Gertie The Percheron

I have never been one of those people who is good about remembering dates. It amazes me how some people can tell a story and the correlating month, date and year are part of the details. However there is one date that I can recall with complete clarity that I wish I could forget. October 31, 2004. Back in those days, I was living on my small horse farm taking care of twenty-three horses by myself with no farm equipment or truck. My husband at the time left me behind to take care of the farm so he would be able to continue shoeing racehorses on the road. Despite challenging circumstances I was diligent about keeping the animals and the farm as well as any man could have done. Since the farm fronted the main highway and was adjacent to the main pasture, one of the chores I was extremely diligent about was checking the fence line making sure there were no breaks or openings that would allow a horse a means of escape.

I fell in love with Gertie the minute I saw her. She was a huge, black, pregnant Percheron with a colt by her side. Gertie was a gentle giant but she did have one flaw; she hated to be stalled and no gate was going to tell her otherwise. When I got Gertie I knew she was in foal but did not know when she was due because no one involved knew when she was bred or what she was bred to, however a vet exam estimated late February. Still a couple of months away from foaling, she could still stay out at night with some of the other mares where she was happy.

It was especially cold the day of October 31 and to make it worse there had been a nasty mist in the air all day that left me chilled to the bone. I was glad when the day’s chores were done and I could get to the house and warm up. Exhausted I showered, ate and collapsed into bed by 9:15 p.m. and it did not take long for sleep to find me. The next thing I remember was waking up hearing the phone ringing off the hook and as I continued to come to I became aware that someone was beating on the back door. I looked at the clock and it was 10:30. I drug myself out of bed and I could see thru the kitchen window my neighbor beating on the door and I could hear her yelling for me. As soon as I opened the door she started talking; she told me I needed to get dressed and come with her, the police needed to talk to me. It seemed a horse had been hit on the highway and they believed it was one of mine. As I dressed I tried to comprehend what she was telling me, but kept thinking there was no way-I had just checked the fences two days ago. We got into her van and it was while she was driving me to the scene that my insides started to shake and I wondered could one of my horses really been hit? Which horse it could have been. No it couldn’t be, that sort of thing only happens in movies. Soon I could see the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles and there lying in the middle of the road I saw a lifeless horse with steam rising up off its body. I knew before I got out of the van that it was Gertie.

The driver who had hit her was driving much too fast on a stretch of road with a reduced speed limit. The impact sent her airborne, and it was only by the grace of God the car stopped just feet from crashing into the neighbor’s house. The woman, while having to be cut out of her vechile, escaped with no injury at all.

My neighbor tried calling my husband several times, but he never answered the phone or returned the calls. Some man with a tractor removed Gertie’s body from the middle of the road to the side and I was instructed that I needed to have her body moved the following day. The police and several neighbors walked my pasture fences a number of times and never discovered any breaks in the fencing. To this day it still remains a mystery how Gertie got out of the pasture and onto the highway that night. That whole night was surreal, as if everything was happening in slow motion. When I got back into the house, I sat down in my rocker in the kitchen and listened to the clock tick waiting for the light of morning to come.

The neighbor’s husband made arrangements for me to have Gertie brought home and he had her buried under the tree where she loved to stand in the pasture. The next week saw a string of insurance men come to the farm questioning me and combing the property for any trace of negligence, and to their dismay they could find none. The man who called himself my husband never did call me, however two weeks later he did manage to pass thru town to tell me he and a woman he had been living with had a five month old baby and I should get a lawyer and file for divorce. He packed up his things and that was the last I saw of him.

You may be wondering about now how I can see God in any of this. Well, nowhere in the Bible does God promise us a life without trials, tribulation or even heartache, but He does promise to never leave us or forsake us and never will He give us more than we can handle. It is in times such as these when our faith is tested that we experience the greatest growth.

Until we meet here again, I pray God bless you and keep your loved ones safe.