Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Close Encounter

Maggie HATES small animals. She loathes the dog, but she particularly despises the cats.

Saturday April 7th, 2012 (Easter Weekend)
As I throw the horses their mid-day hay, stray pieces of the dried grass are lifted into the air by a strong north wind. Because Maggie's recovering from a recently pulled check-ligament, the horses are segregated in their individual paddocks. They can see each other, but can't interact (or chase each other around). Murray's turn-out is in the middle so, to save time and energy, I toss hay over the fence to each of the "girls" from there.

The fence between Murray and Maggie is higher than most, with just small gaps between the boards. It was designed to separate the previous owners' stallion from the mares. With effort, I toss a flake of hay high over the fence and into Maggie's paddock. But Maggie doesn't notice. She's around the corner, in her stall, gulping up the fresh water I just poured into her bucket.

I call her name, but my voice is carried away on the wind. I call again, and bang on the fence to get her attention. Finally, I hear movement from her stall. It seems, however, that my voice has also reached Zorro's ears. My sly, dog-like, tuxedo- wearing cat suddenly appears at my feet. He pauses briefly to rub his sleek coat against my filth-covered boots. Then, with a flick of his tail, he stalks-off under the fence toward Maggie's lunch.

Hay piles are to Zorro are like empty boxes are to little children-- they're great places from which to build forts and plan attacks. Murray's mounds of hay (larger, and longer-lasting than those of the mares) are Zorro's favourite playgrounds. Thankfully, Murray is ambivalent toward Zorro's antics. For the most part he ignores him, though occasionally he gently rubs his velvety muzzle deep into the cat's fur. Unfortunately, such close contact with cat hair almost always causes Murray to sneeze, and that almost always frightens the cat away.

Maggie, however, has no tolerance for feline companionship. She gnashes her teeth at Zorro when he uses her door as a spring-board to launch himself into the hay loft. She shakes her head and squeals at him when he trots along the path outside her paddock fence. When he carelessly wanders into her paddock, she angrily chases after him. That generally leads me to duck frantically through the fence rails to scoop up my wayward cat.

Zorro's pursuit of Maggie's hay pile begins just as Maggie lumbers lazily around the corner, her hooves thudding dully on the dusty ground. My heart speeds up. I try calling Zorro back to me. He turns his head momentarily, but continues decidedly toward the hay. I look back at Maggie. Her kind, elephant-like eyes scan the paddock for her mid-day meal. Her ears prick up as she glimpses the new pile of hay.

In the next instant, the ears flick backwards, and are suddenly pinned against flat against her head. Her nostrils crinkle, her lips curl. She thrusts her jaw forward and lowers her head like a bull about to charge. Tension fills her body as she zeroes-in on Zorro. Unfortunately, Zorro, such a prolific hunter himself, seems to have no idea that he's being stalked.

Zorro ignores my frantic calling. His singular focus is a piece of hay waving in the wind. I want to duck between the fence boards and pull my feline friend to safety. But I don't fit. Only the tiniest of children could slip between the boards in this section of fence. And it's too high to climb. And anyway, each board is protected by an innocent-looking strand of electrical rope. All I can do is watch.

Maggie, within a stride or two of Zorro, menacingly shakes her head toward the cat, and grinds her teeth in anger. Then, with surprising speed, she lunges forward. I scream. I don't mean to scream. I intend to yell "whoa" in the deepest, most authoritative voice that I can muster. But what comes out is a high-pitched, half scream, half cry. With that, Zorro turns his head and his eyes widen in alarm as he finally notices Maggie. In that moment, she strikes violently at him with her dinner-plate-sized front hooves. She throws her entire 13 hundred pound frame into the effort. Dirt and sand spew into the air as her hooves hit the ground with a deafening thud.

Somehow, Zorro manages to shrink his lanky frame into a tiny ball, and her hooves merely graze his back, missing their mark by inches. Maggie, frustrated, squeals and lashes out again with her front feet, but as she raises them into the air, Zorro dashes-off with cheetah like speed. She turns to pursue him, but I regain my voice, and this time my deep, angry yell gets her attention. Besides, he's on the other side of her paddock now, and there's a fresh pile of hay at her feet. Maggie's features soften, her ears come forward, and she begins to make quick work of her lunch. Now safely outside of the fence, Zorro (unscathed except perhaps for his pride) takes a brief backward glance before heading into the field to find (hopefully) a less dangerous place to play. One of these days, his nine lives are going to run out.
How Zorro has spent his nine lives thus far:
1. Stuck his neck in the door of the truck as it was being slammed shut
2. Got knocked down out of the hayloft by a bale of hay
3. Jumped out of the hayloft for fun
4. Stayed out late when the coyotes were on the prowl
5. Got chased by Maggie
6. Got beaten up by the Tom cat
7. Tried to take a nap on Maggie's door and nearly got eaten
8. Rubbed up between Jaava's hind feet while she was being tacked-up
9. Got chased and nearly stomped on by Maggie
Hmm... so maybe he has 10 lives?


  1. Yikes! Made me duck and cringe as I was reading.
    Nice to see a new post, MF.

  2. How scary! Zorro better learn to watch his back, or stay out of the hay!