"GRAZING" story

I was not raised around horses, but have always loved them. I don't know why, really; it's everything about them I suppose, their magnificent structure, strength and swiftness. From the time they foal, their determination is great, a characteristic I admire in animals and especially in humans.

Grazing" is my 20" x 24" (50.8 x 60.96 cm) oil painting on canvas. My family lived in the plains of West Texas for several years. The horse in this painting grazed several miles down the road from our home. I don't know if he is a Paint, which is a breed or a pinto, a coloration. Any breed can have pinto coloring. Confusing?

 My story is not about this horse, instead it is a memory from my childhood when my love of horses almost cost my life. Our family camped a lot in the summertime during our years in Alaska. This particular excursion took us to a village on the Kenai Peninsula, located along Turnagain Arm. In 1889, there were 3,000 people in Hope, Alaska, attracted there by gold fever. It was only a few years prior to the famous Klondike discovery. Today it has a population of fewer than 200. However, outdoor seekers, both visitors and Alaskans increase the number considerably during the summer months. Those wishing to 'pan for gold' in that same Six Mile Creek, 'ride the rapids', as well as ride a bike or hike the mountain trails. They find the long days of sunlight enticing. To get to Hope, head south from Anchorage down the scenic Seward Highway to mile 56.7. Hope lies another 16.5 miles down the Hope Highway, at the end of the road.

My story happened a couple years prior to the Great 1964 Good Friday earthquake. Experiencing this is another story for another time. It was M 9.2 centered in Prince William Sound, between Anchorage and Valdez, making it the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded worldwide. There were several tsunamis which caused death and destruction along the southern coast of Alaska. The Oregon and California borders also experienced 16 deaths due to the event.

 As my parents set up our small camper in the open area along the creek, I spotted a herd of horses across the stream. There were other tents and campers scattered throughout the area with a goal of leaving with many red salmon. I asked Dad if I could take pictures of the horses. He gave me the nice 35mm camera he had just purchased, not realizing I intended to wade the stream and get the photos close-up.

I managed to traverse the stream with only a few slips on the moss-covered rocks that filled the base of the stream. The hours I spend on the other side passed too quickly until I ignored my new-found friends just long enough to notice several groups of people standing in the camping area close to the stream. They were yelling and pointing at me, the creek and the ocean. They were motioning at me to come, so I started back across the creek. But, to my surprise it was no longer shallow and lazy, but a rushing river. As I started across, in no time the water was up to my chest. I remember thinking, "Dad will kill me if I get his new camera wet!" I was slipping and sliding over the rocks, all the time holding the camera as high as possible and praying for it's safety. It never entered my mind that I could drown. I walked very slowly in deep concentration. I glanced up for a second just to see the entire campground filled with people. "Where did they all come from?", I wondered. Mom told me later that one of the men had done a poor job of comforting her when he said, "A 13-year old boy drown here last week!"

I still love horses, but I know now that I saw them just as well from where I was without wading across that stream. This experience taught me about tides, but more than this, it taught me to be considerate of my parents. It frightened them much more than it did me and this was wrong. It also gave me insight into the value of telling the truth of my intentions.