a correspondence course in subterfuge
"DO. NOT. PLAY. WITH. KNOTS!" I yelled up at the pasture gate, raising a pitchfork in the air and shaking it at Jasper. He was in the pasture by the large metal gate with his lead rope in his mouth. He had been watching me load, haul, and dump18 wheelbarrow loads of hay and horseshit from the deep bedding of his 12x10ft indoor stall. When I walked the pony out to the pasture (he was raring to go, that was a challenge in itself on slippery ground) I used his orange lead rope and tied it around the gate to shut it tight. The previously frozen chain that usually held it shut was currently defrosting near the wood stove. I didn't think anything of it when I tied him in. I'd done the trick a hundred times. But as I looked up from barrow 12 at my little dappled asshole, he was pulling the lead rope knot out as discreetly as if he took a correspondence course in subterfuge while I was at the office. He had untied the knot with his teeth and was flinging the lead rope in the air like a cat plays with a mouse. I was about five minutes ahead of him pushing the gate open and leaving for a jaunt around the mountain. Maybe up the hill a little ways to greet one of the other three homes with horses.
I marched up and tied the gate shut to a horse with a twinkle in his eyes. I locked it up with some baling twine. That'll showed him, I thought. And if it didn't, the giant truck unloading a cord of dried, seasoned, split firewood certainly would prick those ears to attention. I rubbed his nose and told him his room service was almost done.
Today was Jasper's day. His stall was cleaned and laid out with fresh straw. He got a long recess in the pasture to run and scamp around, and a treat of carrots and an apple from me. I tied him up to an apple tree to give him a long curry combing in the field. He stood as it the plastic teeth were the best feeling he's had in days. He was then lead back to a stall of soft bedding, fresh water in a frost-proof bucket, a little grain and a cookie in his feeder. It was nice to spend an afternoon dedicated to the little guy. Tomorrow the farrier comes to trim his feet and meet, as he said in a bemused voice on the phone, "The only POA in America pulling logs..."
It was good doing that sort of work too. Winter is such a time of resting muscles and fattening bellies, so to spend a day heaving pitchforks and dumping the manure was nice. At one point I remember thinking as I pitched the acrid sheets of hay, urine, and feces into the small barrow this is making earth, and I swelled with a bit of pride for being a human animal that makes soil, adds to the fertility of a place. It is impossible not too when you live with livestock. Their care, feeding, life, death...all of it feeds the ground as much as it feeds us. And today I added a long trail of composting grass and rich dung to a piece of land screaming to come back to the small farm it once was, long before I was born. Sure, you need to pop some ibuprofen and get out the heating pad when you're done but it's worth it. It is always worth it.
Oh, and Jasper ran like a jackrabbit away from the wood truck! So HA!