Wild mustangs, Underdog tennis champs & a snipped stallion — Things that make mecry from their heart
I didn’t used to but now when I watch the Kentucky Derby, I cry. Not like, as Neil Young once described, “things coming out of my face” kind of cry. More on the quiet side.
Maybe it’s the majesty of watching these beautifully built creatures (with the most delicate of feet) running all out. Maybe I cry because I want to be one. Not a horse that wears things, but a wild mustang. Free.
Years ago on a photo shoot in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I spent a few days in close proximity to some wild mustangs. During one sunset, just as a group of them came barreling across the prairie sounding like the buffalo in Dances With Wolves, I could not resist running out with them or rather ... a good bit behind.
Afterwards, when I got on the plane to return to Texas I considered getting off and staying awhile. But I didn’t. Instead, I wrote. “I thought of the mustangs running out and beyond our small stations in life … head first into a world ruled by nature … and wished that I was wild.”
Yesterday, I watched a rerun of the Belmont Stakes so I could see the amazing run of Drosselmeyer, a three-year-old Chestnut, who had to zoom past five other horses to beat all the odds. Making the win sweeter was the fact that jockey Mike Smith was riding Drosselmeyer for the first time. Afterwards, Smith described the horse maybe better than anyone. “Once I had him out in the clear,” Smith said, “he showed his heart.”
It’s not only horse races that make me cry. I cried watching the Italian, Francesca Schiavone, win the French Open last weekend. From most any way you looked at the matchup between Schiavone and her opponent, Samantha Stosur (Australian) — Stosur seemed more likely to win.
Francesca might be petite in size, but not so in heart. She fought her way through two sets to become the first Italian woman ever to win a major singles title. It wasn’t only how she won but how she wore the win afterwards that I found equally admirable.
After the match, John McEnroe interviewed Schiavone at courtside and asked her if she’d felt a lot of pressure. “No,” she answered. “Pressure? No. I tried to stay focused on my play and not think about other things — just to play and enjoy, really enjoy … from the heart.”
McEnroe pressed on. “You’ve been around a long time. When you came to this event, what were your hopes and expectations?” “Expectation? No,” Francesca answered. “Dream, always. Now it’s time to enjoy.”
Perhaps I cry because I’m a sucker for underdogs.
Admittedly, one of my favorite cartoons growing up was called just that. Underdog was a great dog (aren’t they all) who wore a blue cape and flew in the air — swooping down whenever “Sweet Polly Purebread” was in peril, announcing, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!” God knows we need Underdog now. The Gulf and every living species in and around it.
I recently heard someone express the opinion that her horses, specifically a stallion that’d just been turned into a gelding — “didn’t know the difference.” “They (horses) don’t care,” she said. “They wake up from the procedure and don’t even know what happened! Mine just woke up and went on about his business. He was fine. All he wanted to do was eat.”
Isn’t it so human how we seem so certain of what animals know and feel?
I wanted to ask the woman (well meaning I’m sure) whether she’d read Jon Katz’s book, Soul of a Dog — Reflections on the Spirits of the Animals of Bedlam Farm. In the chapter about his dog “Rose” Katz writes, “I think sometimes that they can see us but we can’t really see them beyond our own needs and projections. For sure, we are needier than they are.”
Whether it’s a horse race or a tennis match — here’s to knowing where your power is … and more importantly, showing heart. May it always make me cry.