I’m starting to feel like one of those people who buys a fancy new car, then continues to drive the old clunker every day to keep the new one clean and shiny for special occasions. I’ve hunted Crossbo the last three Sundays, and on the intervening Wednesdays and Saturdays, if I went, I was on Arthur. Actually, Crossbo’s Sunday-only use has a good reason.
I’m still trying to introduce him gently to hunting, and I think the 2 PM Sunday schedule is a little less exciting than getting rounded up in the dark for an 8 AM hunt. Also, I want to rotate and not hunt either horse two days in a row. So Arthur gets Saturday and Crossbo gets Sunday. I could flip a coin on Wednesday, or alternate, but I think I’ll stick with Arthur on Wednesdays until we shift to afternoon hunting next week.
The rotation does keep some people confused, since both horses are chestnut. I think all my Pack buddies have the identities nailed, but other hunters still get confused. Last Sunday, a staff member met Crossbo for the first time, and was appropriately appreciative of his magnificence. Wednesday, she rode past me and Arthur and said “Good lookin’ horse!” Since she’s had seven years to comment on Arthur’s beauty, she obviously thought she was looking at Crossbo again. On the other hand, at the end of today’s hunt, our huntsman asked how Arthur had done today, and I responded that he was at home. All these damn chestnuts look alike to some people.
Considering the fixtures this weekend, I gave some thought to switching my schedule. Saturday’s territory would be good for gentle break-in, while Sunday’s was likely to venture into territory more suitable for mountain goats. Both horses are ready for a farrier visit, but Arthur’s shoes looked more likely to withstand a rock climb.
I finally decided that Crossbo needed to learn to handle rough terrain sometime, and if he ripped a shoe off today, I’d be hunting Arthur Wednesday so it wouldn’t matter. It turned out to be the right decision. Saturday’s hunt gave us enough running for Arthur to prove he’s still got what it takes. And Sunday Crossbo got to show just how far he’s come. In fact, as we were scrambling up and down rocky cliffs in single file, I commented that if I’d been on Arthur, we probably would have crashed into somebody’s back end more times than I could count. Crossbo did a very good job of keeping the pace while leaving a good safety margin ahead of us (except for one time when he decided he wanted to get out of a creek as quickly as possible). I did have my heart in my throat at one point, as a hound dropped off a bank onto the trail in front of us, practically under Crossbo’s front feet. He did a splendid job of pacing himself, keeping his front feet just inches behind the hound for a few long seconds until the hound finally moved away. (For the benefit of any non-hunters reading this, the unpardonable sin of stepping on a hound would have instantly negated all of his other good qualities).
There was one minor casualty of the weekend, which was more embarrassing than injurious, although it had the potential to be far worse. Saturday, I returned home just as the mail carrier was approaching my mailbox. I pulled into the driveway and hopped out to pick up the mail. I took a shortcut between the truck and trailer, hit my head on the gooseneck, and knocked myself on my ass. As I staggered to my feet, the mail carrier asked if I was okay. Then, bless her heart, she averted a disaster by telling me I dropped my wallet or something when I fell. The “something” turned out to be my flask. It had already served its purpose for the day, and if its loss had gone unnoticed, I could certainly have found some other suitable container. But this flask was a gift from my younger brother (the non-hunting one), and taking communion from it provides an eternal reminder of the appreciation of the sacraments understood even by one who does not actively practice the faith. A new flask would be just a flask.