I’ve been slow to post Black Boy’s story. He deserves his place here. He gave me courage when I needed it most.
Despair had become a frequent visitor during a period of time when I felt as if I’d awakened in someone else’s story. The details aren’t important here, and I’ve come to view the whole era as a time of incredible growth.
I’m even grateful for it now, as so many people are after experiencing something they would not have chosen. Sometimes we learn most when pushed out of a comfortable nest and forced to fly.
The flying came later. On the day Black Boy saved me from doing something foolish, I was broken.
Snow lay deep and unbroken across the fields. The temperature had sunk so far below the freezing mark that frostbite would quickly whiten any uncovered skin.
Perfect conditions. I remembered from my Idaho childhood how quickly cold could settle into the bones, how seductive and soft a snowy bed could appear.
I slipped out of the house on the pretense of doing one last check of the animals.
In the dark barnyard, I sat down in a pile of hay and sobbed. The sky was thick with stars. Around me sheep and cattle lay quietly. Knowing it wasn’t feeding time, they ignored me.
All but one, Black Boy, a Jacob-cross ram. He walked over and lowered his great head, pressing it right into my heart. Gradually I stopped crying and sat still. Despair flowed from me into his sturdy frame. Calm flowed from him into my heart.
I’ve no idea how long we stayed there, but I do know it was long enough to give me the strength I needed to keep putting one foot in front of another until I could resolve the issues that were troubling me.
Black Boy never stopped checking on me. If I was OK, he’d stand beside me until I scratched his favorite places. If I wasn’t, he’d stand beside me until I sat down and let him press his head into my heart. It always calmed me.
That was years ago. Black Boy has since died of old age, but I still remember that great head, with the wide, spiral horns, pressing against my heart.
Cathryn Wellner, 2010