Book: Checking the animals

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As we walked away from the gray weathered boards of the barn door, Dan turned his face up to the sky and batted his eyelashes against the white falling flakes. I saw him shiver and reach for the collar of his coat. As he flipped the lambs wool and battered leather up to protect his neck, he glanced in my direction.

“Is that the only winter coat you have?”, he asked.

I could tell by his lifted eyebrow and tone of concern that my only coat must have issues.

“Yes” I said, “and why are you looking at me like that?”

The lifted brow remained quizzically cocked as he asked, “Can’t you button it?”

I looked down to see what I knew I’d see.  The two top buttons of my hand-me-down coat were fastened as they should be, but the bulge of my rapidly expanding pregnancy remained outside the protection of the plain gray wool’s warmth.  I had a yellow covered beach ball of a belly left exposed to the elements.

“I don’t have another”, I frowned and added, “It’s ok”.  He didn’t look convinced, but there wasn’t much either of us could do about it at that moment and we needed to check on the horses.  So, I gathered my coat around me as best I could and moved toward the paddock fence.

We had just finished feeding grain to the Finnish sheep in the barn.  Sheep. Thinking of the serious lack of intelligence those animals possessed, I sort of felt insulted that Jesus described us as sheep and he the Good Shepard.  It certainly didn’t seem a compliment.  They never seemed to catch the clue that you were trying to help them.  Go to the barn to feed them…they run to the field. Get in your car to leave and they’d run to the barn.  Exasperating.  Then again, I mused, thinking of my last failed attempt to help my sister, maybe Jesus was right after all!

Religious significance left aside, today was another example of sheep not having a clue you were trying to help them.  Dan had gotten into the pen to fix some loose boards.  Mr. Wiggles, the ram, decided this was not acceptable and needed to let his displeasure be known.  He backed himself into a corner of the pen and then charged, head lowered and snorting, straight into my resourceful husband as he bent to use his hammer.  He then backed up…and repeated his attack…and again…and again. Finally fed up with Mr. Wiggles’ persistence, Dan back-handed the ram catching him in the nose.

” He’s bleeding!”, I gasped.

Dan turned and looked at the snorting ram and like the farm-raised boy that he was, shrugged and said, ” It serves him right”. *

I bit my lip to keep my considerably less callous thoughts to myself.  I knew the ram really wasn’t hurt and I never won these kinds of arguments anyway.

Now it was the horse’s turn to be grained. Dan moved to stand along the paddock fence and started making clicking noises trying to coax the sorrel horse to come close.

“Here girl,… com’ on”, he wheedled. The horse, always a bit standoffish, began to whinny and to vigorously shake her head with lengthy mane, as if to say, ” no way”.

” I don’t think you’ll catch her this time”, I smiled.  It was kind of fun to see someone resisting his charm. He heard the tiny bit of amusement in my voice and set out to prove he was not to be laughed at.

With a dimpled smirk he said, “You think?”

His calls to the horse became more insistent and more seductive.  My faith in the filly’s stubborn nature was crushed when she slowly worked her way to the fence and nuzzled his hand.

Dan was standing on the rail patting the horse’s neck and telling her what a “good girl” she was when suddenly he grabbed her mane and swung himself over the fence and on to her back.  Without saddle or bridle, his grip on her mane the only means of control, he began to gallop her across the paddock to jump the far fence. Over the fence, he leaned his body forward using his legs to urge her to move faster across the open field. Stunned, I watched them racing through the thick, but gently falling snow until they faded into white. Soon, my anxious eyes saw them return, racing straight toward me they jumped the fence again and came to an abrupt halt beside my perch on the fence railing.  Startled, once I caught my breath, I looked at man and horse, both winded, but with the sparkle of shared excitement in their eyes. Staring at this man I had married, I thought, “who _are_you?”  Awed, I was feeling a bit frightened to know that God had entrusted this spirited soul to my keeping.  At that moment, gazing at Dan astride the horse with his wind-blown hair and flushed cheeks, I recognized my calling as his wife.  My job was to keep his hopes and dreams always attainable. I could never let that inner confidence and desire for adventure die.

“You are beautiful”, I breathed as he bent to kiss me.

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