The Silver Brumby, King of Tail
The winds had shaken free and were lashing the Ramshead with ice-laden tendrils. Winter was coming and the men were leaving the high country. Through the knotted branches of white-washed snow gums the flank of the Silver Brumby gleamed in the moonlight and a possum slapped a paw over its eyes, wincing, “Agh, it’s the King of the Cascades, returned from his Hidden Valley.”
The King of the Cascades, named Thowra by his mother Bel Bel, led his beautiful blonde wife Boon Boon and his equally beautiful blonde wife Golden through the gully and over the stream, looking back to his daughter Kunama and marveling at her creamy complexion as he said to himself, “I sure have some hotties in my herd. Look. At. That. Breeding.” The rest of the herd were also above-average, but not silver, so less exciting to Thowra.
Thowra was aging, and his days of fighting were mostly over, although he still itched to rear up and let the other herds know he still galloped over this country in the deep of the night. As the horses moved near-silently, turning river rocks without an echo, wombats stirred in their holes and knew, “That is Thowra on the move, and he has the foxiest herd from here to Dead Horse Gap.”
Behind Thowra, a branch rustled and was clomped to shards under the hooves of his son, the careless Lightning, who if a bit of a d-bag was nevertheless as handsome as his father. Further back, Thowra’s grandson Baringa moved like a ghost, his face muted by a curtain of dry eucalyptus leaves that caught the moonlight for him, leaving him invisible.
“I am too old for fighting,” said Thowra to the land that birthed and raised him amid a storm, “but I could win my son some fillies to start his own banging herd.” He picked up his pace, tossing his flaxen hair, and feeling his legs fire, “Yes! That wouldn’t be creepy at all.”
Somewhere in the distance to the south, a blue-faced stallion snorted, sensing movement on the wind, stamping his feet and descending to his herd of mostly 6s and 7s.
A wallaby nestled into the hollow of a trunk said to himself, “Thowra has sure had some amazing tail in his years as King.”
Although the Hidden Valley gave the silver herd protection from man, Thowra’s growing brood needed to roam free; to move over the grounds that were their birthright and learn the ways of the Silver Brumby, necessarily moving closer to the stockmen that coveted their beauty. Worst-case scenario, Thowra had made a-ha-LOT of taffies and duns and it wouldn’t be the biggest deal to lose a few of them, because the family resemblance wasn’t as strong, so.
The blue embers of night turned to a pink haze as the sun came up on a near-frozen landscape, mint bushes crisp as snowflakes and currajongs cawking in the mist, the herd moving down the Cascade River now, their hooves slicing the waters soundlessly.
The grasses here were lusher, flatter, and Thowra couldn’t help but but diss the sort of suburban feel of it. He wouldn’t summer here, you know?
Just now, Thowra whiffed the curling smoke of a chimney–the last men up here. He signaled for the herd to keep under cover of trees across the valley, then hastened, tucking his head and letting the muscles ripples across his broad chest as he crashed down on the hut, rearing up outside with a large neigh, just to be a dick, then prancing off.
A man inside leapt from his bed and to the window in his thermals, catching a glimpse of the famed herd disappearing into the scrub, and reaching for his japara.
Catching his harem down trail, Thowra saw that Lightning was jostling, keen for action, and would probably get himself in trouble again. Both horses detected the musk of fillies and mares on the breeze. They were close now to the blue-faced horse.
With his posse tucked behind him, Thowra moved swiftly, keeping their scent downwind. A few twists down from a pass, he could see the herd mulling around in the early morning dew—there were some pretty chestnuts and okay-looking roans among some yearlings and mares. The blue-faced horse stood above his brood on a rock keeping lookout.
The blue horse twitched his head to the left and Thowra followed his eyes to see Lightning crashing into the clearing below and encroaching on a young filly with nostrils flaring.
Kunama said to herself, “My brother is pulling out all stops to be the biggest rod in this herd.” Looking over at her aunt-slash-step-mom, she could see Boon Boon was thinking the same thing, along with pretty much all of her cousins-slash-half-siblings.
The blue-faced horse had moved off his rock and was advancing on Lightning when a flash roared in front of him. Thowra! The blue stallion stopped and turned. “What the hell, man.”
Thowra danced around him, “That’s my son. He might be dumber than a river rock, but he is strong and pretty, and in need of a good mare.”
The blue horse exhaled. “Come on, man. We just woke up—”
Thowra nipped him on the buttock. “Come on, how about it.” Skipping now, excitedly.
Looking frustrated at mobilizing his heft, the stallion tried to reason, “Hey man, that’s my daughter. She wants to marry for love, what can I say. Look, he’s got his nose under her saddle, what kind of hello is that?”
Thowra smiled, narrowing his eyes, then darted in and licked the blue horse on the neck. “Come onnnnnn. Fight me!” He cantered in place.
The stallion hopped around to face the Silver Brumby. “Aren’t we both a bit old for this? How about we ask Goonda what she wants.”
“How about a can of WHUPASS?” Thowra was getting rowdy now, lifting up his forefeet and shoving Blue Face while smiling in a creepy aggressive way.
Down on the valley floor, Lightning had his head hooked over the filly’s mane and was breathing onto her nape while she looked around at her sisters with exasperated eyes, mouthing, “A little help?” The other fillies pranced over in an attempt to distract this bone-headed brah for a second. Mary, her bookish sister, sniffed, “They always go for Goonda. I am going to be single forever.”
Up on the hill, Blue Face had had enough. “You’re a real knob,” he said to Thowra as he finally charged in and the horses began to battle.
Through the morning, they tore around one another, two large, aging horses dueling over their brood like it was totes normal, just one dad fighting to steal another dad’s daughter for his socially hopeless son.
Baringa watched the dance of the stallions, noting the blood, the spit, the filly down on the valley floor cowering every time her father took another walloping to the face. By the time the currajongs had taken their song higher on the hill, Blue Face, exhausted, puffed a sigh of concession to Thowra, who trotted down valley, picking his way through the herd. “You, you, not you, mmm, and you.”
Goonda found herself wishing her dad wasn’t so old—he was like a generation older than her mother—and resigned herself to falling in place behind Lightning as the silver herd departed the flats.
Hidden up by the pass, the man watched.