It was raining pretty hard the other night, not too cold yet but with a predicted change to snow later in the evening. I just wanted to get the horses to bed, tucked into a cozy shed with fresh straw and generous mounds of hay for dinner. Nemo, unfortunately, had been caught by the storm visiting in Spike’s side of the shed, with Spike. He knew he had to go back to his own side of the shed with his Mamma Tatti for the night but he didn’t want to get wet.
Our shed is a huge lean-to tacked on to the back of our old bank barn. According to our Mennonite contractor, the barn itself is about 150 years old, likely dismantled in the Kitchener area and re-located here like many were in the late 1800’s as the city expanded, when lumber was expensive but labour was cheap. The shed measures 60 feet long by 32 feet wide, with a steel roof over long, raw cedar poles that likely came from our property. I’ve seen those beams bend precariously under some pretty heavy loads of snow at times, with us wondering if it would hold? It did.
The shed is divided part way by an indestructible cement bunk that was the kitchen table, so to speak, for cattle kept in there by the previous owner. Clarence Beatty farmed here for 40 years before us and he had a thing about cement. For us, it provides a convenient dividing line, when topped with a plywood wall, allowing us to split the herd up for the night and get some precious rest in their own areas. From high above in the loft I throw down their hay, keeping it off the ground while they eat so they can make use of every last scrap.
The cement bunker is also useful when we have visitors: I can lead people out there to say hello to the horses without fear of them getting run over. It’s handy when non-horse people come to visit. They get to feed and pet the horses while Jake unties their shoelaces.
For Nemo, the bunk is just a place to play. Nothing gets in the way of our Paint mountain goat. He climbs up over the two-plus foot high wall like it’s not even there, or puts a foot up in it when he gets impatient for his dinner, sometimes standing in it to eat. If I leave the barn door open by mistake he’s up through the manger like a flash, into the barn, barely enough head room to wander around while navigating the narrow sheep chutes that are close to the same width as him. If this happens during the day I’ll find feed buckets and halters scattered and poop piles in strange places but he lets himself out when he’s done exploring. No fear; no claustrophobia for this guy.
“Nemo, you’ve got to go to bed. Spike doesn’t want to share his shed with you. I know you’re friends but you end up eating all his food.”
Nemo wouldn’t budge. Twelve hundred pounds of Mr. No. The rain was coming down so hard it was shooting over the eavestrough and he wasn’t about to get his hair wet.
“C’mon, Nemo, let’s go!” Nope. I was regretting not having taking the time to teach him to lead with a hand under his chin for those times when I didn’t have a rope or even a piece of binder twine in my pocket.
I think he was getting a kick out of seeing me getting wet.
Enough of that, I walked away, knowing when the odds were stacked against me. I went back in the shed and climbed up into the bunk, opening the plywood door that separated the manger into two sides, one for each shed, and walking into the barn through a far door to carry on with chores. I took the short cut because I didn’t want to get wet either. I could get Nemo later or maybe it would stop raining?
Not five minutes later I hear thump, thump, thump. I look into the shed to see Nemo, following my route, climbing up into the manger, walking through the partition door opening, climbing down into his side of the shed with Tatti, and closing the partition door behind him, covering all trace of his path.
This. This is what I have to deal with. A horse that gets into things but gets out without a trace. A horse that closes the door behind himself. A horse that is always watching, learning. I shake my head and laugh. Good boy, Nemo.