He grips tightly to the cold, leather reigns and leads the weary horses into their stalls for the night. Their hooves snowplow fresh bedding, spewing aspen aromas into the warmth of the barn. At the sound of oats filling their bowls, the horses’ cattail ears rotate forward.
On their necks he places a chilled, calloused hand. He smiles into their observant eyes, snapping his tongue.
And then he cleans their backs with a brush that shushes them all quiet, crouching to remove dried mud from their ankles while they eat. Before turning off the light, he drapes wool blankets over their backs. Their suede hips are swaying contently and they sigh, warmed after a bitter day in the corrals outside.
I heard the metal knocker on the door jingle when he came in and listened to his groans when he stooped to remove his boots.