I’ve been reminded of a story from my life that is fun to tell – I hope I can do it justice in writing – this tale, up until today, has only been an oral story.
When I was 30, I was engaged to someone. I also worked in an office, doing distinctly non-officey things. I was a diamond and precious-gem sorter. The work was interesting and educational, but the atmosphere and the owners were terrible. I met the wonderful Socks at at that job, so I would never choose to delete it from my history. The fiancée was a horrible mistake that thankfully never necessitated extraction by legal means.
Short story: I got fired, and I left him. I’d be glad to tell the long stories if you want me to.
Before I left the man, and after I lost the job, I decided I was entirely sick to death of working in an office. Also, with a big ol’ track record of two firings in a row, I didn’t figure I had much hope in the land of phones and desks and computers for a while. So, as I was scouring the adverts in the paper I expanded my usual search parameters. I’d do just about anything; but as you do, I kept an eye open for the things that actually sounded good.
So, I rang to apply for a job at a horse farm. Mucking out stalls, cutting the pastures, etc.
I had at that point maybe five months cumulative lifetime experience with taking care of horses. And I was 30, not too out of shape, but not physically fit either. Not a chance, thinks I.
Somehow I got phone-approval by the owner of the farm and I was told to come out and meet the barn manager for an on-site interview.
Just ask for Elvis, the Barn Manager, he told me.
Whoo, boy, thinks I. No way am I going to pull one over on a professional horse-guy named Elvis who actually manages a barn full of what I had been told were very, very, valuable racehorses. Not a chance. I’m not experienced, I’m not terribly young anymore, and I’ve sat behind a desk most of my life. Fuck it, says I, all I can do is try, right?
So I show up, on time of course (all those office interviews drill that into you quite well). And… Oh my. It’s 20 acres of private property, with an electric buzz-in gate, and a house I that I soon learned was worth 2 million and a barn worth 1mil, and an artificial stream that started near the house and ran gently down to a Koi pond and then a lake. It was beautiful, and perfect, and I was so out of my league!
I wasn’t backing out, but my hopes had totally gone when I saw the fancy gate and the perfectly fenced pastures. Still, I was going to meet someone actually named Elvis! At least I’d have a good story about failed job hunting.
Five seconds after parking and walking up to the barn, my possible story got way more interesting. Elvis came out to meet me; complete with cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, proper cowboy hat, and a blue bandanna around his throat.
Elvis was a black man.
I blinked back my presuppositions based on his name – it never occurred to me that anyone who wasn’t white and from Nashville would name a child Elvis – and I smiled and said I was there to interview for the job of Farm Hand.
Elvis asked a few questions which I answered honestly – nope, I had no clue how to train horses for anything. Nope, never driven a tractor. Nope, no experience with horses injured on the track, or ones about to give birth, or weanlings or yearlings. Nope, nope, nope.
Oh well, thinks I. It was worth it, I tried, and I really like this guy – he’s the real deal, the first cowboy I ever met (he told me he was a former bare-back rodeo rider!), and I’m glad I had a stereotype I didn’t even know that I owned broken so completely and utterly.
Then he told me to go and meet some of the horses, who were still in their stalls awaiting the morning turn-out. Hell, ya! I am so not getting the job, but at least I get to meet some horsies!
He directed me to the first stall in the barn by the door and asked me what I thought of the young filly inside. She came up, stuck her head out, and we had a good old conversation. Me being a bit shy with her, as I really didn’t know where horses liked to be touched, scratched, etc. She was really sweet and put up with my fumbling, however.
When I turned away, Elvis told me I was hired. My jaw must have hit the straw, because he explained why. It seems that this particular horse had a huge fear of everyone, and no one could approach her at all, at all! She was way too old for that attitude, and now she would be ‘my horse’ to gentle for the track.
I spoke Horse, apparently! It was a dream come true, and I worked there all that year and the next summer, too.
But that’s another story.