Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘drama

Swings Escapes

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In a moment of brutal reality that revealed the hazards of a lapse in attention, I failed on two counts while tending to the horses after their evening feeding last night. I stepped through the gates to pick up empty feed pans without closing multiple doors behind me. Then, I allowed my panicky reaction to overcome my attempts to calmly coax Swings back inside.

Sure, they look calm now, but just a few minutes before taking that picture, there was a lot of running, snorting, and neighing going on.

I noticed Swings start moving just as I was about to step back through the gates with an empty pan in my hands. I reached for the gate to keep her on the correct side of it but she moved uncharacteristically faster than I could react. Things then quickly went from bad to worse.

My response of, “No, no, no, no…” didn’t help much as I meant to implore her to stop but just as much was voicing my thoughts of really not wanting this to be happening. I was alone with them, as Cyndie had taken Delilah and a wheelbarrow to clean up after having pruned some raspberry bushes. The two big sliding doors of the barn were wide open.

I knew that if Swings stepped through the little half door I had not closed she would be able to choose whatever destination she wanted. Without hesitation, as I fumbled unsuccessfully from behind her to try altering her progress, she knocked over a fan to walk into the barn. As I feared, she then continued right outside through the big doors.

Instead of remaining calm and encouraging her to stay put, I simultaneously scrambled around to reach a lead rope, yell for Cyndie, try to type a text to Cyndie, whistle for Cyndie’s attention, and plead with Swings to stay put. I didn’t want my whistle to startle the horses, so it was barely effective at drawing Cyndie’s attention.

The other three horses in the paddock were getting riled up over Swings being on the outside and Swings kept changing her mind about where she wanted to go. It was beginning to feel rather like an episode of Keystone Cops. Horses running to and fro and me flailing around with a phone and a lead rope trying to position myself where I could steer Swings back toward the barn.

Luckily, Cyndie did pick up on my yells and attempts to [sort of] whistle for her attention and came to help. Swings decided to trot around the back of the barn. At least this took her farther into our property instead of the front side where she had an easy path over the hill and off our property.

Swings headed out of sight around the bend beyond the chicken coop but returned before we had a chance to head after her. She started up the trail past the compost piles but came back from that, too. I steered her away from going around the barn again and Cyndie prepared the closest gate back into the paddock, getting shocked by the electric fence in her haste.

Meanwhile, the horses in the paddock continued to freak out over the whole scene. By this point, Swings seemed ready to rejoin them and it just took the right circling around for her to arrive at the gate Cyndie was holding open.

Just like that, the whole adventure was over, and everyone returned to grazing. Shortly after, Mix came up to me at the gates under the overhang and I noticed her breathing still hadn’t settled all the way down to normal. I felt like she was commiserating with me over the drama we had just experienced.

I latched all the gates and securely closed the barn doors, freshly retrained about prudent management of access points at ALL times.

Lesson re-learned. Thanks for that, Swings.

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Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2022 at 6:00 am

Circumstantial Evidence

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We think we know what happened, but we have no proof. Today’s tale (no pun intended) needs to begin with a preamble that will put readers in a similar state of mind to the one I was in when I arrived at the shocking scene.

It was yesterday morning and I was walking Delilah like any other day. She sniffed at the typical spots and paused to take care of nature’s call twice, per usual. Our intermediate destination was the barn, to feed and clean up after horses, so I encouraged Delilah to turn onto the trail that most quickly brought us to the path around the back pasture.

Before we reached the last turn towards the barn, Delilah startled me with an immediate lunge off the path and made three strong leaps into a thick bramble of raspberry stalks and small trees before I could lock her leash and halt her progress. Every indication from her body told me there was a critter in the vicinity as she held her “High Alert!” stance and strained against the leash.

I froze with her and did my darndest to see any hint of movement from an animal intent on escape. Nothing. It wasn’t the first time she had what I consider to be a false alarm, so I pulled her back out of there and we continued toward the barn with both of us keeping a keen eye on the trees to our left for any movement.

It was while relocating equine fecal matter that I came upon the unsettling find.

There was a large chunk of hair matching the color of Swing’s tail laying in the snow. I immediately got Cyndie’s attention and she reacted with a level of shock that aligned with my concern. Upon finding footprints in the snow by the manure pile, I told Cyndie about Delilah’s behavior just around the corner by the back pasture.

It was adding up to an image of coyote activity to us. We immediately checked Swings over for any evidence of confrontation beyond the chunk of missing tail. Nothing.

However, based on the evidence thus far, I decided to take Delilah back out and let her pursue through the trees whatever it was she sensed from before. That quickly led to another finding, uncomfortably in plain view of our house.

If you can discern what that image above is showing, you will notice an impression in the snow where an animal curled up and laid long enough to melt a little bowl, just like deer leave behind, except there were no hoof prints around. Only paw prints. And there wasn’t just the one melted circle. There were clearly two on top of the knoll and possibly two others, less defined, to the side in the trees.

That is definitely what Delilah had smelled, but the culprits had long since moved on before we passed by the first time in the early light of dawn.

Just to add an exclamation point to the drama, last night after dinner, I called Cyndie over to ask if she could hear something outside. Was it a siren in the distance or yipping coyotes? She opened the door and confirmed, “Coyotes!”

“And they are close!”

What do you think? Did a coyote take a chomp of Swings’ tail Wednesday night?

I hope at least one of them has a black eye from the impact of a hoof.

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Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2022 at 7:00 am

Race Drama

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I need to be careful what I wish for. Yesterday, I tossed out the hope that it might be rainy here at the lake so I wouldn’t feel bad sitting inside to watch the second-to-last mountain stage of the Tour de France. Well, it was storming so bad for a while, there was no signal to the satellite dish for us to receive the telecast of the beginning kilometers.

Luckily, things settled down in time to see much of the excitement. In a dramatic surprise, yellow jersey contender, Thibaut Pinot had to abandon due to a knee injury, but that was greatly overshadowed when the stage was stopped prematurely, mid-descent, due to an epic hail-storm. Times were taken at the top of the previous big climb and resulted in a change in leadership.

Columbian Egan Bernal is now in yellow!

Now the weather here at the lake is gorgeous and I am going to sit inside regardless, to see what drama might top that of yesterday.

It doesn’t solve any problems in the world, but the distraction of a great athletic endeavor for entertainment certainly serves to energize.

Race on!

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Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2019 at 7:34 am

No Mercy

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Graphic Content Warning of Life and Death on a Farm…

It was a gloomy and foggy morning. I offered to build a fire in the fireplace while Cyndie went out to do morning chores, tending to our animals. When I stepped out on the slippery deck in my house slippers to gather kindling, I picked up the unnerving sobs of pain and sorrow wafting within the soup of grayness that covered our land.

I called out to the fog, not having any idea which way the sound was coming from.

“Cyndie?!”

No reply.

I moved around on the deck, trying to get a sense of which direction her cries were coming from. It changed from right to left. I called again and again, but she didn’t reply. I grew angry because I wanted to know if she was injured and what I needed to do in response, standing now on the icy driveway in my slippers.

She was walking upright, and carrying something, so I guessed she was alright. The most likely problem was a dead chicken.

Finally, I demanded a response and she angrily growled that she had killed a possum that had gotten in the chicken coop and killed one of our Australorps.

How did it get in? Cyndie didn’t know. There was no indication of disruption around any of the doorways or windows.

The logical deduction: the critter had already snuck inside when the chicken door was closed last night.

Never underestimate the wrath of a mother reacting to harm of her precious brood. With lethal vengeance, Cyndie unleashed her grievance with a shovel, destroying my custom ramp in the process.

She admitted that any neighbors outside at the time probably heard an earful of expletives howled along with swings of the shovel.

There are now eight surviving hens and they seem very happy to be out of the coop, soaking up the above-freezing temperatures that are the source of all this fog.

The temperature climbed 75 degrees from Thursday morning’s -36°F to yesterday afternoon’s +39°F. Our thermometer reveals it didn’t drop back down below freezing overnight here, so the melting and thawing is in full swing.

The horses seem pretty pleased with the change, too. Free of their blankets, they were romping all over the paddock yesterday, running and kicking with gleeful energy.

This morning, Cyndie and I aren’t really feeling as much glee.

We are left wondering if recent events mean we will need to institute a full nook & cranny search of the coop every night from now on when we close the chicken access door at dusk.

I guess it beats the alternative we faced this morning.

 

Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2019 at 10:59 am

Hail No!

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We got pounded yesterday! It seemed to just come out of nowhere. I was out in the shop when Cyndie stopped by to mention she could hear thunder in the distance. I didn’t even realize precipitation was expected in the middle of the day. It was sunny when I had left the house a short time earlier.

That changed pretty quick. There was a moment when I became aware of a roar that turned out to be rain on the metal roof of the shop. Then came a single “CRACK!” that I recognized right away.

I stepped to the door to watch for more.

Sure enough, there was a slow and steady increase in sharp bangs on the roof. Pieces of white ice started to bounce on the pavement of the driveway. I began to realize that I couldn’t tell how big they were because the hail stones were shattering when they hit the hard surface, but the intensity was increasing enough that I wasn’t about to step out from the protection of the roof to collect them from the yard.

As the duration extended and the intensity increased, it occurred to me to record video of the spectacle. Now you can see and hear what we experienced for yourself:

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After it had calmed to only occasional rare strikes of hail, I rushed out to check on Cyndie and the house, pausing to collect some of the larger stones along the way.

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I was worried about the two skylight windows on the roof of our house. No cracks evident, much to my surprise. I haven’t looked closely, but even the shingles seemed fine, viewed at an angle from the ground.

There were a fair number of leaves pummeled from the trees, but no other obvious damage.

Then I thought about the animals. I have no idea how they reacted to the calamity while the worst of it was underway. I know the noise of it on the metal barn roof must have been pretty disturbing.

I found the horses standing together out in the paddock, looking a little shocked, but otherwise unharmed. They have a pretty thick hide, but strikes from those stones must really sting! How can they not?

Just as I emerged from the trail to check on the horses, the ten chickens trotted out of the trees to greet me, looking as if nothing spectacular had happened for them. I expect the thicket where they can hide was under enough tree cover that falling balls of rocketing ice slowed to relatively harmless speeds.

So, all in all, it was mostly noise that disturbed an otherwise beautiful Friday morning. I suppose the tree leaves would offer a harsher view of the event. Our truck is already so beat and battered that damage from hail strikes is difficult to discern.

We lucked out, beyond a bit of a scare.

Hail makes a really wicked sound as it smashes into everything around.

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Written by johnwhays

September 1, 2018 at 9:14 am

Different Bad

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We thought Sunday morning was bad, what with its dose of a slippery ice-glaze over every surface turning navigation from the house to the barn into a risky balance-testing feat.

Yesterday’s winter storm was very different. School districts around the region started announcing closures before bedtime on Sunday night! Since we were watching the Academy Awards show, it was impossible to miss the added drama of concern about the weather, as it constantly rolled across the bottom of the screen.

The number of school districts grew with each pass of the alphabetically sorted scroll. When the names of the biggest districts in the state showed up, it lent significant credence toward the probability I should plan to avoid trying to travel to work.

I hemmed and hawed over my options, ultimately making the decision before going to sleep. I would stay home.

After sleeping past my normal alarm time for a work day, I woke to discover I could have made the drive in if I’d gotten up like usual. I knew that was a possible result when I decided the night before to stay home, so I wasn’t too frustrated with myself at that point. The real concern was going to be the drive home.

Since I didn’t drive in, the plan was that I wouldn’t need to worry about the drive home.

Except, the real onset of the accumulating snow ended up happening late enough in the day that I could have worked a full shift, after all. I would have been home before things really began to get hazardous.

It was odd having stayed home from work all day when the view out the window looked so harmless. Postings on the local Live Weather Updates site of our public radio network kept warning that the onset was still coming, just delayed a bit from original guesses.

Their warnings ultimately proved totally justified.

Before the precipitation, the wind was gusting to startling degrees. Cyndie reported hearing a tree falling, but wasn’t sure about the location. I was a little nervous about venturing through the woods to look for it while the gusts were still raging.

The snow finally showed up for us around 3:30, and by 4:00, it was already hard to see beyond our property borders. We were suddenly isolated from the world, and being battered by unrelenting swarms of stabbing snowflake blades.

I succeeded in making it to the mailbox and back with Delilah, but she looked like she thought the expedition was a ridiculous idea, gladly retreating indoors when we made it back to the house. Cyndie was tending to the horses and chickens, and I figured she would be in shortly behind us.

Ten minutes later, I looked up from what I was doing and realized the visibility outside had dropped down to almost zero. The snow was coming so thick and wind-blown, I became concerned about how Cyndie was coping. I decided to gear up and go check. This wasn’t just bad weather, this was wicked!

Careful not to blindly pass her, in case she came up a different route than I went down, I squinted for signs of her outline. She was at the chicken coop. The hens had jumped one of the half doors into the barn and didn’t want to return to the coop. Who could blame them? She was hand carrying them back.

I helped to get the last two and we closed up the coop and then the barn doors.

Had I driven to work, I was planning to stay overnight at her parent’s house. Given how crazy, and sometimes even a bit scary it got yesterday afternoon and evening, I’m glad I stayed home.

Regardless how bad it wasn’t earlier in the day, it was worth it so that Cyndie didn’t have to face all this bad weather drama alone.

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Please No

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Not again. This morning, we are wondering what we will find when the door to the chicken coop is opened. Yesterday, Delilah once again broke a hook holding her leash and this time attacked the Buff Orpington hen.

I was up on the other side of the house splitting wood when my phone rang. Cyndie’s voice immediately revealed something was wrong.

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Intent on making my way through the entire pile of logs stacked at the base of the big oak tree, which first required sledge-hammering them out of the frozen block they had become, I had already fought off several urges to take a break and do something else.

I couldn’t deny the urgency implied by Cyndie’s call.

Rushing down to the sunny southern end of the barn, I found Cyndie standing with the chicken in her arms. She wanted me to hold the bird so she could search for visible injury that would explain the blood on the ground. Finding nothing, she took the Buff back and asked me to look.

I suggested she give the hen a chance to stand on her own and we could watch her. The Buff stood just fine, but that is when I noticed blood on the beak. It appears the injury was internal.

We are hoping maybe she just bit her tongue. She was breathing and swallowing, with some effort, and the bleeding did not appear to be continuing more than the initial small amount.

If she survived the night, the next goal will be to witness her drinking water and eventually eating food.

As soon as Cyndie had reached the dog and saved the chicken, she marched Delilah up to the house and shut her inside. When we came in for lunch, it was pretty clear the fiercely carnivorous canine was aware she had displeased her master. Her body language was all about remorse.

It was hard to not continue being extremely mad with Delilah for hurting the chicken, but that moment was now in the past.

I decided to take her out for a heavy-duty workout. Strapping on snowshoes, I headed off to pack down a path on our trails that hadn’t received much attention since the last few snowfall events.

Since Delilah has a compulsion to be out in front and pull, that meant she was breaking trail most of the way and expending more energy than normal, which worked right into my plan.

Much to Delilah’s surprise, I also had a plan to double back in the direction from which we had just come, giving me a chance to pack several of our paths a second time.

Each time that happened, Delilah would race to come back toward me and then pass by to get out in front again, pulling against the leash to which I gladly added drag.

I’m pretty sure any energy she got from engaging in the attack was long gone after her unusually intense afternoon walkabout, but I doubt she fully grasps that our earlier displeasure was because the chickens hold protected status.

We’re not confident, but we hope we’ll still have three chickens to continue teaching Delilah to leave alone, despite her irresistible canine instincts.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Grazing Again

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There is a jarring amount of stupid that is getting mixed in with the amazing and sacred energy to which we have access these days. It all flows right over the top of us. We dash headstrong into it. It sashays past when we aren’t paying attention. Sometimes it just lays there and waits to be noticed.

The brilliant, the inspiring, the spectacular light of pure love, and then some dingy gunk getting smeared around with reckless abandon.

Have you ever noticed how some people are able to move through the gunk without allowing it to leave a mark, while others end up covered with it? There are some from the latter distinction who even thrive on the mess and seek out more.

All this energy, the good and the other, is like the air we breath. Many people don’t ever think about breathing, and similarly, many people don’t pay attention to the energy, both from within as well as from other sources.

It is very helpful to notice energy if you are interested in becoming teflon to the gunk.

However, it usually takes more than just noticing. I recently enjoyed some success using what we learned from our horses, along the lines of getting “back to grazing.”

After any of our horse’s many instances of practicing critical evacuation maneuvers when they run emergency response drills, they have a remarkable ability to quickly return to grazing, as if nothing dramatic had just occurred. It’s a skill that I have come to cherish.

It’s a skill I would like to master for myself.

I’ve been practicing, and when I am successful, it works wonders. Consciously choosing to instantly give up whatever just triggered a critical response, and becoming fully aware of my breathing and energy –to return to love and a healthy mindset– is truly life-changing.

Yeah, teflon to the gunk.

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Written by johnwhays

November 17, 2017 at 7:00 am

Near Miss

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Are you as amazed as I am that our three chickens continue to survive ranging freely around our property, despite our having done nothing different to protect them in the time since some predator decimated the flock of nine birds?

It almost seems counter-intuitive that something would attack the large group of birds, but now no critter has bothered with the three that remain. Maybe with such low numbers, it isn’t worth the trouble of stalking them compared to the easier pickings of attacking a large flock.

None of this factored into Delilah’s thinking yesterday.

While Cyndie and I were unloading bales of hay from the pickup and stacking them in the shed, we let Delilah hang out with us to watch. Cyndie had hooked the leash to the front of the truck.

Meanwhile, the three chickens wandered over to peck at the mess of hay shrapnel that falls from the bales. I’m guessing they were growing used to seeing the leashed dog and didn’t feel particularly threatened.

Everyone seemed to be getting along just fine, until Cyndie decided the charade had gone on long enough. She told me that she meant to shoo the chickens away and was planning to remove Delilah from the captive spot to take her for a walk and get her away from the constant tease of free roaming chickens, which surely was tempting fate.

Except that the moment Cyndie processed that thought, (when I think she may have indeed made some sound toward the chickens to back them off) Delilah exploded against her restraint and ruptured the webbing of the harness that held the ring to which her leash was hooked.

Delilah chased, the birds panicked, and Cyndie and I both screamed at the dog with all our energy. The chickens ducked the fence into the paddock, which slowed Delilah a bit, and by the time I got down off the stacked hay in the shed, the dog had paused her pursuit a short distance beyond that fence.

Was she really listening to us? Cyndie thinks so. She declared it a partial victory, because Delilah did choose to stop the chase and did, hesitatingly, come back to us. We were able to hook the leash to a different ring on her harness and Cyndie walked her to the house to confine her until she calmed down.

Disaster averted, but not for lack of trying.

Those three birds must have some special luck that they escaped unharmed again. Or maybe they have a cat’s nine lives. Yesterday seemed like the kind of ruckus that probably used up a life for a couple of our surviving birds.

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Many Thanks

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DSCN4129eOn this eve of our Thanksgiving holiday, I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to you, my readers, for venturing into my world and joining in my adventures and explorations of Somethings occasionally Relative. You may have arrived to view my stories of a Himalayan trek, our visit to Portugal, my annual bike trips, pictures, poetry, Words on Images, or tales of a transition from the suburbs to our Wintervale Ranch paradise. You may be family, friends, coworkers, fellow WordPress bloggers, poets, photographers, wordsmiths, or happenstance searching link-clickers.

You are my audience, and I thank you for your participation, silent or otherwise.

I hope that regular followers have grown familiar with the usual cast of characters that populate the content of late. A certain dog seems to get the most mention. Long ago I began a move toward dropping constant use of orienting descriptions for people and animals that show up in my tales of adventure and woe, hoping that they were becoming established and familiar to readers over time.

We are many chapters into a book that you are reading as it is being written. What will happen next? I can’t make it up. The drama plays out with little concern about how I might be able to narrate it.

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I purchased a replacement GFCI breaker for power to the waterer in the paddock. It failed, too. My “spidey” sense tells me there is leakage current, after all. Removing the access panel on the waterer revealed an incredible amount of moisture present. No wonder. I saw a statistic that we are currently running in 7th place for wettest November on record.

In the previous two years of having that waterer during the winter, we’ve never faced needing to have the heater on when it was so wet.

I’m temporarily bypassing the GFI safety feature to keep the ice off the water source for our horses. Cyndie had a heck of a time breaking off the ice for them yesterday morning, after I tried a night with no power at all.

IMG_iP0964eIt appears the solar-powered battery supplying electricity to our arena fence is successfully keeping the horses from wreaking havoc on the barrier.

I found a picture I had taken with the intent of showing how wet the ground was, and discovered it caught Legacy in the distance, mouthing the fence. Busted!

Don’t forget, you can click on the smaller images to bring up the full-size view for closer inspection.

Our house is already filled with the aroma of traditional holiday feasting fare. Cyndie has been busy cooking and cleaning in preparation of hosting Thanksgiving dinner here tomorrow. Family that are planning to come should consider bringing mud-boots.

The weather shows signs of possible precipitation, in addition to the water already saturating our grounds. I’m hoping we don’t all end up stuck indoors watching parades and football games, and eating way more than we should as a result of more rain. It would be a shame to miss out on walks in our woods, exercising Delilah to tire her out, walking the labyrinth, and visiting the horses.

I’m guessing we won’t let a little rain stop us from getting out for a little bit.

Thank you for reading!

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Written by johnwhays

November 25, 2015 at 7:00 am