For years I kept a horse in my attic.
It was a good arrangement: He never got hungry, never complained about the lack of attention, and I never had to muck out his stall.
Like me, his hair turned from brown to gray over the years, but in other ways he held up better. Certainly there’s still a spring in his step that is absent from mine, and he can still carry a moderate load with no hint of soreness the next day.
Handcrafted by my Pawpaw, my horse was cobbled together with odd pieces of lumber, steel springs and a frayed manila rope for a tail. His original color was curiously the same shade as Pawpaw’s old house on Lennon Street in San Antonio. My horse wasn’t alone in the world either, because my sister had a horse of her own of very similar bearing.
If he ever had a name, I don’t remember it. He was always just “my horse,” or “the rocking horse,” and I rode him for many a mile. I was a Texas kid, so it was just natural that I should.
When I had children of my own, they all rode my horse, and he never complained about the change in riders. He dutifully carried them on their own adventures, bouncing along the dusty trails of their imaginations.
Eventually they outgrew him, and I led him out to pasture. He watched me silently as I closed the gate.
Years passed — years of heat and dust in the attic — and before long my horse’s most recent riders were leaving home. I watched them silently as they closed the front door and departed upon trails I couldn’t follow.
Through it all, my horse grazed quietly in his hot, dry pasture, probably unhappy, but never complaining. Then, just when I’d almost forgotten him, I heard him stamping among the rafters. I knew it was his way of telling me that the time had come. He had more work to do.
And so, together with my wife, we gathered his reins and gently led him back into a place he loves, a world of laughing children and make-believe.
With a good brushing and a new bridle, my horse looks proud again as he carries my grandson and granddaughter as they gallop along the trails of Virginia.
He’s happy again, and so am I.
I’m happy because with each squeak of my horse’s springs and with every giggle and shout from his rider, I see my Pawpaw, whose practicality, love and woodworking skill created something that has brought joy to three generations of children.
I think he’s happy, too.