FIRE!
Copyright © Marjorie Jennings 
 
It was a late warm summer day. The lawn was dry and brown. The best of the season was over. School would start soon. There was a breeze. Soon it would be fall and the reality that cold winds would soon be blowing would not cheer us. Our sons were pushing toy trucks around on highways engineered to specifications in the sandbox. I was hanging laundry that flapped at me as I pinned it to the rope. Dale was busy with the farm machinery. 
 
It was a peaceful afternoon until we heard sirens. They were off in the distance, but the increased volume told us they were coming closer. Suddenly, we realized they were heading up our road! The trucks down-shifted as they reached the steep incline. Soon we saw a strange sight. The steep hill slowed the fire engines' progress so much that the sirens' wails became moans. A heavily laden tanker was struggling with a full load of water. Following behind the fire trucks was a line of volunteers in their private cars and trucks. Our road was not a short-cut to anywhere. The fire had to be near by! 
 
"Dale! One of our neighbor's places must be on fire! What shall we do?" I was very apprehensive. "That was all the fire equipment our fire department owns. It must be serious." 
 
"Put the boys in the car, let's go and see if they need us for anything!" he said. 
 
We fell in line with the volunteers at what seemed a snail's pace. Since no one was passing the engines, we thought there must be some rule about it. At each rounding of a bend, I expected to see rising smoke. Finally, we did. It was the last farm on the road. I knew they had dairy cattle and Standardbred horses. Smoke was coming from the windows of a big white barn. Dale pulled over behind the last volunteer's car. 
 
"Stay here with the boys. I'll go see if they need us." 
 
I got out of the car and stood beside it as Dale hurried toward the barn. The sight was one of terror and fascination. Smoke was billowing with growing intensity from barn windows and doors. Men were shouting. The tanker truck was pumping and men were hauling the hose to a useful position. Suddenly with a great swoosh, flames gushed from all the windows. Flames that reached out in lapping tendrils. Just then, I realized a man was coming toward me. He was silhouetted against the awful conflagration. He was leading a horse. I ran up to meet him. 
 
"May I help you?" I called. 
 
"Take him!" he gasped, in an urgent voice. He pushed the lead rope at me and raced back to the barn. 
 
The horse was a black stallion. He was sweating great waterfalls of perspiration. It was running down his sides and splashing on the ground. It was running down his face and dripping off his nose. He was drenched in a flood of his own making. His nostrils were fully flared and bright red inside. His eyes were wide and anxious. He was breathing in shudders. I walked him in circles and spoke in soothing tones. 
 
"Stay in the car and watch for Daddy." I told the boys. The stallion watched as his former place of safety and comfort disappeared. A fearful scene had replaced his once tranquil domain. The fire grew. We could feel the heat dry out our skin even at that great distance. Flames ripped through the siding until the great beams stood out in black contrast to the billowing red and yellow inferno. 
 
"Here comes Daddy!" the boys called. 
 
Dale walked rapidly towards us. Behind him, the fire towered to the sky. It lapped between the rafters, consumed the roof and roared a terrible roar. Dale turned to the sight. Voices were yelling, "She's going to go!" "Clear Out!" 
 
The barn collapsed in a tower of roaring flames, sparks and smoke. A terrifying sight and sound. The flames relented. 
 
"Oh...the animals," I thought with a sick shudder. 
 
Dale arrived by my side. "I see you were able to help." The stallion stood close to me. 
 
"They saved all the animals! All the cows, the calves and the horses. They have put them in the field across the road. There are more men than equipment, so we may as well leave now." Dale said. 
 
"I guess we had better take this horse home." I decided, "We'll tell the owner we can take care of his stallion until he has a place to put him." Dale offered to lead the horse the three miles home. 
 
"No thanks. You take the boys home, I'll walk the horse." 
 
I was glad for the chance to get rid of the tension in my body. I could think of nothing better for the horse than a nice long walk. We could both unwind and cool out. As we ambled along I finally had a chance to take note of the horse that had so suddenly become my responsibility. I ran a hand down his drying neck and adjusted his hastily buckled halter to a better fit. He had excellent conformation. Muscular and masculine, but with the lines of a good race horse. His noble clean cut head indicated intelligence. His legs showed the bumps and bangs of years of harness racing. There were parallel lines of pin-fire scars down the sides of his front legs. Indications of old fashioned attempts to make damaged tendons sound. I wondered at the painful idea of hot pins inserted into tissue. Could that actually help a horse? The black was kind and obedient, but it was more than that, there seemed to be a special communication between us. We were very comfortable and trusting of each other from the start. I enjoyed our partnership as we walked down the long hill. 
 
We gave the handsome horse a home for one week, then his owner in a profusion of thanks, removed the stallion to a racing stable far away. I never saw the black again, but I will never forget him. 
 
Marjorie Jennings 
 
 
This is an excerpt from Chapter 53 from Marjorie Jennings’ book,  

The Horses in MY Life  

Not published yet. Copyright on all content is Marjorie Jennings reproduction in any form is forbidden with out her express permission.