Ben was well over 30 when he passed in October. I had just treated the old Percheron draft horse to a generous scoop of grain enriched with a weight-gain supplement. Perhaps the combination convinced him that now was as good a time as any to lie down in the fall sunshine, digest awhile, and depart, with his family – a small herd of cows and his special buddy, our young Belgian "Buck" – all attending. I sat at his head swishing away flies and telling him, hardly for the first time, what a good fellow he was.
Ben has appeared on The Home Forum pages many times in the past and I wanted regular readers to know of his death, which was peaceful and on as close to his own terms as it could have been.
Good neighbor John came with his backhoe and labored in the pasture, baked hard by the drought, for a good three hours to fashion a resting place for an animal that, sheer dimensions aside, was always larger than life – a phrase that might serve well as Ben's epitaph.
Buck, for his part, stood by the grave whinnying into the night – as sentient of loss as an animal could be.
I planned a lunch-time wake with special friends of the horse, including our next-door neighbor Bev, who for years had admired Ben from her picture window overlooking the pasture. This morning I set up lawn chairs and a table by Ben's mound, sprinkled it with hay, and hoped for the best.
The cows, having enjoyed their morning rations, were peaceably lying around the water tank in the barnyard a good distance away and oblivious to my preparations.
I should have learned by now that bovines can sense possibilities over acres and around blind corners. Horns swaying, they ambled into sight, spied me in the distance and trotted over, intrigued as only animals with four stomachs can be. Surrounding Ben's resting place they knocked over the chairs and appreciatively dispatched the extra hay.
Buck followed with more dignity but an equally sharp appetite. The horse is clearly coming to terms with the new scheme of things. Why let good hay lie uneaten?
It was, after all, the perfect wake for Ben, on a farm that is somehow smaller without him.