“No,” I said, blushing.
“Offer him 25 dollars,” my father said.
“But, Dad, she’s blind.”
“Moon-blind,” Dad said. “Hernandez told me about her last night. She’s blind for short periods. She may go totally blind, or she may outgrow it. Anyway, she looks as if she might produce good colts.”
“How about 25 dollars?” I yelled.
“You got her,” the little man said.
I named her “Sadie,” and we loaded her into the pick-up. We BUY HORSES
said good-bye to the Hernandez family and started home. “You know, Dad,” I said after a time, “the Hernandez place is exactly the kind of place I’d like some day.”
“That’s the kind of place you get only through lots of hard work,” Dad said. “And speaking of hard work, since you’ll have to be going to the farm every day to feed and water Sadie, why don’t you just take the farm over? I’ll rent it to you. I’ll pay for everything. You do all the work. You keep 20 per cent of the gross. It’ll be like your own vocational agriculture course.”
“I think I’d like that. Yes .. I’ll do it!” I said, excited at the prospect of becoming involved in something more concrete than school.
“Well, now, maybe you’d better consider it,” Dad suggested.
“No, that’s not necessary,” I said. “I want to do it.”
Within a month, I was taking the pick-up to school so that I could go directly to the farm in the afternoon. Through the winter, I worked on the barn and repaired fences. In the coldest weather, my hands grew so stiff I could hardly handle the ragged barbed wire. Throughout the summer, I drove the tractor on endless rounds, planting, cultivating, irrigating.
In September, Sadie produced Sam, a beautiful chestnut colt. Sadie’s moon blindness hadn’t changed. She would go blind for a few days, then be all right for several weeks. She was a good mother,
and I found that I couldn’t hear the thought of selling her or the colt.
I was also finding out exactly how hard farming is. And so I was more than ready when Dad’s invitation came in October. “About time to go – horse buying again, isn’t it, boy ?” he asked one evening at dinner.
“I don’t think I want to buy more horses,” I said. “But could we go anyway, and maybe just look around for a few days ?”
As so often happened, Dad was well ahead of me. We didn’t go to the Hernandez place again. Instead, we went to a remote valley where, hundreds of years before, Indians had lived in tiny apartments. carved into the steep rock face of the canyon walls. As we wandered round that ghostly ruin, I tried to imagine how it must have looked when it was occupied. Then I discovered a mysterious, round room beneath the ground with a ladder leading down to it. “What do you suppose this was for?” I asked Dad.
“Son,” he said, “I’ve no idea. But I bet you could find out in books.”
“Where would I find those books?”
“Well,” he said, “I imagine the library at the university has them.”
We walked in silence for a moment. “You know, Dad,” I said, finally. “I do love the farm, and taking care of Sadie, and all that. But, well, it seems there are a lot of other interesting things to do, too.” “Sounds to me as if you’ve been `considering,’ ” Dad said.
IN THE END, of Course, I did go to university. Dad drove over one autumn day in my first year, and picked me up. We had no destination. We just drove slowly through the mountains, enjoying being together. Over dinner, I told him about my courses and my plans.
When he dropped me back at the dormitory that night, he offered his hand. “Well, son,” he said, tightening his grip, “I guess our horse-buying days are about over. But we bought some pretty good ones, wouldn’t you say?”
I nodded, unable for a moment to speak. I looked beyond him to where the library stood alone, lit like a cathedral. “Dad,” I said, “I found out what the Indians used that little room for.”
“If was a place where men taught boys about life . . . kind of like horse-buying time.”
He tried to smile, but the muscles of his face hesitated. “Write to your mother,” he said sharply. “She misses you.”
When he was gone, I sat outside for a long time. When the lights went out at the library, the stars seemed to shine brighter still, and I stayed to watch them.