Desert mornings always bring me back to Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire.
Vast mornings, animals crawling along the desert floor, heat building, sweat falling.
Sunlight so bright - you cannot squint enough to block it.
Water in your canteen - so hot it burns your lips.
And wild horses who have no need for a stable, a stall, or your hay.
In Desert Solitaire, Abbey presents a story titled "The Moon-Eyed Horse". The moon-eyed horse wasn't a wild horse, he was an independent horse. He had a been owned, tamed, branded. He was a gelding, a worker. And he had problems. Once he got free, he never returned. Abbey wanted to find him and keep him. But Moon-Eye had no use for Abbey, no use for being kept. For ten years, Moon-Eye had been a desert horse. He had no need to go back.
Abbey searched and searched, and did find Moon-Eye and tried to coax him to his side. "You've been out here in the wilderness long enough, old man. It's time to go home."(pg. 165)
Moon-Eye watched Abbey. And watched.
"My head ached from the heat and glare and for a moment I wondered if this horselike shape in front of me was anything more than a hallucination." (pg 166)
“But that horse wouldn’t come, though I waited a full hour by the sun. The horse moved only once in all that time, lowering his head for a sniff at a bush near his foreleg.” (pg 167)
"He waited. I squatted on my heels and passed my forefinger, like a windshield wiper, across my forehead, brushing off the streams of sweat. My head felt hot, damp, feverish. "What's the matter with you, Moon-Eye?" (pg 168)
"The horse stood motionless as a rock. He looked like a part of that burnt-out landscape." (pg 170)
“We waited then, the horse and I, enduring the endless afternoon, the heartbreaking heat, and passed the time as best we could in a one-sided conversation. I’d speak a sentence and wait about ten minutes for the next thought and speak again. Moon-Eye watched me all the time and made no move.” (pg 170)
Finally, Abbey gives up. "We faced each other across some fifty feet of sand and rock. No doubt for the last time, I tried to think of something suitable to say but my mouth was so dry, my tongue so stiff, my lips so dried-out and cracked, I could barely utter a word." (pg 171)
followed by "... (I) started homeward, trudging over the clashing stones and through the sand down-canyon towards my pony and Salt Creek. Once, twice, I thought I heard footsteps following me but when I looked back, I saw nothing." (pg 171)
The desert, solitaire.
Quotes from Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, Ballantine Books, NY, 1968.