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

Posts Tagged ‘emergency response

Perfect Execution

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After feeding horses and before heading in for our dinner last night, we spent a little time mingling with the chickens as they foraged the shaded grass between their coop and the barn. Cyndie brought out some chicken treats and worked an exercise of calling for them to come to her as she offers to feed them from her hand.

They haven’t received as much of this training as earlier batches we have raised, and it shows. The reactions were delayed and there was a noticeable lack of total buy-in from the group as a whole. With a bit more practice, it won’t be long until Cyndie frequently finds herself with a trail of birds following behind her as she strolls anywhere near where they happen to be hanging out.

While we were lounging in their presence, practicing trying to account for them by breed as a method of quickly identifying if anyone is missing, we enjoyed the thrill of witnessing a perfectly executed emergency response drill.

Maybe it wasn’t even a drill, but we weren’t able to scope out a possible threat they sensed.

At the sound of one unique call, without hesitation, the twenty-some mix of pullets and cockerels made a mass exodus from the open mowed grass into the thick cover of growth just to the right in the image below.

One second they were all roaming around in the open and in a flash they became instantly invisible.

It is a fascinating thing to watch. We wondered which one made the call, as it wasn’t obvious to us, but whatever was said, it made an immediate impression on all of them.

Probably half a minute later, one bold girl wandered out to reclaim the spot she previously held, and soon after the rest did the same as if nothing had happened.

It all echoed nicely the practice we’ve witnessed many times with horses where they execute an alarming rush to escape the immediate vicinity and a minute later go back to grazing as calmly as ever.

I’m happy our chickens are demonstrating this skill so well, given they are going to need it for the balance of their free-ranging days with us.



Written by johnwhays

July 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Leaning Over

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The heavy rock that took five people to lift into place on the boulders at the center of our labyrinth has survived the worst that winter tossed its way. It didn’t fall out and roll to the ground. However, it did lean over to a significant degree.

I think it might be a metaphor for how Cyndie and I feel after the number of challenges we have faced in the last few months, starting with the unexpected death of our lead horse, Legacy.

Just as we began to think we were coming to terms with one thing, another challenge would blow in on us. It all pretty much tipped us over to a similar degree. It occurred to us, more than once, that one way to avoid falling to earth would be by simply choosing to jump down of our own volition.

It’s funny. In a way, it took a leap of faith in the first place to get where we are today. Now we have wondered about taking a leap right back out of here, to be done with the struggles confounding our original vision.

The thing is, as crucial a part of our dream as Legacy was, I don’t want his dying to linger as the insurmountable disturbance that extinguished the flame of possibility for good. It doesn’t do proper justice to him or his name. Losing Legacy can be a powerful lesson for us to grasp and embrace.

Really, anything we might accomplish going forward, will be in honor of him and all he contributed here.

This past weekend, for the first time since he died, we witnessed the three chestnuts execute a completely unexpected “Emergency Response Drill.” It was a big deal to us. Legacy, as herd leader, used to initiate these surprise escape drills at feeding time as a way to see he could get the herd moving in a moments notice, even if it meant leaving their food.

They all run away with a full-speed urgency that implies all lives are at stake. At about ten paces away, they pull up short, turn around to assess the situation, and then walk back and finish eating.

It’s invigorating to watch, especially when you just so happen to be standing in the vicinity with a manure scoop, at risk of being inadvertently trampled by their frantic departure.

Neither Cyndie nor I spotted who initiated the drill, but simply knowing the herd is resuming their group behaviors was comforting. I don’t know if this will culminate in a clear establishment of a new leader, but I’m pleased to see they are working on some kind of arrangement.

Cyndie reported that the mares initiated another drill yesterday, while Hunter just happened to be rolling on the wet, muddy ground, which forced him to abort his plan and get back to his feet, pronto.

Yes, they are definitely working on something. Poor guy is outnumbered now, so I won’t be surprised if either Cayenne (who has always behaved like a big sister with him) or Dezirea end up filling the role as primary head of their household.

We’ve all been pushed over a little bit since the start of the year, but we haven’t hit the ground.

Knowing the horses are working things out, and having a brood of new chicks to fawn over, helps provide inspiration for us to visualize righting ourselves and doing Legacy proud.

I think we are making strides toward steadying ourselves to lean into whatever might unfold next.



Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sobering Drama

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With the arrival of cool, drier air to our region, we were able to sleep with our window open on Monday night. I must have been sleeping real well, because I didn’t hear the horrific sounds of a car crash at the intersection just south of our home at 5:08 a.m. What I did hear was the long wail of a siren at 5:13 that just kept getting louder and louder, finally stopping when it was at its loudest. To me, that meant it didn’t pass by. Wherever it stopped, it was startlingly close.

Seven minutes later, I heard multiple sirens tearing apart the early morning silence, all stopping equally close. Whatever it was, this gave the impression that it was something serious. It was time for Cyndie to get up and start preparations for her workday, and as her feet were hitting the floor, the sound of a helicopter flying incredibly low added an exclamation point to the predawn drama unfolding.

This was more than enough to rouse Delilah and she started whining to be let out of her crate. Cyndie said she could take her for a walk, but then would need to get ready to go. I took advantage of her offer and lingered in bed, listening to the helicopter idling. In minutes, the engine revved and I could see how close it really was, the lights appearing into view as the air ambulance rose up to set off on its hurried course.

I began to wonder if Cyndie decided to feed the horses early, it was taking so long for her to return. I should have guessed. When she got three-quarters of the way down our driveway, she could see how close the incident really was, and decided to walk Delilah down to check it out. The helicopter was perched in the middle of County Road N, and took off as she approached.

Her report matched what I later found published online by a local newspaper. A full-size semi truck had broadsided a car that had pulled out in front of it. Cyndie was worried about fatalities, but the paper reported ‘fair’ condition for the driver of the car. It listed the vehicle as a Mustang, but Cyndie couldn’t tell what it was by all the damage. It didn’t look like a driver could have survived in that wreck.

It was a startling, yet sobering way to start the day. In retrospect, based on the scene Cyndie described, I am glad to have not heard the sounds of the crash as it happened. That’s the kind of unsettling experience that lingers in a mind’s ear. The sirens and helicopter alone were enough to leave me a bit on edge for the rest of the day.

The incident has both of us wondering how the driver of the car could have failed to spot the threat of that oncoming truck, to pull out in front of it like that. The site lines are unobstructed, headlights at that hour would have been visible well in advance, and both drivers were in their 60s (presumably having years of driving experience).

Drive carefully out there, folks.










Written by johnwhays

August 27, 2014 at 6:00 am