I have the opportunity to include another segment of this story and decided to just do it and not wait until Friday. My tasks and assignments for today are all caught up, so why not, right?
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The story being told here, Living with Horses, was a definite exercise in understanding human nature and what makes people behave the way that they do. I had seen prejudice many times before, but mean and crazy combined with paranoid (the Captain) was pretty new to me.
Being just 18 years old I was being pulled back and forth between the conditioning to obediently do what I was told, and deciding what was the right thing to do and then having the courage of my convictions and standing nose-to-nose with someone in disagreement. I found that it was easier to do when I was standing up for the welfare of others (like the horses I cared for), than it was for my own rights.
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3. Living with Horses; Leaping for it
I had just found out about the joys of manual Dihydrogen Monoxide transportation and supply, in the last segment. Let's see what discoveries await us now.
It was 1971 and I was alone on 120 acres of meadows and pine forest; alone, except for six very expensive Appaloosa horses whose owners were squabbling over who owned what, and what they could do with what they owned. We were hiding out here in the "bushes" awaiting the outcome; but it was OK with me, I preferred the company of horses over people any day!
I hauled water that first day until the trough was full, and then again to top it off, when the "children" were done trying to find the bottom of the trough. They had to have been playing, as they never drank that much at once before. I was the one who usually watered them everyday back home, so I knew that they were being weirdos. It was a new-to-them trough, and in a new location, I will grant them that, but you have to wonder just how much was equine creative mischief making. Or put another way; just how much can we make the human do before he quits. I know that you horse owners are nodding your heads right now.
We (the horses and I) made sure that everything was secure in camp, as I had seen raccoon tracks earlier and those little devils will get into everything; and then off we went at a trot. No, I wasn't riding one of the horses, I was running along the fence checking for openings or breaks that my "kids" could get out through and go wandering where they shouldn't be. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but is the major inspiration of horse behavior. One little gap in a fence will draw horses to it like a giant box sugar frosted flakes to a kid!
It had to have been a comical sight; a scrawny white boy in cut-offs and sneakers, (no shirt or socks) trotting along a barb wire fence with six spotted horses trotting along in a single file behind him. If I turned left, they turned left. If I turned right, they turned right. The best part of this was that they were paying really close attention to me; when I stopped, they stopped. I really liked the part about not getting run over by approximately three tons of quadruped tail-gaiters.
I ran several miles a day, every day, while I lived on that plot of land, and along with hauling water and cutting down trees with a borrowed axe to make corrals, it did wonders for my physical fitness. I was an athlete all through school, but I had never been in as good of shape as I was when I left Warrenton.
These goofball horses ranged in age from one to ten years old, but they all acted like new born colts, afraid to get more than a few feet away from me at any time. It made going to the bathroom in the woods a whole new experience! Nothing in this world had prepared me for a cold wet nose pushing into my posterior, at just the "wrong moment", if you get my drift... followed by a blast of air snorting out of flared nostrils that felt like a "leaf blower" had been pointed at the juncture of my gluteus maximus. Whoa!
After completing the circuit around the entire 120 acre property that first day we were done with our "perimeter". Fortunately the fence was in excellent repair, what problems I found were easily fixable by hand or with the aid of a rock or my pocket knife. Good thing too, the Captain hadn't left me a tool box to fix anything with. Details like tools or supplies were not something that he concerned himself with, so it was a good thing that I was fairly inventive.
The hiding place for the horses was easy too, in fact I had several set up, just in case. In case of what, I didn't know. I was just following orders and that didn't require an explanation in those days. The boss said it, so you did it, it was that simple.
The following morning I waited for the pickup truck to come and go from the well, and then crossed over to begin my task of carrying water for my charges. They obviously couldn't do it for themselves, so it fell upon me to handle. I would have loved to be able to just put a hose in the trough and turn it on like back at the ranch, but that option was not available where we were, so you just do what you have to do.
I tried to pick up the cans like I had done the day before; one in each hand at the same time and received a rude surprise. My arms were screaming obscenities to my brain and my hands were on fire! I could not lift the cans off of the ground. Unable to comprehend (or accept) "can't", I carried the cans one at a time, held close to my body with both hands under the bottom, over and over again until the tank was again full to the top. It was a good thing that I didn't have to fill the entire trough like that first time or I don't think that it would have happened. I gained enough strength in my arms and hands after about a week, to go back to the original method and it cut my trips in half again. I was happy, this was a good physical improvement for me. Funny thing, I never saw myself as weak or incapable of physical acts until that little bit of education happened.
I had accomplished everything that I had on my to-do list, the very first day. Now what? I was pondering just that, sitting in the shade of the tree which provided cover over the water trough and which was right up by the road, where I wasn't supposed to be. The whole hiding idea was ridiculous, I mean, the horses were in plain sight of the road most of the time. That error in judgment on my part, (not hiding) was really a blessing in disguise.
As I sat musing, the old tan colored Ford pickup pulled up across from the gate, parking in the grass along the side of the road this time. Sitting in the back of the truck holding onto a lead rope connected to a very large mule, was the elderly black man that I had seen the first day. The very man who had unknowingly (or so I thought) shown me the location of the well and saved me from having to hunt for it.
The man doing the driving got out, and he was a big fellow, well over six feet and while not fat, he was "solid". He was dressed in a khaki shirt and pants with a fine Panama straw hat on his head, which was/is the unofficial uniform of the middle Georgia farmer. And he was white if it matters. Both men appeared to be Social Security age and had gray hair covering their heads.
They took some equipment out of the back of the truck and carried it into the area just past the well and put it down, returning for the mule, which the black man led to the same spot. He then harnessed the mule and connected a plow to the harness and away they went, turning dirt like crazy. At the end of each pass, they stopped, the little old man lifted the plow by the handles and then he and the mule turned around in well practiced ballet of side steps, and started the next row going back.
This very efficient team of man and beast had already plowed half of the half-an-acre garden plot when the funniest and most amazing thing happened. Something that still makes me wonder almost 41 years later. Read on and be patient.
The farmer had been working in the shade next to the well, and I confess that I thought that he was just "supervising" from the shade while the old black man did all the work. It wasn't true at all, he had been separating plants and setting them up in order to be planted, and had decided to water them . This should have been a very good thing.
I was close enough now, (having moved right up to the fence line directly across from the well), to hear an ominous buzzing sound after the farmer dropped a bucket of water that he was trying to pour. It didn't hit his toes or break anything, it just landed with a resounding thunk on the boards under his feet, which surrounded the well, and emptied the gallon of water onto those same boards.
The sound that a swarm of angry Yellow Jackets makes when they go on the attack is incredibly loud! There was a nest below the boards that the bucket landed on and between the impact and the subsequent dousing them with water; well, it had really made them mad!
The bees flew out so rapidly that they caught the old farmer by surprise and flew right up the pants legs of his tan trousers, actually billowing them out like a sudden gust of wind had blown up them!
I don't know if you are familiar with what is called a "Yellow Jacket" in rural Georgia, they are somewhere between the size of your thumb and a humming bird. They are the bees which are so often copied in costuming with their alternating yellow and black stripes. And you don't want to be on the receiving end of an angry yellow jacket's stinger, it hurts terribly with a combination of intense stinging pain and a burning sensation that won't quit!
This old man was faced with a terrible dilemma; there was a swarm of angry bees inside of his pants and he needed to unfasten his belt and take them off, to get the bees out and away from delicate territory... But if he stood still, or even stayed where he was, more of these buzzing hypodermics would be joining the swarm in his drawers! What would you do?
It was then that I witnessed something that I have never been able to figure out in 41 years.
Here was a man about 6' 3", weighing around 250 pounds, wearing belted on trousers, laced up boots, and most of 70 years old; with his pants full of very angry bees. He was running down the road as fast as he could run, taking his pants off over his boots and didn't stumble, or trip, or even break stride. By the time he was a vehicle length past his truck, his khaki trousers were flying through the air and he was pickin' 'em up and puttin' 'em down at a dead run with his shirt tails flapping in the jet wash behind him! I don't think that as fast as I was then (and some 50 years younger than he was), that I could have caught him. He was motivated and motivating!
How did he get those pants off while running?
TO BE CONTINUED :