Etienne, a horse trainer friend of Richard’s, just arrived from France. He is staying with us. Conversing with him is dicey… what with my lack of French and his lack of English. I’m never exactly sure that he knows what I’m saying. He can speak short sentences in English. He does nod his head “yes” when I ask if he understands something. As long as I keep the conversation limited to “dogs” and “horses” we seem to be OK.

One extreme challenge occurred when I tried to discus using “air miles”. That was a real test! When I began that conversation Bill said, “He’s not going to get this!!!” but I persevered. You see, Bill and I are hoping to get Richard, Bill and Etienne down to Austin, Texas with “air miles” to spend some time with Allen Pogue. After drawing a picture of a plane, flapping my arms and picking up a DVD by Allen, I think Etienne understood.


Last night I went over to tuck the horses in. Usually Bill comes with me. He has his jobs; I have mine. But he didn’t surface at 9:30 (our appointed time), so I headed out, alone.

This evening ritual entails watering, feeding roughage cubes/beet pulp/hay and doing our second mucking-out of the day. Some evenings I say to myself, “I’ll just feed and water. They’ll survive without me mucking-out, again.” However, I always muck-out. There’s something about the sound of the horses munching on their hay that totally relaxes me and I find myself at the end of the pitchfork, contentedly tidying up each stall.

Another evening chore is: feed the barn cats. “Two N C” (that’s the name of a big black and white cat. His name is an abbreviation for “second in command”) was not to be found, but the three kittens which were born a year ago were zipping around. Well, at least two of them were. The orange one was at the back of the barn, near a tall cupboard, playing with something. The calico cat stopped by to see what Orange was doing and the small black and white cat, who looks suspiciously like Two N C, gave Orange’s toy a cursory glance.

Not one of the three kittens has acquired/earned a name. The litter born two years ago instantly sported names, “Bounce”, “Jump” and “Co-Pilot”. “Bounce” bounces everywhere. “Jump” jumps and “Co-Pilot” is ALWAYS sitting in the closest farm vehicle.

While I was fetching the cat food from the cupboard I tried to figure out what Orange was playing with. It looked like a narrow, white plastic tube. I could not see the entire thing because some of it was behind the stack of pitchforks. For a brief second I almost bent down to pick the plastic up and throw it in the garbage, but something diverted me and I continued fetching cat food.

As the minutes went by I noticed that Orange was STILL playing with the plastic. I finished watering. He was still there. I finished mucking out Sherlock’s stall and Orange was still there. Enough was enough. I had to see what the sweetie was playing with. I bent over…”eee gads!!!! That’s not a plastic tube! It’s a tail! A hairless tail. A long hairless tail.” I searched my brain for “critters with hairless tails” and I didn’t come up with one animal that I’d be happy to share my barn with.

I stepped back and started cursing Bill. Where was he? I needed him HERE, RIGHT NOW!!!

The barn phone is on the other side of the tall cupboard. I picked up the receiver and punched in our number. Nothing. All I heard was a dial tone.

This is not unusual when it’s cold. The phone is hung on an exterior wall and seems to delight in freezing up when I don’t want it to. The other teeny, tiny problem is: the phone is on the same line as the house phone, so…even if I did get the phone to work, it wouldn’t ring at the house. The good news is: the answering machine light would blink on, but what were my chances of Bill noticing a small red light…blinking? I turned to plan “B”. If I could warm-up the phone perhaps I could call one of my neighbors, perhaps Ann and Bud McLean or Werner and Karin Platz and then THEY could call Bill and tell him to get his butt over here. One of the many problems with plan “B” was: it was after 9:30 on a Saturday night and I didn’t have the guts to call ANYONE!!!

I looked at Orange. He was still keeping the critter trapped behind the cupboard. With just a little bit of luck he’d maintain that pose and I could leave the barn, drive to the house and get Bill. If my luck held out Bill would find Orange and the THING in the same spot when he arrived at the barn.

I finished mucking-out the other three stalls, checked Orange (yep, everything was still copasetic) and STILL CURSING BILL, I left the barn.

I drove into the garage, parked the Caravan and shut the garage door. No matter what evolved in the next few minutes I would NOT be returning to the barn this evening.

Bill was in the family room. One quick look at him told me he was fighting a migraine. Damn! Well, migraine or no migraine, he was going to solve this problem.

“Bill, there’s either a rat or an opossum to the left of the tall cupboard in the barn. The orange kitten is playing with its tail. You need to go to the barn and relocate that THING with the hairless tail!”

“Where did you say it was?” This was Bill, sort of surfacing from his migraine. I told him again…two more times…and, finally, he prepared to go to the barn.

Just as I heard Bill opening the garage door to fetch his boots, our front door opened. It was Etienne. Richard had just dropped him off. I ran to the door, opened it and looked for Richard’s car. It wasn’t there. Drats! If Richard had been there he could have gone with Bill. (Even though Richard is also from France, his English is much better than Etienne’s. Although “Good English” wasn’t of paramount importance is the upcoming mission, it would help expedite things.)

Etienne was surprised at my actions so I calmed down and tried to tell him what was in the barn. I was hoping that he’d accompany Bill. The words “rat” and “opossum” drew a blank look. I started explaining, again. This time I squeaked like a mouse and made little crawling motions with my fingers (sort of like a mouse would move). Ah, he understood.

I went on to “rat”. No problem there.

I took the huge leap to “opossum”. A blank look, however, Etienne was piecing things together. Obviously there was something in the barn that needed to be removed. That something was alive.

I gave up on “opossum” and said, “Can you go help Bill get rid of the thing?”

He looked me in the eye. Sort of stunned me with his gaze and calmly said, “I’m not a warrior.”


P.S. “Orange” now has a name. It’s “Warrior”. The critter was an opossum.