Living in an Amish community, we see a lot of horses go by our house every day. The clip-clop of hooves on pavement and the rattle of buggy wheels are a regular cadence around here. Recently, however, I saw one of our neighbor boys riding a horse, cantering down the side of our road. Not many Amish ride horses, very few, in fact.
Our son’s old saddle – the one he learned to ride in – was out in the barn suffering from disuse. I called him to ask if he minded if I gave it to the boy. He gave me the go-ahead, and I had every intention of doing just that. I watched for the boy to come back down the road.
Once I spied him, I walked across our front yard when that Still Small Voice whispered in my ear. I shouldn’t give the boy the saddle. I should give him a way to earn it. I mentally thumbed through my gray matter as I dragged my toes in the grass trying to come up with something…until I had that “ah-HA!” moment.
I called out to him, and he stopped. That’s when I noticed he had four plastic grocery bags tied to his waist with a thick horse lead rope. This boy needed a saddle. I knew who his parents were but hadn’t met him before, so I introduced myself. He told me his name was Alan, and that he was 12 years old. The rest of the conversation went like this,
“Do you need a saddle?”
“I sure do.”
“I’ve got one that would fit you. It was the saddle my son learned to ride in. And I’ve got a sheep pen in the barn that needs to be cleaned out. Are you interested in a swap?”
That old saying about an ear-to-ear grin? Yeah. It happens.
He slipped off his horse, and we untangled him from his groceries before tying the horse to our hitching rail where she could sniff noses with our three horses. Then I showed him the sheep pen, it’s a big one, but he said he could do that okay. So then I showed him the saddle.
That saying about lighting up like a Christmas tree? Yeah. That happens too.
We tossed the saddle pad and saddle on his mare, and they fit like they were made for her. I showed him how to tie the cinch knot and we shortened the stirrups – a lot. Then we secured his grocery sacks to the saddle horn.
“You going to let me take it now?”
“You going to come back and clean that pen?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then I figure you can take the saddle now.”
He left our driveway at a high lope. His head was high. His back was straight. He was the picture of a young man in the driver’s – or in this case, the rider’s – seat.
Alan was here bright and early the following Monday morning, one of the hottest and most humid of the summer. But he worked that dirty, stinky job with a smile on his face. Because once the work was done, that saddle was his, and not as a cast-off from the old lady down the road. It’s his saddle because he earned it. Priceless.
image from dreamstime.com