The 156-year-old farmhouse on our 16-acre horse farm is in great condition and has retained all its historic charm and romance.
Part of that charm and romance is the absence of water pressure and closet-sized bathrooms without fans that become steam rooms after even the fastest shower. With the tiny mirror over the tiny sink in the tiny bathroom completely fogged over, shaving is a major undertaking. I frequently leave long stripes of stubble or simply nick myself so badly I frighten boarders in the barn with streaks and splotches of dried blood on my neck and shirt collar.
Sometimes my appearance doesn’t matter. Like this morning, my misshaven face would only see the horses and some dirty stalls. I turned the horses out and grabbed the muck rake.
About halfway through the second stall, the plastic head on the rake split in two. It was likely a death precipitated by my constant tightening of the ever-loosening nut and bolt that connected the head to the handle.
I wondered if I really needed the rake. I mean, you can wash your hands, right? I started somewhat hesitantly, picking up only the small, dry pieces. I tossed them into the muck bucket like basketball free throws. After a couple of three-pointers, my disgust came under control and my confidence grew. I started going for the huge piles. I couldn’t throw them very easily, but I could get nearly the whole pile with both hands. I could actually pick up more at one time with my hands than I could with the muck rake. I had to use a shovel on the pee spots, but that was quick.
I was sweaty, a little stinky, but on a roll. I was on my third hand-mucked stall when I heard a commotion further down the barn aisle. I was so into my new muck method, I hadn’t noticed anyone enter the barn. I peered into the aisle to see several of the boarders in a stall gathered around Boo, the Appaloosa mare.
“What is it?” asked her owner, Candy.
“It looks like that Tahitian ringworm I heard about–‘specially that crusty stuff there,” Jack said, pointing at a blackish splotch on Boo’s side.
“How in the world did she get that?” asked Candy, growing bewildered. “What can I do? Oh my God, I just got her sound again and we have a show this weekend!”
“You can’t put a saddle on that! Cracky had the same thing. Boo needs bute, antibiotics and two weeks of stall rest.” said Delores, confidently.
The group heard my footsteps behind them and grew silent. Candy turned, glaring at me.
“What did you feed her?” she demanded.
“The same as what I feed her everyday,” I said.
“Naw, naw, Candy,” interrupted Jack, “they don’t git it from food, they git it from other animals.” Jack squinted at me. “What’s wrong with your face?” he asked. “And what’s that smell?”
“Did you let your stinky dog in Boo’s stall?” Candy shouted.
“What?” I managed.
“Or did you put one of your stinky horses’ blankets on her?” Candy hollered.
“What is this about all our animals being stinky?” I asked.
The group had turned back to Boo and her black splotch. Candy was crying while Delores offered her a tissue and Jack consolingly patted her back. They all looked terribly worried, except Boo, who was munching on treats. Candy was now worked up into a tizzy because she was certain Boo was facing much more that simple stall rest. Candy was sure Boo faced a certain and painful death. She mused that she couldn’t deny a dying horse some treats before she passed away.
“How long is she going to live?” Candy asked Jack, sobbing.
Boo’s splotch looked very familiar. Something about it made me want to play basketball. Before anyone else had a chance to start crying or speak, I broke through the group with a curry comb and a brush.
“My God!” Candy cried. “Boo, what is he doing to you?”
I made a few short, deep circles with the curry comb, adding a quick pass with the brush. The splotch was gone. I smiled. The group gasped. Boo, oblivious to the drama, looked around for more treats.
“It was just poop,” I said, as the small cloud of dust cleared. “I think she’s gonna make it.”
Boo found the bag of treats where Candy had dropped it and continued eating. The group was silent as I scooted past them to finish cleaning the stalls. Candy didn’t say anything more about our “stinky” animals. Actually she didn’t say anything more at all. She soon slinked out to her blue truck and quietly drove home.
As I pondered my amateur veterinary skills, I absent-mindedly stroked my chin. My fingers ran over several patches of stubble I’d missed with the razor. Okay, so I probably needed a new muck rake, and I couldn’t figure out how to shave my face, but who cares about mucking or shaving when you just discovered the cure for deadly Tahitian ringworm?
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina with their two cats, two dogs and two horses.
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