Friday, May 30, 2014

Dance Horse

Today's spooky item from outside the Portland Art Museum is Dance Horse by Deborah Butterfield, who has specialized in abstracted horse designs like this.

I admit this thing kind of creeps me out. There's something sort of primordial about it, like a horse from a Lascaux cave painting. But it also looks like a skeleton, or maybe a horse golem made of driftwood.

I like horses, but they can be kind of creepy even in the best of circumstances. They can kill you umpteen different ways, but they usually just a sugar cube. And when you give a horse a sugar cube, you have to hold it just so, because a horse has an enormous mouth full of nightmare teeth, and it could easily bite your fingers off without even noticing. And that's when they aren't casually trampling you, kicking you to death accidentally, bucking you off, or rolling over on you.

I'm reminded of this one time at Boy Scout summer camp. I was trying for Horsemanship merit badge, one of the highlights of summer camp (especially for those of us who weren't really into swimming or target shooting). The main event involved a big group trail ride out away from the camp. I'm not sure how far; it felt like forever but it was probably just a couple of miles tops. By luck of the draw, I'd ended up with a horse that was highly intelligent and held an abiding hatred for all humanity. It kept ducking under low tree branches, trying to knock me off its back. It would even weave off the trail when it saw a promising tree branch off to the side, despite anything I futilely tried to do with the reins. I think I earned my merit badge that day just by staying on.

I'm also reminded of another time at the Oregon coast, years ago, renting horses to ride on the beach. I realize that's a cliche torn from the cover of a bodice-ripping romance novel; it seemed like a good idea at the time. Anyway, that time was actually fine, with a perfectly docile, non-homicidal horse. Except for the flatulence. Equine flatulence is a force of nature, and not one of the more pleasant ones. All the recycling and walking to work and environmental do-gooding I've ever done probably still hasn't made up for the horse methane from that one day at the coast.

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