by Harriet Ritchie
When I first felt the salt air in my lungs, and tested out my new legs by running across the sand, it was wonderful. I played with the other fillies and colts, and I galloped across the sand dunes. I am a horse of Sable Island, and this is my story.
I remember those first few years well. There was so much to learn and so much to do. My dam had called me Sparrow, like the small Ipswich Sparrow which nested upon our island. I would gallop across the dunes, with the other foals in our herd, chasing the gulls and terns. It was a fine life.
During the winter, when I was still but a colt, one day I ran off with one of the other yearlings in the herd. We went to explore a part of the beach we had never been to before, a place my dam had told me never to go. As we were wandering down the coast, I saw a strange creature. It was big, but not bigger than me, and grey. It made an odd noise, almost like when two horses squeal before they start to fight. I was scared of this big grey animal. As we got closer, the animal turned its great, grey head and we locked eyes for a few moments. We just stood there and then, without warning, it came after us. We were faster than it, of course, as it was big and clumsy in the deep snow drifts. We easily got away, but as we were running away, the other colt, Pebble, looked back behind him. I turned, too, just in time to see the big grey creature crawl back to where it had been before, and that’s when I saw the smaller, white animal next to it. That must have been its baby and that is why it chased us away.
Over that winter, I encountered these creatures more and came to know them as grey seals. As the days got longer, and warmer and warmer, Pebble and I started to explore more and more of this beautiful island. On an especially warm, spring day, we were cantering along the beach when, as I looked behind me to see how close Pebble was getting (we were racing), I stumbled over a long piece of wood. I was about to keep going when I saw more wood, closer to the shore. I went closer to the shore and, as I did, the more wood there was. I was puzzling over this when Pebble finally caught up to me. He was obviously as perplexed as I was. “Sparrow, Sparrow, what is this?” exclaimed Pebble.
“I don’t know,” I said. Then, suddenly, with a great gust of wind, a big white sheet of some sort, which had been lying over some of the wood, was blown up into the air, making the most terrifying cracking noise. That’s when we saw it: a horrendous sight, a horrible creature lying face down in the water, with no life left in it. That’s when Pebble and I bolted for home. There would be no more adventuring for some time to come.
Finally, I will share with you one last story. As I got older and became a stallion, the summers seemed to just lazily pass by. One morning, I was lying peacefully among the dunes, watching the little Ipswich sparrows, from which I had gotten my name, hop around on the sand and seaweed, when I heard a rumbling, off in the distance. At first it sounded far away, but as I listened, it got closer and closer. I could tell that it was up in the sky and that it was coming from the west, but I had no idea what it might be. The noise sounded like when I got a big horsefly stuck in my ear.
The herd started to crowd close together. The noise was getting louder. I was looking into the western sky. The clouds were thick, but out of the sky there suddenly came a large red creature, hurtling towards us. It swooped over our heads and came back around. By this point the small herd of horses I was with had turned into a frantic stampede. The big, red, noisy, flying bird-like creature landed! On the ground! We all started to bolt away, for the creature was growling ferociously.
We stopped on the next dune and looked back to see what the creature was doing. To our astonishment the creature stopped growling and two smaller animals climbed down from its big, red wings. They went over to the big, square, white thing in the middle of the dunes, against which we shelter during storms. I then remember I had seen these animals twice before, once when they were doing the same thing they were doing now which was milling in between the big white things and the other time was when Pebble and I had discovered all that wood on the beach.
That was a long time ago now. There is always one or two of these animals running between the big white structures. I have learned to call them people but I still do not go near them.
I am a stallion now, but I remember when I was young: the birds, the sweet grass, the sunshine and the salt spray. I have learned a lot but the most important thing I have learned is to follow your heart, keep exploring and just have fun.
by Harriet Ritchie © 2019
Age 13, Grade 8, St. Andrew’s Junior School, Antigonish, Nova Scotia
One of the two winning entries submitted to the Sable In Words writing contest
Sable Island Institute