The Hundredth Meridian

Crazy Horse

The horse went down on a horizontal stretch of trail where no sound horse had any business stumbling.  The quadrupe-dal rhythm broke suddenly, his near shoulder crumpled, his head sank at the end of the black-maned neck, until the horse seemed to be wanting to kneel and kiss the ground.  I let out rein and sat back in the saddle, expecting him to recover himself and get up on all four feet again.  Instead, he kept going down, and down, past the recovery point, until I came off like a sheik descending from a camel, only harder, striking a kneecap on a rock, my shapeless felt hat bowling alongside over the ground, keeping up.  From the corner of my eye I observed the horse complete a somersault a few feet away, idly calculating whether he was going to fall on me or not.  I heard Norma’s shout from behind as the horse scrambled to get his legs under him and onto his feet, retrieved the hat from a bed of mountain lupin, and stood up, rubbing the knee with my free hand.  The horse shook himself all over under the loosened saddle, gazed reproachfully over his shoulder as if the wreck had been my fault, then turned to graze a clump of the sparse grass.

“Are you all right?” Norma asked anxiously, sitting the mare who had also begun to graze.  “I thought you hit your head when you went off.”

“Not my head, my knee.”  The rock had torn a hole in the...

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