Friday, August 06, 2010

soldiers in the storm

I really wanted to title this post Fire and Rain, because in a way that's what it was!

Yesterday our temps went back up the thermometer to the mid-90s, and the heat index was over 100 again. I knew the temps were supposed to drop today, but I wasn't expecting such a dramatic weather event yesterday.

I spent time in the morning doing some extra chores - dewebbing the feed/tack room, doing some deeper cleaning in a few spots, and making sure there was plenty of clean, fresh water for horses to drink.

After a quick trip to the feed store and farmer's market in the afternoon (we got peaches and blueberries, Asian pears grown locally, cucumbers, baked goods, home-made picante sauce - to go with our continuing dragon tongue beans, tomatoes of all colors, sweet peppers in two colors, and basil) I went out thinking I would give Salina a full bath, offer showers to the geldings, and let the horses graze for awhile before the night-time thunderstorm hit.

Even when bathing Salina, the skies began to darken, and by the time the geldings had been hosed, stalls picked, wheelbarrow dumped, waters checked and topped off, I realized the storm was going to hit sooner than later, and that I would need to serve hay and then cover the round bale.

By this time the wind was picking up, and the pinwheels I'd stuck into compost piles earlier in the day were spinning wildly.

It's amazing how much the colors shift when a storm is coming. The warm and brilliant green shifts to a darker, more silvery shade, and the light-colored undersides of the leaves blowing in the wind add to the effect.

The wind whipped up strong and Salina and the donkey boys trotted in from grazing the barnyard to the shelter of the barn. Keil Bay, Cody, and The Little Man were standing out in the paddock, enjoying the sudden coolness and the big breeze lifting their manes and tails. I'd opened the back gate earlier so they could graze, but realized with the storm so imminent I'd better close it again. So I ran past them. They of course followed, but when I called out that I was closing the gate, Keil and Cody stopped. The pony kept coming - he's always game for some grazing, no matter what. But I got the gate closed and then they all came forward and stood by me in the wind, putting me in the middle of the herd. I gave them each a pat and a rub on the shoulder, and went back to finish my chores.

Back in the barn, I checked windows and doors and made sure everything was latched (not closed, but just secure, so we'd have no banging in the wind) and then went out to cover the hay. I got the big tarp on, but the wind was wild by that time, and the tarp was literally lashing from one side to the other. In a crazy fleeting moment of thinking I could boss the wind itself, I called out "Stand" and held my hand up the same way I do if I need one of the horses to stay put. Even more crazy, the tarp stopped flapping and the wind stilled long enough for me to get something on top to weight it down.

Dickens and Mystic, brave cats extraordinaire, were literally lying flat out in the open, gazing up at the show.

I lingered awhile with the horses. Salina and the donkeys had gone to the little barnyard where they were grazing, waiting for the rain to hit before they came back in. The geldings had lined themselves up three abreast in the paddock, facing away from the barn in the direction of the storm, as though they were a united front protecting us from what was coming.

It made me remember a day when we had just moved in, when the skies grew dark and the wind got so strong it was making a high-pitched moaning sound. I stood under the barn shelter with Keil Bay and the pony, the only two equines living here then, and figured we'd weather it together.

After it passed and I'd come inside, my mom called to see if we were okay. "Why?" I asked. And she said a tornado had just passed right through our little town, and by the radar on the TV news, it looked like it went right by our farm. "Oh, that's what that was," I said. "The wind was really blowing and there was a weird noise."

"Did you get in the closet?" she asked. (we have two interior closets that are perfect places to go if necessary during bad storms)

"Of course not," I answered. "I was in the barn."

There's something magical about being with horses in the best of times, but there's something even more so about being with them during the other times. They tend to get still and watchful, and seeing that line of three geldings abreast, out in front as though they can shield the barn, the beautiful black mare, the donkey boys, and me from what's coming is as wonderful a feeling as I've ever had.


Claire said...

sounds like you had a lucky escape, then! happily we don't get them (or if we do, they tend to be once in a lifetime things..)

Grey Horse Matters said...

Your whole herd sounds like they are in tune with everything around them. I would have liked to see a picture of them standing three abreast facing down whatever was to come. You really have to start carrying a small camera around with you in your pocket.

Anonymous said...

I saw "Far From the Maddening Crowd" on the TV this weekend and had a vision of you/the storm scene from that movie.

Would Pony Boy eat himself to Pot Belly Pig stage if he could?

ponymaid said...

Billie, this didn't involve know...snow, did it?

billie said...

Hi, Claire - yes, we were of course relieved that it did no damage here. They often do very localized and severe damage. We're fairly far inland but sometimes we do get tornados, and sometimes the hurricanes come in and can be devastating.

billie said...

Arlene, I sometimes carry the camera out - it's small compared to the normal SLRs - but it's a bit too heavy to carry comfortably in a pocket, so usually I carry it out and then it ends up on the table in the feed room.

billie said...

Deborah, he's half-Shetland, and they seem to be driven to pack on the pounds in preparation for the long, hard winter ahead. :)

billie said...

Sheaffer, if snow fell right now, we'd all be out there lying flat out enjoying the cold!