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Spring 2006: From the Editor

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I’ve been afraid of horses all of my life. So a few months shy of my 50th birthday, I bought one.

I realize this statement flies in the face of logic. Blame it on Pierce Klemmt. I know I do.

When I was seven, I was loping a little cow pony named Peanuts over the Arizona desert when our paths diverged and I fell, forehead first, onto a chunk of granite. I’ve still got the scar, but that accident isn’t the source of my equiphobia.

Nor is my distrust the result of watching my grandfather’s favorite horse River Mac dump my younger cousins in a mountain pond, the half-ton assassin rolling over in what seemed a heartfelt effort to drown them.

Nor is it the fact that, during such crises, my grandfather laughed so hard tears came to his eyes, a normally benign patriarch inexplicably amused that a branch of his family tree was about to snap off.

The sources of my fear aren’t the times I was bitten, stepped on, run over or away with, head-whacked or tail-whipped every other weekend of my childhood by Frosty, Pancho, Cricket, Sandy, Copper, Showers, or Old Red.

It’s what they haven’t done yet that scares me. I have yet to be kicked. Kicked hard, at least. The seed of my fear rests like a hydrogen bomb in the hind leg of every horse I meet.

But my daughter bought one. My wife got one. And as we already seemed well on our way to bankruptcy, I considered joining the madness.

That’s when I reread Reverend Pierce Klemmt’s words in the Fall 2000 issue of Wabash Magazine.

I had asked 50 alumni, "What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?"

Pierce’s answer was typically succinct: "Move in the direction of the difficult."

A man of God, his motto seemed prophetic. After 10 years editing WM, it seemed just the thing a Little Giant wannabe ought to do: Wabash always fights; move in the direction of the difficult; get a horse.

So I bought one. A white-haired, pink-skinned, blue-eyed farm chunk with hind legs like catapults. The seller had changed the beast’s name to Keifer for fear that his startling appearance, combined with his previous moniker, Dante, might scare off buyers.

"Not me," I beamed. "I’m an English major."

Now that I’ve brought Dante home, I think often of the Reverend Pierce Klemmt and his clever phrase. Each time I pick up one of the hellion’s back hooves and he starts pumping his hind leg like a steam locomotive, I consider giving the Reverend Klemmt a call.

Strangely enough, though, Dante has illumined for me an essential trait of many Wabash men. Among the first things you have to teach a horse is how to yield to pressure. He doesn’t do this naturally. Try pushing on a young horse; he won’t budge. Push harder (go ahead), and he might just push back. It’s in his nature; he has to be taught to give in.

That’s a lesson many Wabash men seemed to have missed, a trait apparent in the very act of choosing this place.

"I was planning on going to art school," says junior Philip Ramilo, whose work is featured in this issue’s Student Gallery. "But I needed to challenge myself more. I was already good at art; it was easy. That was scary."

Easy was scary!

So he moved in the direction of the difficult, as have so many who’ve come here. You’ll meet a few more in this edition, and the world’s a better place for the work of men like Dr. Gary Croghan, Jim Childress, and Mike Stayton—men who seem to thrive in taking on patients or projects where success, even life, is against the odds.

I should have asked if any of them wanted to buy a horse.

Thank you for reading.

Steve Charles | Editor


In photo: Keifer, aka Dante.

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