• Sheil Seclearr

Serendipity and Sweet Whiskey

I learned to appreciate fine whiskey when I visited Glenturret, the oldest distillery in Scotland. But that is a tale for another time. This is not a story about cocktails. It’s about a horse; an Appaloosa I fell in love with in Santa Fe.

But before I tell you about the horse, I must tell you about where I first saw him. It was at Bishop’s Lodge Resort, a property I drive by every day that has always been of great interest to me for many reasons. It was once a beautiful ranch owned by the Pulitzers, an infamous family from St. Louis, my hometown. The huge renovation project to transform the ranch to resort was the subject of much local Santa Fe controversy. I had watched the stop-and-go construction for years. The property also houses a historic tiny chapel built by the first Bishop of New Mexico, John B. Lamy, around 1870. Over the years, he had acquired bits and pieces of property and created a lush private retreat, Villa Pintoresca. Willa Cather, one of my favorite authors, wrote about Bishop Lamy in her famous novel, Death Comes To The Archbishop.

I learned about all of this after buying our building site which happened to be in the housing development at Bishop’s Lodge. Our new home away from St. Louis home, my slice of beauty and serenity in this crazy world, is seated on the side of the mountain above Bishop Lamy’s beloved Villa Pintoresca. I thought it was strange and weird in a very wonderful way.

Bishop’s Lodge had not had horses on the property for many years. But last fall, as I sped by, I spied the most amazing creature in the pasture, a black and white spotted Appaloosa with a dramatic white V that ran right down the center of his dark black face. He looked like a raven, but he was obviously a horse. Yet I would not have been surprised if he had sprouted wings and flown right up into the sky. I slowed my car to admire him, day after day. He was a work of art: his coat was a show-stopping pattern of black and white against the bright green grass.

I wanted to paint him, photograph him, or just sit and watch him all day. But I couldn’t. He lived at Bishop’s Lodge. I called and asked about the horses and was told that they were not offering rides yet. I didn’t think they’d be cool with me sitting in their pasture all day with a sketch pad.

I stopped calling and started stalking the wranglers at the riding stable. I told them I wasn’t a great rider, but I could stay on a horse. I knew the horses surely needed to be exercised. I pointed to the twenty-some horses in the corrals. After a few days one wrangler took pity on me and finally agreed to take me out for a ride the next morning. I never mentioned the spotted horse in the pasture. I didn’t say anything to anyone, not even Tim, my husband. The horse crush was my secret.

The next morning I pulled on an old pair of Levi’s and cowboy boots and headed down to the stables. When I pulled up, I was stunned. My “secret” was saddled along with another big bay Mustang. Serendipity had struck again. The Appaloosa let out a low knicker as I walked towards him. I held out my hand and he sniffed it, as if he knew me, then gently blew warm air out of his nostrils. I took off my glove and petted his beautiful strong neck and he nuzzled my shoulder. We stood together, horse and human, for many moments. My heart melted; I felt like crying and I do not know why.

What I did know, deep in my soul, is that this horse had come to me for a reason. His name is Whiskey Junior, after his father, Whiskey. And riding him had nothing to do with it, although I savored every moment on his strong, beautiful back. Our spirits became one, we trusted each other. Whiskey Junior became my guide. He knows where the trails lead and I will simply follow. ~Judith Hennessey, August 2022

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