Steve saddled Old Snort and rode him down to the Mule Barn late in the afternoon, after chores were done. He had a sack with several days' worth of groceries in it, and wore a smile that transcended the workaday world.
He ordered a meal that wasn't at all what his doctor ordered, and just sat there smiling at the rest of us.
"Three days," Steve said. We nodded and smiled, as if we knew why.
"Going to the cabin for three days," Steve said. We silently said aah.
Steve's cabin has been a wonderment to him and to us all. Deep inside each of us is a little voice that says if Steve can build a little cabin in the mountains, complete with a stall outside for Old Snort and a turret for looking down on earthlings, we can, too. We probably won't, because that's hard work and most of us have family to consider, but we sure are glad Steve built that little place.
"I'll bet Snort likes it there, too," said Doc.
"He seems to. I think he likes the pine trees and you know it's cooler there than it is down here. Hard to tell with a horse, though. Could be he's just tolerating it."
"You wish you knew, I'll bet," said Dewey.
"Not really," Steve said, diving into a platter full of deep-fried calories smothered in cholesterol sauce. "If I knew how Ol' Snort felt about riding up there, and it turned out he didn't care for it, I'd feel just awful. Every step along the way I'd know he was going against his will. Every time I turned his head up the trail, I'd worry that he wasn't having fun.
"Why, he might be thinking I'm a cruel guy to make him go up these mountains on what is supposed to be his day off. He'd figure he hadn't signed up for this kind of duty and might want to talk the other horses into organizing, once we got back."
"So you'd leave him home and drive up there, I guess."
Steve twinkled behind the owl mustache. "Of course not. An old pardner of mine like that can't be left home. Besides, I'm the one giving the orders."
Brought to you by "Home Country," a book of the best columns from the first five years, at www.slimrandles.com.
Home Country is a weekly syndicated newspaper column written by outdoors journalist and humorist Slim Randles. Want to say "Howdy" to Slim? Contact Slim Randles at email@example.com.