A Farm Story for July 16, 2011
Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm
firstname.lastname@example.org , mercifulheartsfarm.blogspot.com
A week ago Friday I was pleasantly ready for Saturday Market by dinner time. All of my fiber items were in the car and the eggs were all washed up and waiting in the refrigerator until time to load early the next morning. Our oldest son and his adorable wife were coming over to work with my sweet husband to plan their farm’s corn maze for the fall. My plan was to have a routine Friday night and go to bed by ten o’clock as I get up early on Saturday. Bed time did not come as expected.
Shortly before ten, the children got up to leave. I looked through the front window to see lights in our driveway and what appeared to be a horse standing outside the gate. Of course I blurted out that there was a horse in our drive and we all raced outside. We do not have horses and this was quite obviously not one of our three donkeys. There was a man and a boy standing at our gate with an enormous paint horse. He asked if it was ours and explained that he’d been coming down Highway 81, had caught the white spots in the horse in his headlights, thought for a second it was someone walking in the road and had swerved to miss it. As soon as he realized it was a horse he pulled over and managed to walk it the little way up our driveway to the gate. He explained that he had horse experience and had just returned from a rodeo out west.
We obviously could not leave the horse on the road so we opened the gate and it walked in. It had no halter on so our son, Eric, grabbed one of the halters for our oxen. It was much too large but the horse allowed it to be put on. One of the children held the horse while we moved the dogs out of the front yard. The horse was shod so it clip clopped up and down our concrete driveway, anxiously swinging its rear end around as it tried to orient itself in the dark. Since there is a farm with paint horses a mile down the road, Al decided to go down and ask if it was theirs. While he was gone we walked the horse around the front yard and tried to keep it from chasing Eve, our miniature donkey. Zeke and Esther, the standard donkeys in the front pasture, were prancing around anxiously watching this huge horse.
The children and I tried to keep the horse amused while we waited for Al to hunt down an owner. It was an enormous horse, probably a good 16 hands or more so that I could not see over its back. It looked quite healthy and was only a little jumpy but it was a still a bit nerve-wracking to have a strange horse in the dark as the dogs were barking, the front yard sheep were mulling around and the donkeys were snorting uncomfortably. After about half an hour our oldest and his wife had to leave. Eric and I hung out with the horse until we finally heard from Al. He said he had been to two different farms and none were missing horses.
It was past eleven o’clock by this time so we decided to just start again in the morning. We were not comfortable leaving the horse in the front of the house because of the cars parked there. A shod horse that gets upset and decides to kick a car can make an ugly mess. We decided to move it to a stall in the stable. I ran ahead to check on the locations of the livestock guardian dogs. I moved one out of the backyard and another out of the barnyard so that they would not startle the horse or explode into a barking fit when the horse came through. Years ago on the night the oxen were delivered one of the dogs barked as Al was walking an ox to the pasture. The one-ton fellow started, jumped and landed on Al’s foot. Lesson learned. I also locked up the Lincoln lambs who are still on the bottle and who spend the night in the stable. I pulled them into a stall and shut the door so that they didn’t run out at the horse as we opened the stable door. We attached a lead line to the floppy halter and walked the horse slowly to the stable, talking gently to it all the way. It was quite alert, holding its head high and perking up its ears. It cautiously allowed itself to be led right to the stable doors. I was sure it would balk at walking into an unfamiliar building but we had the lights on inside so that it could see where it was going. After a slight hesitation it followed right in, walking down the concrete hallway to a stall. It needed just a bit of coaxing to enter the stall. Once it was in, we gave it a moment to settle down as we ran to fill a water bucket and grab an armload of nice oat hay. The horse was calm so we removed the halter and left it for the night.
I had to get up early for Saturday Market but before going to bed I did put a quick notice on craigslist under the lost and found as well as the farm section. Al said he would begin the hunt for an owner again in the morning. It was past eleven thirty before we finally went to bed.
The next morning I had an e-mail from a woman wanting to have the horse if no one wanted it. I ignored it as the horse was not mine to give away. I went on to Market, hoping that I would return to find the horse had been reclaimed. It was a gorgeous creature but not one that we could afford to maintain properly.
Al started the morning driving around trying to find folks with livestock to talk to about the horse. One neighbor thought perhaps it was his horse, not realizing that a farmhand had put it in another pasture. He came down, looked and realized his mistake. After visiting a few more places, Al finally ran across two fellows pulled over at the side of a field chatting. He asked them and one fellow said he thought he knew whose horse it might be. He gave a woman a call but she didn’t know if her horse was missing. She was boarding it somewhere out here but did not live nearby. She took Al’s phone number and was heading out to find her horse. She called him later to say that when she arrived the pasture gate was wide open and her horse, Geronimo, was missing. She described the horse to Al and it seemed to be the one we had. She arrived shortly with a trailer as well as Geronimo’s halter. She was thrilled to see him. She explained that she had owned him for several years and then sold him. After about ten years she had tracked him down and bought him back so they were only recently reunited. She was boarding him about half a mile down the highway from us. He was one very lucky horse to end up in our driveway rather than dead in the road. Geronimo was gone by the time I returned from Market. I took a nap to recover from the very short Friday night and very hot Saturday morning at Market. And I am hoping the rest of my pre-Market Fridays are just routine for the rest of the season.
Geronimo & his owner: