I Left My Horse in San Francisco by Kate Peters
As a young lass growing up in what is now called “Silicon Valley,” my family had six bucolic acres rimmed by pastures and orchards on all sides. As the youngest of a large brood, I grew up under laissez-faire tutelage, doing pretty much whatever I was wont to do, which was mostly talking to and petting the animals who roamed the earth around me. If they were breathing and covered with hair, I related to them.
Next door on one side was a brood mare who birthed a new foal each spring. This was always a high point of the year for me, for to my mind, there was nothing more beautiful than a horse, except a baby horse. We also had a dairy farm across the road, and I often visited the calves and let them suck on my fingers. A modest-sized flock of sheep populated our own pasture, and I once took a lamb to school in a cardboard box for show & tell. Over that decade I had the customary dog, cat, parakeet, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, fish, and turtle that all “normal” post-war children had. Less common were the rats and mice that my father, a research scientist, brought home for me from time to time, whenever I was experiencing an animal void.
I also had a leghorn hen who was a particularly excellent companion when I was feeling introspective. Always barefoot, I would sit outside on a step to think about the meaning of life, and my faithful free-range chicken would peck among the geraniums around my feet. Sometimes she would mistake my toenail for a sow bug and give it a nibble, which altered the course of my thoughts and caused me to pick her up and stroke the satiny spot between her shoulder blades. I liked her a lot, and it was a sad day when the neighbor’s dog dispatched her.
But what I really wanted was a horse. From the moment I could talk, I began begging for my own equine. Our pasture was already fenced, so why not? One day my parents bought me a burro. But Rosita was definitely no horse. She didn’t care to be ridden, and she leaned all of her weight on me whenever she could. We didn’t hit it off. I wanted a horse!
…At age twelve, I finally got one, and for the next three years I was in heaven. As soon as I got home from school I’d slip a bridle onto my best friend and partner, and we’d take off through the surrounding apricot orchards and hay fields, barebacked and barefooted, to return at dusk, riding beneath aromatic eucalyptus and pungent pepper trees, to eat and sleep, and start the next day at 4:00 AM with a hypnotic sunrise and a hefty load of homework. The routine worked for me and I was happier than I had ever been, until I learned that we would be moving to Honolulu within the month, where I would continue my high school experience.
A week later I was told that I could pack two Mayflower packing boxes with my lifetime of belongings. This was when I realized that my horse would not be coming with me.
The separation was devastating and I remember crying half-way across the Pacific Ocean. The airline stewardess was perplexed. “Most people flying to Hawaii are happy,” she said. “Can I do anything to help?”
“No,” I sobbed, “you can’t help. I’m just sad because I left my horse in San Francisco.”