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Tears flow abundantly

Published 12:51pm Friday, January 6, 2012

“Have you seen ‘War Horse’ yet?” asked a friend.
“Are you crazy?” I said. “I cry at the trailer. I’d never make it through the movie!”
It’s a strange thing because I’m not a woman who cries easily. Even during the heartrending bust-ups of past romantic liaisons, I wasn’t a girl who threw herself, sobbing, upon her bed, convulsed with grief.
I generally just cussed a lot and then popped open a beer. Sort of like Jeff Bridges in ‘Crazy Heart.’
When a young horse I was training threw me like a rag doll and I landed heavily on my side, hearing a toe-curling ‘pop’ somewhere in my ribcage, I just sighed, rolled over on my back, stared up at the animal and said, “Well, thanks very much, you complete jerk.”
But no tears.
Yet, suddenly, within the last year or so, I’m crying all the time. What the heck is that all about?
“Hormones,” nodded one older friend, understandably. “We all go through it, honey. I had to go on hormone replacement therapy.”
Don’t be ridiculous, I spluttered. That stuff is for overly emotional females that can’t get a grip. Not for a woman who washes her face with ‘Lava.’ Not for a woman who lives in quilted Carharts during the winter. Not me.
“What is wrong with you?” Paul asked, somewhat bemused, as I tried to nonchalantly wipe hidden tears away with my shirt sleeve when the 13-year-old Rachel Crow, getting voted off ‘X Factor,’ collapsed in sobs of grief on the stage.
“Nothing.” I snapped. “That stupid Nicole just threw her under the bus! I mean, why be a judge if you’re going to pass it on to the public to judge?”
Barely a week later, watching the nightly news which featured a returning serviceman surprising his children as they sat upon Santa’s lap, I could only control myself by stuffing the fringed corner of a throw cushion in my mouth.
“You alright?” Paul said, not taking his eyes from the screen.
“Yep.” although my reply was muffled.
“There’s nothing wrong with crying, you know.” he added. “It made me well up.”
“Well, I’m not you and I’m not crying.”
Then came the commercials for ‘War Horse.’ And the thing is, having spent several years on a television set, I understand all about audience manipulation: I understand how a cast of actors, a good script, strategic lighting and, most importantly, a soaring musical score, can reduce even the toughest longshoreman into a blubbering rag. I see through all that stuff, especially Spielberg, who is the master of soft-focus contrivance. This is the guy who made a creepy, melon-headed alien with a glowing finger recite the line, “E.T., phone home,” and sent theater audiences reaching, gulping their tears, for Kleenex.
So when the first ‘War Horse’ commercial aired recently, I took a deep breath and clenched my fist as memories of every horse I’d ever had and lost flashed through my brain. Watching the movie horse (the same horse, by the way, as used in ‘Seabiscuit,’ which means he also has a better agent than I have) rear and gallop through the still-smoking battlefields and knowing how, in reality, hundreds of thousands of horses were slaughtered by machine guns during WWI, I began to chew my lip but nearly contained myself until seeing his young owner cry, “I will find you!” and made a sort of choking noise deep in my throat.
“For the love of Mike, cry!” Paul barked from the kitchen. “Otherwise you’re going to have an aneurysm. It’s not very appealing living with Steven Segal, you know.”
“I have to go check on the horses.” I replied stoutly, keeping my back to him and marching purposely out the front door. Once in the privacy of the barn I cried so hard my head began to pound at the temples. And the pain alone made me cry harder. Then Bonnie, my beloved terrier, sprang lightly against my thigh with troubled and concerned eyes, which sent me once again reeling into convulsions of emotion. Both my horses left their hay momentarily, not to see if I was alright, but to see if anything that was happening involved food, and returned to their quiet munching. Then one of them, completely unlike any hero movie horse, emitted a long, sustained, breaking of wind, which served for me as a transition into peels of laughter.
Still chuckling, I went back into the house and Paul, noting my face, commented, “So now you’re laughing? OK, now you’re freaking me out. Maybe you do need that hormone therapy stuff.”
Dismissing his suggestion with a wave of my hand I replied, “Nah, I just needed the equine equivalent of ‘pull my finger.’”

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