Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Riding a horse named Candy through some thousand acres of private land in the hills near Hot Springs, North Carolina, we were followed by a puppy named Pete. Sometimes Pete would follow close behind the horses' back legs, with his head being swished by the tail. He seemed to be studying so that one day he could graduate from puppy to pony. Most of the time, though, he would be running far ahead or behind, on and off the trail, sniffing into every tangle of weeds and every fallen branch, thoughtfully peeing on them occasionally. Pete seemed like someone who's had ten cups of coffee before noon. When I opened the car door on arrival, he was right there jumping up into my lap and licking my chin. Mike told me about a brain-dissolving disease that can be contracted through dog saliva, so I was careful about where Pete's tongue went, but Pete didn't interpret my hesitation as rudeness. There was a little boy in a big flannel shirt who held up three fingers when I asked him how old he was. Our guide led us to a gem mine and we climbed as far as we could into the darkness. It turns out that most of the treasure is to be found in the creek just outside the mouth of the mine. Treasure being small pieces of garnet. We were not allowed to gallop. I rubbed Candy's neck every once in a while to communicate my appreciation and friendliness. Maybe I seemed kind of sleazy to her, but who knows what a horse is thinking?


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