Love thy neighbor as thyself … certainly not always easy to do, but when the Hyders are your neighbors, it’s not only easy, it’s also a privilege.
When I telephoned Larry I tried to keep my voice steady as I relayed the news that we had lost a cherished, 24-year-old horse that had belonged to a friend, and would need his assistance in laying “Barry” to rest in the field in which he’d spent several happy years of retirement.
Being Tuesday mid afternoon – the day after Spartanburg, thirty minutes to the south, had been hit by a tornado – Larry had been called down with his heavy equipment to remove fallen trees and debris from the storm. But the Hyders, who have buried three of my horses and countless others in the area are well aware of the heartache that accompanies that tearful, final decision made by the one who remains holding the other end of the lead rope. And so Larry, being a Hyder, said he would come as soon as he left Spartanburg, calling me twice with updates.
It was 7 p.m., after a grueling long day of work for him when I heard the rumble of the backhoe, having been driven directly from the family’s shop some fifteen minutes away, making its way down our long driveway, lights flooding the path before it.
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I didn’t have to say it, but I found myself murmuring that this loving, gentleman of a horse deserved the most dignified handling possible and every movement, every action was done as gently as possible. Barry was laid to rest on the crest of a hill next to my own Fozzy, whom I’d lost also at 24 years old, and his best friend, Scotty, who lived to be nearly 30.
By eight o’clock our solemn duty to Barry was finished and Larry, for the third time, apologized for not arriving sooner – “I’m just sorry you had to wait this long” – to which I waved a hand, dismissing the thought and articulated how grateful I was that after a hard day’s work he’d been good enough to come straight over.
We said our goodbyes and I remained in the field lit only by a new moon as he drove the back hoe up the drive and once at the top of our quiet, country lane headed west toward, I can only hope, a hot meal and a hot soak. I lingered by Barry’s grave and thanked him for all his kindness and generosity before turning toward the barn to blanket the other horses on this first frosty night of autumn. Despite the sadness there was a solace, a true comfort in knowing the people that I had called upon – my vet, Bibi, very early this morning, and Larry, late this chilly evening, would put their own comforts well after attending to mine.
And it was that moment when gratitude placed her arm around my shoulder as I walked back to the house.