There was this big black mare named Bell we had at the outfit east of Atlin. She was a coal black mare with a strong neck, deep chest, firm back and fine legs. She was quick-stepping and nimble and carried a pack with ease. She could be a good follower if the pack-train was moving at a pace she was happy with and she was behind a horse she respected or at the least tolerated. But boy she could be a bitch. She had a mean streak that came out on any or every occasion we used her. Usually with her mouth and gnashing teeth. She was biter. She could use her hooves with precision too, though she preferred to use her mouth. (Like a lot of females I know). She was the type of mare that credence to the stereotype of why cowboys don’t use mares. Nasty and ill-tempered. She was a good packhorse though and that is why we kept her.
Every hunter we had we warned to stay away from her head. And there was this one hunter who didn’t take heed of our warnings and wanted a picture with her carrying his trophy moose horns. He paid for it with a chunk out of his shoulder.
There was this other horse I rode at this outfit east of Atlin, BC. His name was Bandit and he was my go-to lead horse. He was a solid dark bay with a startling white blaze that stole the whole of his nose. He was slow and steady and confident and I really liked him. I knew that with Bandit I could control my pack-string and though he was slow, horses like Bell never ran over top of him or took chunks out of his hind end. I trusted that horse. He wasn’t nice though. A cow-kicker that one. I was warned, but I didn’t really think that the horse that I rode day in and day out and could possibly kick me. We had an understanding me and Bandit, and even though he was a grumpy horse, he seemed to like me. He whickered for me in the mornings when I brought his feed and his ears perked up and he stepped out in such a way that he never did when one of the guides or hunters were riding him.
And then one morning while I was carrying the empty rubber tubs of feed I got knocked sideways and off my feet by a stunning blow to my mid-thigh. Bandit had cow-kicked me! I was shocked! More hurt that he would kick me—ME! —than that he had kicked. And shocked that I had let my guard down, when I should’ve known better. It goes without saying, but Bell was a horse I never let my guard down around. She was the mean one, everyone but a naïve hunter knew there was the possibility of getting her near her, but Bandit . . . I should’ve known better. He came out of left field for me.
Yes there are horses out there, horses even on my pack-string that I could dangle upside down over their rump or cross under their belly or stand beside without ever thinking that horse could ever hurt me, but I’ve come to realize that just because they don’t doesn’t mean they couldn’t.
I had been working around horses for many years by the time Bandit kicked me, but I wised up a little that day, and much more the longer I worked with horses and now with kids. I came to realize that I had to get rid of my “NEVER” tendencies—My natural assumptions that something or someone could NEVER do such and such a thing.
I had to get rid of the NEVER thoughts when I worked around horses, animals and when I worked with people and especially when I had kids.
I had to replace the NEVER/CAN’T thoughts with the COULD/CAN thoughts.
“This horse COULD possibly kick me, so I will be careful when walking around it at all times.”
That was easier to do than this next one, as it’s always easier to make assumptions about something that isn’t so close to home:
“My kid COULD possibly be mean to other kids, so I will listen with an open mind when another parent or teacher approaches me with hard things to say about my kid.”
It’s so much easier to assume my kid will be a nice, kind kid because I am raising him right, because I love him, because he’s mine, than to realize that it’s still a possibility he could do mean things that hurt others. Kind like that bully at school is like Bell and my kid is like Bandit.
I have found more and more that I cannot make blanket assumptions about anything anymore—even the things I’m nearly 100% sure about. Because the key word here is nearly. My pride has taken a beating over the years, that is for sure. And now my knee-jerk reaction when I hear someone say NEVER/CAN’T is too pipe up and explain how that isn’t possible and then it becomes a drawn out battle or argument in which I lord it over the other person who was foolish enough to make a blanket statement in my presence.
Well, I realize–––maybe not all that fully yet–––that I’ve a lot of wising up to do. I guess I don’t need to inform people all the time when I hear them say NEVER./CAN’T. I probably could just let them learn the hard way that it is way more likely a COULD/CAN thing than a NEVER/CAN’T thing. After all, I probably wouldn’t have learned this lesson if I hadn’t been cow-kicked by a horse that would NEVER kick me.
When I read this post, by Glennon Doyle Melton about the different levels of viewing and thinking about people, I realized I have started growing up. It took a kick from a horse and a few other bumps and bruises along the way, but I’m maybe now starting to grow past the “teenage stage” of seeing the world for what it is and pointing out the faults of others and thinking they are not very smart, or are still so very naïve if they are not pointing out the faults with me.
I’m learning to keep my mouth shut, but I’m still very new to this part of wisdom, in seeing the world for what it is and not having to point out the COULD/CANs to every person who says NEVER/CAN’T. I might even being starting down the path of gentleness and compassion. Though I may not have even yet started as I still want to pound it to them and often do in my head.
So I am sorry to those I’ve been quick to snark back at. I’m sorry for those I’ve had to point out what I assume is their faulty line of thinking that something is a NEVER/CAN’T and not a COULD/CAN. I’m sorry for being proud that I’m a COULD/CAN thinker. And I’m asking God to make me a COULD thinker in the positive way.
“This person COULD surprise me with something I could learn from them.”
“This animal COULD surprise me by actually behaving.”
“This kid CAN do good today even though every other day he’s done something bad.”
“I CAN change what I let out of my mouth even though I’ve failed every other time.”
COULD/CAN is the key word here. And then it’s all what you do with it from there.