If you were to drive past the home of Mark and Ranae Salem these days, you would notice a bright blue banner with the words “It’s a Boy!’’ attached to the fence out front.
It is not what you might suspect. Mark and Ranae, whose appearances are youthful almost to the point of being spiteful, have not added to their family in the traditional sense.
Yet there is a new arrival. Just before going to bed Wednesday night, Mark went to check on one of his mares, Cowgirl, who he had moved into his small back yard in anticipation that she would soon deliver a foal.
Poor Cowgirl. Through the typically hot summer months, we had watched her as her belly swelled and her expression seemed to betray a weariness that only moms can understand.
Now, mares begin to leak milk about 24 hours before they deliver. But this is just a rule of thumb, as Mark and Ranae would discover.
When Mark checked on Cowgirl Wednesday night, there was no tell-tale signs of impending labor.
Thursday morning, Mark walked outside and a movement caught his eyes. His two angus calves were being chased by what he first thought was a big dog.
Mark looked again and was delighted by what he saw: A beautiful painted colt. Sometime between bedtime and daylight, Cowgirl had delivered. And only a few hours later, the little colt was already chasing the calves - a natural cow pony, for sure. Mark has named him Ruff-n-Ready, Ruff for short.
Since Thursday morning, a lot of the Salems’ friends have stopped by to see the little colt. He is a beautiful colt. In fact, he looks a lot like his sire, Splash. In addition to friends, other curious passers-by have noticed the colt and stopped to admire him.
Me? Well, maybe I’m getting to be a little sentimental in my middle age, but Ruff’s arrival seems to be some sort of tonic.
Last week, I was informed that the job lead I had been pursuing, a job that would have represented a major step forward in my struggle to put my life back together after the trauma of going to prison, has been put on hold. As the economic news worsened, the company decided it wise to put some of their plans on hold, and initiated a hiring freeze through the end of the year. Maybe in January, I was told. But, of course, the simple turn of the calendar isn’t guaranteed to change things. I guess there are thousands of Americans who are facing the same uncertain prospects that confront me.
So it was nice to have a distraction. When I went to visit Ruff for the first time, I brought a few snacks for Cowgirl, just to put the protective mom at ease. As I approached, Ruff moved close to his mom. But in a little while, as I kneeled down to present myself a less threatening presence to the gangly little colt, his caution gave way to curiosity. Under his mom’s ever watchful eye, he eased closer to me, finally allowing me to softly stroke his head and withers.
To Ruff, the world is a scary place. Everything is a new experience and, as a result, a potential danger. Of course, it is a dangerous world, but no less interesting because of it.
I know the feeling.
Times are hard, it is true.
But the world remains a hopeful place.
That’s important for me to remember in times like these.