Zero Balloon Sightings
Crap, crap, crap, crap, CRAP. I instantly felt a gut punch of impulse and obligation and turned my horse back down the hill. Asking for help haying is pretty much the farmers' version of the bat call in Gotham City. You see that shining symbol in the night sky of your heart (a sickle and horse I imagine instead of a bat) and you come a running. There is no notice. There is no planning. Farmers put up hay when they can and in this case I had exactly twenty minutes to get in the truck and get over to Patty and Mark's place. I texted back that I was on a horse and my guest was still asleep in the farmhouse. I would be able to get there in about 45 minutes.
I rode home, untacked the horse, and ran around the farm fast as possible topping off water for the day and moving chicken tractors. By this time my guest was up (friend from High school, a physicist) and explained that help was needed at a friends farm and did he want to? This guy ran cross country, was fighting' lean, and seemed game until he was explained exactly what "putting up hay" meant. At this he politely declined and headed back home early. No fault of his, of course. Not everyone is into this farm stuff and he didn't study nuclear engineering to buck bales. I saw him off and started closing up the house. This was the point that I noticed the screen door was open and Annie was gone.
Annie is a 15-year-old Siberian Husky. She is not very fast, but she is a husky. They are not a breed known for their farm dog appeal. Annie likes to kill chickens, chase turkeys, roll in horse dung, and basically take off for the forest to chase deer. That last one is an offense punishable by death in New York State. Dogs that "run down" whitetails are considered a nuisance or threat and therefore shot. So I was worried. Annie was gone, my guest was leaving earlier than planned, and Patty and Mark were loading hay bales alone. Crap just upgrade to Shit.
I tried to call, scream, holler and bribe Annie back but to no luck. In a panic I grabbed a leash and some treats and jumped into the truck to run up and down the road. I looked in the woods and worried that my gray and white wolf dog would be shot on sight if seen from the road. We were a mile from a highway. No sign of her anywhere. I needed a bat symbol of my own. I texted Patty to explain that Annie had ran away. She didn't reply. I imagined her covered in sweat, working without much help, and loading the hay my horses, goats, and sheep eat three seasons of the year. I should be there.
I drove home after a few circles around the neighborhood and realized I was nearly an hour-past the hay invitation. I turned off the car, sat down, and tried to breathe a little deeper. Annie was 14. She was not interested in running 16 miles in 80-degree heat. She was probably in the woods close by, eating a laying hen, and enjoying the shade. I leaned back against the door and looked up at the sheep. Half their new mineral block was eaten away. I knew they needed three more trips with buckets to top off their water for the day. I was almost out of grain. I felt that surge of overwhelming emotion the gentler sex is known for and that I usually just punch, kick, or work through and started to cry. At this point Annie came trotting up to me from the stream across the road. Her face was covered in egg yoke and goose shit. I didn't ask questions. I just hugged her.
It took another few minutes to clean her up, get the dogs watered and settled in, and then finally jump into the car to head over to haying. I was in a kilt, paddock boots, half chaps, and cowboy hat. I was not dressed for it but had long since passed the MMMMmmfuckit point and was just happy to finally answer the Horse and Sickle. I was literally a hundred yards down the road heading for the hay work when my phone buzzed again.
"Don't Worry, We're Done!"
Welcome to farm life: epic views, pure joy, beautiful moments, friends in need, chores, different people, chaos, guilt, and disappointment all within one hour of living. I wouldn't have it any other way.