Wilson, North Carolina, has been warm, breezy and hazy. The haze, however, was different than that I remember settling around Denver and her foothills. You could play Coldplay’s first single right now if you want; it would fit. The haze, like everything else–well, it was all yellow.
Sidewalks, windows, front porches, children, shopping carts, pastures–and especially cars–were covered in a canary yellow patina of tree pollen. And I’d never seen such aggressive pollen.
My daily routine was to drive to the barn before I headed to the restaurant. I’d hose off the car, but it was yellow again before I reached the end of our driveway. Nothing could escape being dusted, including the horses.
The horses looked like knick knacks from the home of someone who never cleaned. Vander, Brownie, Mandy and Justin were dusted yellow, but Madison had it the worst. With the coating of fine, golden pollen her beautiful, black coat actually looked green.
“Oh!” exclaimed Madison, looking at her coat with a horrified expression. “Oh, my! I’ve mildewed!”
Brownie, oblivious to Madison’s commentary, stuck his face deep into the new, lush carpet of Bermuda grass and took a mouthful. When he lifted his head his entire muzzle was yellow.
He sneezed and blew his mouthful of half-chewed grass all over Vander. Vander looked with disgust at the bits of moistened grass mixed in with the yellow pollen on his back.
“Thanks, Brownie,” Vander said, “but I can get my own.”
“Sorry,” said Brownie sheepishly, wiping his nose on his front legs.
“That was hilarious!” remarked Hazel. “You horses are covered in dust!”
Our dog Hazel, still chuckling, rose from her resting place in the grass beside the horse trailer and instantly disappeared in a thick yellow cloud. She coughed continuously during the seconds before the pollen was carried away by a breeze.
“What was that you said?” asked Vander.
Except for several additional coughing fits, a very yellow Hazel disappeared silently behind the barn.
Kimberly figured this pollen attack was as good a reason as any to teach Justin how to take a bath. As usual, he stood still for her as she put his halter on. Justin also led like a little, four-legged angel.
He even cross-tied in the wash stall like he’d done it a million times. But, as soon as Kimberly turned on the water, he began flipping out like he was being attacked by thousands of crinkly plastic bags.
Justin kicked with his back legs, he kicked with his front legs, and he even bucked. Kimberly kept a hold on his lead line and, despite his tantrums, Justin remained securely latched into the cross ties.
Kimberly resumed spraying his legs and belly. Justin kicked, but with less energy. After a few more seconds of being sprayed, Justin relented. He stood still as Kimberly moved the spray of warm water up his legs, across his belly and over his back.
In typical Justin fashion, he took about 15 seconds to get used to this entirely new activity. Kimberly sprayed his back, returning to his belly and legs before turning off the water.
Kimberly walked to retrieve a squeegee from the trailer.
“Was that it?” Justin asked me. “Sure didn’t seem like much of a bath, if you ask me. I think I need a massage, too.”
“Let’s not push it,” I responded.
Kimberly returned and squeegeed several small sheets of water from Justin’s coat. She then detached the cross ties and led him back to his pasture.
“He’s really a great little horse,” Kimberly said. “And look how clean he is now.”
Kimberly had barely finished her sentence when Justin threw himself to the ground–in the most dirt-bare, pollen-covered patch in his pasture–and rolled like he was trying to rub his hair right off.
Justin rose in a thick cloud of dirt and pollen with a few coughs. His damp coat now held about 40 times the amount of dust and pollen it had before his bath.
Kimberly just sighed, shook her head and headed back to the barn.
“Wow!” exclaimed Justin. “I feel great! How do I look?”
“Yellow,” responded Vander, with a pollen-coated muzzle and mouthful of grass.
“At least you’re not mildewed!” whinneyed Madison.
Vander burst out laughing and blew his mouthful of half-chewed grass all over Brownie.
“Okay,” said Brownie. “I deserved that.”
Mandy wasn’t interested in the shenanigans. She didn’t care that she–or anyone else–was yellow. Mandy was only interested in the grass. In fact, she didn’t even notice when Jack and Claudia pulled up by the barn with their pollen-covered horse trailer in tow.
Jack and Claudia were Mandy’s parents, too. When we found her at a nearby farm, about 250 pounds underweight, the four of us went in on the modest purchase price to bring home a sweet horse and a beautiful broodmare.
Now Mandy was heading to Jack and Claudia’s to give the world another beautiful colt or filly.
Before we bred Mandy the first time, I remember pondering the issue of bringing another horse into the world. The economy and closed slaughterhouses were creating a glut of unwanted, neglected and abandoned horses. What business did we have helping create another pony?
We can’t change what people eat, but we could commit to raising, caring for and keeping Justin. And in Ellie’s case, we committed to making sure she went to a good home with horse lovers like us.
We can’t fix the entire world overnight, but it’s still surprising how much good we can do–and that good adds up.
“Your ride’s here,” I said to Mandy as I placed her halter on her head.
“Will there be grass?” Mandy asked.
“About 18 acres’ worth.”
“Buckets of food?” she asked.
“Every day,” I answered. I was experiencing d?j? vu from when Ellie moved away.
“Another baby?” Mandy asked.
“Well,” I said, “I… Er… I mean, that was discussed.”
“Yes!” shouted a green Madison from her pasture.
“All righty then,” Mandy said, leading me out the gate and towards Jack and Claudia’s trailer.
Jack was just opening the trailer door as Mandy walked past him and loaded herself.
“All rightly then,” I said.
Jack simply snapped Mandy in and closed the door. I wasn’t too sad about Mandy’s departure; she’d be back. And I certainly wasn’t worried about her; she would be with Jack and Claudia.
When Jack, Claudia and Mandy drove away, I was actually watching the other horses. Nobody made a peep. We put Madison in Justin’s pasture where Mandy used to be, where she resumed grazing in silence.
“They must know Mandy’ll be right down the road,” Kimberly said.
“Or the pollen has addled their brains,” I offered.
A blast of half-chewed grass covered the left side of my face. A yellow-dusted Justin just looked at me, grinning.
“HA!” he shouted. “You said ‘brains.'”
I wiped the grass from my face with my hand as I walked with Kimberly to the house. We turned in early after a comforting dinner of roasted chicken, mashers and homemade gravy.
I awoke just after daybreak to the sound of rain. When Kimberly and I went outside, the pasture, horses and our vehicles were clean.
Kimberly and I stood near the barn beneath an umbrella as the light rain continued. After a week of everything being yellow, we were pleased by the return of our farm’s familiar palette.
In silence, we watched our brown and black horses enjoying their green grass. And for the first time in what seemed like a long while, no one sneezed.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina. Read Jeremy’s other columns in EquiSearch.com’s Humor section.