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Excerpt From Jake's Elvis J Has Left the Barn

Chapter Three – Kids and Elvis

Elvis loved kids. He could always depend on a handful of grass offered by grubby little hands. Sometimes he’d get a horse treat if the kid knew where they were kept. When Elvis came to my home, grandkids were already making their appearance in the world, and they loved Grandma’s house and her horses even more. Having sixteen grandkids and their various friends always visiting, my horses learned right away that kids were a good thing.
Even though I lectured, warned and growled, not all of them would listen to my dire warnings of not going into the corral to pet the horses. From the fence was okay, but I knew that even the best of horses, if startled, could trample a small child underfoot.
Elvis was always the first to greet the happy kids and reap the benefits of their need to feed the horses. How he sensed their innocence, I don’t know.
I remember the first time I encountered a child in the corral it was a Kodak moment visually, a heart attack physically. My oldest granddaughter, Jaquelynn, all of four years old, had climbed in with Elvis. She had happily wrapped her arms around his front legs, her head between his knees, and was now smiling endearingly up at me. Elvis arched his neck, looking down curiously, while standing statue still. I quietly went into the enclosure, my hand sliding down his silken shoulder while reaching to disengage the giggling girl. When she was extricated and I had her safely in my arms, I leaned into him, resting my head on his neck in gratefulness for his calmness. He nuzzled the little girl, looking for his reward.
He gave horsey-back rides freely. I could always depend on him to be available for a quick walk around the corral for an eager toddler. I always did this bareback and they would hold on to his mane. He would step carefully, balancing them on his broad back. My second oldest granddaughter, Katelynn, was still in diapers when her mom and I set her up on his back. With chubby little hands she clutched his mane; her blue eyes alight with joy and fearlessness.
“Go faster, please, go faster,” she pleaded. So I tugged on his lead rope, the signal to step up his speed. He hesitated, sensing her inability to stay on, but being obedient, he went into a rough trot. The bounce was too much for the laughing toddler and she slipped from his back before we could catch her. She landed on her diapered bottom, sitting up, surprised. Then she threw herself back on the ground and started to wail.
Elvis turned his head, ears pricked forward, listening to her cries. Her mother scooped her up, dusted off the little bottom, and reassured her. She reached for the inquisitive nose Elvis offered, wiping her crocodile tears on the soft end of it. Then like a cloud revealing the sun, her smile broke free and she begged to ride once again.
We slid her up on his back and I asked him to walk out again. This time he acted as if he was walking on eggs. Each step was balanced, as he adjusted to her squirming, keeping her on his back.
“Faster, please Grandma,” she pleaded. I tried, a tug to speed him up a hair, but he refused. Methodically plodding along, he knew what was best for his bouncing charge. I couldn’t have dragged that horse into a trot.
I came to respect and appreciate his innate ability to assess his rider. Later on, as the grandkids grew old enough to ride on their own, I would use his sense of a rider’s skill to determine what other horse in my herd the child could handle. He became my best tool in teaching the children. If they didn’t have the skill level to make him do what he needed to do, he would quietly head to the gate and stand there, refusing to go anywhere as they squirmed, kicked and yelled. All my grandkids learned they couldn’t ride any other horse until they could work with Elvis and get him to listen to their cues.
The time Elvis definitely deserved the title of saint was when my grandson, Milton, visited. Again in the toddler years, he was quite active. My house was always full of grandkids coming and going and it was common to see a little one at the corral giving the usual offering of hay.
So it was easy for Milton to slip into the forbidden corral with the stick he had picked up in his play. What is it with boys who have to wander around with a stick in their hand, I will never know. I was in the house and happened to look out the dining room window. I had thought, as a city girl, how wonderful it would be to have the main corral as my view from the front of my house. I didn’t realize that view came with a smell!
I saw Milton toddling towards a dozing Elvis who was relaxing in the warm sunshine, letting everything hang out. I headed for the front door at lightning speed when I realized where he was headed with that stick. I had only reached the front porch, feeling like I was in one of those dreams where you watched in horror as a scene play out, yet cannot move fast enough to intervene. Milton was short enough to fit under Elvis’s belly and with a batter’s practiced eye, aimed for the dangling appendage. Even as I hollered he swung.
Never in my life have I seen a horse suck up so fast. His belly went to his back bone, his eyes popped open wide, the dangling remnant of his male-hood disappeared. He locked his legs, somehow even in his half-awake stage, sensing he had a child underneath him. Milton’s giggle floated on the air, I was faint from holding my breath, and Elvis slowly turned his regal head, to stare at the little juvenile delinquent under his belly.
I wish I could take these Kodak moments frozen in my memory and down load them to my computer. The expression on that horse’s face would have won many a photo contest! Milton toddled out and headed to my next horse, but by that time I had finally reached the corral and scooped up the little offender. Elvis politely sniffed him, and I would have given anything to be able to read his mind.