Life on the Farm: An antique moment

Horse Nation contributor Rachael Walker writes to us from the frozen Midwest, where she finds a little color and old-fashioned grace in an otherwise grey winter day.

From Rachael:

It was another dreary cloudy morbid February afternoon in Wisconsin. I had just finished riding my two horses, both of whom were the most amazing creatures on the planet (but I’m not biased…). I tucked them away in their paddock, and decided to bed the straw in the shelters a bit thicker, as it was predicted to snow. The wind picked up in the face of the oncoming storm, and the glow I had felt after my rides was quickly vanishing. I forked straw and raked the ground and fluffed my four-legged beasts a nice plump bed of golden straw–seemingly the only color in a drab grey landscape.

As I worked, I realized the water tanks were getting a bit low, and it would be just as good to fill them now as to try and muster my motivation in the morning. I schlepped to the house to grab the hose that lives in my entryway in the winter to prevent it from freezing (in my head I can hear my mother lamenting this enormous lapse in housekeeping). Across the barnyard went myself, the hose, and my two Corgi supervisors. I set the tanks filling and went back to padding the shelters. Just as I was beginning to mumble incoherent angry things at the weather in general, I heard a faint jingle. I paused in my work, and the noise came again.

Then I remembered–my husband had taken one of our teams of Belgian mares to gather some firewood for the old wood stove in his shop. They came across the pasture, looking, in the dim grey landscape, like something from an old sepia photograph. I paused in my work, and he waved as they marched past. The horse’s heads nodded in time with their slow step, and the strand of bells on the front of the wood sled emanated a soft jingle.

My husband parked the team in front of the barn to unload the sled. I walked around front to give Misti and Molly a pat, and couldn’t help but take a moment to think that the picture those Belgians made in front of our 125-year-old barn was perfect. I often imagine the days nearer to when this farm was built, back in 1890 to 1900, when people farmed this land with horses, milked cows in the red barn by hand, and cooked their meals over a wood stove.

Suddenly the dark grey winter day has a little more glow to it, a feeling that this is what winter may be all about. Misti and Molly stood quietly in the traces, waiting patiently for the wood to be stacked so they could head back to the woods for another load. Not so long ago, we would have been dependent on this fuel to heat our home, not just the shop. This job would have been part of a fall or winter day’s work, and the quiet nature of working with a team of horses is in perfect harmony with the near stillness of a grey winter day.

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