A horse, a farm and mo(u)rning glories

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

On that mythical day I win the lottery (remember the lottery? It's how other states fund schools) I plan to buy a farm and I already have the name picked out. It will be Morning Glory Farms and yes, there is a story behind the name.

First, I have to introduce you to the little Tennessee Walking Horse I owned in my teen years. She wasn't too bright, or even pretty. She toed in, had a ewe neck, and was harder to catch than a politician the day after a scandal breaks. But I had her for 10 years and we adored each other.

My senior year in college, she and several other horses managed to get through a break in the fence and get out on the road. She and two others were struck by cars and killed. I was on my way back to school in Memphis when it happened, so the news was waiting for me after a five-hour trip in an un-airconditioned car in the hottest October Tennessee had seen in decades. I was devastated, not just because I lost my weekend buddy, but because I felt I'd lost my last tangible connection with my dad. A former cowboy, he'd gotten me the mare on my 12th birthday as a green-broke two-year-old and we'd worked together on her, training her, teaching her, while he taught me, for the next three years - until he died.

I couldn't bring myself to go back to the farm where I had boarded her - it was too painful. Finally, over spring break, I went out to collect my tack,

the unused saddle and bridle lying under golden haze of chaff and dust. The owner of the farm, in a rare moment of generosity (and guilt - he had seen the broken fence before the horses escaped, but because his fundamentalist religion forbade any work at all on Sunday, he had done nothing about it) he had gotten a back hoe and buried all three horses on his property instead of having them hauled off by the county.

I visited the mounds of earth that marked the site, not knowing or caring which one was my Shadow's, or that of Joanie's Eagle, or Cindy's Prince. There, in the dirt that was as red as any found in Lower Alabama, was a morning glory vine, curling around the clumps of dirt, covering even the faint green blur of new grass.

Death and birth, the endless cycle. Even a crass college student could see the symbolism there, the dew sparkling on the vivid blue blooms as they trembled slightly in the early morning. Birth and death. Beginnings and endings and beginning all over again.

I thought a lot about morning glories on Thursday, as the television, newspapers and radios were overloaded of those remembering 9/11. I thought about the great destruction suffered that day, the horrendous loss of life. Then I remembered one of the follow-up stories later that year, of all the children born to fathers who died that day, children born after that day, who would never even know the brief happiness with their dads that I had with mine. I watched the children at Headstart Thursday morning at a 9/11 observance. They were laughing, joking and playing with the First Responders, their lives untouched by the great sorrow that shook our nation to its very foundation.

And I thought of morning glories.