An Incident from my Childhood

By René Dario Herrera

I grew up in southwestern New Mexico. Rural. High desert, full of shrubs, the landscape dotted with an occasional tree and bush. The population was, maybe, 1,500 in the village where I lived with my parents. My father spent his childhood as a farm laborer, working across southern New Mexico’s Rio Grande valley, but eventually found himself working for a local copper smelter. It was not my father’s dream to smelt copper, but it provided a reliable paycheck that afforded him the luxury of buying, training, and selling horses. His true passion, his only love, was for the Arabian horse. A beautiful and graceful animal, full of spirit and life. Away from work, he would spend hours of his time working with horses.

On our family’s small patch of property, leased from the mining company, sat a manufactured home. Climb the entry steps, and inside you would find photos of my father with his horses and dozens of trophies. Trophies awarded for participating in parades or horse shows. Trophies from the Whole Enchilada Festival and the Fourth of July Parade. Trophies for Best Cultural Display and Best Equestrian Entry. To my father, the trophies represented recognition for his hard work. Hope that it might turn to something more than local parades and enchilada festivals.

One day I was following my father around as he was working with this horse when someone arrived, responding to a classified ad. He had been working with the horse for a few weeks now, and he had put out classified ads for a, “Gentle horse. Good with kids. Excellent for farm or ranch work.” This horse was impressive. It had this fiery red chestnut coat, marked by a white diamond on its forehead. It’s eyes big and brown. Nostrils flared. My father sent me to fetch the saddle and tack. I rushed to gather everything he needed and hurried across the road to the empty space where he would work the horses. After he saddled the horse, he mounted it, and rode it around. With no warning, the horse tried to buck him off. He calmed it down. Addressing the buyer, he spoke in broken English to assure the buyer there was nothing to fear. This was a gentle horse. Good with kids. Safe. He said, “The horse is gentle. Good with kids. It is safe for my son to ride. Look.”

I shook my head. I did not know this horse to be gentle. I did not want to be the first kid to test it. My father, secretly angry that I didn’t do as I was told, told me that it was safe. “It’s okay. You’re safe.”

Before I knew what was happening, I found myself thrown from the horse. It happened so fast. I got up from the weed covered ground, my clothes covered in dirt, dust, and dried horse crap. That day I learned that I could not trust my father.

Tags: fiction