Thursday, January 28, 2010
This is the main gate to my pasture. Like every thing, there is a history. It has a story - a simple, ordinary one, but a story just the same.
This is where the hay is brought in every summer, where the vet and farrier enter to look after the horses. Annie was delivered to this gate on a snowy Sunday morning in January, by Frank and Randy, guys from the Wakarusa salebarn. The poor little filly was skinny, her shaggy coat full of burrs and frozen snow. She was so afraid and worried over what was happening that I could see the whites of her eyes. Even being afraid, she willingly did everything the men asked her to do. She was wearing an old dirty halter that hung loosely on her head. In that frayed, ill-fitting halter she looked like a little orphan girl in a ragged dress many sizes too large. It was just natural to call her Little Orphan Annie, so that is how she came to be named Annie.
I love this gate. It looks just like any one of a thousand gates in Wabaunsee County, or anywhere in Kansas, for that matter. It looks as if it is a gate to a large acreage of big bluestem where a fine herd of beef cattle could be grazing - (my secret dream). My Grandpa would admire this gate if he were still here.
I bought the gate panel at Tractor Supply. It is a fourteen foot gate but the bed of my truck is only seven foot long. Using a lot of synthetic twine and driving twenty five miles an hour all the way home on back roads, I managed to arrive without mishap. The gate was not warped, twisted or damaged, but I honestly do not know why. That thing flexed and bounced all the way home, with half of it hanging off the back of the truck.
I actually wanted a red gate, but they were the next size up and cost significantly more. The green matches the trim on the barn and on the house, so all is well, though a red gate would be like a red front door - very attractive and good feng shui.
As the two gate posts aged and weathered, and the tension of the wire increased with cold weather, the gate began to tilt upward. After a couple of years, the free end of it was eventually over four feet off the ground. I do not think either of the horses could possibly have escaped by rolling under the gate, but it did not look good.
At the cafe in Paxico recently, I saw the man who built the fence. I asked if he would take a look at the gate sometime when he was in the area. He is a younger man, born and raised in the county, and I like him a lot. He is friendly, good natured, and unlike so many people who do work "on the side", he turns in quality work on time. I did not feel bad paying him the money for the fence he built around my pasture. Within a week or so after I saw him at the cafe, he had repaired the gate. When I asked what I owed him, he said, "Well.... those bolts were over twenty five.... so.... fifty, I mean one hundred! I mean one hundred, one hundred dollars!"
It made me laugh. He did not mean to be funny, he was just thinking out loud. I gladly paid him the money. He made two trips out here and at least one to Topeka for parts, and my gate looked GREAT. (He is really handsome, too - that's worth an extra $25 right there!)
Every time anyone enters that gate, it is a race to get through and get it closed before the horses gallop up to investigate. My horses have no fear of a truck, which is so dangerous. If they ever get out on the road, they would not know to get out of the way of traffic. The guy delivering my hay thinks the horses are a pain in the neck when he is trying to bring the hay trailer in. Usually, if the horses are at the far end or along the south fence, a person has plenty of time to get in. Getting out is another matter. Ginger has no wander lust, but Annie takes every opportunity to escape.
One very dark winter morning when I was trying to haul water through the gate, both of the horses got out and were heading west on the road. There is not a lot of traffic on my road, but there are usually about five trucks that come by at "country road speed" every morning - my neighbors going east, heading to work in Topeka. The first one usually comes by around 5:30 am - about the time the horses got out.
No matter what I did, those horses just kept going west a few steps at a time. Panic was building in my chest. I knew that at any minute, a truck was going to be blazing down that road about 45 or 50 mph in the dark and the driver would not be expecting two horses in the road. It was a horrible accident waiting to happen. I pulled my truck back out on the road and put the emergency flashers on, though the road is just hilly enough no one would see the lights in time to slow down. I ran, yes, RAN (very slowly) to the house and called the sheriff's office for help... gasping for air as I begged for help.
The sheriff's office in Wabaunsee County never gets in much of a hurry. Escaped horses are not an emergency. The sleepy dispatcher assured me she would get someone out my way, though he was miles away. I threw some feed into a bucket and ran (slower yet) back to the road. Luckily, the sound of feed in the bucket was like a siren song for both of those wayward mares. They dutifully followed me right back into the pasture. Some desperate escapees they were! Then, I had to run (hardly more than a walk by now) back to the house to call the sheriff's office in order to cancel the plea for help. If I was going to have a heart attack, that would have been the moment.
There are bound to be other adventures and other memories crossing that gate in the years ahead. Who knows what.