We all could use a Brother's Keeper now and again.
Little Iris sat gazing out into the rising mist from Tranquil Lake waiting for Pap Cahill. He walked dignified along the narrow path toward the peace that the lake offered as he was then taken by his granddaughter sitting on his rock.
" Hi sweetie, little early to be up and near the lake. "
Iris thought a moment, as she got down from his rock. " You always come here almost every morning to think about all kinds of things and I thought I could do that too. "
Pap Cahill chuckled and was blessed by the understanding of this little girl.
" Honey, something then must be on your mind then. Because I know this spot is surely the place to be when you have to think about something important. "
" Pap, are you ever too old to believe in make-believe? " Iris asked.
Pap thought for a minute and in his old wisdom smiled to his self. Iris was always a very special child. Her imagination was just like his and he was pleased to have her home for the summer.
" I think I might have to find a story to tell from these old bones. " Pap said. " You see we can always have make-believe if we don't loose our imagination. Imagination is a wonderful thing. We can go anywhere and do anything that we can think of. Iris, just think about something, shut you eyes, and put you mind to work. So let's use our make-believe and put our lives into this story I 've been thinking about. Come on up on this old rock and listen to the tale of Brother's Keeper. "
Iris stepped up on Pap's rock and sat close by the old man she loved so dear. Pap Cahill knew something was bothering his little sweetie and he silently ask for wisdom while he gathered his thoughts.
Long ago in an enchanted forest deep within the Emerald Valley lived a horse farmer and his little wife. Mr. Bigger was an elderly, but very stately and loving man. He had a special relationship with his animals. Some even said he could talk to them and they would talk back. Anyway, out of all the animals his horses were his pride and joy.
" What a fine bunch of horses I now have, " boasted Mr. Bigger.
He spent hours grooming and cleaning up after them. After a time, the horses knew he was going to be their friend and master. They loved the way he took extra care with them and since they were all race horses, they were proud. Mr. Bigger had competed in the Emerald Valley Derby's, Run For The Gold, ever since the first race. However, for some reason his horses just never won. That would all change soon.
" Ah, Brother's Keeper, what a fine runner you are. What a grand champion you have become, " he said to his old friend as he rubbed the great stallion's head.
Brother's Keeper wasn't always a great runner or a great champion. He was a bit clumsy and he really didn't run well when he was a colt, but Mr. Bigger continued to love and take care of him in spite of his handicap. The farmer stopped for moment in the cool of the morning and began to think back in time as he stared at his old friend and remembered the tale of all tales he told that day while his horse was crowned.
" Well, I remember the day that foal was born just like it was yesterday. It was a very special day indeed as I recall. "
The day started out for me like any other farm day. A stop at the feed shed with my wheel-barrow to get the morning feed together was the first thing I had to do. Cracked corn for the chickens; mash for the hogs; and last but not least; oats and barley this morning for my horses would be the menu for breakfast. As I moved from pen to pen, I could hear the animals running toward their feed pens.
" The farmer is coming with the morning meal! " Henri the rooster squawked.
" All right, here is the corn that I promised. Now you chickens better lay some good eggs. "
I slopped the hogs and then made my way to the horse barn. The sun shone bright as its rays touched the valley that morning as Candice was already giving birth to her foal. She was a riding horse for the nearby children in the valley and she was always their favorite. Even though she never ran a race, she was very special nonetheless. She was the alpha mare in this barn that was for sure. She was having a terrible time with the birth. All of the sudden a foal was born, but there was something else. Old Candice was still in great pain, as I noticed another pair of of legs. Two colts born this day. Surely this is a great omen of great things to come. As I was about to run to the house, I noticed the first colt was not moving. He had died during his birth. A name quickly come to my mind. Well, little one, I guess now your name will be Brother's Keeper.
" Brother's Keeper, now what a grand name, " thought Candice. My young son, I promise I will raise you to bring honor to your brother, family, and Mr. Bigger. Maybe you will run like your father. See, your father wanted to be the fasted horse in the valley, but his leg was hurt during a race and he was put down so the wouldn't suffer. However, before he died, he looked at me and made me promise to raise you to run like the wind. I can only do my best now to keep that promise. " Candice said, as the young colt stood wearily.
Brother's Keeper was a very active little colt, but for some reason his hoofs never could keep up with his mind. He was still falling down every time he tried to run. He played in the meadow with his friend Thunderbolt. Like he, Thunderbolt, was pure Thoroughbred from prime racing stock. He didn't mind if Brother's Keeper couldn't run as fast as he could. He was just happy to have a good friend. However, the other horses made fun of Brother's Keeper. They called him dummy and clumsy.
" Ah, you'll never be a race horse, " shouted Lightning Bolt.
Brother's Keeper always remembered what his mother had told him about making fun of others.
" We still need to love those who make fun of us, " rang his mother's words. " They just don't understand. " she would say.
Brother's Keeper kept that in mind and every time one of the horses made fun of him, he would become more determined to succeed. His friend, Thunderbolt, decided that he needed to hep his friend to run. Everyday they would practice in the open meadow. Brother's Keeper would run then fall, run then fall. It seemed that he would never be able to carry out his father's wishes. The one day he was really out of sorts. Thunderbolt, in a sigh of disgust said, " its no use. I don't think you;ll ever learn to run. "
With those words, Brother's Keeper leaped into the meadow and one hoof hit the ground just in front of the other. He was running without falling down. That little push from his friend gave him that extra desire to overcome his handicap. Now he would practice hard and try and run in the big race when he was older.
Three years went by quickly as Brother's Keeper prepared for the valley derby. All the horses were there along with their masters. Thunderbolt and Amanda's Secret were running for Mr. Bigger. Brother's Keeper did not make the big race. He would just have to watch, but Thunderbolt knew what this race meant to his best friend and decided to help him get into the race. Thunderbolt began to limp badly. Mr. Bigger couldn't believe it.
" My new champion may not be a champion after all. I must find a replacement, " he said.
There in the corner of the barn stood Brother's Keeper. Mr Bigger had no choice but to allow him to race. His heart was moved for a reason he couldn't explain.
As the horses lined up in the chute, Brother's Keeper kept remembering his mother's words and the promise she had made to his father. As the gun rang out, he raced like a shot. He tried to take the early lead, but just couldn't.
" I must try harder, faster, faster, " he said as he gained on the leader.
Into the final turn he ran. Finally, the finish line was in sight. Harder, faster, he ran until he was alone on the track. When the dust finally settled, Brother's Keeper was the new Emerald Valley champion with a record-breaking win. Mr. Bigger often said that Brother's Keeper couldn't walk very well, but he surely could run like the wind.
As the old man continued rubbing the stallion's head, he knew his time was near. His legs could bare him no longer.
Thunderbolt grew up to become one of the greatest riding horses in the valley. He really never liked to race so he was content on being a riding horse for the children and his master. Thunderbolt missed his friend, but he would never forget the day he gave his best friend the chance to fly.
Mr. Bigger shook his head and smiled within his heart.
" Surely there is a greater reason for this life, " he thought as he made his way back to the house.
" Brother's Keeper never quit trying his best, " said Pap Cahill.
" You see little Iris, as long as we continue to imagine, Brother's Keeper will be real and he will always teach us about love and friendships. "
Iris thought for a minute and finally said, " you know Pap, even though Brother's Keeper had trouble walking he still had a best friend. I think I will go and tell Jamie this story. I have to tell her I'm sorry for not being her best friend just because she has to wear those braces on her legs. I want her to be like Brother's Keeper and never stop trying her best. "
Iris climbed off Pap's rock and headed back toward the house as the old man wiped the tears out of his old eyes and thanked God for the lesson both of them learned today.