Iowa Writes

COLT L. AMBORN
Cutting the Stallion


Doc Gelber walked briskly outside carrying a bucket in one hand, a lead rope and canvas in the other. "Here take these. Let's get the show on the road." He loaded up a shot of tranquilizer to give to Cowboy, the second horse to be castrated today.
        I shuffled. "That little thing is really going to put this whole horse down?"  The first horse had grunted during the entire procedure.
        "He'll go down for a bit, but he'll still be awake. That's why I need you to hold him, and hold him good. I better not get kicked." Then he said, as if I wasn't there, "This stuff. Heh. You take some of this stuff you'll be set for a weekend chewing on your tongue. There isn't going to be any extra an the rest I keep good and locked up."
        Okay, I get it. Me, the ex-druggie. But to Doc Gelber and other haughty-taughties like him, I was, would always be, a druggie. "I wasn't talking about for people," is all I could say. "I just wanted to know if it'll hurt him real bad."
        "Oh he'll feel something alright, but he'll get over it. Now come on, let's do it. While we're still young. Criminey!" Doc held the needle high in the air, and into Cowboy it went.

Doc Gelber walked briskly outside carrying a bucket in one hand, a lead rope and canvas in the other. "Here take these. Let's get the show on the road." He loaded up a shot of tranquilizer to give to Cowboy, the second horse to be castrated today.
        I shuffled. "That little thing is really going to put this whole horse down?"  The first horse had grunted during the entire procedure.
        "He'll go down for a bit, but he'll still be awake. That's why I need you to hold him, and hold him good. I better not get kicked." Then he said, as if I wasn't there, "This stuff. Heh. You take some of this stuff you'll be set for a weekend chewing on your tongue. There isn't going to be any extra an the rest I keep good and locked up."
        Okay, I get it. Me, the ex-druggie. But to Doc Gelber and other haughty-taughties like him, I was, would always be, a druggie. "I wasn't talking about for people," is all I could say. "I just wanted to know if it'll hurt him real bad."
        "Oh he'll feel something alright, but he'll get over it. Now come on, let's do it. While we're still young. Criminey!" Doc held the needle high in the air, and into Cowboy it went.
        Even though the drugs were starting to take effect in Cowboy, he saw the operation on the horse before him and made a decision that he would have none of it.
        Doc tried to pull him down on the ground. I kept trying to help Doc, but I always seemed to be in the wrong place, to get in the old man's way.
        Doc growled, "Come on! Go down, you son of a bitch. Go down!" He grabbed Cowboy's ear and walked him in circles to break down his base. Cowboy was still resilient and wobbled—a boxer in the 12th round that was sure he was going to lose the fight, but wasn't about to be knocked out.
        "Ahh, hell with it." And with that, Doc gave Cowboy another shot.
        This was enough to get him down on the ground so we could tie him up.  And still, Cowboy quivered. I let him up; I knew it would speed up the sedative's effect. At first he wobbled, then he tipped over like a domino. Poor Cowboy. His rebellion was over.  We cinched him up and Doc went to work.
        I knew Doc was irritated with what he thought were my inept animal handling skills, but in truth, I couldn't stand seeing Cowboy struggle, for no good reason.  Still, Doc held his annoyance in well—somewhat. Perhaps in order to concentrate on making the incisions he had to divert power. He only told me to press my knee harder into Cowboy's neck, while he performed his awful deed. Since the rope attached his head to his leg, the horse couldn't kick without pulling his head. It was a pretty smart idea really, for as awful of as the whole thing was an all.
        Cowboy's big brown eyes remained ever vigilant but the rest of his body was failing him. I knew he was wondering about all the times he had stood up and not fallen down; why a minute ago, it had been so different. I thought about Cowboy's resolve and I admired him. But as I allowed my mind to wander, I allowed slack in the line.
        Cowboy's leg came free. Yes! The sedatives were working their way out of Cowboy's system; he was getting his second wind. Go man, go! Don't let these fuckers take this from you, I said to Cowboy with my eyes.
        And still, I kept my knee on his neck. 
        Doc snarled at me, "Dammit, you stupid druggie! Put the rope back on his foot. If he kicks me—"
        Ex- druggie, I wanted to say, wanted badly to say and free Cowboy and run wildly with him. But I did what I was told. I wrapped that rope right back on Cowboy's foot and hoisted it up so Doc could finish his gruesome task.
        Finally, it was over. Cowboy sat up and pawed his right hoof on the ground in an attempt to stand. He groaned as his strength escaped him. I could tell he was wondering what was missing, unsure if he should feel angry. Or despondent.
        And I helped it all happen, Cowboy. I sold out the fellow stallion that couldn't be allowed in his society without all these man-made checks and restraints. I made a decision that I wouldn't be a part of your gelding, and then betrayed that decision instantly. All it took was a grumpy old animal doctor to snarl at me. 
        Cowboy climbed into the trailer with a precariousness I had never seen in him before. Before the trailer door clamped shut, he looked at me in a way that for one split second, allowed me to believe that he understood.

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Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

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COLT L. AMBORN

Colt Amborn was raised by his single mother who ran a small ranch in southern Iowa.  After fleeing to the military, he became a student at the University of Iowa.  Using his studies in sociology and statistics, as well as life experience, Colt's writing focuses on the conflicting roles of masculinity.

Colt wrote Cutting the Stallion for a fantastically fun-filled but nevertheless inspiring non-credit weekly workshop on Friday afternoons at UIowa's The Writing Center.

For more of Cutting the Stallion, see Colt's Daily Palette debut in July.

This page was first displayed
on September 16, 2014

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