Merlin and Me: First Drive in Our Gear!
Brett was here because himself and 17 of his Forestry college seniors camped here at the farm last night. Cold Antler was a comfortable place to crash between their two day field trip of famous New England forest management sites. It was the perfect opportunity to deliver the harness and his timing could not have been better. He arrived two days before the Washington County Draft Animal Association's ride in Arlington Vermont. On Sunday Merlin and I would be stepping out with the team for our first event as members of the club. Before that happened though, we'd need a harness fitting and crash course. That's where Patty fit in.
By 2PM with the college vans long gone you would think the place would be quiet. But when I stepped outside to check on Merlin I was shocked into a dead halt mid-stride by the sound of bagpipes! The home across the street was hosting a Scottish wedding. When Patty arrived shortly after she laughed out loud, and asked "Did you set this up?!" I shook my head happily. Those pipes were the perfect soundtrack for the day's work. Music of celebration. Above is the video of Merlin listening to the pipes before we tacked up. He seems interested!
Everything we had in cart, harness, and tack (save for the driving lines, whip, and cart tires) was used. The harness came from eBay and the collar used to be Steele's. The cart was bought cheap at auction and painted and restored by Mark and Patty as a birthday present. All together it came to a grand total of $285 dollars and a summer worth of friends and associates scrounging estate sales, soaking old leather in oil, painting old metal and wood, and making personal connections. None of it, NONE OF IT, was even remotely possible alone. Patty and Brett made this rig possible. Brett helped with the leather and Patty with the vehicle. With these two people I feel as grateful as I do unstoppable.
Melina and Robert had sent me a text a few hours earlier saying they were camping and wanted to know if they could stop by to say hi? They were also with me the first time I ever met Merlin and so I had to invite them over for our first drive at the farm. They would adore it. Robert and Melina are both drawn to horses and since meeting Merlin have even taken lessons. Anyway, they were happy to arrive and by the time they pulled into the farm's driveway Merlin, Patty and I were already up the road at a light trot. The wedding was in full swing, the pipes hollering, the sun had come out and all seemed perfect.
Driving Merlin felt as natural as walking. I though there would be fear, or beginner's stumbling, but there wasn't. The cart, the harness, the friends all around me: everything fit perfectly. Little touches like a back name plate with Cold Antler Farm on it made me beam. Below the cart I strapped a vintage roller skate case that held our extra halter, lead, fly spray and rain gear. None of this was up to Show Driving standards but I'll be damned if I didn't feel twenty feet tall.
Tomorrow is the club event at the Arlington Grange. Anyone can come to the pancake breakfast (6 dollars a plate) from 8AM till 10AM and then at 11AM you can see a dozen horse rigs take off in a parade down along the Battenkill River towards Vermont. If there are enough spaces open on team wagons, chances are good you can even ride along and join us! Stop by to meet the club, the horses, take photos and just enjoy a fall day in pure Farm Country. If you do show up, say hello to me and my boy. If you're not sure which team is Merlin and me, just look for the light. I'll be the one glowing.