ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Strange things have been happening so regularly these days that it’s hard to know whether calling them “strange” is strange in itself.
Which is strange.
But as Saundra Powers told her story about the horse, it was hard to keep the jaw from dropping.
Powers lives in Taylor Ranch, but her yard is more reminiscent of an Asian garden, with tidy rock swaths, wind chimes, Buddha statues and secluded spots of Zen for quiet contemplation.
Among her most beloved garden accessory is a large, ceramic, jade green Tang horse statue, a gift from a friend.
The Chinese horse, which stands just over 2 feet tall, has been a fixture in her front yard for about three years, illuminated night and day in her quiet cul de sac.
But on the morning of Aug. 1, the horse was gone.
In its place was a note.
“Just borrowing your beautiful horse for 48 hours or less,” it read, the “48” scratched out and the number 36 inserted.
The note featured a crude drawing of a dog-faced horse with a serpent-like tongue and the words “ANT EATER HORSE” written above it.
Powers was stunned.
“I don’t know what to make of this,” she said. “It upset me and my family.”
And her horse was certainly no ant-eater.
“It’s a beautiful statue,” she said.
Tang horses are among the most famous works of Chinese art from the Tang Dynasty, when horses were symbols of power, prestige and wealth. Powers said she estimates it would cost $250 to $450 to replace.
But she didn’t have to.
That next morning, the horse was back, an ear broken off and glued back and another note left next to it.
“So thank you for letting me borrow your horse (Green Thunder),” the note read. “It made my best friend’s night. I regret to inform you that the ear took some damage. If you need me to compensate you monetarily I’d be very happy to do so. … Again I feel very bad about this. Please let me know how I can rectify the situation.”
The note concluded with a phone number and a promise: “This is the last time I touch him.”
Green Thunder? Where had that come from, Powers wondered. What kind of prank was this?
More than anything, Powers said she wondered what kind of person creeps around her family’s home, takes something without asking, returns it broken.
She wondered what would happen next.
“This person may or may not realize just how brazen and bold this was to do this, and how much anxiety it caused,” she said. “I feel so violated.” On Aug. 3, she reported the incident to Albuquerque police. An officer told her he called the number left on the note but no one answered.
It appeared there was little more to be done – except maybe to call me.
Which she did.
“I want to tell this person that they’re an idiot for what they’re doing and that it caused so much anxiety,” she said. “I don’t want anything more except an apology.”
So I texted the number. I didn’t get a name, age or gender, but I did get an apology, an explanation of sorts and more jaw dropping.
Turns out, this wasn’t the horse’s first weird rodeo.
A year ago, the horse borrower said he – or she – and a friend were celebrating the friend’s birthday when they saw the horse in the front yard and thought it would be great sport for the friend to sit on it.
And yes, they were inebriated.
“When he was getting off of it he fell over. We’ve laughed about it for a year, telling him the horse bucked him off, he’d never make the rodeo and so on,” the person texted. “I took the horse to his house because it was his birthday again, and I thought it would be funny as an inside joke. I never meant for the horse to get damaged.”
That had happened, the text continued, when a vacuum cleaner cord knocked the horse to the floor.
The person said the plan was to have the friend sit again on the horse for a photo to be blown up into a poster.
“It was the only original gift I could think of getting him,” the person said. “And I thought it was funny.”
The person appeared stunned when told that the horsing around had been disturbing to Powers and her family. I was the first, the person said, to criticize the horse thievery as creepy, weird and just plain wrong.
“Personally, I would have laughed about this if someone did it to me,” the person texted. “Never in my mind did I believe it would be taken the way it was. Makes me sad because I’m definitely not trying to make anyone feel that way.”
And besides, the person reasoned, a phone number was left “to make it not creepy.”
In the end, though, there was an apology and a promise never to horse around with the horse again.
“I’m terribly sorry about the decision I made that night,” the person said. “I’m totally sorry that I made her feel that way.”
Saundra Powers got her apology. The Tang horse is now ensconced away safely, out of view. And maybe this was just a strange and singular thing that happened on a quiet cul-de-sac. Or maybe it’s another indication of just how strange our world has become.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.