The figure of a man slogging across the sand of the desert was accentuated by the long shadow he cast by the light of the sun setting on the horizon. It seemed almost all he could do to trudge up the small dune to the place where four horse legs reached skyward out of the sand. The man stood in awe and slowly let his backpack slip off over his shoulders and down onto the desert floor.
The man’s name was Caspar and he would have been floored if he had known he was named after the horse who legs aimed skyward. In fact, it was the horse who had been named after him. Long ago in Nashville, he had met the owner of the horse when it was but a colt. The colt had been given the same name as Caspar. But, of course, Caspar did not know this now.
It was Caspar’s mission in life to be a friend of those who had no friends and to be an enemy of those who made him an enemy. So far, he had had very little of either at home, so he had set out across the prairie only to find that it had quickly became desert sand. This caused Caspar more than a little concern since he did not know how he would meet either friend or foe out here.
Undaunted, Caspar scouted around and saw nothing but the great horse buried in the sand with its great legs sticking up skyward. Caspar wondered if perhaps this was a sign and, if so, how he could interpret it. He walked around the great legs and studied them intensely, but could find no meaning in them. Perhaps, he thought, he needed to establish a special form of communication with them. Caspar lay down in the sand two feet from the great horse and looked up to the sky where the great legs were pointing. After a half hour, nothing had happened so Caspar rose and went back to his backpack to look through his possessions.
While going over the things in his knapsack, it occurred to Caspar that one of his missions was to befriend those who had no friends. He looked back at the four legs reaching for the heavens and realized that if ever there were someone without a friend, it was that dead horse. So Caspar decided to become the friend of the dead Caspar. Fate is funny that way sometimes.
But how does a man act friendly toward an unresponsive horse? Running it around a corral didn’t seem to be a good idea if only because there were no corrals handy. Caspar was no horse whisperer—or clear throated one either—but even if he were he had doubts about the ability of the great horse to hear him. Other ideas of offering friendship such as shaking hands, hugging, and going out for a beer together also seemed inappropriate.
There was the other side of the coin, of course. Caspar would be an enemy of those who made him and enemy. But the horse was not doing that. While the four legs did not offer friendship, neither did they offer enemyship. It was a major enigma to Caspar and he could not figure out what to do.
Caspar mulled over his options as day merged into night, pausing a few times to look back at the four legs now casting long shadows. It occurred to him that friend or enemy or both or neither, he should at least give the horse a name. Having no better candidate, he decided to give his own name to the horse. (He still didn’t know, however, that the horse had originally been named after him.)
With the name issue settled, Caspar now directed his attention to being the host to a dead horse. It never occurred to him that Caspar the Horse was here first and thus should fulfill the role of host. The man thought of bringing out his deck of cards and playing Old Maid (one of the queens was missing from his deck). But the horse’s reaction to this offer was less than enthusiastic. He got the same stoic declines for the suggestions of playing jackstraws and Starship Titanic. As it was getting dark quickly, the man pulled out a vegetable bar and ate it, and then settled down to telling a story to the horse.
Caspar’s story was pretty commonplace. It was about a cowboy riding a horse through the desert until sundown. The cowboy then camped for the night when he found his horse had died, and in the morning he had to continue his journey on foot. There was some ill-concieved episode about a snake. He thought that maybe this story would be one that the dead horse could relate to, but the four legs showed no response to it.
The man finally fell asleep among the dunes, dreaming of sparkling waterfalls and windmills made of rock candy. Fairy godmothers also played a significant role in his dreams, but we won’t pursue that any further.
As the sun rose the following morning and flushed the sleep out of Caspar’s eyes, he looked all around for sparkling waterfalls and rock candy windmills. Waking up was always a major chore for Caspar. He sometimes felt like he had been born into the wrong world. “His was a forty-eight hour circadian rhythm,” he thought, “that had somehow got embedded in a twenty-four hour world.” (Caspar frequently thought to himself out loud.)
All he saw was four horse legs reaching for the sky. It was enough to pique the curiosity of a traveling cowboy, but as Caspar looked around again he saw no fairy godmothers. “Such is life,” he thought. “They’re never around when you need them.”
As the sun began to glisten off the snow-capped peaks in the distance, the traveler rose and brushed the sand off his clothes and face. It was clearly time to move on. He collected his belongings and started the long trudge toward the distant town of Jackknife. He did not notice the flash of light on the distant horizon.
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