“But Father was quite known, among all of the Rom, for his ability
to train any horse, even the most difficult. This was tribute indeed, for
the Rom as a people love their grastende, their horses, and are incredible
Our horses, Sun and Moon, were the two prettiest in our caravan
and Father’s greatest pride. “After Angelica,” Father would add, rumpling
my hair, which never failed to gladden my heart. But undeniably, Father did
possess a gift with horses to which the Rom paid tribute, by bringing him
their animals to train with his touch.
I remember the day he bought Sun and Moon from a gadjo for a few
small coins of copper. Because of their deplorable condition, Father did not
even dare to hitch them to the back of a wagon that might go too fast.
Instead, he walked with them himself, on foot, all of the three miles from
town. This was a good opportunity for me to walk with my father, and I, of
course, accompanied him proudly.
The whole journey, my heart filled with gladness as I listened to him
talk to his new horses about the new life they would be living under
his care. He described the meadows of clover they would graze in,
and the warmth of sun on their backs and the clean water they would
drink. He told them that all they needed was good oats and rest
and he promised to begin work immediately on special horse brasses he
would attach to their harnesses to protect them from any evil the world
When Father and I arrived back at camp with his new horses, everyone,
including those used to restoring horses the gadje considered to be defective,
didn’t believe even Father’s expertise could bring these horses back to heart
and wholeness. They clicked their tongues at the waste of money Father had
spent upon such bad merchandise. Certainly, the horses would never be
ready to be sold at the annual Rom horse fair scheduled in two months. In
loyalty, I sided with my father, but silently had to agree with the others.
Both horses looked to be almost dead.
Sun was a skeleton of baggy skin, and most of his hair had fallen out in
tufts. Flies plagued a festering sore of yellow and gray pus that covered
almost his entire back. He limped in a stagger as if his back leg was broken.
The other horse, Moon, was in no better condition. He had been abused so
badly, he showed the white of his eyes to anything and everything. If the
wind scattered a few leaves under him, he would nervously rear and scream
as if Ben, the devil himself, were after him. Both horses had a shortness of
breath, and running eyes.
Very early the next morning, so the horses would know their new owner
to be a man true to his word, Father began shaping horse brasses for their
harnesses, right beside them. As he worked, he told each horse, privately
into their ears, the goodness he was forging into the brass so that they would
know the luck the brasses carried. He stood beside them in the hot sun to
shoo away any stinging flies from their eyes and backs. He also removed
their broken horseshoes, assuring them they would never wear such bad iron
ever again, and fussed over the shape of their new shoes.
Sun’s bad limp improved immediately. Father bound up both horses’
poor knees with healing herbs of sweet chamomile and rosemary. He
soothed their eyes with a wash steeped with fennel seed and eyebright. Both
horses were also promptly wormed with purgatives, made from a formula
known only to my father, and forced down their throats. All the while, Sun
and Moon feasted on the heavy grass in the fields, but that wasn’t good
enough for my father. He had promised them clover, and clover they would
have, although our other horses had already eaten all of the clover out of the
near-by fields and meadows. Undaunted, Father converted an open cart
with a tarp to disguise his purpose from the gadje, and went out and
gathered a bountiful load of clover for Sun and Moon. He knew the clover
was sweet, because he told me he had sampled it himself. And most nights,
Father slept beside his horses after he had finished telling them stories of all
the heroic horses he had ever known or heard mentioned.
And never did Father’s efforts slacken as Sun and Moon’s health began
to improve. He fed them salt to augment their hunger and thirst. He bled
Moon to help take away his nervous blood, but it was a long time before
Moon could be harnessed to a wagon without destroying it in a kicking
tantrum. But because Father remained patient and calm in his direction, the
day finally arrived when Moon joined Sun in a team to pull our wagon.
Everyday, rain and shine, Father rubbed Sun and Moon’s hooves with
peppermint oil to make their hooves glisten, and then polished them with a
rag so the hooves reflected like mirrors. Not only did he brush them each
for an hour every day, he finished up with a currycomb, merrily whistling
out his happiness as he worked to coax out the beauty he knew existed in his
two new horses. Sun was not the usual Rom piebald, but a gorgeous golden
palomino, with a lithe body and legs.
Moon was a silver-colored horse,
stronger and stockier than Sun, but no less pretty. Together, they really had
become the sun and the moon, their coats not just reflecting light, but
seemingly radiating it.
As a postscript, Father never did trade his two new horses at the annual
Rom horse fair, although he got many offers. Instead, he sold his two
others, so in love with Sun and Moon did he fall. He had had Sun and Moon
for six months, and his love for them had not diminished, but seemingly
increased, day by day.”
The Gypsy’s Song, Destiny’s Consent:Book I