Monday, August 3, 2009

On Steeds (1)

This is Hourn, who is from Mongolia. He has a droopy donkey lip, and his name means 'brown.' We spent several weeks in the hills together, slowly. What is it about nonhuman and even inanimate traveling companions? Possibly they're just easier to relate to. The horse and I soon figured out what we expected of each other, and became something like friends. Neither of us did our jobs particularly well, but that was all up front. If you expect to waltz into a yurt in central Asia and be given one of the best horses around, you're sadly mistaken. Likewise if you're an old horse expecting me to have any idea what I'm doing.

John Steinbeck once had a deluxe camper in the bed of a three-quarter-ton pickup. He called it Rocinante, "which you will remember was the name of Don Quixote's horse." Whatever moves you becomes part of the journey. Sometimes important or ultimate, or just incidental. Volkswagen bus, motorcycle, bicycle, horse, sailboat, giant diesel train engine - whatever it takes to get wherever. Eventually, things attain the status of characterhood. Any good story can create a relationship between you and characters that might never even have existed. So it shouldn't be so surprising that these real steeds all have proper names.

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