Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Houdini's Spirit Lives On

Monday January 17
It's the coldest morning of the winter so far. It's -10 with gusty north-west winds. Fortunately, Dave, who has the day off, agreed to get up and feed the horses before he found out how cold it would be. So, as he dons his long underwear at 8:00am, I wrap myself more tightly in our flannel sheets, luxuriating in the bright sunshine streaming in through our bedroom window.

Dave's outside for about half an hour when I emerge from my cocoon. I look out the window to see the horses munching hay, their warm breaths sending up swirling trails of dragon-like vapour. I think to myself that I should probably put fleece coolers on under their winter rugs overnight-- to give them an extra layer of warmth in our arctic-like barn. As I watch, Dave emerges from the barn pushing an overflowing wheelbarrow. I knock on the window and wave hello, then I shuffle off toward the kitchen to start on breakfast.

With the barn work finished, we dine on french toast slathered in maple syrup tapped from trees somewhere nearby. With my belly full, I glance out at the horses again. I expect to see Murray huddled in the run-in shed, with just his head poking out into the sun. Instead, he's uncharacteristically standing at the fence, facing the house, staring at us as if to get our attention.

Me: "Um, Dave, when you put Murray out, did he have his blanket on?"

Dave: "Did he have a blanket on last night?"

Me: "Yes"

Dave (tinged with sarcasm): "Then he had one on when I put him out this morning."

Dave's right, and I know it. I saw Murray earlier, and he was definitely wearing his heavy, navy winter rug. Now though, he's not. Now, he's naked, and his down-like hair is standing on end, in an effort to keep his Florida-born body warm. Perplexed, Dave and I stare out the window at him for a few more minutes. I reluctantly slip my arms into my winter coat and march in the squeaky, crunchy snow to the paddock to get to the bottom of the mystery.

It takes me a minute or so to spot the upside-down blanket discarded against the side of the fence. It's frozen solid and covered in snow. But it's not torn. The belly straps are still crossed and hooked, as are the hind-leg straps. The buckles at the front are still done up, but the stitching that normally attaches them to the blanket itself has been ripped out. It's exactly the same scenario as when Murray wriggled out of his rainsheet last fall. How does he manage to do it?

I bring Murray inside to be re-dressed. He's shivering slightly, but seems otherwise unscathed from his Houdini-like incident. I don't have another heavy rug for him (Maggie wears his old one), so I put his fleece cooler on under his mid-weight fall blanket. The temperature is supposed to dip to -17 tonight, but he'll just have to make due.

As for the blanket, I don't have sewing needles strong enough to push through the thick, nylon fabric, so I'll have to send it to a local shop for repairs. I know they won't take it if it's dirty, so with difficulty, I shove the heavy, hair-covered rug into our washing-maching. After a good soak, it comes out looking (and smelling) much the same, but I can at least tell them I tried.

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