Flag Goes Home
Nestled in the Blackstone River Valley of New England is the home of a man well loved and long remembered by the many children he opened his heart and home to. Brookhaven, aptly named, sits beside a babbling brook that courses over granite and polished river stones deposited there through the ages. John, as stereotypical as any Boston Irish Catholic, long, lanky and always sporting aviator sunglasses, walked softly but carried a big stick. Every child lucky enough to be welcomed into John's life and the bit of New England woods claimed by Brookhaven towed the line, respected and loved the man, and flourished in his wonderful and magical world. Though now grown old, John is yet often heard to say, "As a bachelor I had more children than any married couple I've ever known."
Horse pendant in sterling silver
by ALL ANIMAL JEWELRY
That first summer was made all the more glorious by the addition of a newcomer to the rank and file of geese and gander, cats and dogs, ducks, frogs and the variety of other creatures that inhabited Brookhaven. One early afternoon John came home towing a one horse trailer, parked, and backed from the trailer a somewhat sloped-back bay gelding named Flag to the appreciative praise and squeals of delight of all the children present.
John led Flag onto the grass and, one by one, lifted us to Flag's back. There Flag stood, willing and compliant, such a good horse! And then it was my turn; up I went and there I sat feeling all the world as proud as could be. It is a fine thing to sit a horse and there is no other feeling in the world quite like it. The reverie was quite suddenly broken when Flag bolted. There was no thought process, no warning that something was afoot, not a twitch. Flag just left the planet. In less than a moment we were on the drive, the staccato beat of his shod hooves hammering the pavement. I vaguely heard John attempting to run after us, but Flag was fleeter of foot and all I heard was "Hang on!" Unneeded advice, really, for the moment Flag had bolted two little five year old hands had tangled themselves into Flag's mane. I needed no encouragement to hang on. Visions of landing on the pavement, getting trampled beneath the galloping hooves, or the embarrassment of falling off kept me on that horse like glue. As Flag raced along the rural two lane road I wondered also how this was to end. I had little knowledge of all things horse limited to "Whoa," (which wasn't working), "Giddyup," (completely unnecessary), and appreciative pats on the neck, (which I had neither a spare hand for nor the inclination).
Quite as suddenly as Flag had bolted, he made a sharp left turn, crossed the road and raced across the side yard of a picturesque clapboard home. The additional concern that I would be reprimanded by the homeowner for tearing up his grass was quickly replaced by terror at a fast approaching clothesline. Visions of decapitation threw me onto Flag's neck, which I felt stretch out as he flew under the wires. Another sharp pivoting right and abrupt stop had me cautiously sitting up incredulous that I was still alive much less still on the back of the horse. But there we were, standing at the back door and stoop of the home when the door opened and out stepped a woman, wiping her hands on the apron about her waist and a smile across her face as she enthusiastically greeted not me, but the horse. "Why Flag! You've come home."
In the years that followed Flag was to share his pasture with a feisty, fresh red pony named Red Fox, a dappled gray horse named Silver Fox, a pretty registered bay mare nicknamed Jabby and, long after Flag had left us in body but not spirit, a gorgeous Arab named Munchkin. John outfitted the horses and us for trail and show and hauled all of us to horse shows held in hay fields, barns and arenas. The woods and fields surrounding Brookhaven were then broad and expansive allowing miles and miles of trails for long afternoons of riding. We'd wash the horses in the brook, feed them sugar cubes and help John cut, dry, bale, gather and stack the hay needed to get through what was then the long and snowy New England winter. But it was summer then, hot and sticky New England summers, and haying was a festive time. John would haul the lot of us into town on the back of his flatbed truck to lunch at the drive-in A&W. Back to Brookhaven, the work and day were finished with a swim in the brook or a nearby pond. And the horses grazed, a pretty picture of color themselves against a backdrop of rolling hills of the Blackstone River Valley.