Chief, our mule, gives me his characteristic greeting of the rough-shoulder-budge on his way to somewhere else on this glorious Spring day. His hide smeared in mud, he glances at me with clay-caked eyelashes and drops an existential bombshell, “Cosmic Intelligence can not be defined by scientific language” he states amidst a cacophony of wild birdsong. He enjoys sharing this sort of contemplation in tandem with his daily shoving exercise. I would like to think of it as a gruff show of affection but do not assume anything with Chief. “I’m here…you are there…I see you…I like you…do not start with your fluffy human weirdness of pats, strokes and strange clucking noises” he adds striding past, tail swishing in a cloud of fine dust delivering a gamey, feral bouquet in my nose. Chief is the personification of peace and harmony in a rugged Marlboro-Man-Mulish-Manner.

Marlboro Man Mule

Marlboro Man Mule

I restrain my gushy antics, and agree with him. Despite our dysfunctional relationship, I am in tune with his philosophical musings. Chief knows our existence is a mystery and subscribes to an equitable school of thought: science is important, yet spiritual inquiry keeps us humbly grounded in the big mystery.

Diminutive Navajo pony, Geronimo trots up snaking his head menacingly, and wedges between me and Chief. He likes my saccharine gushing and shoos Chief away for some sentimental goo. Size has nothing to do with hierarchy within our herd; the little pip-squeak thinks he is king and so he is, in his eyes. Both Chief and massive Traveler, our elder sage, know this charade too well. Little Geronimo blows his trumpet big and loud, is ignored, and the normalcy of peace and harmony prevails.

50 million year ago, Equus was a tiny, forest-dwelling rodent-esque creature that ran on fleshy toe pads. Eventually those tiny toes became a horned hoof and the small, shy mammal emerged as king of North American herbivores, thundering in vast herds across the plains. They died out on this continent, but had already traversed across our moving tectonic-plated Earth to Eurasia where they flourished. Evolving into large, intelligently emotional creatures, they were perfect candidates for domestication by humans: peace and harmony is easy to corral. Millenia later, Spanish Conquistadors brought modern horse back to the New World to plunder across Mexico into Texas and beyond. With their superior technology-of-horse, nothing could stop them. Equine escapees from the Spanish invaders formed wild bands and thrived once again on the prairies. Native Americans valued them as creatures gifted from SkyGod, and created mythical bonds with their new fleet-footed partners. Geronimo and Traveler, both wild mustangs, herald back to this colorful ancestry.

Wild Mustang Traveler

Chief rolls his eyes, yawns, gives me another shoulder budge and asks me the relevance of such scientific facts. He prompts me to stay in the here and now. Breathe. Watch the sun rise and set. Know your herd. Bump your human friend.

But my thoughts turn to our noble partner, the elegant equine. From rodent-esque to arguably the most beautiful creature on Earth. What happened to us humans? We’ve also had millions of years to evolve but the peace and harmony thing eludes us.

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