October 6, 2012 7:20:02 PM
Shannon Bardwell - email@example.com
"I went on vacation at Disney World once; that was back when I was interested in that sort of thing," she said.
Thirteen-year-old Kadee Holmes sat across the coffee shop table. Offered a latte, she said she'd prefer her coffee straight-up, with a shot of vanilla.
Kadee was wearing cowboy boots that weren't just for show. Those cowboy boots knew their way around a horse. Her jeans were tucked into her boots; she looked rangy and strong. She said she had toted hay bales over the weekend for a rescue shelter for horses. If the bales were good and dry she could pull a square bale of about 50 pounds. Pretty good for a kid.
Kadee loves all things wild, and especially horses; that's what she was there to talk about. But before long it was apparent there was much more to this young girl than just horses.
Kadee is homeschooled and has chores around the family homestead in Columbus. She cares for her new horse, Aztec, feeding and watering him and brushing his mane daily.
"It took me a long time to get the mats out the first time; I have to keep it up so he won't get all matted again," she said of the full mane on her Tennessee Walking Horse. "I need to get a farrier to look at Aztec's feet," she continued, her mind focused on the 12-year-old gelding she's had now for almost one month and has quickly come to love.
Kadee lives and breathes horses.
She credits her mom, Lisa Oswalt, for teaching her everything she knows. Even though she's been bucked off twice on previous horses, she got back in the saddle again.
"Aztec needs to build his weight up and he needs daily exercise," she said. That's when she came up with a plan that would exercise Aztec and help with her paying job.
Yep, Kadee has a paying job. Six days a week she delivers The Commercial Dispatch newspaper. She delivers newspapers in her Prairie neighborhood on horseback.
Seems it all started with a summer of boredom. She asked her mom about a job she could do. They came up with a paper route. She had hardly started when Kadee, a bicycle, and a gravel road got all tangled up. She said it didn't hurt bad when she walked back to the house with blood streaming down her leg. A trip to the emergency room netted her 12 stitches, crutches and time out on the job.
By the time she could lose the crutches, Kadee decided to try the route on horseback. She wasn't sure what Aztec would think of it, but he did better than she had hoped.
For most of the paper boxes on her route she can lean down and stuff the paper in. There's one box where she dismounts to reach the box. At first Aztec got a little nervous about that one, but now he's good.
"He's really a good horse; he just needs some working with," Kadee said with self-confidence.
John Oswalt, Kadee's grandfather, lives behind the family's home.
"I was going through the house the other day and looked out the window, and there she was -- bareback on top of that new black horse, with her study books in her hand, riding and studying," he laughed.
To Kadee, it was a natural thing to do.
"I got bored sitting and reading and just wanted to try it," she said.
Kadee went on to talk about her hamster, Skipper -- boy hamsters are best; girls are mean, she said -- the twin goats, Mary Kate and Ashley, and now the black billy goat, Little Ricky, the donkey, Poco, the cat Mia (with five available kittens) and Pete, her mom's horse.
"Oh, yeah, she's just crazy about animals," her granddad said.
Asked about her dreams, Kadee immediately answered, "to help save animals."
"They don't deserve to be mistreated," she said. "They need homes." When she grows up, she would like to work with or volunteer to help rescue animals who cannot help themselves.
Humans and horses, she said, develop special relationships. Horses have a beating heart -- they walk, they see. If that special bond is there, they are like a friend you can talk to.
"Even though they can't talk back to you, it's almost like they do. I was just born a horse lover," she said with insight and understanding.
For a moment in the coffee shop, Kadee closed her eyes and seemed to leave the room.
"You know, when you get 'em [horses] to galloping and you close your eyes, it's just like you're flying."
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.