The Neighborhood Horse

I bought property at the end of a cul-de-sac. In a quiet corner of rural King County (Seattle), with only two access points (NW and SW) for an area roughly 100 square miles. (The county bought the land around Rattlesnake Canyon and closed it off years ago, so you can’t get through that way anymore. EVER.)

To get to my house, you drive down the road, turn a curve, go to the end, and you’re facing my gravel driveway. Then you wind up and around 150 meters to a plateau midway up the hill, where the house is.

Remote. Nearly feral.

I bought the land in 2010. Got the house done in 2015. Most of my neighbors had no idea anybody lived up there until 2018, because the two neighbors I do know are socially isolated from most of the rest of the folks around here (the hippies have a driveway out on the main road instead of into the neighborhood, and the guy directly south of me is an asshole that everyone around here hates, and not just me.)

I’m also not on the common well that they all use, so they have a neighborhood water association. That entity had it’s annual meeting yesterday, and the hosts (who I do know well) threw a BBQ afterwards and invited the rest of us to come down and say hello. Finally got to meet more than half of the folks around here, after just waving at them as I go by for so long.

Nobody knew that I was here for the longest time, because there is a landlocked chunk of 15 acres above me (I have 6.5 myself). The woman that lives up there (if I understand the story correctly), bought this whole section (1 square miles in American parlance) back in about 1962-63. Originally, her and her husband lived down on my pond, before selling chunks off to developers over the years. (They built that current house starting in ’64. Got power and a well in ’65, as the story goes. The kids used to ride their horses down through the current neighborhood in the early 70s.

The parents divorced at some point a long time ago and this 80+ year old woman is at the top of the hill. Railroad along one edge. Wilderness Preserve (public park land) on another side. Steep hill down on the third, and me below her, with her having an easement driveway over my property to the street below.

Crazy lady. Not bad, just stubborn as hell. Her kids are maybe 5-10 years older than me, and I’m friendly with both when they come up to see their mom. Know a couple of the grandkids as well. All adults at this point.

Then, there is Jimmy-Jack.

E is a small woman. And used to ride racehorses at the old track south of Seattle, some 40-60 years ago. Her daughter (mid-50s) still jockeys occasionally, but mostly works as a carpenter. Also tiny. Also stubborn. Barbed wire and tan.

In addition to an ongoing string of big dogs and chickens, E also rescues old retired racehorses.

Horses run professionally for only a few years, then they’re done, but can live 30+ in the right circumstances.

The hippies at the bottom of my hill have had to bring up an excavator a few times while I’ve lived here, so they can dig a hole and bury a dead horse.

I figure there are a few dozen dead horses up there. Can’t wait until somebody buys it after she dies and decides to build their dream house. 15 acres remote but only 10 minutes to Starbucks will go for a lot of money, until they look at all the dead cars, trailers, junk, etc. up there.

And then have to deal with unmarked horse graves.

I might be looking forward to being a fly on the wall that day, but I have a small soul and while her kids are nice, she can be a pain in the ass.

Neither here nor there. (Personally, I’ve suggested to the county a few times that they buy it themselves and extend the Wilderness another 15 acres while they can.)

Today, I wanted to talk about Jimmy, but it required some set up.

Jimmy-Jack is a 30-year-old retired race horse.

Two years ago, we had a friend come out and stay with us for the summer, sleeping in the camping trailer because COVID meant that everyone needed to be isolated, and she had a job as a shopper for folks, delivering groceries to their house.

She is also a photographer, and a loving soul.

Jimmy used to come down the hill regularly to hang out with her. And she’d walk up and say hi to him.

Sure, there’s a fence. Might Keep a shy sheep in. Jimmy just steps over it. Then down the driveway, cut across, and graze in my septic field. In the old days, I’d have to chase him off, but we both got over ourselves and he was mostly looking for company. And nice grass, because it’s all trees and shade up there, so nothing green he can just munch on.

So Jimmy would come down in the summer of 2019. Usually in the late afternoon. Then he’d head back up around sunset. I stopped chasing him off, and my guest made it a point to clean up the horse apples he’d leave, so it was fine.

Weird, but fine.

Because while some of you have neighborhood cats you might feed. Or the dogs that run around and hang out, I have a neighborhood horse.

How you know you live in the country.

At one point that summer, E was in the hospital and rehab, so her kids and grands had to come by twice a day to feed the various animals. One day, the dog and the horse both come down, late afternoon/early evening. The dog is friendly enough. Barks, but it isn’t a warning bark or a friendly play.

“Hey, you!” kind of bark.

Jimmy’s with the dog, hanging out. Watching me.

This goes on for a few minutes, so I grab Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and we walk up the hill, with both critters making a beeline ahead of us once they’re sure where headed that way.

Through the gate. Wind long ways around the driveway. Jimmy practically dancing, though he and I have a carefully-armed neutrality. (My dad got kicked by a horse 40 years ago. Broke several ribs and nearly killed him.)

At one point, Jimmy stomps right over, so I grab him by the halter and tap foreheads, telling him to behave.

Horse is ornery, not dumb. He nods and heads off to where his feed bucket is.

We get to E’s house. It’s unlocked. I don’t go in often, but it was obvious nobody had fed the critters today and they were starving, so I yell, open the door, yell some more, then go find the two feed barrels and get the dog and the horse fed.

Head back down, having done our good deed.


About 15 minutes later, one of the grandsons drives up E’s driveway, on his way to feed the critters. I can only imagine his response when he got there. I’m sure both animals told him they were starving and had never been fed in their lives. (Never trust a horse about his feeding schedule.)

After that summer, the guest moved on. Jimmy stopped coming down.

Until about a week ago. Guess he was kinda lonely. Or maybe missed the good grass.

Always interesting, waking up at 4am to the sound of hooves clomping along outside the wind. Dark brown horse, so I’d have to hit him with a flashlight to see him.

Usually, just clapping loud or yelling at him to go home is sufficient and he’d prance back up the driveway.

All a big game to that dork.

Won’t say I’ll miss him when he finally goes, but I will miss the stories I can tell about having a neighborhood horse.