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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 12

Faith

Heathemoor Farm had come about in a very supernatural way. We had started desiring a larger farm than our cozy five acres in the middle of someone else’s two hundred acres. The desire increased continually. We had no money to buy a bigger farm, but I remembered a verse my seventh grade Bible teacher had taught us:

Delight thyself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

“If God is first in your life,” she had said, “He will give you the desire itself as well as the object.” John and I asked God to take away this desire if it was not from Him. If He had truly put this longing in our hearts, He would have to bring it about.

True to His word, He did not remove the desire and He worked it out with no money from us. We had also asked for a story that would be so unique that the telling of it would prove to people that the God of the Bible was still doing the same things today as He did in the Bible days. That is how we got this beautiful farm, but that’s a different story.

In the midst of these happy times there was ever a great burden hovering over our shoulders. The Heavenly Father was testing us, instructing us, stretching us. It was not His intent to save us from problems, but to teach us to trust in the midst of them, to trust Him to bring us through them. We had much to learn, not only about the horse business and the business of trusting God, but also about ourselves. We had been led into the horse business by some remarkable sign posts, but now we owned some fine young colts we could not sell. Untrained colts were not in demand in our part of the country; in fact, finished show horses themselves were not worth much here. The center of the horse business was around Lexington, Kentucky, and we were far from there and had no name that drew people from other parts of the country. How could we sell them? How could we train them?

It seemed we had come to a vast, dry desert. The miracles had stopped. Our story had never reached a climax. It appeared that the Heavenly Father had led us to a dead end, no one would be inspired. And, that was not all; I knew nothing about our finances at that time. Then, one evening I learned that all of our earthly assets were gone. John’s monthly salary was all that stood between us and disaster. I was devastated. That night I could not sleep. I got out of bed, put on my robe, and went for a walk. I walked out into the wide plain of the front pasture, where there were no trees or buildings to detract from the vastness of the sky. I sat down in the damp sweet grass and looked at the unfathomable black dome above me which twinkled with a million stars.

I got a small glimpse of the hugeness of the universe and the relative insignificance of man. In the past, such glimpses used to give me a sense of loneliness, of a lostness in this vast sea. Yet strangely there had never been that feeling of loneliness since we had moved to the country. Rather, there was a definite sense of a friendly Presence that permeated the entire atmosphere.

As I gazed up at the starry heavens, I thought of Abraham in the Bible. God called him out also to wonder at such a sky. He, too, was facing a broad desert for he was an old man and God had told him to try to count those uncountable stars. He told him that even though he had not a single child then, he would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. It seemed to me the same God that spoke to Abraham so long ago spoke to me that night. “Look all around you,” He seemed to say. “Are you not living in a miracle? Is not all this faith made sight?” I looked at the expanse of pastures stretching all around me, the dark forms of the mares grazing, the beautiful house in the distance, silvery white and silent against the dark background of the trees and the starry brilliance of the sky. Not one of us could have dreamed only a few years before that all this could ever be ours, that I should be mistress of this farm and these fine horses. It had come about in ways so out of the ordinary. It was a miracle! I was standing in the middle of a miracle! “If I could bring this to pass, if I could turn that shadowy dream into this substance, can’t you trust me to finish the story?” the voice seemed to say. I remembered the Biblical definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith was believing when you could not see.

The next step seemed clear to me that night. I had to wrench my grip away from all earthly security and with the arms of faith grab on literally for dear life to the promises of God. Although my only other choice was despair, it took a violent effort to make the switch, to reach out into the darkness and take hold of God, but the evidence of Him being there was all around me. From that point on I was almost afraid to have anything earthly to cling to, for fear I would have to make that leap again.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It is the vehicle necessary to bring the promises of God into this natural creation. Without faith we cannot please God. By faith Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. I pray the same for me.

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 11

The Curse- Vicky

Vicky was a chestnut mare that I had eyes on since she was a colt playing in the field of a farm in Tennessee. She grew up to be very much like her dam, a famous show horse since her yearling days. Her dam, Denmark’s Vixen, was well named because she was almost vicious toward anyone except for her owner and our good friend, Bob Smith. The elder Vixen, a royally bred lady herself, had been mated with Blanchita’s Society Rex, who was later to become our miracle stallion. Their young daughter, therefore, was heiress to the best that royal blood could promise. It seemed that fate was jealous of something as especially endowed as young Vixen and determined to even the score with the chestnut filly Vicky. In her first two years she was dealt a series of devastating blows, but the trials only proved the gold of Vicky’s brave spirit, and she overcame them all. Her first bout was with a severe case of colitis. The veterinarian who attended her gave Vicky up for dead. When she struggled back to life, he declared she was the only horse he ever knew to survive the terrible disease.

Later she was left for dead by sunstroke only to miraculously recover. The doctor declared she would be so weakened by the assaults on her health that she could never stand the strain of traveling to a horse show. So, fairly early in her life, Vicky became a broodmare. We were happy indeed when circumstances caused our paths and Vicky’s to cross again when she was six years old and came to live at Heathermoor Farm to join Denmark’s harem.

We eagerly, somewhat nervously, awaited Vicky’s foaling time in the spring for we remembered the vet’s gloomy prophecy about the delicateness of her constitution. One overcast morning I noticed Vicky lying down in the paddock that surrounded the barn. At first I gave it no thought as I went about my duties, but an hour went by and Vicky got up and moved but once. I looked at her closely to see if any of the immediate signs of foaling had appeared and they hadn’t. She didn’t seem upset. And, she was not going through the usual pre-foaling routine of nervously walking and constantly getting up and down. She just lay quietly. Later that morning it became apparent that Vicky was having some sort of trouble and I called the vet.

We had seen many foals born in our experience, or at least we had been around when they were expected and then safely delivered by their dams. Yet, only once had we encountered a difficult birth among our mares or even our neighbors’ mares. Mares usually foal quite easily and efficiently by themselves. But, all the books warned that when trouble struck with a mare it was nearly always fatal to mare or foal, and the quickest of action was necessary.

Our vet, Barbara Benhart, arrived. She was quite unlike the stereotypical idea of a “horse-doctor” and this small, pretty, lady-like person limited her practice to only horses. Small and delicate as she appeared, she was an able doctor. She seemed afraid of nothing and able to handle any horse with the help of her black bag of magical tranquilizers and anesthetics. On examining Vicky, she announced that Vicky was indeed in trouble. Her foal’s head was bent backwards instead of lying on the front legs and pointed out the birth canal as it should be. It was a very difficult presentation. By now Vicky was in hard labor. The bog of water had burst and the two little feet were in view. Vicky was now down, stretched out on her side, in the typical position of a foaling mare. Barbara stretched out on her, stomach on the ground behind the mare and tried to push the foal back between the contractions so that she could find and grasp its nostrils with her fingers and pull the bent head around. A neighboring farmer came to help, but the contractions of the mare fought against all efforts to push her foal back enough to straighten its neck. In a little while it became evident that the foal’s neck was broken by the hard muscular contractions that battered it against the mare’s pelvic bones. By now Vicky had gone into shock and had lost consciousness. It seemed fate had finally overcome the promise of her illustrious heritage. Then with the help of a calf-pulling winch and another vet and Barbara, Vicky delivered a beautiful filly – its future already erased by death.

We administered glucose intravenously to the unconscious mare. As I sat there on the tender spring grass by her unconscious body and held the glucose bottle as it dripped slowly into her veins, I was overcome with depression. It seemed a sickening waste. All that was involved in producing that little dead body which lay on the ground behind me came to me; the mating of the mare and stallion at just the right time, the miracle of contraception that had produced in eleven months from two microscopic cells the fully formed young horse. Not only had it grown but it had been packaged so beautifully for safety during the incubation period in a shock absorbent waterbed with padding around the little hooves lest they poke a hole in the cellophane bag this miracle package was wrapped in. The wonderful timing system that had begun the birth process and filled the mare’s udder with colostrum that would immunize the colt against any diseases. There was warm pale milk waiting behind the colostrum and the wonderful, knowing instincts that should tell the mare to turn and lick this strange little wet body and love it and endure the first ticklish torment while it poked its head around her ticklish belly looking for the teat it knew would be there. And, there was the fierce maternal instinct that would turn the mare into a fighting machine if any other creature approached the foal’s rubber legged body which she’d never seen before. All these miracles and countless more could only speak of a designer, an engineer, a chemist, a physicist and even more because all these mechanisms that made up the horse was Life itself. A part of this life was love, the warm and almost bewildered excitement this mare would have for her baby.

But, even with all this perfect planning, something had gone terribly wrong. This mare lay unconscious scarcely breathing, and this foal so marvelously produced was dead. There could be no moral judgment on this animal. Vicky was just a helpless victim of some cosmic mistake. But, whose mistake was it? If God made the plan, had he also made the mistake? For indeed something had gone so very wrong. Then I remembered Romans 8:22 which I had learned years ago:

The whole creation is groaning in travail together with us. For we know that the things of nature like plants and animals suffer, in sickness and death as they await the great event. On that day thorn’s thistles, sin, death, and decay will disappear.

What I was seeing in Vicky’s fate was the result of the age-old curse brought on by man’s sin. For the whole universe had become violently bent, twisted from its original perfect purpose when man first wrenched himself from God and gave ear to the devil’s lies. It was to undo this curse that the Redeemer had died. The creation I loved so well was waiting on tiptoe with me for the great day when “death and decay would disappear” and we would share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children will enjoy. Another piece of the puzzle of life suddenly slipped into place.

The glucose bottle had dripped empty and there was still no stir from Vicky. We covered her body with a sheet to protect it from the immense heat as the sun headed for high noon. There was nothing else we could do so we headed towards the house. After a meal, we went to check on Vicky, but the sheet-draped mound was not on the ground where we left it! To our amazement Vicky was across the pasture grazing with the other mares! Since we had removed the dead foal’s body and Vicky had never seen it, her maternal instincts had not been set into motion and the tragedy for her did not even exist. Another of the Creator’s miracles. Once again Vicky had faced death and won. She broke the curse and through the years three other foals arrived with beautiful ease to mother and child.

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 10

The Purpose of Trials, Black Beauty

In the early days of our adventures in God through Heathermoor Farm, we had our first crop of colts from our beautiful stallion Richlieu Firefly. We had come to own this eleven year old stallion in an unusual way, as we did every other horse we had. But, I will tell you about that another time. We had just acquired our two “big time” mares, Denmark’s Touch of Genius whom we called Peggy because she had a peg leg, and Lady Jane Denmark, or Doll. The rest of the herd was made up of Mailee Dare, Sparking Blade and Grassland’s Dream who we called Kitty. Since Mailee Dare was Richlieu’s daughter, we could not breed her to Richlieu so the other mares were in his harem. The next spring, on Easter Sunday, little Kitty foaled a beautiful high-headed chestnut foal that we named Heathermoor’s Easter Firefly. Our beautiful bay Peggy also foaled a jet black handsome colt except for a small star on his forehead, just like the beloved Black Beauty of Anna Sewell’s novel. We called him Heathermoor’s Black Beauty. He had Peggy’s long neck and size and was truly beautiful. Poor Sparkle had a tragedy and her newborn foal drowned in the lake.

Black Beauty had a mind of his own. I tried to ride him once. Then John had a try with him and he threw John so high that he went up to the end of the reins and pulled the bridle right off his head! Richard, our second son, had a relaxed, gentle way with the horses. As a small boy he had exhibited Mailee in the local horse shows. She was a large mare and Richard’s legs hardly came to Mailee’s round sides. In order to tell what canter lead he was on, he would hang over the correct shoulder to see if the proper leg was forward and the audience would gasp as he suspended his small body in the air. But Richard never fell off.

So, Richard became our chief colt rider by the time he was twelve years old. We decided it was his time to tackle Black Beauty. I roped off a small area next to the barn because we didn’t have a round pen at that time. I put Black Beauty on the lounge with Richard on him. That same spell Richard seemed to have over animals prevailed and Black Beauty was not in the least offended by this boy’s presence on his back. After Richard had several successful rides on the colt I decided to give him a try. I got on him in the stall by standing on the tall board and stepping over onto his back and rode him outside the stall to the ring. Everything went well as we made several passes around the track and then suddenly – I can still feel it as vividly as if it were yesterday -the muddy ground was flying up at my face and Black Beauty was in another place from where I was. My ankle was in a funny position, but I finally hobbled back to the barn and shortly ended up in a cast.

Since we were so out of the horse country and were unknown we decided to sell the two coming two-year olds at Tatterstalls Spring Sale  in Lexington, Kentucky. This was the very first product of Heathermoor Farm. The Farm had started as an adventure in faith and was off to a pretty good start in the way of impossibilities happening so I was sure that our beautiful colts would bring a respectable price. However, we had a problem as Black Beauty couldn’t be ridden except by a twelve-year old boy. The sale is the place where horses are sold “as is” and no guarantees are necessary. It would have sounded good to say Black Beauty could be ridden by a twelve-year-old boy, but that would have been misleading. Easter was younger and smaller than Beauty, so we hadn’t even tried to do anything with him as yet. We decided to just lead the colts through the sale and sell them at halter. That way the new owner would know he was dealing with unbroken colts.

John and Mike took the two colts to the sale. They were truly elegant colts and I sent them off with high hopes. As it turned out Black Beauty was the highest selling colt at the sale, but instead of the thousand dollars I was expecting, he brought only six hundred and Easter only three hundred. I was so disappointed. At that time in my life the pain of adverse things was so great to me that I would lash out at anything I could. I just didn’t know how to control myself. The only one besides John that was there to unload my anger on was God, and so I complained bitterly to Him that He had let me down. But my gracious Heavenly Father, the Creator of the whole universe and me, who could have zapped me to Kingdom Come or turned His back on me forever, did neither. Soon that still quiet voice brought a verse to my mind. – Romans 8:28-29:

All things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

I knew that part well. Indeed to me that verse should have assured that those colts sold well. Yet somehow the next verse had been hidden from my understanding, and the Holy Spirit began to speak it to me then:

For those whom He called He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.

The truth of that verse suddenly stung me. So that was the purpose of everything! It was not that we should have great success in the horse business, although that could happen, but the main thing was that the circumstances of life were designed to mold me into the image of His Son! The very purpose of this event had been to show me this truth and whittle away at this anger I had when I didn’t get my way. The greatest success we could have would be when the “fruit of the Spirit” which is love, joy, and peace, the character of Jesus, should be manifested in our life. When these lovely fruits are blooming in our heart then nothing life throws at us could upset us.

I didn’t learn this lesson perfectly at this time by any means, but I had the understanding of it. The blue print of this truth had been laid out in my heart.

As for the fate of the colts: We later read in The National Horseman that Black Beauty had been sold to a farm in the North and was their Fine Harness prospect. I wondered if it was because they tried to ride him? Easter became a champion in the west. His owner later came all the way to Alabama to see his dam and look for a show horse prospect like him.

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 9

Focus

When I was in college, my sister was always a beauty queen and won the title of “Teen Queen of Birmingham” and with it fifty dollars. She announced to all of Birmingham in a radio interview that she was giving it to her sister to breed her mare! My mother swooned as that was a definite no-no in those days. Real ladies never mentioned breeding animals! This resulted in my first foal born while I was a freshman at the University of Alabama. Soon another foal was on its way and I left school to support my growing herd of horses before my father found out. But, that was years before John and I moved our family of four children to the country.

Blanchita was Mailee Dare’s first foal and my first since those college days. Blanchita’s short life was a beginning study for our family in producing and raising colts. She also was God’s tool for teaching us the first lesson in meeting life’s most profound moments. We gave her to Mike as a yearling to be his to train and ride, since he had outgrown Snowfire, the grey welsh pony he had trained and ridden to an unending list of championships for fifty inch ponies. When Blanchita was two years old, Mike began her training. Two days after he began riding her, she escaped from her stall during the night. She pawed at the steel gates across the hall of the barn and caught her leg in one. The gate, still caught on her leg, came off its hinges and the frightened filly bolted. John and I awoke to the dreadful noise of pounding hooves and the dragging and clanging of metal. Right outside my bedroom window the frantic bedlam came suddenly to an end, and the resulting quiet was interrupted by a pitiful bleat.

Our hearts were pounding with fright as we raced outside and found the filly standing on three legs, her right, foreleg dangling from her body. Her eyes begged us for help. I held her mangled leg as she stood trembling and sweating while John ran for a gun. We knew there was nothing else to be done but end her agony. The sound of the rifle shot waked the children and my heart died as Mike screamed from his window, “You’re killing my horse! You’re killing my horse!” The first bullet missed its mark. I’ll never forget the bewildered look of the filly as the ones she had turned to for help offered her nothing but more pain. The second bullet ended her pain.

As the young mare’s body crumpled to the ground and my young son’s cries eased, my heart was breaking. I screamed to the sky, “Why, God? Why? How could you allow such agony of body and soul? Why? Oh, why?” My heart screamed! How could this be allowed by the God I loved so much? I hurled my question to the Universe. My body convulsed with the horror of this event.

And then it was as if the still of night wrapped its arms around me. There was an embrace of love, more tender and more comforting than my own mother’s arms when she had soothed away my childhood misery. A still, small voice spoke to my heart; although to me it came from all outdoors: “This is My responsibility, not yours. All this pain, this seeming betrayal of love. This anguish of heart in man and child and beast. You have the cross to prove my love. Look at the cross! Look at the cross and that is where you will see me as I am. The rest is my responsibility. Trust Me!”

The stars looked friendly again that warm summer night, with the smell of honeysuckle heavy in the air. Soon after, Mike went peacefully off to bed. As I will never forget the pain of that night, so I will never forget the tremendous reality of that answer. There is so much I can’t understand, but all that is God’s responsibility. I have the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ as the pledge of God’s love. The cross is indeed the focus point of all history and all of history is measured by it. All other things become shadows in the light of its majesty. Sometime, somehow, all that we don’t understand will be brought into focus in the light of that Eternal Love who rules the universe. My part is only to look at this great love revealed in the cross. That is where you will find me.

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 8

Character: Olive Oil

Whenever I think of character, a small black cat trimmed in immaculate white glides across my memory. Her name is Olive Oil. She was named for the stick-like girlfriend of Popeye the Sailor Man in the comics. From the tip of her long black tail to her white nose, she was scarcely any thicker than a stick figure, but inside her sleek narrow body was as much character as an elephant could hold if size were the measure of that commodity.

Olive Oil lived at Heathermoor Farm with us. She had far too much gumption to encroach upon our living quarters at the house. Her domain was the barn. She lived there on equal footing with us. She was certainly not an indulged pet, rather she was on “staff,” one of our operation being in charge of rat control and the producing and rearing of her replacements in the ranks of her crew. She did her job so well that she was quite entitled to the dignity she claimed for herself.  As any faithful employee of an organization, she expected her wages on time. Hers were expected in the form of plenty of prepared cat food for herself and her offspring. Being a lady of great taste she had a decided preference for the most expensive brand. When at times our unimaginative grocery store ran out of her choice, she very firmly registered her dislike for the inferior grade offered as a replacement. At first she greeted the strange food in her bowl with an expression of bewilderment, then turning away from it, tail and nose high she slowly and deliberately walked over to a favorite spot and by gentle, but firm, meows registered her disappointment with us.

In the morning when I came down to the barn followed by the frolicking dogs, Olive sedately emerged from under the front door of the barn. Never ever losing her dignity she trotted up to meet me uttering a greeting and standing on her hind legs and bowing her head offering me the back of her neck for one caress. No one would ever take liberties with Olive Oil or try to reduce her to the status of pet by picking her up or cuddling her. Our relationship was strictly as equals – creatures who enjoy each other’s company, have a great deal of affection for one another, and who are engaged together in the big job of running Heathermoor Farm. However, the mettle of Olive’s character showed up best as a mother.  We gave her the title of “Mother of the Year.”

When Olive and her gray husband arrived at Heathermoor, the gift of our neighbor Mr. Poole, the place was infested with rats – big bold rats that would stop and stare at you as if to tell you to get off their property. Although Olive and her husband were only kittens they began to work on the rat population right away. Eventually Olive and her offspring completely wiped out the rat population.

Before the year was out, Olive became a mother. In my observation of several generations of cat families, it seems that all family responsibilities belong to the female. The male grows up depending on his mother to feed him until in desperation she drives him away. After that the Toms just hung around and ate for about a year until their necks and heads filled out full “Toni Cat” size. At this point they began to wander more and more often until finally we seldom saw them again. Occasionally they would drop in just to say hello and then disappear again. They seemed to live only to breed and fight, never giving a thought to the families they left behind. And so Olive was abandoned by her husband and left to raise three babies in the tack trunk. She spent long hours nursing and licking her kittens interspersed with increasingly longer and more frequent hunting trips to bring home fresh meat she needed to meet the ever increasing need of her children, and her already frail body. When the babies opened their eyes and began to take an interest in their surroundings she began to bring them birds and mice in addition to her milk.

As the babies grew they began to run out of their safe nest which by now had been moved behind the tack trunk. Their very real danger was being stepped on by the horses. Horse legs standing on the concrete floor of the barn hall must have seemed like giant trees in the forest to the tiny kittens. Although Olive darted around the huge legs with split second timing, the kittens were as yet incapable of that maneuver. The horses’ feet took their toll on the kittens. Olive seemed to realize this as the litters went by for she dearly loved her children.

One day her babies were playing on the sun warmed floor by the big barn door when someone brought in a thousand plus pound horse. Olive darted in to assist me as I was grabbing and kicking kittens out of the way. Realizing the apparent futility of our efforts, Olive decided there was nothing to do but match her two pounds against the hind legs of the horse. She arched her back and flung her fiery self at the horse’s legs. I don’t think the horse hardly felt the little cat attack him, but miraculously he stepped around the kittens!

RC, Rafter Cat, lives in the barn and has for years!
Xena, proudly looking over her dominion of The Red Barn property
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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 7

Submission, Madam

I remember so well the first day I saw her. It was in the summer after the seventh grade. Our family had been living in California during the war while Daddy was stationed at Pearl Harbor. During this time I got my first horse, Sox, which we kept in a stall behind the garage. My life was devoted to caring for Sox. But we moved back to Birmingham when Daddy’s tour of duty in the Navy was over. I sadly had to leave Sox behind. Back M Birmingham I hung out at the riding stable where my best friend Susu boarded her horse. One Saturday afternoon when I was at the barn with Susu some neighbors rode their horses over to use the riding ring. The man was riding a gorgeous big red chestnut gelding named Dandy Dick. He was a lot of horse and was not fully cooperating, but I was awed at his beauty. The lady was riding a feminine version of the big red horse. She was a dainty chestnut mare with the “look of eagles” in her eyes. This was my first real encounter with the American Saddlebred horse and :1 was deeply stirred. They were quite a step up from the rental horses I was used to or even my Calvary bred Sox. Their size, satiny coats, and their beautiful and spirited expression captured my heart. I went home deeply desiring a horse like these.

Sometime later, a large picture of the lady riding the same mare appeared on the front page of the Society section of the Sunday Paper and I found out that the beautiful mare was named Madam Stark. I carried this picture around for months, maybe even a year. I slept with it under my pillow at night. Madam dominated my thoughts. I had no hopes of owning this mare. I understood that we had no place to keep a horse and just could not have one now.

Then one day my understanding, but unhorse wise, parents took me to a farm in Calera, Alabama that belonged to a friend of Daddy’s. They told me that their friends who owned the farm had a horse for me to ride. Eagerly I made the trip to Calera with my mother. We walked into the attractive stable and to the stall of the horse I was to ride. I looked in the stall and instead of just an ordinary horse as I was expecting was the beautiful red Saddlebred mare that I had ridden in my dreams every night, even as her picture lay under my pillow. Confused, I thought Daddy’s friends had bought her and I was shaken. Then my unselfish mother said, “Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday again!” It turned out that Mother had given up her offer of a new fur coat to buy me the darling of my heart! I just couldn’t take it all in that Madam Stark belonged to me!

That day a tumultuous friendship that lasted until my children were born began between a little girl and a high-strung mare. Little did my parents suspect the traumatic days that lay ahead. 

I learned to ride Madam that summer. In modern terms she was like a high-powered sports car in comparison to a Volkswagen bug to any of the other horses I had ever ridden. And, I had no teacher. She was quick as lightning and super responsive to the least signal from me or the things that she perceived as danger to her eagle gaze. She never missed a thing. In our later days (after I had learned to ride her) she was as game as they come and on our trail rides my fiend’s apparently calmer horse often didn’t have the heart to make it over the treacherous mountains and other wild places which our parents had no idea we were exploring. But Madam never balked at anything and when I had to leave her standing in treacherous places to go and encourage the gentler horses, she stood like a statue until I came back to her. Every time I asked her to tackle anything she gave it all she had and then some.

However at the first, she was so much more horse than I was ready for at the time my unsuspecting parents bought ‘her. I was not the experienced trainer that a spirited horse needs. Rather she was training me to her own likings. So, on the early days of our association she acquired a very nasty habit of rearing on her hind legs when she wanted to do a different thing than I did. Learning that her rearing got her way, it became even more dangerous as she would stand up so straight on her bind legs that I would fear loosing my balance and falling backward on the reins, thus pulling her over onto her back and me. One time this feared scenario happened. I did not get out of the way quickly enough and her thousand pounds of muscle came crashing down on top of me. An ambulance carried me away to the hospital to discover that I had a broken pelvis. This required months of bed rest flat on my back with the foot of the bed slightly higher than the head.

During this time I missed the last semester of the eighth grade, but was allowed to graduate from grammar school anyway. During my convalescence my adult visitors would inevitably  say, “I bet you will never get on that horse again!” I passed it off fully believing  nothing could ever make me afraid of a horse. Finally, I was able to go and see Madame again, and I was so excited. ‘But, when I first put my hand on her shiny coat, the most unexpected thing happened – a terrible fear enveloped me! It was so awful that I envisioned skulls and blood and all sorts of grotesque things I had never thought of before.

My pride would never let me admit this fear to anyone. A super horsewoman was what I thought of myself and I couldn’t let anyone know my terrible secret! So gradually I forced myself to face the perceived dangers that I feared. I blamed the slowness of my actual riding her on my healing body, but I was inwardly dreading the thought of getting on her back again. In fact, just leading her was fearful. But eventually I faced my fears and began riding her again.  It wasn’t long before she remembered her trick and I knew that if I didn’t conquer her, then I would have to face up to something that I dreaded. even more – having to give her up and let the world know of my shameful fear. Oh! How proud I was!

I know now what I didn’t know then, although I instinctively understood the principle: If Madame won she would be worthless – a rebellious and dangerous horse. And, I would be a failure as a horsewoman.

When the heavenly Father created all things he gave to man the dominion over the creation. The creatures and resources of the earth were for us to use, to care for, and to manage for our mutual good. The creation was to work in harmony with man. The animals were to serve man, and Proverbs tells us that a good man considers the needs of his beasts. The strictest laws of the Jewish laws in the Old Testament Sabbath provides for the care of the ox. A rebellious horse was not a good thing. It was definitely against the Father’s plan as it was good for nothing. A horse was designed and bred for many purposes: some for speed, some for great strength in pulling things, some for working cattle, some for jumping, and some for the advanced disciplines in many fields. To develop the horses for talents to the finest pitch involves a perfect union between horse and rider, as in a symphony or ballet. The horse must be completely submissive and willing to give every thing he has to the subtlest commands of the rider’s hands on the reins and the least movement of his body. To be really successful the horse must love his work. This can come about only with the careful training of a good horseman who understands a particular horse’s personality and its physical endowments. The trainer has to learn just what the horse can do mentally and physically, and then set about training it by degrees until there is complete unity between them. As no horse or rider stays trained forever, it is the constant tuning of the relationship between the horse and rider that allows the best in each to arise. Only then can we see the beautiful ballet that can be exhibited in any of the several horse disciplines when horse and rider move in perfect harmony as if directed by one mind as indeed they are – the mind of the horse perfectly yielded to the mind of the rider. What a picture this is of the way God created man to function with Himself. This is what we were created for, this perfect unity. Us rising to the peak of our abilities as we live completely submitted to His every direction. This is what the Bible is about It is the manufacturer’s handbook for the product – man and the world we have been given dominion over.

So, I planned my attack. I put her halter on over her bridle with a long rope attached. Around my waist I wrapped a rawhide bullwhip Daddy had bought me in Mexico. I mounted, holding the long rope attached to her halter with the reins. It wasn’t long before she refused to go where I asked. her to and threatened to rear to get her way, Immediately I jumped off of her holding the long halter rope. With the other hand I grabbed the bullwhip around my waist and started swinging the whip at her front legs. She reared and lunged pulling me all over the paddock, but at every lunge I got in another cut on her legs with the whip. My rope arm and my whip arm were killing me, but I knew that I had to win or I would loose this battle forever. Finally, when I felt like I didn’t have enough strength to swing the whip one more time the most amazing thing-happened: the mare came toward me even as I was attacking her and ‘laid her head on my chest signaling her complete submission. From that time on she never reared again.

In later years when the God I loved so much was trying to show me the error of my ways, it seemed like He was pursuing me with a bull whip as all the props in my life were being pulled out. I questioned the reason that I was born and the meaning of good, feeling like everything I counted well in life He counted badly and He proceeded to lay the whip against me. There came a dramatic moment when I saw, through the book of Job, that I had been calling the shots as if I were God. I was trying to rule my universe; I had set my heart on my own way and refused to bow to Him, the only wise God. Finally the light dawned in my own heart as it had dawned in Madame’s heart years before: I must cast myself totally on the mercy of the one who indeed was my Master, and because he loved me so much, was trying to show me His purpose for me in the only way that I could ever be made to see. His plan for me was to be what he had created me to be which was the only way I could find true happiness. It was just the same as my plan for Madame. She was created to submit to me, her loving, adoring master in order to fulfill the reason for her creation.

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 6

Seville, My Ishmael

Seville was a beautiful Arabian stallion. He gave me much joy and much pain. Yet he was much more in my life than just a prized possession, or even the financial disaster that he turned out to be. 

The American Saddlebred horse had always been our first love. I got my first one in the seventh grade. Madam Stark was the light of my life until John and I got married, even though she did rear up and fall over backwards on me and break my pelvis. I missed most of the eighth grade because of this. 

After I met John in high school, we acquired together a beautiful black Saddlebred gelding named Peavine’s Artistic Denmark. He had been a five gaited, then a three gaited show horse of a sort and then became a jumper before he became our trail horse complete with roached mane and set tail which was also roached (like a mule’s). We kept him until John joined the army. Desperate to sell him before he left to go to basic training, John decided to sell him at the Saturday Night Sale in Birmingham Hide and Tallow. It was under the viaduct on First Avenue. Good horses would go to individuals and dude ranches, and sadly, others would go for the “killers,” dog meat. As we had no access to trucks and trailers, John rode Denmark all the way from Shades Mountain to First Avenue South, right through the middle of downtown Birmingham. Before the sale began, John sold him for $35 to a farmer for his children to ride. 

There were lots of Saturday night horse shows in Alabama in those days and I had been watching the beautiful Saddlebred show horses perform since I was very young. Quite naturally my affection was for them, so when John and I got back into horses after our children were born it was with Saddlebreds. After several prosperous years at Heathermoor Farm we went through some hard times and couldn’t sell our horses. John was depressed about it and I prayed that God would give him something to encourage him. During this time the Arabian horses were being marketed internationally in an amazing way as “living art.” There were wonderful tax advantages to this industry. Since the Arabian was raised in many countries, great tax deductions could be had for traveling anywhere if you were in the Arab horse business. The major financial magazines were declaring that investments in Arabian horses were a good bet. So we began to look at these quaint little horses and John got very excited about the financial prospects. I looked at these horses with him, but my heart would yearn for our rangy, high going Saddlebreds. 

Then some other eager entrepreneurs came up with a new twist. The Arabian horse was beautiful as “living art,” but as performing show horses they were not nearly as exciting as the Saddlebred. Breeding Arabians to Saddlebreds might give this ancient breed more action and greater size. 

Thus the National Show Horse breed was established. For five thousand dollars Arabian stallions could be nominated to the NSH stud book and their foals out of American Saddlebred mares would be National Show Horses. This amazing marketing program was catapulting this new breed into the limelight. 

This seemed to be the answer to our problem. Breed our wonderful Saddlebred mares to nominated Arabian stallions and sell the foals for fortunes! How could we do this? We didn’t have that kind of money. To buy our own stallion would cost thousands of dollars that we didn’t have. Then one day the impossible happened. 

A commercial horse van was traveling through Birmingham on its way to Scottsdale, Arizona, a thriving center for wealthy people totally caught up in the Arabian horse fever. On board was a little bay mare belonging to an important investor in the Arabian horse market in South Carolina. The little mare was en route to one of the very most important personages in the Arabian business who resided in Scottsdale, Arizona. The mare had fallen in the van and wouldn’t get up. Frantic, the driver got the Birmingham phone book and called the first horse vet he could find. It happened to be our vet, a most unusual lady who doctored only horses. She worked closely with my husband on some very interesting cases involving “slinging” horses with broken legs and getting a horse out of the hay loft of a barn where it had climbed up a long twisted ladder-like staircase and other such exotic cases. Naturally she called John to help her with the downed mare. 

They were able to get the mare, Fireglow, into our trailer and hauled her to a comfortable stall in our barn. Soon after contacting her owner in South Carolina, John agreed to haul the mare for a very handsome sum of money to Scottsdale as soon as she recovered from her injury. 

The trip to Scottsdale was quite an adventure. John had wanted me to stay home because he was going to drive straight through and get back home quickly. Feeling like we were in desperate need of a vacation, I prevailed on him to let me go. We traveled into the night until we couldn’t go any further, then we got a room in a little western motel. After we had unloaded Fireglow and walked her around in the dark night of the parking lot, we put her to bed in the two horse trailer. We had never had a horse in our care that was worth so much money, $500,000, so we backed the trailer up to our room door, planning to be gone before morning light and somebody saw us. 

After interesting breaks and wonderful conversations with very different and interesting folks at pre-dawn and midnight hours in fancy truck stops, which were all a totally new world to me, we finally arrived in Scottsdale. We found our way to the palatial stable where Fireglow would reside, which was the wing of an elegant home where her new owners lived in style. The hall of the stable- it could not be called a barn- literally opened with sliding glass doors into the living room of the mansion. There were oriental rugs and chandeliers decorating this connection of the horse abode and human one. 

Residing in the stable was the first of this establishment’s National Show Horse herd, a not so elegant American Saddlebred mare. She was to be bred to one of the man’s magnificent Arab stallions in the beautiful horse palace. We were not able to see her out of the stall because the brushes were all in the sterilizer. Oh my! What would these folks have thought if they had seen the community unsterilized brushes Fireglow had been groomed with in an ordinary barn with rats and cats living in it. 

The next morning we began our vacation at Fireglow’s expense. Thoughts of this new venture in the horse business came at a very critical time. I was strongly feeling John’s depression, though he would never talk about it because he never complained. Only I did that. He was feeling his responsibility to provide for us and didn’t know where the money could come from. He was hoping we had found the answer. 

I was the one who was complaining, thinking God had led us to a dead end in our walk with Him through the adventures of Heathermoor Farm. In the several beautiful days ahead we traveled to the Grand Canyon, the beautiful snow covered mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona, and the exotic desert landscapes nearby. These days were certainly planned by God as the classroom for some important teaching from Him that I desperately needed. I was reading from the book of Job. I, like Job, was arguing with God about our circumstances. We had tried our best to live by faith on this adventure, but the foundations of hope and supply had seemed to dry up and I had begun to deliver questions and accusations to God. As I saw the majesty of His creation stretching out before me, in the quietness of being away from the everyday turmoil, I began to ponder it. I began to hear Elihu’s dissertation to Job about the majesty of God revealed in the creation, and the righteousness of God in His dealings with us, if only we would see. Then the light began to dawn on me through the fog of my rebellious thoughts when God began to speak from the whirlwind to Job, and also to me, “Who is this that darkens council by words of knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me, ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.’”

I went home with the beginnings of a much needed humility and a new realization that I was not the Almighty and that surely “His ways were not our ways and His thoughts were not our thoughts,” and His ways were indeed past our finding out. Yet I still had much to learn. 

It seemed we had really connected with the solution God had given us for our financial predicament. Our adventure with Fireglow had put us in touch with some of the very top people in the Arabian horse business. We had an open door to look at many fine horses and many different angles of the business. We thought the most efficient way was to buy our own stud, so we went looking. Never telling anyone that we had no money. After all, wasn’t God our source and hadn’t we been on this path before God had given us the magnificent Saddlebred stallion, Rex? 

Our prayers seemed to be answered miraculously when my sisters wanted to sell some family land. We were presented our share. By trading some of our mares in addition we had the money to buy the stallion we wanted. A miracle seemed to have taken place! I prayed for the wisdom to know if we should spend the money in this way. As the scripture said, “Everything must be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” God had always spoken to me by causing the general Word of God to suddenly become the Rhea Word to me. The Scripture would light up like a neon sign (figuratively) when He was speaking it to me. This time however, the verses that I found didn’t have that charge and I never found but one seemingly confirming scripture, and I was stretching that one. Yet, hadn’t I prayed for something that would give John hope? Hadn’t I been willing to sacrifice my heart’s desire to give him this opportunity? Hadn’t the circumstances worked together supernaturally? Even though the business advice we had received had been favorable, the “peace that passeth understanding” failed to “mount guard and garrison around my heart.” I turned to the way of the flesh and my own understanding. So, El Paso Seville came to Heathermoor Farm and we hailed a new day of prosperity. 

For the next two years things went great. We collected many expensive stud fees from Seville. We had many beautiful colts from our Saddlebred mares. We had all sorts of deals going with Arabian enthusiasts. Then suddenly the market dropped out of the Arabian horse business. A year later another blow befell us and we were forced to move the location of Heathermoor Farm, but that’s another story. Then John died. I was left all alone with Seville, his colts and other horses. My nieces and I went on with the business of teaching riding lessons and training horses for our many young riders. 

Seville was a beautiful stallion which had cost us so much, and I enjoyed watching him. But, he was totally useless to me and I could not sell him now. One day I was lounging him watching his graceful movements, admiring the muscles rippling under his sleek mahogany side when a voice spoke to me, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” I pondered it for some weeks. Then the same thing happened again. The truth began to dawn on me. Seville was my Ishmael. And, he was literally an Arab too!

Many years ago, God had called Abraham to leave his father’s house and go to a land he would give him, where he would make of him a mighty nation. Many years went by and Abraham was eighty-five years old and still did not have a son. His wife Sarah gave him her maid hoping to produce the long awaited son that she had failed to conceive. From this union came Ishmael. But God appeared again to Abraham thirteen years later and told him that Ishmael was not the promised son, but that the son through whom his inheritance would come would come from his own wife. Abraham was over a hundred years old and Sarah was ninety. The main artery running all through the Word of God is forever sorting the way of the promise that comes through faith from the works of the law or the natural way of doing things. 

God had given us our first love, the American Saddlebred horse, but we were in a hard place and we had taken matters into our own hands. We had tried to do the practical thing even if it wasn’t what was really in our hearts. We had forgotten that we had asked God years before to teach us to live by faith alone. We had forgotten the promise which always comes through faith. Faith is the title deed of substance yet unseen. The enemy of our souls has his way of laying unusual circumstances in our path, but at their center they contradict the Word of God. We had done as Abraham did long ago when he too had tried to make the promise come by his own plan, the natural way that was at hand. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.” With his aged wife’s encouragement he tried to bring about God’s promise through Hagar, his servant. The promise comes when the entire natural is against it, when Abraham and his wife were way past the natural time of producing a son, the produced one. 

And so I had to give the beautiful and expensive stallion away. 

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 5

Trust, Solomon

Last week I learned another lesson from the farm. Pierre was the giant Charlet bull we borrowed from the Dennys because he refused to stay home when all the cows there were bred. We still had some open cows, so for a while he was content to sojourn at Heathermoor. Because of his stupendous bulk, if he had any notion at all to leave a pasture, he became a clear illustration of the original concept of a bulldozer. He simply crunched any fence in his path, including metal gates. Nothing but electric fences were any barrier to him. He would stand in front of an electric fence and pass his nose back and forth above the fence. By this he could sense whether or not the current was on. If not- watch out fence! His only motivations in life as far as I could see were cows and his insatiable appetite for grain. He had learned that colt kicks and bites were harmless against his insensitive sides so he easily shoved eight yearling colts aside as he inhaled their allotment of 50 pounds of grain a day. 

We didn’t realize what was happening for about a week in which time we noticed the colts appeared to be losing weight. Our only remedy was to remove the colts from the pasture they shared with the cows who had not dared to try to eat with the horses. 

As John was at work and the boys were in school, these jobs usually were mine to do unassisted. By rattling a feed sack I managed to coax the colts to a section of fence I had removed directly across the driveway from the gate to the field we wished to put them. It really took some tact to “sneak” the herd of colts to the gap without Pierre seeing me. To him I only meant buckets. Buckets held grain and if I ever called attention to myself he came lumbering towards me, building up speed until he sometimes reached a lope. The sight of this mammoth white creature with legs as big as trees and a head as big as a buffalo approaching at a walk, much less at speed could cause the strongest heart to falter!

With what I like to think of as extreme finesse, I led the greedy colts through the gap directly into the receiving pasture. The lead colts took their first faltering steps onto the unfamiliar land, their necks bowed, snorting suspiciously at the ground, their tails curled over their backs. Suddenly the leaders bolted toward the new freedom. I relaxed, trusting the powerful herd instinct that binds horses into herds to carry the remainder of the column safely through the gate. But, I didn’t count on one hard headed black filly who from birth had always seemed to be of a different mind from the others. She swerved to the left of the gap and bolted across the front yard. The herding instinct bound the colt Solomon behind her close to her heels. Off the two renegades fled. Tails flagged, noses high as if they knew for certain that they had gotten away with something cool!

But their lark was short-lived for the main herd had galloped out of sight in the new pasture and the black filly soon realized her predicament. There was a fence between her and the rest of the herd. Above all things she wanted the security of the herd. She screamed a call to them and raced madly along the fence followed by Solomon, the little stud. Being the stronger willed of the two, at least in this event, the black filly became Solomon’s security and he stayed glued to her heels. There was another gate close to the feeding shed partly obscured by two large Oregon Grape bushes. I opened the little gate hoping the two yearlings would notice it as they raced along the fence seeking to rejoin their brethren. The black filly saw it and swerved through it home free. She was going so fast little Solomon had passed the gate before he could stop and the bush hid it from his view. Now Solomon was really a frantic colt. 

The only security and comfort his equine heart understood lay in rejoining his brethren galloping in a tight little herd on the other side of the white board fence. He wheeled and charged down the fence following the bunch which had galloped back toward the fence, but again he was going so fast and so frantically that he passed the little gate. Then the herd turned and raced away from the fence down the hill toward the lake, thoroughly enjoying their romp on the exciting new ground. 

A horse’s homing instinct guides them in a straight line toward their destination. They do not seem to fathom the idea of going very far out of their way to go around something. So Solomon was frantically racing back and forth along a little section of the fence where he had last seen his family, lunging into it and whining piteously. All my efforts to herd him to the little gate only ten feet away which would lead him to his heart’s desire were in vain. When I tried to head off he charged through me, when I tried to drive him forward, he lashed at me with both hind feet and caught me squarely in the stomach. 

As I rolled on the ground nursing my injured middle, I called to him, “Solomon you certainly don’t live up to your name. You are not wise at all. Don’t you know by now my only concern for you is for your own good? I want for you just what you want for yourself. If you could just trust me to haze you to the other side of the bush all your troubles would be over. Don’t you know it was I who was with you when you were both? It was I who held you on your contracted legs until the tendon stretched out enough for you to stand? Don’t you know it was I your mother trusted to feed you each day and to scratch your fuzzy little tail? It was I who has fed you every day of your life since then. Haven’t I always taken you to greener, safer pastures? The only times I hurt you were for the shots and worm medicine that saved you from a greater hurt. Even now my only concern for you is your own good. Why won’t you let me save you from this anguish? Don’t you know that I can understand things that you cannot?”

As I resumed the struggle with Solomon I thought how often The Good Shepherd must see me as I saw Solomon. How much He must want us to trust Him, as I wanted to silly colt to trust me. I saw how often we resist Him who is so much wiser than we, when all He wants for us is our own good. If only we could trust Him who created us, who sustains us day by day, who died to redeem us? All this He does so that we would realize the very purpose for which he created us. How often we missed the narrow fate because we were frantically going on ahead of Him, refusing to trust Him, and let Him guide us past the obscuring bushes. How much sweat and anguish and time we could save ourselves if we trustingly followed The Good Shepherd who sees as we do not; who knows our needs better than we do; whose ways are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth. His wisdom and His ways are many times higher than mine were above the panicky colt. 

Lord, give us the wisdom to trust you to guide us even when it totally contradicts our natural senses. Have you not said, “The just shall live by faith?”

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 4

Overcomers

Horses tend to be born overnight. Mares seem to like privacy and almost seem to wait until everyone has given up on their watchful vigil and leaves to get supper or some other interruption. Mares usually foal quite easily and quickly and they seldom have any trouble, unlike the cow who is prone to calving problems. Yet when a mare does have difficulty it is often quite serious unless help is at hand, while cows may need assistance they can endure a lot of trouble before it becomes serious. 

I remember one early spring morning when we had a young mare named Heather ready to deliver her first foal. We kept her in the barn because it was quite cold and this was her first baby. There is more danger in a stall because of the chance of the mare foaling too close to the wall and injuring the foal so we were carefully watching her. Heather began to labor just as the driving group appeared to take our children to school. Love, our daughter, was down at the barn with us hoping to see the seldom seen sight. Thrilled at the thought of getting to see a horse come into the world, the driving group poured into the barn. We let them climb up in the hay loft where they had a bird’s eye view of the event as they leaned over the rafters in rapt attention. 

Shortly the foal appeared, enclosed in a “cellophane” bag. Its little feet wrapped in a padded substance lest it poke a hole in the wonderful “see through” sack it was packed in, came first, one ahead of the other. Then the nose appeared. Another contraction and the shoulders positioned one ahead of the other appeared. Almost instantly the whole foal was safely on the straw still imprisoned in his protective bag. He looked pretty dead at first- which always gave me a fleeting moment of concern. He was wet, his eyes closed and his ears were flattened against his neck in sort of an odd way. Almost immediately the placenta dislodged from its connection to the mare’s body, the sack broke and fell away from the tiny nose and the foal convulsed as it took its first breath of air in the new and strange world from which it had just entered. Instantly processes that had never worked before were in full operation. A valve closed forever in the foal’s heart and the oxygen that had been supplied by the placenta suddenly began to be supplied by the foal’s own lungs as it gasped for its first few breaths. 

The mare who had never foaled before, or even read a book about it, or talked to the older mares about this process, lifted her head to sniff this creature in the stall with her. As she sniffed new and wondrous processes began in her brain. Suddenly all the “knowing” she would ever need to feed and care for this new creation began to activate within her. She nickered low in her throat to tell this miracle baby that had just cost her great pain, that somehow she knew he belonged to her alone. She was prepared to defend him with her life and that somehow she loved him as she licked and crooned to him with soft little knickers. She rested a moment along with the foal as all of the exchanging blood in the placenta drained into the foal’s little body. Suddenly she lounged to her feet, her nose caressing her little one. 

The foal lifted its head, made a soft little bleat and unfolded one long foreleg. Soon another leg that had never been straightened out since its conception in the womb of the mare was in position to attempt the most wonderful feat I could ever imagine. The foal that had appeared to be dead less than thirty moments before, had raised its long neck, looked around at the world he had never seen minutes before with eyes that had never seen and was attempting to stand up on long legs that had never unfolded before. His first attempt was a disaster and he fell forward on his face. Undaunted he tried again, this resulted in a somersault. Then began my struggle to refrain from helping him. But I had learned that all these falls and beginnings were designed by the Creator to help the blood oxygenated by lungs that have never been used until moments ago to circulate and strengthen muscles that have never been used before. The thrashing was also designed to break the attachment of the umbilical cord on the “dotted line,” close to the foal’s body where it had been designed to break. The rough thrashing of the foal would crush the cord in such a way that there would be no leakage of blood as was probable if I had cut it. After many attempts the foal was on its feet balancing in an awkward fashion, looking very much like a daddy longlegs spider and attempting to stagger through the straw. 

Another amazing process began; he was hungry! He held his little nose up high as he ewed his neck from withers to poll (the opposite of this natural head carriage), but necessary to connect with the places where he would eventually find his first meal. His little red tongue was curled even as puppies’ are and he was making sucking sounds! He fully trusted that somewhere on this great warm body of his mother that he would find the milk especially designed for him. He staggered around sucking on her front end, under the great belly, honing in on the smell of the milk as he got to the proper place. It always seemed that these foals would never find the mare’s udder, especially when a new mother would be very ticklish in this area. But, the foals always found it. 

Forcing herself to hold very still Heather arched her back preparing for the agony of that first suck. As the foal continued to explore she continued to forcibly control herself, sometimes uttering little ticklish squeals. This find and getting hold of the milk supply was a very necessary accomplishment, often having life and death circumstances. The colostrum which came before the pale thin milk appeared had all the antibodies necessary to protect the foal from all of the diseases of the environment. 

The children perched on the rafters above had held reverently still as they beheld this miracle of the creation. They had seen the birth of a horse as he came into the world like any other mammal, but inside half an hour he was ready to run with his dam if necessary. Eyes that had never seen, ears that had never heard were thrust into the fullness of life all at once, not gradually awakening to the world as puppies, kittens, and people do! They climbed down from the loft, piled into the car awed by the wonder of life. They were a little late for class but what ever could have compared with this glimpse of the Creator’s work? 

There are so many things I have learned from watching this recurring miracle. It was a careful planning for the Creator as He equipped this new life for its existence in our world. All of the foal’s falls and struggles were designed to strengthen him and teach him how to live in the new world he had just entered. If we had intervened we would have taken away a great deal of his strength. 

The next morning we beheld the wonder of the joy of life as this new little one was let out of the stall. He saw the world for the very first time! He had already been frolicking around the stall so very glad to be freed from the confinement of the womb, but when he was exposed to the outside world he could not contain his joy! His nervous mama tried frantically to keep up with him, swinging her head threateningly at the other horses who might be watching. He bucked and kicked, stopping to curl his fuzzy little tail over his back, lift his nose high in the air and snort his joy to be alive as he raced in increasingly larger circles. 

Our struggles to grow to new levels in this life, painful in themselves, are designed to build our spiritual muscles. Just as the foal would never make it on his own in the wild if it weren’t for all of his struggles in the moments after his birth, so are all of our struggles in this life designed to make our “unused spiritual muscles and systems” strong for the purpose they were given. Did not the Savior promise that it was the “Overcomers who get the prize?” To be an overcomer one must have something to overcome. But look at the results as seen in the foal’s first moments of life. Unspeakable joy and wonder at life! When our training here is over we will enter the wonders of heaven with the same overwhelming joy!

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 3

Worship

This morning as many mornings I returned from a walk through the woods with my Golden Retriever, Holly. When I began to drive in the direction of one of our places we got to “work,” Holly quivered in anticipation. She knew the directions to each place that we went. Her quivering and low whining would increase at every turn that brought us closer to our destination. 

This morning was glorious. A golden light shimmered over the woods and a lovely fresh golden mist rose up from the forest floor. Hardly able to control herself she managed to obey my command to “wait” as I gathered our equipment, put on her leash and opened the door. When I said the magic word, “okay,” she bounded off the seat and into the heel position. We always practiced a little heeling before I turned her loose just as a matter of discipline. Her gaze never left me until we stopped and I released her leash. She would leap in front of me leaping higher and higher until I gave her the bumper. Goldens are seldom happy without something in their mouths to carry. 

Then began an exhilaration in the heart of man and beast that it would be hard to supersede. Off she raced into the woods, her silky tail flagged in the air showing its pale golden underside, like a deer in flight. She disappeared into the woods. In a moment she would return running like a bullet. Oh how fast she was flying! Held earthbound, it seemed, only by her love for me who was so earthbound physically! Off she would go again and my heart soared as high as she sped. I was riding her in spirit, we were flying at the speed of light barely touching the earth, propelled by a joy that was uncontainable! 

Back to me she flew, coming to an abrupt stop at my feet holding up her bumper in her mouth. As glorious as was her physical freedom it only lacked the inclusion of me, the fellowship that she desired more than her wild freedom. I took the bumper and tossed it as far as I could. She flew after it almost turning head over heels skidding to a stop right upon it. 

The next phase of our game came as we approached the brook which had wonderful pools and little rapids and rocky, steep banks as it sped along. Bumper in mouth she raced to a place beside the swift stream, waiting for her human friend to catch up. She tossed the bumper at my feet and we began the next step in our game. I threw the bumper as far as I could into the creek. She bolted as soon as it left my hand and leapt over the rocky bank diving into the fast moving water and swimming to the floating bumper. She grabbed it gently in her mouth and began her swim to shore. My heart swelled as I saw her perceive the best way to climb out of the creek which she had entered on unseen wings even as she swam, and in a flash she delivered the bumper to my feet, her eyes hypnotizing my gaze until we repeated the process. 

I never ceased to wonder as I saw the keenness of her appraisal of the situations we confronted. It took some flash sensing on her part as the physical situations were never the same. Her determination to accomplish the purpose for which she was bred utterly amazed me. Sometimes I would forget to bring the bumper and a stick had to suffice. The current was moving fast as she hit the water where the stick had fallen, but the current had swept it away. She swam back and forth frantically searching, looking among the rocks and debris along the bank. Finally, she began to dive into the shallow water searching for that stick. She pulled up one stick from the bottom immediately rejecting it. It was not the stick that I had thrown which she knew only by the fact that it had touched my hand for the brief second before I threw it in. And, though it had submerged in water her sense of smell was so impossibly keen that the only stick that would do was the exact one that held my scent which her keen nose could detect. So she kept searching. Usually she would find the exact one and triumphantly deliver it to my feet. Sometimes the stick had disappeared forever, and it seemed she could not give up and I would have to call her repeatedly to tell her to call off the search. She came obediently to my feet looking at me with questioning eyes. I had to respond with another stick trying to convince her that she had not failed. 

As our time came to an end and she heeled back to my car my heart was soaring. I kept thinking of the joy of life that she showed to me. Just the unadulterated joy of being alive and having a body that followed her spirit into wonderful feats. I kept thinking of the harmony she had with her surroundings. The beauty of the woods; the changing form of the stream; the great diversity of the shapes and colors of the wonders of the season. And most of all the obedience and desire of this animal for communion with me. 

Most people think of “worship” as singing songs in a church or meeting, and that is sometimes true. Yet, I had never encountered a worship that brought me to my knees and overwhelmed me with the wonder of the Creator who had let me be a part of it, and let me see so gloriously some of His attributes revealed in His creation, as I have had in my adventures with this little dog. Oh my God, how great thou art!