Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Freedom Fighter

Two summers ago a young quarter horse joined our herd of two so we could offer friends and family the opportunity to ride together up the logging roads behind our farm. This 5-year old bay was called Obi Wan by his original owners, the natural consequence of letting their teenage son name a colt. He didn't look like an Obi to us and, after a family conference, he was renamed Tater. Tater quickly turned out to be a juvenile delinquent when it came to getting into trouble in the middle of the night. I'm not sure that is how we perceived the name when we chose it, but that's how he has defined it.

Maybe it was the hint of concern and a smile I got from Tater's owners when they first dropped him at our farm that should have had me paying more attention. The wife checked our fencing and our gates and then tied Tater's lead rope around one of the gates that obviously worried her the most. She mentioned, on leaving, we needed to be careful closing things up tight and not leaving anything around we didn't mind losing, such as tack or blankets. As our two older horses had never given us much trouble, chewing didn't really come to mind until I started to find the baling twine I used for added gate security wadded up in chunks inside the paddock.

Next came the Christmas lights we had strung through the barn for a party, apparently within reach of a horse standing on tip-toes at the edge of his stall. They made the place cheery in the dull gloom of winter, but the crunch of glass bulbs was more than a horse could bear to leave alone. Once the lights were torn to pieces, the object of Tater's obsession were the chains used to hold our gates shut. They started to become bent and misshapen and the clips no longer fit together. Tater even took to chewing on them right in front of us, like some orally fixated teenager with a bad habit. Ultimately, there were the mornings I would look out the windows facing the barn and realize the horses and the sheep were on the lawn, the gates wide open. Tater had become the farm's freedom fighter.

Tater-inspired (because loose animals on a farm can be a bad thing) we started to play with a latch to foil Tater's apparently opposable tongue. We now have our latch and we are even to the point of selling it because we know we aren't the only people with "loosey-goosey" animals. Hence the stories to follow from folks, with equally talented animals, who have searched out our latch in the hopes of restoring peace and calm to their farms. They have their own anecdotes they have shared with us, because ... as anyone with livestock knows ... it sure is a drag to reach for that first cup of coffee in the morning and see a horse (or sheep, llama, alpaca, goat - fill in the blank) grazing the vegetable garden and wiping out the strawberries in one pass.

All rights reserved. Copyright Scottie Jones 2006

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