A Christmas Fable
> The old gray horse sidled up to the pasture fence
> with little
> dancing steps. The place seemed familiar, yet
> somehow strange. The
> grass was greener than any grass he'd ever seen, and
> when he looked
> closely at
> the white paddock gate it had a kind of pearly
> sheen. and there was
> another funny thing. A big, black cloud hovered
> just inside the gate.
> The cloud wasn't up in the sky where it properly
> belonged. It was like
> a great puff of black smoke rising from the grass.
> Suddenly the cloud dissolved and revealed a horse.
> He was a
> small chestnut with a blunt head and one white
> stocking and brownish
> hairs in his tail and mane. The gray horse thought
> he had a kind of old
> timely look to him.
> "Hello, old gray horse," the chestnut from the black
> cloud said.
> "Hye, that's a real good trick!" the gray horse
> Where'd you learn it?"
> The chestnut disappeared into the cloud again, but
> immediately. "Learned it the day I was born," he
> replied, with a whinny
> that sounded like a chuckle. "You see, I was born
> on April Fool's Day
> and there was a total eclipse of the sun. So they
> named me Eclipse. I
> was always playing tricks on people too. Used to
> kick my grooms and try
> to throw my riders and I bit the auctioneer that
> sold me."
> "My name is..." the old gray horse started
> to say politely, but
> the tricky chestnut ducked in and out of his cloud
> and interrupted
> "Native Dancer," he said. "I ought to know you.
> I'm your
> great-great-great-great-great - I always lose count
> of the 'greats' -
> but anyway, you're a descendant of mine. almost
> everybody is, in fact.
> Thoroughbreds, that is."
> "Are you the gatekeeper?" Native Dancer asked.
> "Mostly," Eclipse replied. "I'm on duty
> whenever one of my
> descendants is coming up. That's mostly so far as
> the Thouroughbreds
> go. Old Matchem has a few left and he takes over
> when one's due. And
> old Herod, he's posted here occasionally, but
> there's not many of his
> male line that aren't here already."
> "What is this place" Native Dancer asked. "I
> guess I'm kind of
> "the Green Place," Eclipse replied. "Taht's
> what it's called.
> The Green Place. Most of the horses that get lost,
> come here. We have
> to send some back of course."
> "Why?" the Dancer asked.
> "Because they don't belong here, that's why. Long
> before I came
> up there was this fellow Bayard, for instance. He
> was a devil-horse.
> Belonged to an old necromancer named Malagigi and he
> did the devil's
> work. Helped that villain Aymon of Dordogne to
> truiumph over
> charlemagne, they say.
> And a wizard named Michael Scott had a big black
> beast who used to stomp
> his feet and set al the bells of Paris ringing. He
> even caued the
> towers of the palace to fall down one day. The
> Big Guy doesn't want
> that kind here. but we have Jesse James's horse,
> and Dick Turpin's
> too. The Big Guy says they did nothing wrong
> themselves. The were just
> faithful to their masters, and The Big Guy thinks
> that's a virtue."
> "Who's the Big Guy?" Native Dancer asked.
> "You'll find out!" Eclipse answered airily.
> He lowered his
> muzzle and pushed the gate
> "You might as well come in. You understand you're
> on probation
> though. The Big Guy makes his decisions about new
> arrivals every
> Christmas. Let's see, it's November 16, the way
> you figure things down
> there. So you won't have long to wait anyway."
> "I'll bet The Big Guy is Man O' War" Native Dancer
> said as he
> moved inside and gazed over the emerald green
> expanses that seemed to
> stretch into infinity.
> Eclipse snorted. "Don't get smart, boy" he said.
> Then he added
> maliciously, "You'd lose your bet too. the way a
> lot of people lost
> their bets on you at Churchill Downs one day."
> Native Dancer felt hurt, for his ancestor had
> touched a raw
> nerve. His lip tremble a bit as he replied
> defensively, "That Derby was
> the only race I ever lost."
> "I never lost even one race," Eclipse said
> So don't get smart up here. The Big Guy doesn't
> want any smart-alecks
> in the Green Place. Remember that."
> Native Dancer was a sensitive sort. He felt
> as if his eyes were
> teary and he hoped Eclipse didn't notice. "I won 21
> out of 22, and Man
> O' War only won 20 out of 21" he declared. "And my
> son Kauai King won
> the Kentucky Derby."
> "My sons won three Derbys at Epsom" Eclipse said.
> Eclipse took the second running and Saltram won the
> fourth and Sergeant
> won the fifth, and I'd have won the bloomin' race
> myself, only they
> didn't run it in my time. So quit bragging.
> Somebody's coming and they
> might overhear
> you and tell The Big Guy, and that would be a mark
> against you."
> A bay horse who seemed even more old-timey
> than Eclipse ambled
> up. "Is it my time now?" he asked eagerly.
> "Not yet, Herod," Eclipse answered in a
> kindly fashion. "Old
> Fig's on duty now. One of his is on the way."
> "Who's Old Fig?" Native Dancer asked. "I never
> heard of that
> "There's a lot of things you never heard of, boy,"
> replied. "His real name is Figure, but down there
> they called him
> Justin Morgan, after his owner. Here he is now."
> A very small, dark bay horse with a round barrel,
> tine feet, and
> furry fetlocks came bustling up to the gate. "OK,
> OK, I'll take over,"
> he said busily. "Where is that boy? Can't stand
> tardiness. I've got
> things to do. A load to pull, a field to plough, a
> race to run, a trot
> to trot. No time to waste. Where is that boy?"
> In the weeks that followed, The Dancer met hundreds,
> thousands, of horses. Some of them were famous, and
> some of them were
> his ancestors and a few of them were his own sons
> and daughters.
> He met a snorting white stallion named Bucephalus
> who had been
> approved for the Green Place by The Big Guy even
> though he was rumored
> by some that he was cursed by the deadly sin of
> pride because he had
> carried a conqueror named Alexander. He met another
> gray horse who
> limped because
> he had stepped on a rusty nail back home just before
> he became lost
> forever. His name was Traveller, and he was a
> war-horse too, in the
> days when a man named General Lee had owned him.
> There were other
> soldier steeds, two of them descendants of the
> bustling little stallion
> they called Old Fig up
> here. One was Phil Sheridan's black Rienzi and the
> other horse called
> both Fancy and Little Sorrel who had been the mount
> of Stonewall
> Native Dancer found Man O' War an amiable sort
> despite his proud
> aristocratic bearning, and he grew especially fond
> of a bony old fellow
> named Exterminator, who patiently answered all but
> one of his
> questions. He asked the question of everyone: "Who
> is The Big Guy?"
> And the answer was
> always the same: "Wait til Christmas."
> He met Messenger and Hambletonian and Hindoo. He
> met horses
> that had dared the dreadful fences of the Grand
> National. He met a
> horse who stared blindly into the emerald darkness.
> His name was
> Lexington. He met horses who had pulled circus
> wagons and horses who
> had pulled brewers'
> trucks and horses who had drawn man's ploughs over
> the fields of earth,
> and he met others who had been the mounts of kings
> and captains.
> Always the answer to his question was the same:
> "Wait til
> Eclipse fussed over him and kept a watchful eye on
> his behavior
> and said he neighed too much and asked too many
> questions. Eclipse
> could not stand the thought of The Big Guy banishing
> one of his
> descendants from the Green Place.
> And Native Dancer did not wish to leave. He doubted
> he could
> ever find his way to Maryland again if The Big Guy
> disapproved of him.
> And the Green Place was very pleasant in all
> respects. The grass was
> lush and he met so many interesting horses. Back
> home he had sometimes
> been troubled by
> nightmares, for a Dark Star haunted his dreams, but
> now he slept
> peacefully and rarely remembered the Derby he had
> He became nervous though, as the weeks went by and
> the stars
> grew brighter.
> And finally it was time. On a night when the skies
> burned with
> starlight all the horses gathered as near as
> possible to a little
> hillock of the vast paddock. There were hundreds,
> thousands, maybe
> millions of
> them, a murmuring and expectant throng that seemed
> to stretch over the
> emerald grass beneath the diamonds in the heavens.
> Eclipse was very tense. He hovered over
> Native Dancer,
> whispering, "Look your best now. Be quiet and
> humble. The Big Guy will
> be here any minute."
> Suddenly the vast throng was silent as the stars
> The Big Guy stood on the hillock in a blinding blaze
> starlight, and Native Dancer could barely contain
> himself. He choked
> back a whinny of derision and whispered to Eclipse,
> "Is he The Big Guy?
> He's so little! And he's not even a horse! What
> did he ever do?"
> Eclipse whispered, "He's a donkey. He carried a
> woman heavy
> with child to a small town on another night when the
> stars were bright.
> "It was a long, long time ago."
Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique