Palmer Orchid stood contently atop the windy hill as he watched over his farm below. The wind brushed through his mane and sent it all aflutter. He smiled. This was such a smile that his eyes were reduced to slits, his bony cheeks rose high on his face, and his mouth curled to an extreme point. It was a good day.
Palmer Orchid was a sheep herder and shepherd. He went about his job with the utmost satisfaction and he never regretted a single day of it. Other than his job about the farm, for which he was generously paid, he was often enough a lazy stallion who always went about with his head in the sky, dreaming of what he would do once he got back to the farm. Often on Sundays during church, instead of listening to sermon, he would sit in the back row in a doze. He was in constant thought of perhaps what should he enjoy for lunch or perhaps why he didn't eat breakfast that morning. Or perhaps even why he was in a doze in the first place. He was always in thought and when he would catch himself in one of his dozes, he would constantly scold himself for not paying more attention. Even so, his days went on.
He owned an old, tarnished, brass watch that he kept stuffed in the pocket of his attire. His attire, since he worked six days out of the seven, was simple and modest. He wore a little collar around his neck, a hastily-tied bow tie that hung loose, and a woolen shirt that he tried to keep clean. This was his attire and he would not have had it any other way. Now his watch was handed down to him from his own father who in turn had received it from his father and so on. The watch had a small dent on the front of its casing and it hardly ever had the right time anymore, but at least it was right two times a day.
Palmer Orchid had the air of a stallion with very little want or need. Even though he had a reasonable sum of money, he spent all his time living in a little cottage by the edge of his field. In the town of Klimmington, Palmer was viewed as one who frayed close along the lines of what was socially acceptable and what wasn't. To his friends, when they were in a bad mood, he was seen as an annoyance; when they were in a good mood, he was the best to ever be around; when they were neither, he was simply neither as well.
Palmer Orchid stood tall and firm above most of everypony else in Klimmington. His coat was light and mellow and his mane and tail were a slight hue of green. To most, he resembled a spring flower in full bloom. His eyes were bright hazel and he went about his business as he always did. His long unicorn horn was the same shade as the rest of him and he was mighty proud of it.
He crossed over the crest of the hill and slowly walked along the rim of it, taking in a clear view of his pasture. His sheep were all bundled together in a tight pack near a pond as they contentedly grazed on the grass. Another breeze ruffled through over the hill causing the bountiful leaves in the tree branches above his head to rustle. He had always enjoyed the sound of rustling leaves in the wind. He marched on and descended to the fence. He spotted a broken beam and made a mental note to fix it as soon as he had the chance to. He went back about his business and walked to where his hut was built up. He stepped inside, sat down on his modest bed, and took down a sketch from the mantle piece.
Palmer came from a farming family for which he was always proud. His family dated back to some of the earlier generations of Equestria. If he remembered correctly, the earliest known ancestor of his had been around when Nightmare Moon had made her debut. Palmer remembered about how his father would always tell him stories that had been passed down about that moment. He would always hear about how there was a distant explosion of magic from Canterlot and about how the land was cast in eternal darkness. Ever since he was told that story, he would always imagine to himself what eternal night would be like.
Through all the years, his family has farmed and they have herded. They hailed from the northern regions of Equestria where the winters were always brutal. There, they didn't prosper and their harvests were often lost due to early unscheduled snowstorms. After deciding enough was enough, his ancestors picked up their belongings and set out in search of finer grounds. After centuries of travel, they finally descended from the hills down to the town of Klimmington. It was here in these rich fields that they found their land of milk and honey.
Palmer looked down at the old sketching of his grandfather and his own father and smiled. He was proud of who he was and where he had come from. He set the sketching back on the mantle above the fire pit and opened up one of the side windows. After he checked himself in the mirror and flattened his ruffled mane with a passing of a brush, he took his stick from the hook beside the door and stepped outside.
When he descended down the crooked steps of his hut, he whistled for his dogs. He waited for a moment and whistled again. He pricked his ears to the western fields and listened. Nothing. He whistled again for them and pricked his ears this time towards the eastern fields. Still nothing. Growing irritated, Palmer took his stick with a light of his horn and marched up towards the crest of the hill again as another breeze stole its way over. The trees rustled at its touch but Palmer ignored them. He crossed over the ridge of the hill and stared down into the grassy meadow below. There in the tall grasses, his dogs played mindlessly.
Palmer had two dogs; one of which was nearing seven and the other was still just only two. The older dog, his favorite dog, went by the name of Tinker. Palmer had received Tinker as a present one Hearth's Warming Eve before his old father finally passed. Ever since then, Tinker had grown into an excellent herder who always got the mark just right. The younger dog however was simply a mess. He spent all his time listlessly strolling the fields barking at whatever he found and causing all a ruckus that Palmer would have to spend all day correcting. Palmer wasn't fond of this dog in the slightest.
He gave a final whistle and their heads straightened up at the sound. They ran up the tall hill and down into the adjacent pasture; Palmer followed with a grunt. He whistled for them again and they set out to work.
Palmer crossed the deep pasture to the watering pond and with a swing of his stick, the grazing sheep heeded way. They went about their way while the last few stragglers remained behind to finish eating. Palmer set his dogs out for those still behind while he went and followed the group of sheep as they rounded over the hill into the grassy meadow. There, he waited until Tinker brought over the stragglers. The other dog whom he had never bothered to name was probably off taking a swim in the pond. With a scowl, he looked over the meadow to the blight blue sky set against the flat horizon and he set himself to thinking about something his father had told him years ago.
"Palmer, there's somethin' I gotta tell ya before we go out. I'm an old stallion but I know a somethin' or two 'bout life," the old stallion had said one day at the breakfast table. "Life's only what ya make of it. If ya think it hard, then it's always gonna be hard. If ya think it easy, then it'll always be easy. There' nothin' wrong with life, son. The only things wrong with it is the lack of hope. If ya hope for somethin' with all your might, then it might someday come true . . . Son, there's somethin' beautiful 'bout the sky set on the horizon. There's somethin' pretty 'bout it that I can't quite explain. Ya just have ta find it for yourself and pray that you'll find somethin' precious on it."
Thinking back to what his father had said, Palmer set his gaze out to the horizon and stared. It was certainly pretty as far as he could tell but there was nothing really amazing about it. He stole his eyes away from it and set out about one last circle around the herd. He made sure the sheep were doing what they were meant to and with a glance back to the crest of the hill, he ascended. When he neared the ridge, he set his eyes down into the pasture and sure enough, that young dog was enjoying a lazy swim in the pond. Palmer cursed that lazy dog as much as he could and walked along the ridge, waving in and out between the trunks of the trees. He kept a watchful eye over his herd as he went and enjoyed a slight breeze that ruffled his slight green mane.
He descended back to his hut but stopped as he heard the rattle of the wheels of a heavy wagon as it drove down the side road towards town. Curious as to who it could be, Palmer cautiously rounded the base of the hill and made his way over to the fence. He watched as the wagon, pulled by two large burly mulls, came to a sudden halt. Palmer etched closer to it as the driver descended onto the dirt road.
"I think I may have heard something fall a while back," Palmer heard a soft sweet voice. Puzzled and wondering why a stallion wagon-driver would have such a voice, Palmer etched closer, still crouching behind the low fence. When he got closer to the wagon, he found that it had not been the driver that had spoken but instead had been a young unicorn mare.
"Ay, ma'am," he heard the driver say in his low voice. "What do you reckon it may have been?"
"It sounded to me like it may have been a loose board or something," she flatly replied as she looked out around at the hills and pastures. "Why don't you go see?"
"Ay, ma'am," the driver said with a curt little nod of his head. With a final word to the mulls pulling the wagon, he departed in a quick trot back down the road again.
Checking to see if he had gone, the young unicorn mare turned around in the seat of the wagon. She rummaged through the mess in the back and when she found what she was looking for, she turned back around in her seat and placed it onto the board before her. Palmer was amazed that she had managed to find anything at all in that mess of stuff. The back of the wagon was filled to its brim and higher with items loosely tossed in together. There was no sense of order in any of it. Palmer could see bits of ornate furniture and other bits and pieces of this and that. He guess this must be one of those new fancy rich ponies that were making it their habit to move out to the country.
He continued watching. The unicorn mare undid the tie around the paper and opened up the package. With a gentle light of her horn, she levitated up a small mirror in front of her face and she took a long look at herself. Even from where Palmer crouched behind the fence, he could clearly see a flood of blush cross her yellow cheeks. He watched as she fidgeted in her seat and messed around with her blue mane. When she saw her reflection blush in the mirror, she blushed even harder.
When the driver came trotting back up the road with a board caught in between his jaws, the mare quickly set the mirror back into its package and set it back into the mess of belongings. She quickly shook her head and freed herself of any trace of blush.
"Ay, ma'am," the driver said after he placed the board back onto the wagon. "T'was so a board. So right you were ma'am."
"So we're finally ready to go along then?" the mare asked as she scooted over in the seat so the driver could climb back up.
"Ay, ma'am," he replied with a quick nod to the mulls. With a kick of dust, the wagon continued on its way down the road. Curious, Palmer followed behind as close as he dared to. He followed until the wagon came to yet another abrupt stop in front of the gates to town. Palmer got close enough within hearing range to hear the heated conversation.
"What do you mean I have to pay to get in?" the mare angrily asked as her loose bun came unfurled. "Can't you see I've got a wagon-full of belongings? My stuff cannot wait just because you want me to pay."
"I'm mighty sorry, ma'am," the gate keep said lightly with a tip of his hat. "But that's the way things stand here. According to what I was told by my manager, the town is looking to refurbish some things around these parts and that they need as many bits as they can get. So cause of that, ma'am, here I am on the side of the road. And I'm mighty sorry ma'am, but I can't let you pass until you cork over the three bits."
"That is preposterous," the mare angrily said. "Isn't there anypony I can talk to about this? I forgot my wallet behind at my uncle's farm near Westerby. That's a ten hours ride back and it'll be well into night by the time I ever there. Isn't there some way you could let me pass?"
"No ma'am. I wish there was cause I hate to make you go back on your way, but there's no way around it," the keep flatly replied with another respectful tip of his hat.
The mare cursed loudly at his answer and set herself into a stupor. Palmer decided that he had seen enough and bounded from behind the fence.
"Here ma'am,":he said as he rummaged with his bag. "Use my bits if it ain't too much trouble for you," Palmer continued as he lifted up three bits for the mare to see. She took them without even a look down to express any form of thanks and passed them down to the keep. While the keep counted the bits, she set about fixing her mane back into the loose bun. When the gate finished counting the bits and placed them into a little pail, he let the wagon pass through.
"She's a very pretty mare, ain't she farmer?" the keep asked as he nudged Palmer in the side.
"Ay, 'tis so," Palmer agreed with a nod of his head as he watched the wagon kick up dust in its wake.
"Yup. I would love to be in with a mare like that," the keep said as he sat back down on his stool.
"I would not."
"Why's that, farmer?"
"Mares like her have their faults," Palmer simply replied as he pushed his mane away from his eyes.
"Ay, 'tis so. A bit too hard to handle if you ask me," the keep sadly said as he kicked at the road.
"True; but no."
"What then, farmer?"