First, though: you know how horses are in the wind? Let me refresh your memory. There’s something about an ordinary, garden-variety tornadic gale that sends a horse plummeting into a sort of infinite feedback loop of blind terror. They prance around, their eyes look crazed, they snort and blow, they flip their tails over their backs and arch their 28-foot necks and spook sideways for no reason. Then suddenly they go galloping off en masse, usually straight into a fence.
Panicking horse + fence = carnage and vet bills
Anyway, yesterday the tableau was cinematic. It was fixin’ to rain and the wind was gusting at about 40 miles an hour. Dark clouds roiled overhead. Dirt devils — little funnel clouds of dust, leaves, and taco wrappers loosed by the construction crew — sworled menacingly. Dead limbs came crashing down from drought-stressed oaks. Anything that could possibly make a rattling or creaking or whistling sound was rattling, creaking, and whistling. In the distance something — or someone — was screeching.
Naturally, out in the field the mares were stampeding according to the Global Accords Governing Equine Behavior, so I thought it might be better for everyone if I just brought them all in until everything blew over.
My flighty little Arabian Stella and I are two hearts that beat as one when it comes to repairing to cozy barns during sucky weather; when she saw me coming with the halter she was first in line, all “I’m a celebrity, get me outta here.” It wasn’t until I’d patted her butt and closed the stall door behind her that I happened to glance out the barn window. The spectacle I beheld was ghastly beyond comprehension. The two remaining horses, Pearl and Ginger Rogers, were lickety-splitting down the driveway, bucking and snorting.
This simply could not be happening. In disbelief I turned to observe the gate I thought I had securely fastened not a minute earlier. Impossibly, it swung sickeningly in the wind, its stupid unfastened chain thunking against the fencepost, mocking me. Shit. Damn thing must have bounced out of its stupid little groove. Usually I double-check, but with Stella jumpy as heck, my attention had been mostly focused on not getting too trampled.
Jumpy Arabian + stupid crone = loose horse crisis
Crisis? you ask. So your horses got loose, big whoop. Just stroll after’em with a bucket of feed like you always do.I think I may have forgotten to mention that I am having a new fence built in the barnyard. About a quarter mile of it. It is just at that awkward stage where 7642 post holes have been dug to a depth of about 3 feet, but no lumber has arrived yet. The holes are wide open and plentiful. As far as horses go, that part of the farm is, it’s fair to say, a death trap, basically.
This is Dreadful Acres, so it goes without saying that it was toward this very hazard that the wind-crazed pair-o-mares had commenced scramming at a dead run. And I am a science-based crone, so it goes without saying that my hypothesis was this: my gaping post holes are inhabited by invisible post-hole sirens all transmitting on some equine frequency this irresistible message: “come hither, Dobbin, and step lively, right into these holes, hurry up, 72 bales of virgin alfalfa await you, no shit I’m totally serious.”
It is a scientific fact that horses in a herd are all connected emotionally by an invisible equine fiber-optic internet. Therefore Stella, who from her run had observed the egress of the escapees with mounting alarm, got the memo and began caterwauling and executing little “Ima jump outta here” rears. In reality poor Stella couldn’t jump over a broomstick, but she is not averse to dying in an effort to prove it.
The situation, in short, was completely out of hand.
The place I was in was a hard one. Next to me was a rock. I mean, the last thing you do with a pair of panicking horses is give chase; their most basic instinct is to flee at breakneck speed in the direction opposite the horrific threat, even if that threat is nothing more sinister than you, the wind, and a cotton lead rope, and particularly if a field of leg-breaking death-pits awaits them. Normally I’d just head’em off while projecting a totally chill, non-threatening, fancy-free demeanor, but in this case they were too far ahead of me. So although I couldn’t chase’em, I had to chase’em.
Yeah, I think I also may have forgotten to mention that I was nursing a recent ankle sprain.
So, to recap:
Gale force winds. Panicked horses on the lam. Field full of holes. Stella trying to commit suicide on paddock fence. Lone crone hobbling at breakankle speed.
Gad, the hilarity of it all.
Well, it all turned out OK in the end, no thanks to me. What happened was, at the last minute the post-hole sirens started transmitting a new message: “Never mind. Go back to the barn. Let that idiot Crone put a halter on you. Nothin’ to see here.”