I love this east coast magazine, have admired it for years. Post Road is like a stretch school, as in … go ahead kid, apply to schools that will never accept you and hope like hell you get lucky.
This month I got lucky. Post Road has published one of my favorite essays about trying to go home. Of course there are dogs. And horses. And family. Would you expect anything different? Here’s a tiny excerpt:
At the last mile marker, my rental car eases off the blacktop of County Road 213, and I hear the slow crunch of Wade’s gravel driveway. I honk the horn twice, like we do in these parts, to announce myself, and park under the familiar shade of three pecan trees.
When I open the car door, the cold of the air-conditioning drains out and I suddenly feel overdressed, in what Wade would call my city clothes, jeans and a black t-shirt, unfit and unprepared for Southeast Missouri summer. Wade shuffles his size fourteen work-boots out and across the gravel driveway and scoots on ahead. He grins big and waves for me to follow. “Hey kid. Thought you’d never get here. I got somebody out here you need to meet!’
Somebody? He heads off toward the old red barn, his steps faster than I’ve seen in recent years, his movement fluid and easy. Before he gets to the barn he stops as if he’s forgotten something and calls back to the house for his beagle mutt, Buddy. “Come on boy!” he yells. “Come on, now!” Buddy does not come. Wade calls again. No Buddy. Wade walks on. I turn and spot the dog’s freckled face, flat to the ground underneath the front porch. I try clapping my hands and calling him in a high pitch, my happy voice, but that doesn’t work either. Buddy doesn’t budge. When I turn around, I see Wade has already made the turn into the barn and disappeared.
The barn floor is strewn with fresh hay that feels like a crunchy cushion underneath my slick-bottomed shoes. I inch my way in, careful to keep my eyes on the ground, careful not to step in a hole, or on a misplaced shovel or fork or rake or hoe. When I reach Wade, he’s standing like pride itself next to a tall, chestnut-colored mare. A fine white stripe separates her long-lashed, bulging brown eyes. She pokes her head out and over a metal gate and lifts her nose in my direction. “Oh my god,” I say, reaching up. “You always said you wouldn’t have a horse.” I cup the mare’s nose in my hands and rub. She nuzzles. Wade says, “Meet Tess. Well, Tess is her name, but I call her Babe.” He used to call my mother Babe. I lean in closer and pull her nose down so I can touch her forehead with mine. Wade reaches down and picks up a handful of hay to lure her away. “Come on here, Babe. Come on now.” She digs her lips and teeth into Wade’s hay-filled hand. My mother had wanted a horse and he’d said no. A firm no. “That’s my girl,” he coos, “that’s my Babe.”