Crooked Dealer was a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse. He was owned by a second cousin of my dad, who found out that I was positively obsessed with horses. I don’t remember what this man was like, but I am so grateful to him. He must have understood this crazy love for horses, as he agreed to let my parents have Dealer for free to give me for my birthday.
I came home from school one day to see an old, washed-out horse trailer in front of the house. I gaped at it momentarily, and then a rush of pure adrenaline gushed through my body. Was this what my dad had been talking about on the phone in the basement so secretly?? Was this what my mom had been talking to my 4-H leader about late that one evening?? I couldn’t believe it. My dream of having a horse was about to come true!
Sure enough, within a few agonizingly long minutes we were loaded up into the truck to go get Crooked Dealer. That hour drive was the longest and most thrilling ride I’d ever had. I had so many questions! So he used to run in races, just like in my favorite books? And he won a couple? Wow! What color is he? A bay! I love bays! I couldn’t wait to meet the horse I knew would become my best friend.
We pulled up, and there he was, tied up and waiting for us. A beautiful, tall, dark bay with a white star. He had a kind face, and a gentle spirit. Dealer and I really did become best friends. I cared for him more tenderly and lovingly than I had any other horse. I was very particular with how others interacted with him- no, he likes to be petted this way. No, I’m sorry, you can’t ride him. I didn’t want anyone to accidentally cause him discomfort or confusion.
Despite his spirited nature and racing past, Dealer never gave me any reason to doubt his gentleness. I always felt perfectly at home, perfectly safe around my giant. I trusted him because I knew he would take care of me- I was his little girl. He taught me what it feels like to desperately, deeply love a horse that is yours not just on paper, but in spirit.
We had to give Dealer away when we moved to Texas not long after. Just like on the day I got him, the unthinkable was happening. Dealer could no longer be mine, and I endured my first broken heart. I think of Dealer often now. He remains the first true horse champion of my heart.