Chocolate Chip

By Mike Johnson

I’ve never owned a horse. But I mentally adopted one.

She was about 30 years old. The beautifully-spotted appaloosa lived in a pasture along the main road to our house. I called her "Chocolate Chip." For a good 10 years, I enjoyed picking her out from the herd, comforted to see “my horse” flashing her beauty to those who traveled the highway. We knew the caretaker of the ranch and learned the horse’s real name was “Graffiti.” When he learned of our admiration, he actually offered to give us the horse. Not equipped for horses at home, we had to decline. So we admired her from the car as we drove by her field.

I suspected something was amiss because I hadn’t seen her for a week. I was hoping they just moved her to a higher pasture, closer to ranch headquarters. But Margie stopped there to admire a herd of elk grazing in Chocolate Chip’s pasture. She encountered the ranch hands who shared the bad news. They didn’t think she’d make it through another winter so they put her to sleep to minimize suffering.

We don’t even have a photo of the horse. She was always there so we saw no need. My last memory of Chocolate Chip was her galloping across the pasture. It was the first time I’d ever seen her run.

Magically majestic.

Now there’s a hole in my world. One less smile on my trips to town.

I know I’ll be scanning that pasture from habit. As much as I’ve risked and changed, I crave continuity. I find comfort in familiarity.

Yet nothing lasts forever.

Except memories.

Memories of Chocolate Chip galloping across her pasture.

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