In the wind they stood manes and tails sagging. And in the wind they were. And in the wind the clouds blew and bellowed and raggedly shaped on. And the horses existed.
There was barbed wire fencing and field grasses. And there was dry cold air and mountains. And there were train tracks paralleling. Traveling. Fronting.
The wind was east and the mountains were west and the tracks ran north south and the barbed wire ran spindling and drooping and low.
Six horses stood and the wind blew. And it was cold and laughing.
Six horses stood and five of them faced east and one of them faced west. And the wind didn’t care either way.
Aspens grew some distance off and all shared the same root system. All were in actuality one aspen. One greedy and languishing aspen. A grove. A groove. A root cellar.
The same field where the horses stood wasn’t always horses. In mornings it was a coyote alone and facing the sun and warming itself. Sitting paws down and chin up and ears back. And in dusk at once or another it was the red fox kicking its furrowed tail through the slinking lines of the barbed wire fence. Into the moon and the eclipsing night. And before that it was a deer snarled and bloodied. Limp on the side of tire tracks. A hulk of fur. An unmoving rib cage.
And the wind blew empty and draining. Cold. Burly. Begging.
And the horses stood five facing away and one facing in. Facing it. Facing.
And they stood.
And their manes and tails flitting with the wind. Flirted. Flogged. Flailed.
The horse with its head to the wind and its eyes closed and its long front staunch and careful was the one that would die first. In the field of horses here with the wind blowing and now as it blew that horse would be the one to last the shortest amount of time. And it faced the wind because it knew.
The other horses had tails parted and spread by the gusts through the aspens. Through the mountains. Through the grasses. Through the barbed wire. But the one horse that one horse out of six had its head straight in the wind. And it would be the first to die.
Barbed wire would catch the cowboy’s jeans as he straddled and ducked. And it would tear his skin. And he would bleed but just for a moment. And this would be when the sun was shining back again and out again and hard again and fast again.
And the grasses would move from yellow to green to yellow to gray and the snow would fall and the wind then would be white and pummeling. And the horses would wear blankets and know which one of them was dying.
And the aspens would find leaves and lose leaves and make leaves and shed bark papery and thin and scattered and brittle.
And the ranch hands would remember when they used to be brittle.
Because now they are calloused.
And the horse who faced the wind would die. But the wind would be forever. And the other five horses would live on waiting to see who would turn next.
And the barbed wire fence would droop lower and lower until it bit the earth.
And the grove would deepen and spread.
And the wind would blow cold and hot and useless and infinitely.
The horses and the wind.