Outdoors Column: No Appreciation

The snow started to fall in big fluffy flakes on Friday night. By Saturday morning, there were several inches on the ground and it was still coming down. All day, it continued until we had a fresh white blanket covering everything, almost a foot deep. Though more than a little annoying, I must admit, it is pretty.


The horses have been in the far west pasture for several weeks since there is still plenty of grass out there. They can reach the west side of the lake and paw through the ice to get water. They were living life, fat and happy with nobody to bother them. On Sunday, I was getting concerned that they were not getting anything to eat with deep snow covering the grass. The gates were open, so they could come back to the north pasture where a big round bale of hay waited for them, but they did not come back.


By Sunday afternoon, I decided to go get them, in case they forgot where the hay was located. I had driven the Ranger only a few yards before I realized it was going to be a challenging trip. Even in four-wheel drive, it was difficult to steer. Snow would pile up in front, so I was pushing snow as I went. Crossing the dam, I tried to build up speed, so I could make it up the hill on the opposite side. With clouds of snow flying past the windshield and sliding back and forth, I finally made it to the top gate. The trip from there to Twin Sluices was all level or down-hill. The drive through the timber was white and quiet. Tracks in the fresh snow from deer crossed the trail in many places and under several cedar trees, the snow was packed down where groups of deer had waited out the storm. Turkeys had plowed the snow around the base of oak trees where they were looking for acorns. Nearing Twin Sluices, I could tell when the horses had been raking the snow away to get to the still green grass. They apparently were not standing around starving to death. When I called, I could hear them before I could see them. They came thundering over the hill at full speed, bucking and kicking up clouds of snow. They were feeling mighty fine.


Knowing they would follow, I made a run for the top path. Sliding sideways and spinning out slowed my progress dramatically. The horses would run by, give a kick, and go to the top of the hill. When they got there, they would turn around and come roaring down the hill again passing by the Ranger with inches to spare. They thought this was great entertainment. Actually, it was quite terrifying. One slip and a horse would have been on top of the Ranger.


By the time we got to the bale of hay, the horses had traveled at least ten times as far as the Ranger had. Steam rolled off their backs and clouds of water vapor billowed out from their heavy breathing. I gave them some grain and cleaned the snow off the big round bale of hay placed for their eating pleasure. Fresh water ran open in the nearby creek. Though the horses were obviously not suffering, I felt better knowing they had plenty of food and open water.


By the time I got back to the house, the horses had finished their grain. They turned and ran bucking and kicking back up the hill to where they were before I helped them out. They were not even polite enough to take a bite of hay or get a drink. They showed no appreciation for my efforts.