The Blacksmith at the Outpost
He was, in fact, a simple man, unremarkable in all the outer ways. Not overly tall or muscular or handsome, but passable in all respects. But he was a blacksmith, and therefore very strong. His arms seemed to have the tensile strength of the metals he pounded, but kept their lean appearance; bulk was not in his genetic makeup. No matter how much he hammered and beat, shaping metal into exquisite beauty, he had the lanky look of a much younger man.
During his apprenticeship he earned the name which never left him. So much was this new name a part of him that people, even his wife, forgot his given name with time. He was called Horse, and he wore the name with grace. This name was not given for his size, but his strength and dependability. No job was minimized by Horse. No work was too insignificant for him to labor over diligently. Horse’s father had taught him the value of attending to the details, so when tedious and careful work was required, he was often the one chosen.
Therefore, it came as no surprise to some and a total shock to others when Horse was called to work at one of the Empire’s outposts. Those who saw Horse’s potential in craft and training others expected that he would rise quickly in the whirling center of growth and business. Others who recognized the problem-solver and determined craftsman in Horse knew at once he was chosen for a post which would chew up many lesser men and accomplish nothing.
Horse willingly packed his family up and headed for the remote edge of the Empire. An outpost was designated on the maps, but its reality was as yet unconfirmed. Horse was to establish this and build relations with the simple tribal groups, encouraging them to adapt ways which would improve their lives.
What Horse actually found at the outpost was a ruin, a shell which had never been completed.
So he applied himself. He worked methodically. He trained the tribal people who were willing to learn. His forge developed a reputation in the area: for quality and integrity. Young men came and went, some learning much, others enough to get by.
The Outpost grew slowly because Horse was more concerned with the building of people than structures. He was also accused of being obsessed with details and “getting it right.” On the rare occasions the District Commissioner would visit, there were questions about the inefficiency of focusing on community rather than getting the job done.
But Horse plodded on, the people responded and learned to love him. Not his manner, which always saw room for improvement and self-discipline. It took years, but they read his heart and trusted him more than they trusted each other. Horse may say hard things, but he always told the Truth.
Then on a late summer day, a message came informing Horse that the Outpost was to be closed. The time for that area of expansion was over. The work, whatever it had been perceived to be, was done.
A marvel of intricate metalwork, the Outpost became a beacon on the frontier. A garden-encircled haven where people flocked for peace. Horse had brought skill mingled with humility, and in the midst of that, the people discovered what they had truly lacked: a sense of purpose and rest in the turbulence of their milieu. The Outpost was as elegant as anything that could be found in the metropolitan areas. Horse’s craftsmanship was consummate, no one disputed.
But the reason for sending him there had been forgotten. The Commissioners had other, more important, places to manage. Horse was told he would be redeployed to a more central location where he could focus on forging metal and reinforcing security from within. Clearly, the tribal groups he had worked among were not ready for what civilization had to offer.
With a broken heart, he packed his family for the return. His tools he distributed among the men who would hopefully, one day, be able to wield them as he had done. The trip back to the capitol was heavy and slow.