Never Say Never

Eftirfarandi texti er ritgerð sem ég vann sem skilaverkefni í ritunarnámskeiði þegar ég átti heima í Chicago og var í námi í College of DuPage.

I was born and raised on a sheepfarm in a remote valley in the east part of Iceland. The farm was huge and my parents owned around four hundred sheep which used to graze in the mountain, far away from the farm. To round them up we used horses. Sometimes we rode for days in the wilderness.

In the spring, when we had to shear the sheep, we rode into a narrow valley some fifteen miles from my home and rounded up the sheep in a dry riverbed with high cliffs on both sides. We closed the riverbed at the ends and grabbed the sheep, one after another, and cut the wool off. Usually we started rounding up the sheep in the morning and had finished trapping them in the riverbed around midnight. And in the springtime there is no night at all in Iceland. Throughout the nighttime the sun doesn’t set at all, so we could easily keep on working twenty-four hours a day, which we certainly did. We had to finish this work as soon as possible to release the sheep from the barren riverbed to the grassy slopes in the valley.

It was June when this occurred: I think I was seventeen years old. We worked very hard in the riverbed for almost two days. The work was mostly done. We had had no sleep at all, and all we had eaten was some sandwiches with cold water from a brook. Riding horses in the mountains we usually didn’t carry much food with us. I guess we were getting a little bit tired – and hungry.

All of a sudden some sheep, which had escaped from the riverbed, caught our eye. Instantly my friend named Einar and I were asked to go and round them up.
„And do it now, guys!!“ my older brother said, yelling as if we were standing five hundred yards away. „Be as quick as if the Devil himself was riding right behind you!“
The sheep were already at the other side of the valley. We mounted our horses and had them pace down the slopes towards the river which ran through the middle of the valley. We rode straight off down the hills as fast as we could. Next to the river the slope was very steep and sandy and ended suddenly in a flat grass bank. I was riding first, and maybe that was the reason why I was lucky enough to sense the danger in time. I turned my horse to the left and rode in a big circle down to the river, but my companion Einar rode right off the sandy slope. As I came from the side, having calmed my horse a little bit, I saw Einar’s horse fly down the slope and slide the last few yards. Einar fell off the horse and lay there for a while, still and quiet as if he was part of the grassy river bank. His horse came down a few seconds later, and when it reached the grass bank it stumbled and collapsed and solemnly erected its body and stood on its head with all four feet stretched into the air, the tail flapping in the wind, like a sign of submission.

I will never forget this sight. In my memory it seems to have lasted for at least one minute. But of course that’s impossible; this was just too strange. My common sense refused to agree with what I saw.

When Einar at last turned his head and looked back, his horse had started turning over and was obviously going to fall down upon him where he lay. He was too shocked to try to stand up. He desperately crawled away, using both hands and feet and at the same moment that the horse heavily fell to the ground, he vibrated into the river, which was his only way to escape.

The horse lay for a while on its side and then rose to its feet, shyly looking around, as if it was wondering if someone had seen its unhorselike and undignified action. Einar also came back from the river, not injured but tremendously wet. After we had checked the saddle and found out that it was not broken, we again mounted the horses and kept on riding, as if the „boss of hell“ himself was on the verge of catching us.

Since then, I have lived more than thirty years. I have seen a lot of peculiar things. But still I remember this incident as if it had occurred yesterday. I learned an important thing during that bright summer night in the Icelandic wilderness. I learned that we should never say never.
Even a horse can stand on its head, stretching all four feet out and flapping its tail in the air. I have seen it myself.