November 22, 2010 10:47:00 AM
Lenora, my Prairie neighbor, asked if I could take care of their animals while she and her family ventured north in search of respite. I quickly agreed, only to find out this meant feeding horses, cats, a dog, rabbits and chickens. My initial shock was followed by a sincere desire to meet the challenge, facing my fear of horses and chickens.
The night before leaving they called, "Are you really okay with this?"
"I''m OK." Truthfully, I was tentative.
Sam helped in the evenings, but it was up to me to do the mornings. First, the horses had to be let out of the barn and also kept separate. Lenora assured me they would be waiting at the gate and anxious to enter the pasture. They were not waiting.
One evening Bay, the older horse, was on the back patio munching on the landscaping. How he got in the confined area, I can''t imagine. There were only two ways out, down the concrete steps or out the arbor. Shiloh, the border collie, looked puzzled.
I stomped and pointed and ordered, "Go, horsey," until I annoyed him enough to go through the arbor. I found myself increasingly more comfortable with the horses, and by the last day they were waiting for me at the gate.
The cats and dog were easy, as were the rabbits. The rabbits roam free, nibbling this and that. Water was critical. The white rabbit never appeared, and I worried. Later we learned the white rabbit expired the week before they left. Sam said he was glad that we didn''t replace him thinking that he expired on our watch, thus becoming the resurrection rabbit.
The chickens roam free as well. I clucked chicken-like and spread the feed. At first it went well, as they were little chickens. By the end of the week large chickens were running at me with sharp little beaks and pointy little toes. I cast the feed further and further away. It was a bit unnerving.
The opportunity was a good one, and I accomplished my mission to feel more comfortable with domestic farm animals. Even to the point of asking Sam if we could have chickens.
Sam raised his knee and sat it down. I knew what he meant. He was putting his foot down at chickens. I had already asked for peacocks with the same reaction. He had OK''d two pond goldfish and three cats. We all have our limits.
At Kroger I ran into another neighbor, Patricia Wiygul. She said a quick hello and then a frantic "Do you need any eggs? We got 36 yesterday."
"You have chickens too?"
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.