From the flat top of the mesa, you can ride the Shetland down to Jennifer's house and catch toads on your way back more than two hours late, and this will be the first time you're grounded. You don't say the pony punished you enough riding you under the low branches, you too small to make it mind as the juniper grows its tangle of ancient blue tears.
When I told Grandma that I'd written you about Cherokee, her eyes went worried, and for the first time I understood that you don't write it if you can't be there to hold the person whose heart might break from reading it. I was too young to understand what to write and what not to write. I still don't understand.
Cherokee: I made almost 35 cents those two weeks, Grandpa pulling out his change pouch to pay me, me an ugly and awkward seven year old girl hauling the hose out to the trough and standing while it filled. I always needed to pee, doing a dance while the white water foamed the green edges, and then I grew up, but I'm still awkward inside.
You'd assume because they're small that they'll be better for kids, but the one I sat on thinking we were just standing looking out into the field decided he liked me better under his hoof. In less than a second, he was in the air, I was on the ground, and something told me to roll out of the way, and I did. I didn't tell mom because then I wouldn't be able to ride anymore.
So, I lead Cherokee up the winding dirt road, my hand lazy on the lead giving him too much play, and he pinches my shoulder between yellow, carrot snapping teeth. I holler, going down on one knee and come up with a fist like Grandpa taught me. I don't say, "Son of a b......," but I think of it even if I don't know what those words mean but to say, "You hurt me, and you won't hurt me again."
Cherokee goes down hard, the other horses in the field thinking the same words I did. And I shouldn't have written the letter repeating what I heard while Grandpa sat at the table smoking and drinking instant coffee: He died hard. Sometimes I think I understand that pony's meanness more than I should.