by cheri sabraw
She buries her nose deep into the burlap feedbag, her velvety lips scooping up sweet molasses-dipped oats. All I can hear at this moment is the rhythmic grinding of her teeth as she satiates herself with sugar and grain after a long dusty day on the trail. I secure her halter to the tie line and while she eats, I unpack her red blanket.The night will be cold.
Throwing it over her broad honey-colored back, still damp from the vertical climb back to this old camp, I arrange it as I would a cumbersome tablecloth on an oak dining table. She is unconcerned. I pull the cotton straps under her belly and cinch them up, leaving a 4-inch space between the strap and her body. I test the measurement with my fist, still protected in my glove.
Then, still in my boots, I spear one sheaf of alfalfa hay from the back of her trailer, and drop it in front of her on the pine needle floor of the campsite I have selected for this week, an opportunity to be away from the many people in my life.
Dusk in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—and especially the Yosemite high country—offers a peace unknown to the modern city-dweller. My horse fed and watered, the tack cleaned with saddle soap and stored securely away from a nosy raccoon and frenetic chipmunks, the rope tethers tied in soft but secure knots—only now I can tend to my own needs, which at 7000 feet in a pine forest without electrical outlets, are few but significant.
What does one need in this life? I ask aloud, as I pull some old oak out of the trailer and a fire-starter cube.
No one answers. Content to be alone, I survey the way I have set my camp up, a physical task that took me all afternoon yesterday.
Now is my time to burn a fire.
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