The Runaway Horse
May 19, 2015
Bedtime Conversations: The Runaway Horse
Jayde sits on my lap as we rock, still wanting to be that little girl.
Jayde: Daddy will you tell me a story?
Me: Ok, what kind of story would you like? (Hoping for some divine inspiration)
Jayde: I don’t know (long contemplative pause)… How about a story about a runaway horsey?
Me: hmmm, well ok…. The Runaway Horse. I’m not really sure how this story begins, so we’ll have to start somewhere in the middle. Many, many years ago there was a train traveling across the country, from Arizona all the way to Virginia. This was no ordinary train. It was special. This train was filled with horses from Mexico.
Someone in Virginia has bought the horses and wanted them shipped right away. It took several months, but special cars were adapted to hauling the beautiful animals and every effort was made to keep them comfortable. They had plenty of hay and water and the swift breeze blowing through the openings kept them cool. All was well until a loud thud was followed by several clickety clanks and the train rumbled to a halt. The engine was broken.
The trip was planned in the late fall when the temperatures would not be so hot, but as the train sat idle in the midday sun, the cars began to warm. The horses stirred and stumbled and soon became agitated.
Jayde: What does agitated mean?
Jayde: What does that mean?
Me: Like when you’re riding in the car and just want to get out.
Jayde: Ahh, now I get it.
Me: So, the horses were stirring and getting hotter by the minute. It would be hours before help would arrive to hopefully fix the engine, and the men knew they must do something. They looked around and saw nothing but rolling hills and pastures and not a house or building anywhere in sight. Then one of them came up with a plan. They had to get the horses out of the cars, but how would they ever get them back in? It was decided they would risk losing all of their precious cargo to the mountains beyond, because they could not leave them in the heat of the stuffy cars.
So they gathered up some boards from one of the box cars in the back and made a makeshift gate. After cutting the fence to the nearby field they led the horses one by one out into the open air. They would later fix the fence and pay the owner, but for the moment they had to save the horses. And the horses were ever so glad. They ran through the fields and drank water by a stream. Kicking up dust, they galloped about carefree.
Much to the amazement of the men working the train, the all stayed close and none strayed away, or so it seemed. It took all that day and half of the night for help to arrive. Then it was afternoon the next day before the old locomotive cranked up. Now ready to roll the men could not believe the horses remained nearby, resting in the shade. One commented, ‘these are special horses indeed’. Again, one by one they led them back onto the train. Carefully they counted to make sure that all the precious cargo was accounted for. All of the horses walked the ramp back onto the train. All except one.
The men counted and recounted and counted once more. One was missing and nowhere to be seen. All the horses had been loaded and the big locomotive was roaring and ready to move. The men mounted their horses and made a wide swoop searching the field, but the runaway horse could not be found. The train’s engineer blew the horn and the men rallied back. It was time to go. The runaway horse would be left to roam free.
Jayde: (sad look of despair like this can’t be the end)
Me: (guess I better come up with a happy ending to this story) So…. the whistle blew once more and slowly the locomotive started to move. The rattle and clank of joints rumbled down the tracks and echoed through the valley as each car jerked in motion, and slowly followed the one in front. Soon they all moved fluidly down track, gaining speed, heading once more for Virginia. They traveled all that day and all through the night. The train rolled full speed without stopping the next day and into the following night. Miles and miles removed from that field the runaway horse was all but forgotten.
Minutes ticked into hours and the rhythm of big steel train wheels rumbled through the night. Then he saw it! One of the men looked out from his window and saw something he could not believe. Rubbing his eyes before looking again, it was still there. He grabbed his radio and called for the engineer to stop the train. “Please STOP the train!!!” he called. “The runaway horse is right here!”
In the soft glow of a three quarter moon, the runaway horse was running stride for stride along the tracks right beside the train. The man pleaded with the engineer to please stop, but he did not believe the runaway horse could possibly be running beside the train. “We’re way behind schedule and there is no way that horse has caught this train.” He would not stop the train.
The man looked away for an instant then glanced back out the window, certain of what he had seen, but the runaway horse was gone. Vanished in the darkness. The train rumbled on. Yet, still to this day stories are often told by passengers and train workers who have seen a similar sight. It always happens on a calm three quarter moon night, the Runaway Horse will just appear, galloping stride for stride with the train, only to vanish in an instant. No one knows why for sure, but that is the reason they paint the big horse on the locomotives.
Jayde: (her mouth drops open and eyes wide with excitement. Unable to speak, she just smiles…. Then says.) Daddy, how do you do that?
Me: Do what?
Jayde: Just make up a book like that!
Me: Good night sweet girl! (Smiles all around)
Jayde: Good night daddy!