THE WORLD’S BIGGEST HORSE

By John Thomas Tuft

The first time that Somorna saw him in the bushveld of the high country, she knew right away that he was special. After all, he was the world’s biggest horse. She named him Sterre Storm because he was jet black like the night, with a cluster of white spots like stars across his massive forehead. Sterre Storm stood seven foot tall at the shoulders and his head towered more than ten feet above her. When he reared on his hind legs it was like a mountain standing up and shouting her name. Somorna visited her oupa’s farm every summer, following the scent of his pipe tobacco around from barn to pasture, house to chicken coop and back again. “Ek is lief vir jou, Somorna,” her ouma would say each and every morning as she brushed out the tangles from the girl’s curly red hair. “ Remember, life is diamonds and sands, and hallelujah for the difference.”

Somorna did not tell anyone about Sterre Storm. He was her own very special secret. And it happened that Somorna’s mother became very sick and had to go into a care facility. Somorna’s father sent her to live with her ouma and oupa, not knowing whether she would ever return. “Wait just a minute,” Sierra interrupted. “Is this one of those stories with a meaning? Cuz it smells like one.” Jason gave her a worried frown. “You’re always so suspicious of my stories. Every story has meaning. But what it means is up to you.” Sierra eyed him with suspicion, “Grown ups stories can get awfully weird. But go ahead. Her mom’s sick, she’s sent off to the farm to live… Wait a damn minute, this horse isn’t going to talk, is he?” “Watch your language, young lady,” Jason remonstrated, then said, “He’ll talk if he needs to talk.” Sierra wasn’t done yet. “Why’s the story set in South Africa?” “Stories have to be born somewhere. Just listen,” Jason said, and continued:

Somorna would tell everything to Sterre Storm, all of her hopes and fears, her wishes and wants, secrets and hurts. How much she missed her mother and how much she hated her father for sending her away. She began sneaking out of the house at night to go find Sterre Storm and ride like the wind to the first steep ridges of the escarpment and back. The world’s biggest horse would stand under a Rhus tree so Somorna could climb onto a branch and drop onto his back. Star Storm never said a word about galloping under the stars, unable to see the holes in the ground to step in or rocks to trip over that might cripple him…or worse. He was devoted to the girl who brought him apples and pomegranates for treats. And because she liked the Narnia stories, Somorna also brought him Turkish delight. What horse could resist such charms?

 One afternoon, Somorna’s father drove up to the farm. He slowly walked with her to the barn where he gently told her that her mother would never be coming home. Somorna screamed that she would never forgive him for that and ran out the door, ignoring his pleas and the fear in the eyes of her ouma. She ran out onto the bushveld, angry tears streaking her face. She found Sterre Storm and climbed aboard. As the sun began to set, she urged him toward the escarpment. All night long the world’s biggest horse carried the world’s saddest girl up and down the slopes, up into dizzying heights and down frightful slopes. By dawn they were on the beaches of Llandudno.

“Swim, Sterre, swim. Take me away from here,” urged Somorna. The world’s biggest horse shook his head, so hard that she fell off into the soft sands. Then in a deep rumble of a voice, though not unkind, “Diamonds are made by great pressure over time. It is stronger than steel, harder than anything. Diamonds endure.” Sterre pawed at the sand. “This sand is made by rocks constantly breaking, tumbling over and over, worn by water, until it is soft crystals on a beach. Do you know what happens when lightning hits sand? It instantly makes wild, beautiful glass.” Then the world’s biggest horse reared up on his hind legs and called out the thunder of mountains. “As I told your oupa a long time ago, Remember, life is diamonds and sands, and hallelujah for the difference.”

Sierra looked skeptical. “So, the horse did talk.” Jason shrugged. “Life is full of surprises. And full of challenges. Some hurt for a long time and can turn us into diamonds. Some come like lightning and turn us…” Sierra sucked in her lower lip before saying ever so softly, “Turn us into wild, beautiful glass. Sneaky, Dad, real sneaky.” She gave him a sly look. “Does this mean I’m getting a horse?” Jason gave her a peck on the cheek. “Hallelujah to you too, Sierra. Go make your bed. Ek is lief vir jou.”

Words are magic and, writers are wizards.

Adapted from Midnight Shepherd, 2020