Chrome. So confident as to appear casual. TJ and I walk to the perimeter of his comfort range as he stands there, hip cocked, ears forward—one saying relaxed, the other indicating mild interest—his mares in the junipers behind him, a gray face or buckskin or the bald-faced filly framed in the piñon and juniper greens of this high-desert valley.
Cameras clicking away, voices murmuring, I walk behind TJ, matching her stride (we’re going slightly downhill), hoping to seem an extension of her and not a separate being, a threat; shadowing her as she kneels in the grass, bracing her twelve-pound telephoto lens on her knee. In my camera I now have my own photos of Chrome, and I have him in my heart.
His dreadlocked mane hanging nearly four feet—I swear!—down his shoulder toward his knee. The curve of his neck built of a stallion’s muscle. His shoulders and haunches solid, his chest thick, his belly full even in this strange year of dry, mild winter.
He watches us from the sloping crest of an alluvial fan, mares and foals and yearlings grazing in the protection of junipers in the nearby swale. That’s all Chrome does: watches. He is not afraid. And barely curious. We could be browsing deer—we’re as nonthreatening as that. He doesn’t graze or doze, just . . . watches.
Until we leave. Not just turn and walk away—he waits until we’re in the truck, driving off. Then he wheels and lopes smooth as liquid silver toward his mares, trotting the last few paces, mane and muscle moving like stillwater touched by wind, undulating. Sunlight at his edges, highlighting Chrome.