“Buck” Brings A Tear: 8-9-11

Tough Stuff: My girlfriend and I had a long awaited evening out last night. We went to see the movie “Buck,” a documentary produced and directed by Cindy Meehl, which captures the pain and beauty of the man who inspired the book and film, “The Horse Whisperer.” As Ms. Meehl lives in our town and I have admired her both as a dedicated horsewoman and artist, I was eager to share the movie with our daughter, who loves local links of any kind where real people whom we know are connected to something artistic. But alas, she turned me down twice. So off I went with my pal.

The Tear: Buck Brannaman is an alluring character on so many levels, which I leave the movie critics to describe. As anyone who sees this movie will report, there is a passage where an unruly and dangerous “stud” horse, honey-blond and bound for trouble, enters the arena to be coaxed out of its primitive fearfulness and aggression into a workable regular usable horse. His owner relates a heartbreaking tale of its birth, deprived of oxygen for perhaps it was 8 or 9 minutes, as well as left motherless. The owner further abandons the poor stallion when she breaks her back in two places and cannot provide the training the colt needs to grow up “normal.” There is a parallel tale here which Buck underscores with blunt honesty: clearly the horse is a symptom of the owner’s dysfunction. But what pulled at me most of all followed the horse’s attack on Brannaman’s trainer, ripping a hole in his skull requiring stitches. Failing this last ditch effort the horse would be destroyed, perhaps euthanized is the better word. Specific details were not provided but the horse was loaded onto the trailer, the crowd sunk in despair and even anger at the owner whose terrible judgment (she keeps 18 stud horses, which is an outrageous amount of dangerous and unnecessary horse power, has been bitten badly by this horse, and who knows how she broke her back) seemed to have doomed this exquisite animal from birth.

Points Against Them: Brannaman made it clear. He summarized his take on the tragedy, which I am crudely paraphrasing here. The horse was born with points against him: some brain damage along the lines of a learning disabled child; and the loss of the nurtured teaching of his mom. But, he said, as with the disabled, if he were reared with the resources he needed, he could have been a nice, usable member of the horse community. Instead, this happened. Well, guess what. I don’t think there is a mother of a special needs child who at that moment wouldn’t have gone deep inside to that buried place of guilt, groaning in silent pain. Later my girlfriend asked me what triggered my tears. I didn’t know that they were obvious but she is attentive and kind. Though the story is not the same, it is the same. Our disabled children often do get the resources. That’s the “not the same” part. But nothing erases the “what went wrong and when and the sadness that something did.”

Buck Revisited: If our daughter wants to see the movie with me, I would love that. She and her brother are the people who brought me into the horsey world. She is the one who has kept me there. And with many things that my children are drawn too, I benefit and grow from sharing in those worlds. That’s the good part of all this.

©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011

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