SELLING A FRIEND
Early life experiences taught me a number of rules to live by. One of them was to never eat an animal species that I'd owned as a pet. Another one was to never sell a friend. Now I've broken both of these rules, but only one intentionally. When I was in Vietnam I ate a burger with dog meat, but I didn't know it was dog meat until after I had eaten half of it. It wasn't bad at all, but I'd rather not do it again. Unless you had worms as pets, selling a friend is a bit more traumatic.
When my horse BJ was ill and not expected to live much longer, I purchased Bubba. Bubba's name was Prospector, and I purchased him in 2000 at an auction near Lancaster, PA. At the time I wasn't planning on buying another horse, but then when I got married I hadn't planned on that either. So much for planning.
Buying him was an impulse purchase. I bought him for two reasons. First, BJ was ill and not expected to live long. The second reason I purchased Bubba was because he was black like BJ and very, very friendly. Actually there was a third reason. The guy I was with talked me into it. But then he was the owner of the stable where I would be keeping Bubba when we were on the East coast, so he was padding his own pockets in the process.
Acquiring a pet is a life-long commitment for me, which is why I've never purchased a parrot. All of my animal friends, of which I've had many, were with me until they died. I had the same commitment in mind when I bought Bubba. Bubba and I had a great relationship–except when I was riding him. (This brings other relationships to mind, but I won't go there.)
I like to explore the woods and the mountains alone on horseback, as I had been doing with BJ for the last 10 years. However Bubba was herd-bound – a fact that I wasn't aware of until after the purchase. He wouldn't go out on a ride without at least one other horse with him. Except for that he was a loyal and attentive friend, always glad to see me and wanting to be with me. If I went to town, when I came home he would come over to my truck and stick his head in the window to greet me and see if I had bought anything. I couldn't have asked for a friendlier horse. He would have been a lap horse if he didn't weigh 1200 lbs.
After 10 years of wonderful times alone with BJ, I couldn't adjust to Bubba's preference for being with other horses. Also, Bubba was alone with me all summer in the Colorado mountains with no other horses around, and I got the feeling he was not as happy as he would be with others of his kind.
When the forest fires of 2002 hit Colorado, one was close to my house. The smoke was getting thick, so I had to move Bubba to a guest ranch, about 45 minutes away. There he was with other horses and seemed very happy. After a month the owner of the guest ranch asked me if I wanted to sell Bubba. I agonized over it for a while and finally said yes. And so I sold my good friend.
In late May each year I return to Colorado for three months. One of the first things on my list is to go see Bubba. Even though it has been nine months since our last visit, he always remembers me and whinnies when he sees me coming and comes over to me. It makes me feel good, but it also makes me feel guilty. He must think he's still my horse but I now let him live with his kind. At least that's what I like to believe he thinks.
Each summer I ride him once or twice, and it's like catching up again with an old friend. In fact it is. He doesn't seem to know I sold him, so in a way it makes it easier for me to deal with the fact that I did. He's happy, and that's what really matters.
Today I was seeing him for the last time this summer. We were up on the hill where the horses eat the hay put out for them each evening. I could see BJ's grave is about 50 yards to our west. I gave Bubba his favorite treat (two bananas) and said goodbye once again for nine months. I expect I'll miss him more than he misses me, and I always get a little teary eyed when I walk away and see him watching me. But that's what I get for selling a friend.