Thursday, March 11, 2010

Something is out there

Tuesday, March 9

The air outside is fresh and there's a pink glow in the sky as the sun sinks below the tree-tops on the other side of the dirt road. But the horses aren't admiring the sunset. They're looking in the opposite direction, toward the woods at the back of our property. Murray's giraffe-like neck is extended to its fullest, and his knobbly knees are shaking. Maggie stands slightly behind him and keeps shifting her gaze from the woods to him, and back again.

I scan the tree-line, but I don't have my glasses on, and the light is fading fast. I see nothing and hear nothing. I look over at Muscade. She's her usual self, frolicking in the pathway, trying not to trip over the soccer-sized ball she keeps tossing to herself. I figure maybe there were a few deer in the woods. I call to the horses, and try to catch Murray, but he's now pacing around the outside of his run-in shelter, still staring at the trees. This isn't his habitual game of evade-my-owner, he's just too distracted to even notice I'm there.

I decide to start with Maggie instead. She's not her usual dive-the-nose-into the halter, lets-go-eat self, but I do manage to grab her. As we head to the gate, Murray moves in close behind her. I manage to keep him from rushing the gate, but he's clearly anxious at being left behind. The usually quiet Maggie is jigging, and turning, trying to keep her eyes fixed on the spot where they've seen, or sensed something. It's all I can do to hang onto her and she turns from Murray, to the woods, and back again, with every step. When we get close to the barn, she practically barels me over to get inside, then she yanks at the lead line at every passing window so she can see Murray-- who's now whinnying desperately.

Maggie squeezes past me, into her stall, and immediately presses her nose against the window to lock her gaze on Murray's anxious body. He's pacing, and whinnying and still staring intently at the tree-line. Maggie maintains her vigil without even bothering to sniff at her pile of hay.

I have no problem catching Murray this time; he's still oblivious to me though, and I have to stand on my tip-toes to lift the halter over his ears. His eyes are wide, his nostrils flared, his knees shaking. He snorts loudly before I lead him through the gate, and he's uncharacteristically tugging at the lead line. He seems torn between wanting to head to the barn, and not wanting to turn his back toward whatever's out there.

When we make it to the barn, Maggie is swinging her head above her stall door, nickering softly to him. I'm shocked to see that she still hasn't noticed her hay. With Murray in his stall, the two of them turn to stare out the back windows. I bring their grain. Maggie doesn't try to shove her head in the bucket as I enter her stall, in fact it actually takes her about 30 seconds to move to her feed tub. As for Murray, he will only sprint to his feed tub long enough to take one bite, then he moves off to the other side of his stall to chew-- the side furthest from the tree line.

Even though Maggie eats her grain, she's not at all interested in the hay. Both horses are pacing their stalls, looking worried. A chill runs up my spine. I call to Muscade who's outside. I lock her in the feed room while I finish my chores. I don't know what's out there, but both horses sense something, and it's something more threatening than deer. Dusk arrives as I head back to the house. I stand still and listen and look for signs of whatever may be out there, but I guess my senses just aren't as acute. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up though, so I urge Muscade inside, and rush to turn on all the lights.

Two hours later 8:30 pm
Dave makes it home from a late night at work. We go to the barn together to check on the horses. They've settled somewhat, but are still agitated, pausing between bites of hay to listen, or look out the windows. Dave says there's a large brush fire burning just a couple of kilometres from here. Perhaps that's it, Murray has always been very, very nervous of smoke and fire. The only problem with that theory is that the fire isn't burning in the same direction as they're looking.

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