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The Blizzard, continued ...

Dorothy was getting her self-confidence back big time. She soon felt frisky enough to take Coquetta loping along the dirt road to the east of her twenty acres. I joined her on Dudley while Marcie remained in the pasture with Lady Gold and Xerxes.

After about a mile, Dorothy swerved her mare off the road and jumped her over a ditch. "It's all coming back!" she shouted. "When I was a kid, I lived in Mexico. I hitched horse rides all the time. I hitched rides on cow horses and donkeys. Once I visited a racetrack, and galloped on a Thoroughbred."

Dorothy jumped Coquetta back over the ditch, balancing on the close contact saddle like a pro. It wasn't much more than a leather postage stamp. Even an expert wouldn't normally jump with it.

We slowed our horses to a walk, chatting and enjoying the sights.The high country sun warmed our faces. A Ferruginous Hawk drifted by on an updraft. He passed so near that we could easily see his markings, white with rusty stripes, almost like a Snowy Owl. He was turning his head from side to side, searching for prey. A flock of horned larks flashed into flight.

Suddenly Coquetta balked, then tried to turn home. Dorothy fought her, but Coquetta refused.

 

Xerxes, now muddy thanks to the thaw.

The mare wasn't flaring her nostrils and sniffing. She wasn't swiveling her ears like radar dishes, or pointing at anything with her nose. That ruled out a mountain lion, bear or pack of coydogs. I said, "This isn't like her. Something must be wrong. Maybe something bad is about to happen with the weather."

Dorothy nodded. "Let's go home." She was an old-timer and had told me her weather stories. This time of year, at 6,500 feet and on the flank of a mountain range, weather can turn deadly fast.

I scanned the sky. It seemed friendly. Still, I was a greenhorn. How did I know what a friendly sky looked like? To the southwest, just two or three clouds, no bigger than my hand, were rising out of the Tijeras canyon. I remembered seeing that once before. The next day, half a foot of snow had fallen.

After we got back, took off the horses' tack and brushed them, I called the weather service. A recorded voice droned, "Slight chance of snow showers tonight." I thought about how the old timers said the government never knew when a blizzard was on the way.

My teen daughters, Valerie and Virginia, agreed that Coquetta was on to something. They they wanted to move the bucks in with the dairy goats close by our home. If the weather got vicious, it might not be safe to trek a hundred yards over open country to the buck barn. Because of their breeding season perfume, moving bucks close in would be a sacrifice. I reluctantly agreed.

The does were already pregnant. So when my daughters turned their two bucks loose with them, the boys were as polite asif they had just gotten an etiquette lesson from Coquetta.

We already had a heat lamp in the goat barn, where the Border Collies and Great Pyrenees also lived. We also had one in the milking room, where the kitties variously napped, lounged, or begged for milk. That afternoon, we also installed a heat lamp in the hen house. Then we put up two hundred yards of snow fence.As the sun slid down the southwest sky, I slogged through soggy drifts and turf to the hospital barn and called Lady Gold. She and Xerxes trotted up and I let them in. Jo Kid and Choplicker stood guard, making sure that none of the other horses slipped through the gate with them.

By sunset, the sky hadn't changed much. A few puffs of cloud were lifting almost imperceptibly out of the southwest. The breeze promised another night of snowmelt.

At bedtime, I phoned the weather recording. "Chance of snow showers tomorrow." As I drifted to sleep, I prayed for snow, imagining the spring green it would feed. I was feeling like an experienced high country gal. I wouldn't make greenhorn mistakes. I was prepared for anything.

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© 2004 Carolyn M. Bertin. All rights reserved.