The three moose trudged across the valley floor, stopping for occasional swipes at the late summer underbrush still clinging to life with dry roots. I ate my breakfast at the barn apartment table and watched their lumbering progress from the second floor window overlooking the expanse.

The horses below stomped occasional pleas for more of their own morning meal. I made a mental note to turn them out later into the bigger pasture on these 60 acres, where they could spend the day grazing.

This pending satisfaction didn’t stop their impatient demands. Who of us ever truly knows what is waiting around the bend.

About four years ago, a massive wildfire turned the corner toward our little valley and forced the evacuation of both humans and horses. At the time I only had one horse, Annie, who found safe haven about 15 miles south at Swiftsure Ranch.

Annie waited out the fire threat in a stall labeled with my last name and phone number, until we were allowed back into the blackened, barren moonscape of what used to be a vibrant valley green with pine trees and tall grasses.

I thought I’d already told that story in a book.

But sometimes the story isn’t over yet.

Who of us ever truly knows what is waiting around the bend.

Earlier this summer, a new horse came into my life. He was born here in the valley, before being passed across homes from California to Florida. He’s only 4 years old and still growing at 17 hands, which means he’s big, and already weighs almost twice as much as Annie.

He’s a very special horse with a gentle demeanor, quiet mind, and shades of pink on his sunburned, light-colored muzzle.

I was noticing those same shades of pink in some random photo somebody had taken of him as a foal about four years ago, when something on the stall door caught my eye.

It couldn’t be.

But it was.

And I experienced one of those moments that steal your breath, one of those moments that make you wonder if there’s something out there pulling the strings.

Because in this photo, four years before he’d come into my life, four years before he’d traverse the continent with different homes, that young foal with the shades of pink on his muzzle wasn’t just in any stall in any barn.

He was in a stall that had just held a horse evacuated from a fire.

A stall still labeled with a last name and phone number.


Who of us ever truly knows what is waiting around the bend.