The Jerk

In Stories

Ok, I admit it; I’m not the most personable man. In fact, if personality is in the job description I might as well not apply.

I don’t think I was born this way. After grade school started and teams began to form, I was mostly picked last. Bench sitter world class. After a while you stop participating because of that “picked last” feeling. It sticks with you, and getting older doesn’t help much, but it does give you a reason to excuse yourself early and the easiest way to do that is to be kind of a jerk. With my head down into the wind I proceeded through life that way and it was just fine, thank you.

But then the most amazing thing happened. I found Dianne. This girl that I knew from high school — this girl who was so pretty that I could hardly stand talking to her back then — this girl did something unusual. It took 20 years and it came out of nowhere. First draft choice. Numero uno. King of the hill. She picked me first in the biggest game of life and married me. She saw something in me that I didn’t know even existed. Or perhaps it was because I admired and appreciated her love of horses. Either way, that is how I became a horse husband. My first steps away from the ceremony were toward a horse drawn carriage. Dianne’s friends were surprised and my acquaintances said it wouldn’t last six months. They were all wrong.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, marrying Dianne would have a profound effect on me. My wife is an expert horsewoman in every sense of the word. Even in high school, at a time when I didn’t have two quarters to buy gas for 30 minutes of cruising time, I was in awe that this slender beauty could run her own ranch. You don’t get to be around horses for that long without developing a keen eye for potential. Just like she selected her horses, she found me and cut me from the herd. With a keen horse sense that she developed from dealing with stallions, she knew not to start bossing me around right away. Nope, she just put me out to pasture and let me adjust to my new life, nibbling on tender grass and having no reason to test the fences.

I like to fix things and in time I began to see where I could help out with her passion for horses. A new ranch here, an arena and a dressage court there. You know, just the small things. I began to feel useful, even if from the sidelines.

Diane’s gentle way extended far beyond the Equines. She has more friends call her in a day than I do in a month. Her friends tolerate me. My wife makes up in spades for the social skills that I lack, but one thing became clear right from the start: she didn’t want her friends to think I was a jerk, so that had to stop.

The reality was that the jerk was mostly gone the moment I said “I do.” He just took a while to walk away.

My wife’s horses are a reflection of herself. Kind, trusting, sweet-smelling. They leave their hay, whinny, and walk to the fence when they see her coming. I had never seen anything like that before and I knew it was special. Her spirit was something I didn’t want to be without. Taking care of horses can bring out the best in a person and she naturally did it with ease. But there was more to it than just that. Her horses knew where they stood with her. She left no doubt who the alpha mare was and, without violence, could make that clear.

In that early phase of being a horse husband I began to realize that while horses are a lifestyle, marriage is a commitment. The more I was swept up in the lifestyle, the more I saw that that there was a commitment crossroad coming. The fight or flight instinct that every horse feels the gate begins to close. The jerk began to make appearances and as unwelcome as he was, it was just an outward sign of being chosen second again

READ PART TWO: Unintended Consequences

EDITOR’s NOTE: This is the first in a series of vignettes chronicling Joseph’s life and development as a horse husband. I am delighted to have him join as a contributor, and look forward to reading much more to come. Tell us what you think! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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