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BRILLIANCE/Henry Taylor The first time I heard one adult call another a genius, my father was speaking of a man whose face I don't recall. AU I have is the memory of an old Black man, climbing with difficulty the few stairs to the porch ofJannej^s store. A bush of gray hair billowed from under the back of his cap. I can also see the front of his unpainted house, the worn stoop and the door not quite straight, a few yards from the edge of the road. The road has been moved in years since, and the house made over. I knew a Uttle about what the word "genius" meant; I was at the age of comic books, and had begun to daydream about the kid with the big head and thick glasses who always had all the answers. So what did he mean? Well, Ed Harrington had come here from southwest Virginia, the youthful employee of one Robert Gray, caUed Colonel Bob, who bought the Glebe in the teens and ran cattle there that he bought from aU over the country. They would be shipped to him on freight cars, arriving just on the north side of the Potomac, at Brunswick, or over in Winchester, across the Shenandoah. Colonel Gray would drive his buggy to the depot, do paperwork and take possession, and turn to this young Black man and say, "AU right, Ed. Bring 'em home." With the help of a little old dog he actuaUy called "Spot," he would do it. In that pause I was trying to think of a way to make clear the incredible difficulty with which you or I would have contended with that simple command. These creatures knew nothing of where they were. It might be thirty-five miles by the roads Ed would take, one man on foot with a smaU herd of cattle The Missouri Review · 57 who would see every lane opening along the road as the way in to something they wanted. Somehow, Ed knew what the cattle would think before they'd had time to think it, and could take some action. God knows what. But in two or three days he'd arrive, the herd quite intact, even calm, set free to rove over the Glebe, the five hundred acres once deeded, in 1773, to the Shelburne Parish of the Episcopal Church. Its meadows embanked the North Fork of Goose Creek a few hundred yards downstream from where Crooked Run's water drops into it. Colonel Bob was a saddle-horse man, kept his horses to the flat, bred and trained to show in five gaits—walk, trot, canter, slow gait, and rack. He had the money and knowledge to start with horses whose natural gifts were abundant, but still, in that business, brilliance is a matter of drawing out of the beast an aura, a sense that the horse willingly restrains coiled-spring energy enough to fly, or even explode, as it steps high and quick, in sun-glare, the metal of bit, buckle, and stirrup agleam. Colonel Gray had what it took, and he knew it. There was the time he walked off with some championship or other, and his nearest competitor, second to him all day, said something sour about having the judge in your pocket, and Colonel Gray stopped, turned, and stood before him like a man about to fling down his glove and say coldly, "My seconds will be attending upon you, sir." But in fact said only, "If you doubt, sir, that the judge knows his business, take my horse into the ring, while I ride yours. For five hundred dollars, sir, I'll beat you again." Nothing doing, of course; the story ends there, or goes bad. 58 · The Missouri Review Henry Taylor Ed Harrington, meanwhile, squired over the vicinity the Colonel's stud horse, Lincoln Chief, available for a reasonable fee to impregnate local mares, and so in time came himself to be known as Chief. And in time, too, tried his skills elsewhere, left Gray's employ and went to work for my great-uncle W T. Smith, dairy farmer. In the sphere...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 57-61
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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