Was it an epiphany or perhaps a premonition? I was eight years old. It was one of those warm spring mornings when the air is clear as crystal. The sun was high in the sky, its light through the canopy of trees on the hillside behind the house made everything look dappled. A kind of mystical steam rose from the dewy grass in the front yard. For me, it was a carefree kind of fairy-tale morning.

I’d just eaten breakfast. Mom and dad had gone to town, so my sister was in charge of me. While she was doing the dishes (which she hated to do... she’d break things to get out of that chore...), I went to the front porch to be in the sun.

I remember sitting on the steps thumbing through an encyclopedia. My mother bought a set from a travelling-salesman who worked his way through the valley. (He was one of the many salesmen peddeling their wares to the miner’s families.) My brother, Clay, was 27 years older than me. These encylcopedias were bought for him when he was is high school. The books were bound in leather and held a fascination for me because they felt and smelled old. And, they were full of worldly knowledge.

I turned a page and a shaft of sunlight blinded me. It was as if lighting had struck. I looked down into multi-colored swirls. They really didn’t seem to be anything but a lot of random markings. They were beautiful. Was it a painting of a fire? I picked up the book, tilting it out of the sun so I could get a better look. Then I saw him. A man on horseback…a red horse, moving swiftly through the density of the swirls, riding straight at me. It was as though he had stopped with a jolt, right on the edge of the page, deliberately staring at me. Was he a manifestation of the divine or some sort of supernatural being? Mind you at eight, I knew nothing of the supernatural. And as for divinity, I only knew what the church drilled into us about the energy of the Holy Spirit.

I wasn’t afraid. I instantly felt a kinship with this man, the red horse, and their journey. Who was he and why did I feel like I knew him? How could this be possible? It’s a page in a book. This was a picture in an encyclopedia, not a book of fairy-tales.

In a soft voice that held urgency, I heard a whisper from the man telling me he had to go. “Never fear,” he said, “I will be back someday.“ I turned around to see if anyone - maybe my brother, who was prone to playing tricks on me - was on the porch. Nothing. No one, only the porch swing moving in the wind. Turning back, the image began to burn into my eyes. I felt light headed, excited! I wanted more of this red, this man, this horse.

Suddenly there was a moment of insight. I saw the truth in the man’s words. I saw myself riding off with this man on his red horse. I sat there day dreaming for what felt like hours. Finally my sister called me in to help finish the chores. Reluctantly, I closed the book, went inside, took it to my room and put it under my pillow for later. Maybe, just maybe, I could go back to the wonder I saw in that painting.

I knew from that moment, that I would someday leave Haymond and those mountains, and discover for myself…my place in the world.

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