Well, the good news is the gate latch held. The bad news is the corner of the barn ripped off, taking with it the gate, dangling now at a dangerous angle by the latch. It was one of those mornings again.
When I looked toward the barn, having just grabbed my first cup of coffee, I didn’t see any horses looking back. Usually, by poking my head out the back door, I can at least elicit a whinny, mildly interpreted as, “Get your sorry ass over here and let us out because we are dying of hunger.” Except Tater, the one grumbling the most, is a big fatty. Why couldn’t he be more patient?
Instead, this particular morning, there was nothing. With kids, no sound and no action usually means trouble. The same follows with animals. I picked up the pace towards the barn yard, only to find our three horses grazing peacefully, as if nothing was wrong. Except, they were in the barn yard and not confined in their loafing shed area. The two wearing blankets, meant only for indoor or under cover use, were soaked through from the rain.
I checked for wounds on all three horses because a gate doesn’t pull out by its bolts without a body slam from a large animal, either directly against the gate or several bodies pushed tightly and leaning hard in an attempt to escape a kick or a bite. That would be Tater bullying my horse, Chaco, in a show of testosterone and youth. I was thinking through my plans for the day and schedules to be changed to accommodate a vet visit. Who could have a ‘real’ job while living on a farm when the unexpected always seemed to rear its head at the most inconventient times?
I couldn’t believe it. The horses were fine. No scrapes, no bumps, no swollen joints. Just horses happy to be on new, green grass that didn’t look like the new green grass on their side of the fence. Even happier when I took off their blankets that now seemed to weigh 50 pounds a piece. How was I going to dry these? Certainly not in my clothes dryer. This was not the time of year to wash the blankets outside with a scrub brush and I was not going to put these nasty, dirty things into the same place I put the whites! I spread them out on saw horses in the tack room and turned up the heat.
The broken gate was the only barrier between the horse’s loafing shed and the barn yard. I found one hanger bolt on the ground beneath the gate. I found the other about 20 feet away in the grass. I had no idea what happened, exactly, but I did know re-securing the gate was going to be a bitch because the corner of the barn was lying on the ground next to the hanger bolt.
Not sure I could handle the reconstruction, I called my neighbor, Dave, for a look-see. I had the tools and I even had a possible 4 x 4 to fit at the corner of the barn, but the nails needed to hold it all together (also known as ‘spikes’)looked daunting in both length and breadth and I wasn’t exactly sure how I would hammer them in.
It’s a good thing Dave was around. He is an ex-logger with a great deal of enthusiasm for hitting things hard. We came up with a plan to reattach the gate, but when the spike hit the old-growth wood in the barn frame, even Dave’s wailing almost came to a stop. I have never seen someone pound a nail with a sledge so hard yet for such little impression. The wood was like stone and every time Dave drove down on the nail, with his thumb just inches away, I flinched. Between that and threading the hanger bolts for the gate, I am afraid, if left to my own devices, Greg would have returned home from work to a temporary panel lashed to the posts with baling twine and no easy way in or out from the corral.
Dave smacked the spikes until they were in and then hit the 4 x 4 a couple more times just for good measure. We rehung the gate in such a way Tater could not use one of his latest moves, which was to stick his head through the rungs of the gate and pull up, thus lifting the gate off its hinges,defying our newly devised gate latch. If you can’t open one side of a gate; try for the other – he is not a stupid animal.
The repair was complete. The sun was shining. No animals had been wounded in the event. The day had a feeling of normalcy. So, my plans were off by an hour, but it could have been far worse. Just a little hiccup at the farm. Just a little “oops” from the horses. It is probably better I don’t know exactly what happened to rip the corner off the barn, hang the gate at a dangerous angle for escape, place three horses in the barn yard instead of safe under the loafing shed. If Tater could talk, he would probably lie about whose fault it was. Better to leave it alone and get on to the next project on the list of farm projects, the ones actually written down and planned for the day.
(Photo is pretty self explanatory. The gate is ‘down’, thus the horses are no longer in the loafing shed, but rather, farther down the barnyard behind me eating grass)
All rights reserved. Copyright Scottie Jones 2006