Welcome Home ThunderBy Pearl Martens
Do you ever wonder if things really happen for a reason? Is fate really inevitable? And, is there really someone out there watching over us?
I’m about to share with you my
story that is overdue by a few years. I made the mistake of listening to someone and not including this in the first issue of ABSD, in 2004. I was told that it would sound too “mushy” and I would lose my audience and clients. After being in the business for a while I have learned from my clients and readers that there are many more stories out there and people like to hear them.
In 2003, while I was getting ABSD up and running something very special and incredible happened to me…I found my childhood horse, Thunder, after 19 years! The best and happiest years of my childhood life ever
were spent with this amazing animal.
Throughout the years I often thought about my best friend, Thunder, but in the back of my mind I knew he was safe. The older couple I sold him to assured me he would be well cared for and would live his life out on their ranch until he passed.
The years passed and still memories continued to come more often and stronger and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. Was I going through a mid-life crisis? I was happy at 34 years old, a mother of three and very much in love with my husband. I wasn’t missing anything.
I remember seeing Thunder for the first time like it was yesterday. A beautiful seal bay (almost black) Morgan/Quarter Horse colt running in a lush green pasture. His mane thick, black, long and flowing in the wind. He was so powerful. I remember closing my eyes and all I heard was the roar of thunder coming through his hooves. When he finally turned around I saw his beautiful face… a white shaped ice cream cone and a snip. I was in instant love! I got Thunder as an eighth grade graduation present in 1982- from my mother when he was almost two.
Thunder was the only real friend I’ve ever had. No matter what, I could always talk to him about anything and he would never walk away or judge, he just listened. I could confide in him and knew that all my secrets were safe. I would cry to him and it was as if he understood my pain. I would hold him and he would actually wrap his neck around my shoulders and when I was ready to let go he’d relax and let me go. I used to just lay down on the ground beside him and talk to him or lay on his back just looking up to the sky and he would just stand there. It was unbelievable.
I trained Thunder when I was 14 years old. I rode him bareback because we couldn’t afford a saddle. Never once did Thunder buck or act like a green horse. He allowed people to jump off his butt in the creek and we often won races against other riders. It was as if he was trained all along. I basically just hopped on and we walked down the road together.
I ended up selling Thunder to an old couple in 1986, my senior year in high school. I thought it was best for him since I didn’t know where life would take me and the older couple assured me he would be well taken care of and have a stable home.
More years had passed, 19 of them, I had grown up, had children, divorced and remarried the love of my life. I couldn’t have been happier, life was perfect. But it seemed just like yesterday that Thunder and I were together. My mind would often take me back to those wonderful times and I would often wonder where he was or if he was even alive. He would be 23 years old. I couldn’t help, but to go back in time and think of my best friend and wish that I could have done things differently, but I was just a kid.
I often ran across photos of Thunder. I couldn’t help but to smile with so much life and happiness as I shared with my husband my memories with Thunder. To see him light up because I was so happy meant a lot. To feel Thunder’s warmth, hold him closely and just feel so safe and free with him was amazing. I loved his smell and loved to hear him whinny when he saw me. He was a talker and was always happy to see me! He made me feel so special!
It was inevitable! For some reason or another pictures would appear and the thoughts of happiness that Thunder brought to me sent me on a mission. My husband and children had heard so many stories that I finally told them I was going to look for Thunder. They were supportive, but also not sure I would find him. I expected the worse, but prayed for the best. Now, if anyone knows me they know I am persistent and will fight for what I want. I wasn’t going to stop searching until I found him!
It was May 2003 and my family and I were headed to my mother’s house for my Birthday Bar-B-Que. My husband, being the adventurer that he is, decided he wanted to take a different route that was completely out of our way and I decided to just smile and not say a word. Good thing, huh? As we were driving we came to a sign that said Elk Creek. All of a sudden I blurted out, practically scaring my husband to death…saying, “That’s where the old people lived that I sold Thunder to!” It was all coming back. I smiled uncontrollably and knew this is where I would begin my journey.
A few days later, I left our house on my mission with photos of Thunder and the couple that bought him and headed to Elk Creek. The town was so small the only thing I remember was a fire station and a small store. I had to turn my vehicle around because I was at the end of town. I literally blinked and missed it. I went to the country store and spoke with the gal there and explained what I was doing. She said she used to take care of Thunder and that the old man passed away. I felt badly, but I was wondering where Thunder was. She said the gentleman’s wife was still living and resides down the road. With address and phone number in hand I went to her home. I was so excited that my palms were sweaty, I had butterflies in my stomach, my heart was racing so fast, I was sick with anticipation and felt as if I was on an escalator with my vehicle and I wasn’t going anywhere fast enough.
I pulled up to the woman’s home and I knocked and knocked on her door and no one answered. I left my phone number and the photo of her and her husband with Thunder explaining my attempt in locating him. I must have called that woman every hour on the hour for a few days and never any answer. It turned out she was out of town for the holiday. I finally got in touch with her and she remembered me! She also said she sold Thunder, but couldn’t remember who she sold him to and that maybe he was dead. Well, that’s not what I wanted to hear, nor did it set well with me. I wasn’t stopping my search until I had proof either way.
I called her a few days later and it was the same story, but she was trying so hard to remember. I hung up with her and actually forgot to tell her something and when I called her back she blurted out who she sold him to. I was so excited that I couldn’t breathe. I called that person and got an answering machine with a teenager’s voice. My heart dropped. I thought the number had been reassigned and that the old couple had passed and I would never find him. I tried back a while later and to my surprise an old lady answered the phone! I was so happy, but didn’t want to get my hopes up. I told her how I got her number and who I was. I described Thunder to her and asked her if she had him and she said YES! She said she had asked her ranch hand to put him down because he had arthritis and was in pain, but they didn’t have a bulldozer to dig the hole. I cried and I begged and pleaded for her to please contact her ranch hand and stop him! I asked her if she would let me come out there to see him. She said okay and gave me directions.
I scrambled through the house like crazy! Within 15 minutes my children and I were packed and on our way to Eureka, CA. It was a long 4 ½ hour ride. My husband warned me to calm down and drive carefully because he knew I was so excited that I might not be in the right frame of mind to drive. I don’t even remember getting there. I was hoping this was my “Thunder.” My stomach had butterflies, my palms sweaty and heart racing uncontrollably and I felt sick. What if it wasn’t him? What if I was too late? As I drove up the street. I was so excited that I passed the darn driveway. As I turned my vehicle around I saw Thunder. I instantly broke down and balled like a baby. I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car sobbing uncontrollably holding thunder’s picture in my hand. I thought I was going to collapse from weak legs and shock. I called out to him and he remembered me! He whinnied! He turned around and limped painfully towards me as my children watched in sadness. It broke my heart to see him in pain and I began crying uncontrollably as I approached him. I hugged him so tight and thanked God over and over for bringing us back together. That day was one of the happiest and most emotional days of my life. My children and I cried tears of joy as we hugged and I introduced my children to Thunder.
Thunder looked the same. He was beautiful! Other than having a few gray hairs and being over-weight everything else looked great! I was there with him now. All these thoughts and resurfacing emotions brought me together again with my friend and I wasn’t too late! I thought at that time that there was definitely some powerful force or an angel that was guiding me to him. Our love was so strong that we were drawn together again and I was able to save him! I was sent to find my friend and I did. It was a miracle! I rescued him! We found each other and would be together again. I was going to take him home and I promised him that I would always take care of him and I would NEVER leave him again and that I was sorry that he was in pain, but I would help him always. He was safe now.
As I turned around, I had forgotten all about Dave Coppini. Dave was the ranch hand. He stood there as I passed him by crying, hugging Thunder and thanking God repeatedly for bringing us together again. David had told me that he had been ordered by his boss to put Thunder down, but he kept on procrastinating because it just didn’t feel right. He said he believes things happen for a reason. He was sharing in this beautiful moment and he was happy that he listened to his heart. I was grateful to him.
As I walked closer to him to give him a hug and show him the photo of me and Thunder in our younger years I saw a gun on the seat of his pickup. He saw that I was wondering if this was the gun that would have put Thunder down. He told me again; that he didn’t have the heart to shoot him and he was just hoping Thunder would get better. The owner drove up in her car and said I could have him, but I’d have to take his friend because they’d go crazy without each other. I agreed, knowing that my husband was going to kill me, but hopefully he’d understand.
A few minutes later the vet that I had called earlier in the day met us to look Thunder over. He said Thunder didn’t have arthritis; he had foundered. I didn’t know what this was, but as he explained it to me he also said if I was to move Thunder he would have to be sedated.
Dave delivered both Thunder and Freckles to me a few days later. Freckles was a beautiful leopard Appaloosa with the sweetest heart. I found Thunder on June 10, 2003. After 19 years without him, I found him 19 days after I began my search! I did a lot of praying before and of course, after.
Thirteen days after being home, we lost Freckles to Colic. It was devastating. In the short time that he was with us, he brought so much joy to our lives. He was great with the kids and even won my husband over. My kids and I shared tears once more, but this time it was tears of pain.
Once the vet arrived, I asked her to do whatever she could to save Freckles and she tried her hardest. He wasn’t a candidate for surgery because he was too old. She ended up coming back twice within that night and said he wasn’t going to make it. As I cried, I still had hope. She said he was suffering and that I should put him down. I didn’t have the heart to be with him his last minutes and I felt terrible. I regret it to this day. My husband was there in my place holding him as he lay down and took his final breath.
Since I didn’t take any photos of Freckles, I have a lock of hair my husband cut off from his mane as a memory of him.
Freckles lay around a corner a ways from where Thunder was. That night was one of the saddest nights of my life. I could still hear Thunder crying out all night for his friend that he knew he would never see again.
The next day I purchased a Mustang/Quarter Horse colt, named Dakota, to help Thunder through his difficult time. Thunder went on and cared for this colt like it was his own son. His spirits were beginning to be lifted.
Thunder is now healthy and retired. He is loved so much and is very special to me. My daughter rides him now and again in the round pen just to give him a little exercise, but if I get on him, he thinks he’s young again. I still confide in Thunder and when I cry he still lets me hold him for a long time. Now and then I still hop on his back like I used to as a child and just lay there looking into the sky. And, of course, Thunder doesn’t move. Thunder will always be my best friend. I owe him so much for what he gave to me as a child. Unforgettable memories and unconditional love. We were brought together again and will never be apart. Thunder, I missed you while you were out of my life, but you were never out of my heart. I love you, Thunder. Welcome home!
P.s. Thank you to everyone who helped in my search for my special friend. I will never forget you!
Ruth Johnson, Harold Frasier, Jim & Laverne Hall, Edith Farrian, and especially Dave Coppini.
I would also like to thank my husband, James and my children James & Jamie for supporting me in my search for Thunder and letting me “re- live” the best years in my childhood. I love you guys!