On my drive to work this morning, there were about 50 pigeons lined up along a power line. Right in the middle of the black, gray, and silver birds sat one pure white bird, all puffed up against the cold. I thought to myself, there must be some kind of message there.
Flying Pidgeon died today. He laid down in the sunshine and decided he didn’t want to get back up.
I carry a special soft spot in my heart for the Pidge. He was a smallish, dark brown horse, not particularly fancy. You would not have picked him out in a crowd. His bloodlines, while old and distinguished, weren’t trendy. He wasn’t a household name, and his progeny aren’t ridiculously famous. Nothing about him suggested that he won over a million dollars, racing 25 or so years ago when purses were much smaller. No Triple Crown bonuses, no Dubai World Cup, no high dollar slots purses. Just a million dollars, earned the hard way—by racing, and winning, and racing again, in a total of 56 races.
I knew Pidge for the past two years or so. His most notable physical feature was a white-rimmed eye that gave him a rather crotchety, dour look. He always looked as though he was peering at you with skepticism and disbelief. Maybe he was, because at age 27, Pidge had had a very long life. His past few years at Old Friends, he went outside during the day and came in at night to rest his old bones. Every day at 4:30 he wandered over to his gate, waiting for someone to bring him inside. He was the easiest of horses to handle. No chain, just a soft cotton lead rope and a pat on the neck.
Pidge had few teeth left. Those he had left were so grown out in front that when he did try, half-heartedly, to take a nip at me, his teeth wouldn’t meet enough for him to get much skin. Because of his lack of teeth, keeping weight on him was difficult, so he pretty much had free access to grain every day. Summer’s heat was hard on him, and he didn’t really care much for the cold either. But in between, when it was comfortably warm and sunny, he felt great. On those kinds of days he’d run around his field, not too fast but still clearly enjoying himself. I watched him run just a few weeks ago. He was an old warrior of the very best kind.
Pidge didn’t get the carrots and treats the other horses are so fond of, because chewing them was impossible for him. Most of the time, he would glance over at visitors, shrug his shoulder as if to say, “yeah, whatever.” But, occasionally he would come over to greet visitors, usually in the hopes of getting his back scratched.
And oh, how the Pidge loved a good back scratching. He’d lean into your hand, or the curry comb if he was really lucky, and close his eyes in bliss. If you stopped before he was ready, he’d reach back and threaten to take that nip, just to make his point.
I’ll miss scratching your back, Pidge.