed my back harder than necessary to get their point across. I strained and tried and sweated, but it was never good enough for them. They believe that animals were put on earth by god for their use. Never once did they touch me with kindness. I closed my mind to it, but I never got used to it.
Eventually they stopped working me and brought in a broader, stouter donkey that pulled whatever they strapped to him. In the pasture, though, he always stood with his head hanging low, his eyes half-closed.
I was sold at auction to the man and woman I live with now. They coaxed me into the trailer and then out of the trailer, down the ramp, and into a pasture of tall, sweet grasses.
I kept waiting for things to unravel—for the food to become meager, for a command to pull something far too heavy, but it never happened. Gradually I came to trust them.
Sometimes at night the man and woman sit on their porch playing wooden stringed instruments. The woman sings. Her voice is like a wisp of wind spiraling up into the sky. Sometimes I’m inspired to sing along with her. When I do, Fred stands nearby and listens attentively to the sound of our voices in harmony and the kind, kind laughter of the man.
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