They rode through floating feathers and everywhere diaphanous veils into the glinting light of silver and gold that spread and gathered sparkling like sunlight and endless stars; love living in the air and wisdom living in the light. It was not today or yesterday but one moment.
Green hills undulated across the landscape. Winds that swept between spires of red sandstone lifted their manes like ships’ sails over a green sea. Running, darting, chasing, and urging forward galloping toward nowhere and everywhere to a secret calling; the free and invincible swift currents advanced the heroes across the hilly plains. Masters of the bush these outback dancers were horses called baroomby or brumby.
Omeo, a youth of the Anangu, had come into manhood. He of all the Australian clan’s children felt a special kinship to the brumby, the wild horses of the Uluru, seeing them as gods.
My heart lifts and rises to meet you, thought Omeo, feeling expansive...breath of mother soul of earth soars bringing life to open, bud, and bloom filling it with your powers...this I know to be true, this I know to be her soul leaving the heart beneath my feet to bring bounty of wisdom from the stars to grow the things of earth for us her people.
Though nature was awakening, the human soul in its way nodded sleepily but not this day, not for him. Omeo strode and ran free as the wind. Green sparkled all around by the sun beneath a deep blue sky touched by wispy clouds after the first showers of the blossoming spring rain. Throaty neighing sounds came to his ear and a warm wind swirled downward sweeping across the plain. Loud whinnying attended the sounds and the earth thundered and rumbled. Turning east Omeo’s dark handsome face turned, his gold green eyes fixed on an emerald hill and watched as the proud heads of horses came over the top. The galloping herd slowed and the group gathered at the top of the hill. They grazed while young foals wandered awkwardly among the legs of the mares.
A chestnut red stallion with black mane and tail watched him. They had come to know one another from a distance. Omeo who had grown slender, tall, and muscular walked calmly toward him carrying a gourd filled with grain over his shoulder. A sleek ponytail hung down Omeo’s back and lay dark against the white of his shirt. Half open in the front the shirt billowed when the wind crossed the grassland. Wearing pale blue jeans torn at the knees the scruffy threadbare cuffs met his brown bare feet which were cushioned beneath by the abundant green grass that would not last long, by summer’s end it would disappear to red dust.
The stallion let the young man approach him. Standing not too far away Omeo dug into the gourd and held out a handful of grain. Extending his arm he opened his hand. The red horse took its time ambling forward all the while eying him. Nearing the outstretched palm its nostrils flared and cautiously sniffed, its bold head hovering above him. Holding steady Omeo felt its warm breath brush over his fingertips then the lips parted exposing teeth and the tongue flicked and tasted the offering. Omeo swallowed hard but stood firm and the grain disappeared from his open palm.
These beasts were not friendly. The stories of those trying to catch and tame them were often ones of tragedy and death.
He took another handful of grain from the gourd but this time with his left hand while he reached out with his right to touch the horse’s mane and it let him. While the horse munched Omeo gently pulled at thistle and stickers that had latched onto the black mane and then brushed his hand once along its neck. Today he would attempt to mount the horse. As Omeo approached him another stallion came up behind the red horse. It reared up with its forelegs and came down hard on its rump. The chestnut pushed its nose into Omeo’s chest and sent him flying backward onto the grass then swiftly turned to face the challenger.
“No, no, no,” said Omeo. Stunned by the sudden engagement of clashing hoofs he scrambled backward on the ground until he could stand a safe distance from the fight.
The bay charged-in again and the rest of the herd moved off to a shallow water hole. The fighting horses whinnied and screamed. With teeth bared their long necks stretched forward taut with strain and manes fluttered like wings when their heads whipped from side to side. They reared and came down with forelegs battering the other again and again. It seemed to go on forever. The bay swerved and made for Omeo but the chestnut blocked him. Ramming one another then kicking they came together and parted then came together again several times. Whipping round, the bay suddenly lurched and came down hard on the other horses’ backside wounding him with an open gash. With grass torn away by their hooves, a cloud of red dust was unleashed. A hunk of fleshy skin hung loose bleeding down the side of the chestnut and glistened wet, Omeo who could smell the blood from where he stood. He wanted to help but didn’t know how.
Abruptly the chestnut backed away then charged-in, reared up, and pounded the bay on its head with its forelegs then rushed in and bit its shoulder. Screaming the bay jerked free then circled round attempting another attack but the chestnut rushed in screaming and the other backed away. Snorting and whinnying loudly the bay shook its head and moved off. The red heaved and snorted and stamped its hoof.
Omeo got a little closer to the horse then stopped. Crying winds filled his shirt and lifted the black mane of the red stallion where it watched for the bay’s return. Then the horse snorted, turned, and pushed against Omeo’s shoulder sniffing him.
Omeo placed his hand aside the wound, “I’ll not hurt you,” he said, his eyes brimming with tears and they walked side by side to the watering hole. Removing his shirt Omeo dipped it in the water while the charger drank, then lifting its head it waited, letting Omeo carefully wash the wound. When finished he stood silent next to the horse and then the animal crouched down on its forelegs. Omeo was awed by the gesture. Wiping away tears he reverently took hold of a tuft of its mane and mounted.
“Master,” he said in a low voice, the ritual complete.
They walked away from the herd across the grassy plain and moved in the direction of the mountain. Singing could be heard in the distance. Omeo turned and the horse halted. He watched as the burial ceremony came to a close and the family disappeared into the shanty he had come to know all his life as his home. Horse and rider turned and departed the sacred land of their birth. Streams of quicksilver glinted and golden light streaked past in feathery wisps then spread to engulf them as they vanished into its eternal fold.
Copyright: A. Roz Mar, Masters of the Plain 2018