My Friend Charlie
Written by: Jim Delany
Permission granted for its use to Contrary to Ordinary
As I was driving home in the early evening on Wednesday, the 29th of March 2006, I looked at the sun going down and I thought about the past year. With my heart broken, I stared at that sunset and thought how beautiful it was, how strong the color was and just how marvelous this creation of God was. At the same time I was thinking of my friend, Charlie-Bear, another amazing creation by God. At 2:00pm that day I had to have Charlie put to sleep. My first horse. A very handsome 22 year old “sorrel gelding with a flaxen mane” found at auction.
It is hard to explain the sadness, the grief. It is hard to explain what this horse has meant to me, my family, and my friends. It is hard to explain what he taught me. Some people say,”What could you learn from a horse?” I know that I could not do justice to the spirit of what Charlie was all about, yet, hopefully I can transfer some of that through my words.
We called him Charlie-Bear, he came to us as “Charlie horse”. He and I were only together for 11 months. In some respects it felt like a lifetime which reflects what an exceptional mentor he was to me. I do know that he was gift from God. I think God looked down and said, “This poor guy needs a horse, a horse who knows what to do!” From that moment, when Charlie picked me at the sale, he was my teacher.
What could an older horse teach a middle-aged man? He showed me the value of trust. He taught me that work really wasn’t everything. When we were together…. work could not be in my mind. He taught me the value of my wife and my kids who I had taken for granted. He helped me find that joy in my heart that all of us had when we were kids and that we all choose to let slip away for growing up things. He reminded me to laugh more, that genuine laugh that just comes out. He also reminded me that each day is a gift and is not guaranteed.
Each of us has some special memories of the big guy. I will try to share some of mine to those of you who never had the pleasure of meeting Charlie. He was a very trusting soul, you could see it in his soft brown eyes and he always tried his best to do what you would ask, even in those last two days, especially those last two days. He was very affectionate. He would always give me and Tam “hugs”. If you were to get close to his body by his chest he would take his long neck and wrap it around you and tuck you in with his head. It was an unbelievable feeling when he would lean into you to do that. He would nicker to me at night when I would get to the barn around 9:00 pm and all the lights were off. You could slide open the stable doors and Charlie would greet you from the end of the aisle with that nicker. When you were graining he would nicker again and pace in circles. Almost like an excited dog waiting for his food bowl. He would bow his head without us even asking to let Michael and McKenna brush his forelock.
I will always remember the rides that we shared. When we fell together in July, he taught me to trust. He showed me we could work together to get over my fears. He put up with my lack of balance and hand eye control and taught me how to begin “to ride”. He made me become (in my mind) that cowboy that I always wanted to be when I was a kid. Loping around the arena and feeling the air move faster and faster: it made me feel alive inside, it opened something up, “that something” that work and the grind of life seemed to have taken away. Charlie never denied any one of our friends or family members a ride when they came to visit him and Sheena. He would follow me around the arena with a rider on his back doing what was asked of him. Michael (5) and McKenna (3) would love to ride Charlie. He was so kindhearted that we trusted him with all who wanted to get up on his back. Michael was getting to the point where he was “steering” with the reins by himself as Charlie continued with his “Montana Strut” pace. What an incredible animal to be enduring with all who were scared, just visiting or as green as grass!! There are so many more memories but paper will not do them justice in my mind.
I also have some people that I want to thank. First to my wife. Thank you for taking your crabby husband back to the barn sale. Thank you for getting a number to bid. And mostly, thank you for bidding on him. He was my perfect match. Thank you to Michael and McKenna for putting in all the time together as a family with Charlie at the barn and so Mommy and Daddy can take pleasure in their new passion and dreams come true. I am looking forward to the times yet to come. Thank you to Brian, Bridget, Gillian, Richard, and Jamie for welcoming us into the stables and taking wonderful care and giving love to both of our horses. You have and do love them like they are your own: from the very start and for Charlie, especially during those last hours. Thank you to Karen Lee for pushing me and showing me that Charlie and I could be a great team. And to all the people who came and let me show off my handsome boy and treasured him for the wonderful guy that he was, just…Thank you.
I would like to close with the final memory that I was given by this great companion: as he walked to the place under the pines where he was to meet the end with his body in tremendous pain from a ruptured small intestine, Charlie had his head tall as the distinguished horse he was despite that it probably would have been easier to let it hang down under the heaviness of that moment. He let out two strong final whinnies as if to say I am Charlie Bear here I come. When we came to that spot: I walked in to hug my friend and he hugged me back. Good Bye Charlie Bear, we know the spirit of who you were will always be with us so until we meet again:
THANK YOU MY FRIEND, I miss you, terribly,