The devil is in the details

Published 10:54 am Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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I’ve been driving Paul crazy this past week.


It should be said that I drive Paul crazy most weeks, but usually by non sequitur statements or questions that beg to know the name of the plant that the Japanese use to create indigo dye that is also insect repellent, or how the homicide detectives in the British dramas we watch can afford to drive BMWs. But this week, it’s particularly stressful for Paul as I am leaving for Colorado for two days to perform at a benefit concert, and the brunt of the barn work will fall upon him and my friend, Ruby, to whom, after her recent encounter with a sow and three cubs, I’ve given the Native American name, ‘Dances with Bears.’

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It’s not just the stall cleaning they will be doing. And doing. The stalls are stripped each morning and picked out every two hours so that the horses stand and sleep on an immaculate bed of pine shavings—but the infinite amount of anal-retentive details that any horse owner marks down with a sharpie on the big whiteboard in the barn:


“6:30 am


  1. Feed pasture horses first. One full scoop each of the ‘senior’ grain. Throw alfalfa mixed hay into their steel hay feeder, bringing any old hay from the bottom to the top, and mix in thoroughly. Fly spray both horses, check water level in water trough.


  1. Feed horses in barn and turn out wearing protective boots (that must be adjusted just so) into back paddocks and fly spray. Give them each a flake of alfalfa mixed hay


  1. Clean stalls. You should remove two, full wheelbarrows from each stall. Dump manure in tractor bucket and drive to the manure pile for dumping. Keep it in 4th gear. Duck as you approach the muscadine vines so you don’t get strangled. After stalls are cleaned, add one bale pine shavings.


  1. Dump water buckets, do not clean and refill until after using leaf blower in aisle. Turn on fans if a hot day.


  1. Bring horses back in, remove boots, groom each horse and give more hay.”


As one can see, a bit more labor intensive than having someone watch your dog while away. And that’s just the first hour of the day. I’ve left out the part about watching for spider webs that appear this time of year which are doggedly constructed, night after night, directly in front of where an unsuspecting person might pass to enter the barn in the early morning. There’s nothing like the St Vitus dance that occurs from the terror of a giant, orb-writing spider being in your hair.


I also left out to be prepared for the braying of our neighbor’s donkey, on the other side of the woods, which never fails to make me jump by its sudden onset in the pitch dark, as I fumble for the light switch inside the barn. Or the mouse that might scamper over one’s feet as they slide open the feed room door. Ditto with the young black snake that I’ve named, Steve, who sometimes likes to bunk down on one of the bales of hay. I mean, it’s hard enough to wrangle responsible help to man the fort while I’m gone—the last thing they need to know is that they’ll encounter the Wild Kingdom as they make their way to the barn.


But then I also left out the revelations they will discover as have I as they are wrenched from their beds and stumble into the dark…the cool, damp morning air with a hint of autumn crispness after an oppressively hot and humid summer…the shell-pink streaks of light breaking from the east that ebb into pale gold…the squadron of dragonflies that flit around the paddocks and land momentarily on the fence before taking off again…the V of geese that flies overhead each morning in a cacophony of honking on their way to the pond.


Such delights shall await Paul and Ruby I am sure. And if they do, I don’t want to hear about them until around noon.


Because for the first time in 3 years, I will be several states to the west, and spending one morning sleeping in!