Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Three Truths in a Winter Twilight

I had opened the package from Lands End with all the enthusiasm of a child at first Christmas and then settled into a backgammon game and conversation in the warm kitchen when I saw a horse trotting past the window. Before I can reach the door, I see the second horse following along. This is my introduction to Doodles and Belle Star, recently arrived from Tennessee. Doodles and Belle are the last of my sister's menagerie to get moved to Indiana, and, apparently, they have decided to explore the neighborhood on their own.

They prance through the corn stubble taking an occasional nibble. They are not rushing, but they resist any efforts to bring them back to their new home. They come when called, but dash away at the sight of a halter or a rope.

Now that I have some experience with quadrupeds, I try to put it into practice with these wayward horses. First, I note that they are not particularly agitated. That is a relief because it means that their actions will be a bit more deliberate. I just have to think like a horse would think. Food and familiarity come top of their lists if they are not agitated about something serious. As the sun begins to shrink behind the trees, I realize that we are a little short on time and that we are also a little short of help. Oddly, this feels comfortingly familiar.

As I move through the cornfields to stay close enough to keep the horses in sight without making them run any further, the cold rises as the sun sets. My toes feel the frost. I look down at the semi-frozen mud-slush oozing over my leather shoe-boots. These are not ideal shoes for chasing horses. If I had my wellies, my feet would be dry, but I couldn't run as I need to. When I realize with a sigh that there is no such thing as proper footwear for chasing critters on the run, this revelation makes me feel just a bit warmer.

After an hour of watching and trying to lure the horses with various enticements, we are no further along than we were. The horses are not upset, but they have no immediate interest in going the way we want them to. The horses are not in any danger, but that could change at a moment's notice. As this thought filters its way into my brain, I see a car moving up the road toward us. I can see that it is moving slowly and both the driver and the front seat passenger are carefully, quietly watching the horses in the field. They stop when they get close to me and laughingly assure me that they often collect their own or the neighbor's horses from the fields and offer to help. We need the help and she seems so eager to help that it seems wrong to decline. In a few minutes she is back with her wellies and our posse is now up to 5.

With more manpower, we can make a wide circle to try to move the horses toward the barn that is their new home, but they are wily and wary. As the circle moves, they find a hole and move to new openness. I know that haste is the enemy of retrieving lost animals, but I am not the master of the zen stillness that my husband and his son have around animals. Every opportunity to retrieve animals has carried with it for me a lesson in stillness.

While we are dancing in this dynamic standoff of circling and recircling to move the horses and have them elude us, my sister arrives. They are her horses. They respond to her right away. Belle Star, the younger of the two mares, named both for her beauty and for the notorious outlaw, raises her tail into a gentle arc and moves effortlessly and exuberantly toward Molly, but slows as she gets closer and stays just out of reach of halter, a rope or even a good hold on her mane while she nonetheless manages to take treats from Molly's hands.

Although both horses refuse to be constrained, they eventually are moved closer to the barn. With Molly in front and the barn in sight, they decide their adventure is ready to be concluded. As the last of the useful light of the twilight sun disappeared, with the two renegades back in the shelter of their new home, I realized yet again that cattle, horses or humans can only be persuaded to do something that they want to do.


At 1:42 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

hope you soon have them safely corraled!

I wonder how similar they are to cows? Both grazing herd animals, both prey animals - I'll be interested to hear how they respond.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Sorry, Haytden, I published thisd one before its time. It was meant to be a draft. I'll tell you the punchline now, though--yes, the horses were safely corralled and the much needed fence was finished today.

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Short on time, short on help, no proper tools, can't control other things like we want to--sounds a lot like many things in life. Not everything, fortunately. It's funny how you and Molly both ended up on farms with large animals.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger scorrie said...

home from home // nothing changes // horses on the loose // dont panic , dont panic // easy does it // whoa girls // thats it // indoors again // wow // scorrie //

At 2:45 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

thanks for the story, love the conclusion.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, yes, ampiggy. I think you and I may have had a few jobs like that--short on staff, etc, but you are righterstill that I felt the overall metaphor of living as I wrote that. You have time to think about things as you stand in a field waiting for an animal.

At 3:19 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

scorrie, you have crafted a wee poem. Nice touch.


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