When Martha and I first met, she was just twenty-two. We were introduced by a mutual friend and liked the look of each other. Though twenty-two seems pretty young to most folks, it's fairly old for a horse. But I bought her anyway.
The first thing she did, once she was mine, was step on my foot, hard. Maybe she was offended by the price, which was one dollar or she just wanted me to know who was older, in horse years, that is.
Martha was fun to ride in the hills near our house, and she loved to gallop. She had a sweet disposition and fell in love with Levi, my friend Scott's horse who also boarded at our house, until Papillion came along, but that's another story.
We entered quite a few Gymkhana events near our home. For the uninitiated, that means barrel racing, obstacle courses, speed races, and the like. We came in first in every event, if you viewed the results backwards.
One day, thinking we might shake things up a bit, I whispered to the announcer, and when it was our turn, the loudspeaker barked out, "Up next, Hank Frazee on Flamethrower!" That definitely got the crowd's attention. Didn't change the results, but we decided to stick with the name anyway. There's always next time.
Mostly, though, we just liked trail riding, so Martha and I gradually retired from the Gymkhanas. And eventually I gave her a new home at Tom Sawyer Camp in La Canada. She joined a herd of more than thirty horses, where little kids got to ride her around a bit. Horses, like most humans, are herd animals you know.
And I like to imagine that sometimes, when things were quiet, she thought back to the glory days, when she was known in the grand arena as Flamethrower.
I know I do.