There was a man who owned and ran his farm on his own. This man’s wife had died when they were both young and the man had raised his son on his own while tending to the farm. There was little time for anything else but the farm.
As a young boy, the son missed his mother very much. Everyday, this son lamented: “since my mother died, my father is so busy with the farm, he does not have time to care for me”. Noticing his sons longing for love, the father bought his son a horse so he might have something to care for. The son cared for this horse, loved to spend time with that horse… all day, every day, the son and his horse were together.
The people in the village watched on and then whispered amongst themselves. They said: “What good is this horse? He occupies your son’s attentions and takes up all his time. Your son does not have a moment to help you with the farm. This horse is not such a good horse!”
The old man responded to the villagers and he said: “Perhaps”.
One day, the village came to the old man, carrying his son and leading the horse by its reins. The village said to the old man: “ We told you this horse was not good for you and your son. Today, while riding with the horse, your son was thrown from the horse and your son has broken his leg. He could have died if we had not found him. This is a bad horse- it is best that you be rid of him.”
The old man was grateful that his son had been found and that the horse had stayed by his son. He knew his son would now be of even less help on he farm but he was so grateful to have a son, and that the son had a horse he loved so very much. He knew his son missed his mother, as he missed his wife. The old man thanked the villagers for their help and when they told him to beware of the horse, he smiled and said: “Perhaps”.
One day, while still recovering from his fall, still walking with a limp, the old man and his lame son noticed that the horse was no longer in the stable. The horse had run away! When the villagers heard this, they came to see for themselves and they complained bitterly about the horse. They said: “After all you have done for this horse, fed it, cared for it, loved it, it runs away on you- we knew it was a bad horse!”
The old man looked to the ground and said: “Perhaps”.
Some weeks later, the old man and the son where working in the yard and the earth beneath them began to shake, and they looked about them to wondering: “What on Earth was happening”? In the distance was a great dust cloud. The dust cloud moved towards them. At the front of the cloud, was their horse. Behind him was a herd of horses, following him. The father and son followed the horse into the coral. The boy was sohappy to see his beloved horse. The old man and the boy closed the gate on the large herd of horses. They were grateful for the horse’s return, and his being followed by all those horses!
The village came running as well and they said: “ You have a whole herd of horses, you will be rich now and you will not have to work the farm.”
The old man listened to them, saw the happiness of his son and the horse and he said: “Perhaps”.
Months later, the old man and the boy were working on their farm and in the distance they saw another dust cloud coming towards them. This time it was an army of soldiers, looking for all young people to conscript and fight with them.
The captain of the soldiers arrived at the farm and said: “I hear from the village that you have a son and we are here to collect your young for our army to go to war. You are too old to fight with us old man, but we are here for your son”.
The old man said gently, “You cannot take my son, he has a lame leg having fallen from his horse. He could not walk or run or fight”.
The captain looked at the son, looked at the man, and the village gathering. The captain said: “I see you have horses…we will leave your son with you since it is clear he cannot walk well….but in return for leaving him and you on the farm, we will take all but one of your horses for him to ride”.
The village began to chat amongst themselves saying: “ How lucky this man and his son are to have so many horses, as our sons and daughtersare being taken away into the army and we might never see them again”.
And the old man said : “Perhaps”……
Ancient story, author unknown (as yet), more recently appeared in “ Zen Shorts” , a narrative long used as a hermeneutic by Michele ChabanMSW, RSW, PhD. in her teachings on life.