Warning: This post has a story that the squeamish, and I'm one of them, might not appreciate. Hell, they'll hate it. I sure did.
Sunday morning was odd. Not odd in a "Oh, things are sure different on St. Croix!" way. Odd in a "Dear God! How did that happen" kind of way.
Started when we decided to run down to the beach. Nothing odd about that. We often go to the beach on Sunday morning. Nice and quiet down at Dorsch, rarely more than a dozen people within a hundred yards in either direction on this stretch of white sand that's world-class beautiful. So yesterday we took the three-minute drive, set up our chairs on the sand under a tree, and plopped down.
Then Tori looks up and says, "There's something in the water." Well that's not unusual is it? It's water. There are things in it. But this time she points and says, "Something dead in the water."
"No," I answer, looking at the gray mass on the water's edge about 40 feet away, where the waves are lapping. "It's a rock."
"No it's not," she said.
So I get up to take a look. I really wanted it to be a rock. Really wanted to be right on this one. Walked about 20 feet. Stared. Walked back.
"You were right," I said. "It's a dead horse."
Now, there are often horses in the water at Dorsch. There's a trainer who brings horses down and swims them up and down the beach. It's cool to watch. But this horse sure as hell wasn't swimming and there was nothing cool about this.
We decided two things. We didn't want to stay at the beach, and someody needed to be called. We didn't know who, but somebody needed to be called. I figured I'd call 911, because if they weren't the right one, they'd know who was. But I'd left my cell phone at home. So we packed up and headed back. We were almost to our house when we saw a front-end loader coming up the street.
"Follow him," Tori said. "I'll bet someone called and he's going to pick up the horse."
We did, and sure enough he pulled over and started onto the beach, right toward the horse. We didn't stay to watch, because – DAMN. But at least we knew it was being dealt with.
We ended up driving to a different beach, about a half mile away, just to try to get the image out of our minds. Ony partly successful – I can still see it. And that's where the second odd thing happened. Odd, but not nearly as disturbing.
We were rinsing the sand off our feet at the shower pole. At a nearby table, four guys were playing dominoes (big game here, and people play it very aggressively. The sound of the tiles slapping onto the table is loud.) and two or three other guys were fiddling with what turned out to be a pressure cooker on a barbecue. Never saw that before, but neither of those were the odd thing.
They had a sound system set up – again, not unusual. The first thing many groups do when they get to the beach is set up a concert-sized sound system with a generator. Usually they're playing reggae, rap or some version of calypso.
Not these guys. They were listening to country music. I'm talking old school country, with the twang and the steel guitars. It sounded like something from about 1958, like some guy gunning to be the next Hank Williams. I'm not describing it well, but it was very distinctive, you'd have snapped your fingers and gone, "Oh! Nashville, Tin Pan Alley. Opry. Got it." Never heard anything like it on the island, certainy not on the beach, where a half dozen or so locals were enjying dominoes and getting ready for whatever was in the pressure cooker.
Between those two moments – the dead horse and the country music (that could be the name of a country song right there, "Dead Horses and Country Music") there was a moment that was distinctive, not odd. We looked up and a rain squall was blowing over the beach to the north, out of a little rounded bay. It was a gray curtain, opaque, with tendrils blowing out of the clouds and coming down to the water. Behind it the greens of the hills were muted, and the cloud's shadows cast a rippling darker shades up and down the slopes.
I lived half my life in Oregon, so I've seen lots of rain. Lived the first 10 years of my life in the Midwest, so I've seen lots of really hard rain. This was nothing like either.
It took maybe 10 minutes to pass, maybe 15, and we watched it the whole way as the clouds blew out to sea. It looked like shafts of darkness traced through the sheet of rain, although that's obviously backwards. It was large shafts of light, but it sure looked like the darker columns were the aberration. Meanwhile, the shadows of the clouds marched up and down the hills like an army, then drifted away leaving nothing behind but the green glowing hillsides.
The rain was falling, of course, approximately where we'd left the dead horse. As we drove by on our way home we had to stop to see what had happened. Because all we had seen was the front-end loader. What was he going to do? Drive back to where he'd come from with the thing in his bucket? Bury it in the sand? What?
When we passed by, the loader was still there, parked on the sand. The tire tracks led down to the water's edge. But there was no sign of the horse, or the driver. All we can figure is a truck must have been coming along behind him. They loaded it up, took it wherever you take such things, and were busy hosing out the bed of the truck.
At least I hope so.
We have no idea how the horse got there. No idea how long it had been there. but surely it couldn't have been there much longer than early in the morning. It's just one of those mysteries.
It was an unusual Sunday morning – not unusual just for St. Croix but really unusual anywhere, I've got to think. All of that, plus a pleasant time on the sand, took about an hour, hour and a half at most.
There's a T-shirt you see here all the time with slogan, "Just another day in paradise."
Sunday wasn't just another day.