A Memoir by Adam Coulter
One spring night in 1991, Don Carver knocked on the door of our house. “The mare’s delivern’ a foal,” he told my dad. “Thought the boy might like to see it.” The boy meaning me. I did want to see it. I was twelve years old and had never seen anything be born before so I grabbed my coat and the three of us headed up the dirt road to the barn.
Mr. Carver was about twenty years older than my dad, old enough to be my grandpa for sure, and reminded me a lot of him. He leased the fields up the road from our house and grew tobacco that he sold in Asheville.
He walked with a limp and a crooked back, characteristic of many of the old farmers I remember from my childhood, and always appeared to be leaning slightly forward. His Levi Garret hat sat high above his ears making him look a few inches taller than he actually was.
The barn sat at the curve in the road. We entered and turned on a flood light in the horse’s stall. The mare, plump and round from her pending delivery, paced back and forth across the width of the stall. My dad and Mr. Carver made small talk as I watched the horse. One moment she was pacing, the next she would lay on her side. Her dark brown hair and black mane were covered in hay and her breath was heavy from pain.
“She’s getting her foal into position,” Mr. Carver said to me, his jaw bulging around a wad of tobacco.
The horse continued her cycle of pacing, lying, rolling, then eventually stood against the wall. Moments later the front hooves then the head of the baby horse began to protrude. The mare heaved, her sides contracting, working the foal out little by little, still covered in the membranes of the womb.
Dad and Mr. Carver were calm, standing next to me with their hands in their pockets in the yellow light of the barn. Not a word was spoken as nature took its course.
The mother horse pushed in labor and the upper legs of the baby slipped out. After a little effort the baby horse was born and on the ground. The foal broke through its birth membranes and the two bonded instantly. She was a brown haired horse with a reddish tone, slightly lighter than her mother, and in healthy condition. I watched as the baby horse stood and took its first steps, a little wobbly at first, but soon finding her way, like we all do.
My dad and Mr. Carver filled the stall’s water bucket and feed container then laid a layer of fresh hay along the floor of the stall. Once they were satisfied with how things had gone, we closed the barn up for the night, leaving mother and baby to themselves.
“What’d you think of that?” my dad asked as we stood outside the barn, the night air still and cool.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,” I said.
We said goodbye to Mr. Carver. He pursed his lips and spit tobacco juice onto the ground, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and told us he would see us later.
Our feet crunched the gravel of the dirt road. I listened to my dad recollect his own childhood memories of growing up on a farm, the animals he had seen born both triumphantly and tragically, and lessons learned along the way. The road turned toward home and the pink moon of April cast long shadows of father and son walking side by side. Above us the starry North Carolina sky was bright and timeless.
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Adam Coulter is a native of western North Carolina. He works in healthcare and is an avid reader of Southern literature. When not writing he enjoys growing grapes in his backyard vineyard and glasses of red wine on the back porch. His work has appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of The Rhapsodist.