June 9

1973 — Secretariat wins the Triple Crown

 

You never expected to be riding a horse.

In your old way of thinking, owning a car had been a necessary evil.  You had to get to work and home again:  thirty minutes in rush-hour traffic each way, versus two bus transfers and 90 minutes each way if public transit ran on schedule.  No choice, really.

There’s even less choice now.  Broken down automobiles and busses create their own roadblocks on highways, and along city and county roads.  People locked themselves in their cars, afraid to venture outside.

You never expected to be riding a horse this fast.

There’s no longer a job to go to.  The animal beneath you crosses fields, weaves between houses.  Sometimes you race across a blocked road, weaving among the cars.  The stink of death rises from the sealed vehicles.  You notice the faces of sallow corpses leaned against rolled-up windows.  They chose starvation, rather than face the terrible creatures that roamed these roads.

You never expected to be taking leaps like this, allowing the horse to make its own decisions — over a fence, over a pile of bodies, over a muddied creek — while hoping to shake your pursuers.

Imagine a long fuse trailing behind you, horse and rider, the flame burning ever closer.  There’s no choice but to keep running.

You lean low in the saddle, entwine your hands in the horse’s mane.  The animal is doing most of the work, but you’ve grown tired.  You wish you could fall asleep, the way you could on a bus or on a car with someone else driving — how pleasant it would be to wake refreshed, to find you’ve already arrived at your destination.

As you cross a long flat patch of land, you feel the beat of hooves beneath you, your legs squeezing tight to the animal’s torso to keep yourself from falling off.

Then a more disturbing sound reaches your ear:  a team of transformed horses galloping ever closer from behind, your pursuers, large majestic animals with even larger teeth and with terrible appetites.

You continue in the race, well ahead, but with no finish line in sight.