They say six months in army boot camp, if you can hack it, will turn a boy into a man. This was true for Wanbdi. Years as a farm hand followed by rigorous army training had changed him from the hurt boy who walked away from his childhood home into a grown man – strong, confident and angry.
Before his trip overseas to serve as a Peace Keeper, and with thirty days leave from the army, he headed home one last time.
He sat impatiently at the table, the house smaller than he remembered. Yellowed by time, curtains framed the window in his mother’s kitchen. Her apron hung on a nail by the washbasin waiting and ready, just like him.
He had planned this for a long time – played it over in his mind, what his father would say and what he would say back. His nerves were edgy. He was a fox hunting, muscles taunt, ready to pounce.
“I’m going to show him.” He told himself. “We’ll see how he likes me hitting him the way he liked to hit me.”
The sound of footsteps alerted Wanbdi to his father’s approach. He stepped into the house, a silhouette in the door frame.
“Oh, it’s you?” his father said with surprise.
“Yeah, it’s me.” Wanbdi challenged back.
One step towards him brought his father into the light; Wanbdi was not prepared for what he saw. The mountain of a man he once knew was now withered and old, shrunken and small. He too had changed.
Wanbdi stood stunned, confused. “I can’t hit this old man.” He thought to himself.
“Can you help me?” his father pleaded in a voice Wanbdi had not heard before. “I want to break a horse and I need someone to ride him.”
Frozen, still staring, Wanbdi was silent. His eyes searched this old man for the father he once knew. Then relaxing his shoulders he nodded slowly. “I can do that.”
Side by side they walked to the fence where the horse was tied. She was a beauty – a two year old sorrel, fifteen hands high, impatient hooves pawing the ground.
Wanbdi approached her carefully. He offered his hands for her to smell. In response, she snorted loudly shaking her head. Gently he ran his hand over her neck and down her leg. She picked up her foot and took a step back. With a gentle tug on the rope she moved forward following him into the field.
He turned to his father, handed him the rope and instructed him.
“She’s going to buck and when she tires herself out she’s going to run. When she does, let her go.”
A handful of mane in one hand and in one fluid motion, he was on her back. Instinctively she shot forward, put her head down and bucked. Twisting and turning she travelled from grass to dirt. Wanbdi stuck fast to her back. Just when it looked as if she had bucked herself out, Wanbdi’s father lost his footing and fell to the dirt. Holding fast to the rope he dragged behind.
Distracted, Wanbdi looked back at his father just as the horse veered right. Wanbdi hit the dirt with a loud thud. Enraged he picked himself up and stormed over to where his father was dusting himself off.
Picking up a handful of dirt, he threw it at his feet.
“Why didn’t you let her go!” he shouted. “I told you to let go!”
His father put his head down studying his dust covered cowboy boots. Stammering he blurted out, “Because … because you are my son you know.”
Wanbdi was shocked.
After all those years of wanting, of needing to be accepted, his father had finally said it. Only now the wall he had built around himself for protection would not let it in. The words slid off his shoulders, streamed down his back and formed a puddle on the ground.
Wanbdi turned and ran to his car. Dirt and rocks flew as he sped away.