Midnight Searching

“CRAP!”  I was lying in bed at 11:20pm on a warm summer night, and I had forgotten to do something.

I swung my legs over the side of the bed, switched on the bedside lamp and slipped my feet into slippers.  My husband was a sound sleeper; he wouldn’t even know I had left.

I clomped down the long hallway, through the kitchen and into the mudroom.  Wiggling my bare feet into my smelly barn sneakers, I grabbed a headlamp and pulled it over my hair, then tied the shoes.

My outfit was not fit for the pages of Vogue: pajamas consisting of elastic waisted shorts and a knit tank top (pink), dirty blue sneakers, bad hair and a headlamp. Oh well, I lived in the country on a farm and no one would know.

I had forgotten to bring our two horses up from the lower pasture for their daily checkup and a meal of sweet feed.  My day had been hectic from 6AM to 6PM filled with farm work and errands, followed by an evening meeting.  I forgot all about taking care of the horses when I fell into bed exhausted.

Technically it was OK for them to stay in the back field; as there was plenty of grass and a small creek for water.  But I had my routines and the horses had missed their dinner.

At the barn, I poured feed into their plastic feeders which hung on the fence, 16 feet apart so they wouldn’t fight over the grain.  The fat one, Bandit, was known to steal grain from other horses, even though there was more left in his feeder.  He was just a piggy.

I stood at the fence and called them with a “Woot Woot!” sound and a whistle, the equivalent of their dinner bell. Then I listened, peering down the hill into the darkness.  I would hear them coming before I saw them.  The splash as they crossed the creek, the ringing of their horseshoes on the creek rocks, and then the fast thudding as they galloped the rest of the way across the flat field.

No sounds.  Hmm.  This was worrisome.

I trudged down the hill in my elegant costume. Once I found them, I was sure I could herd them up the hill.  I had done it many times before.

In the dark, horses can be found not by their body shape but by the shining red orbs their eyes make when reflecting a bright light.  I scanned the lower field with my headlamp.  No red orbs.

Further back, the creek crossed the pasture left to right, cutting this large field off from a smaller patch of grass on the other side. Maybe they are on the other side of the creek.

I tried to hop on rocks across the creek, but soon slipped on the moss, into the water.  I waded across in my shoes, ankle deep in water.  I squished my way to the other side of the creek and up a small hill.

Another headlamp scan of that smaller area.  No red orbs.  No horses. Uh-oh. Now I was really beginning to worry.

I walked the entire length of the fence line to see if a gate was open or a fence board down.  On the last stretch, I came across a section where the middle board was down. The top board was in place at four feet, so they would have had to crouch down to get under it. But never underestimate a horse.

I stepped through the opening into my neighbor’s field.  The neighbors did not keep livestock, so deep lush grass grew here, just over the fence from my closely cropped grass and weed pasture. In this case, the grass WAS greener on the other side, I understood why the horses would try to escape to this virtual buffet.

I noticed the long stems had been stepped on, and in 20 feet I came across the convicting evidence:  a pile of fresh horse manure.

As I scanned this field, four red orbs appeared on the far side.  Gotcha!  Bandit and Ozzy stood there munching quietly as I walked up.

“What are you guys doing over here?” I scolded.  “It’s time to go home.”

It was then that I realized I had not brought along any halters or lead ropes.  I tried to get Bandit to follow me by pulling on his mane, but he stood stubbornly in place.  I tried the same with Ozzy, but he was not leaving without Bandit.

Time to get creative.  I stepped out of my pajama shorts.  If I put Bandit’s head through the waistband and leg hole, I could use it to lead him.  I slipped the shorts over his nose.  The waistband made it up to his ears, but the leg hole got stuck; his head was too big to go through.  Meanwhile Bandit was tossing his head around with irritation. “Get this stinkin’ thing off of me.  I can’t see!’

“OK, that didn’t work,” I said aloud to myself. I stepped back into the shorts. The only thing left was my pajama top which had a large scoop neckline.  The only problem was that once it was off, I was bare naked from the waist up. In my neighbor’s field.  At midnight.

Oh, what the hell.  Everyone in their right mind was in bed sleeping.  I pulled it over my head.

The top went right over Bandit’s head and ears.  I gripped it tight around his neck and began to walk.  He followed.  Ozzy followed Bandit. Hallelujah!

We made our way down the neighbor’s hill, across his section of the creek, and across the field behind his house to the gate linking our properties.  I was praying the whole way, “Steve, please don’t hear a funny noise and decide to throw on the floodlights.  Cause I’m out here half-naked.”

I was surprised how chilly the warm night had become.

When we reached the gate, the horses started prancing, knowing they were going home.  They took off galloping towards the barn.  Bandit yanked the pajama top out of my hands and flew across the field with the pink fabric flapping.

“Hey! Come back here.  That’s my pajama top!”  I shouted this, but only in my mind.  I couldn’t take a chance of waking Steve and have him tell all of Lexington that Lady Godiva lived next door.

I fastened the gate, wrapped my arms around my chest and walked up the hill.  The horses were by the barn munching their grain, still breathing hard from their race up the hill.  I locked them into the paddock, then had to forcibly pull Bandit’s head out of his feed bin (piggy!) to retrieve my pajama top. It had been christened with horse sweat and hair.

I returned to bed in a clean T-shirt.  My husband was snoring peacefully on the other side of the bed. I snuggled in beside him, and glanced at the clock and smiled. Midnight. On the dot.

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