Monday, January 29, 2007

Article: Weird weather and wild horses

I know every drought ends on a flood. It’s one of my favorite sayings. So it came as no surprise when we got over five inches of rain at my house a couple of Saturday’s ago. Around five in the morning I heard the patter of raindrops with lightening in the distance. By six, the pounding sounded like someone beating a drum on the roof. Thunder and lightening provided counterpoint, like the cannons in The 1812 Overture.

Even so, when I got up around 7:30 and looked out the front window I was amazed to see that Garlic Creek, which runs across our property, had already risen over its banks and flooded the driveway. The creek has been dry these past two years; I’d almost forgotten it could carry water. As I looked out the front porch, raging waters engulfed our gazebo, perched precariously on the far bank and stretched all the way to cattle guard in the front.

For the next two hours I stood on the porch admiring the downpour and contemplating feeding the horses. The two in the back have a run-in where they can get out of the weather. I knew they were huddled there waiting for food. Thing is, it’s in the very farthest corner and slogging through the rain and mud figured to be pretty unpleasant. Nevertheless, I had to do it. The reality proved the premonition. The three in the front had to wait for the creek to go down, I didn’t get to them until well past noon.

The flood seemed like a good sign, with hay up to $10 per bale, we could use some grass growing around here. I can put up with a lot of mud to save some money. But then came the ice and the freezing rain. Those three equines in the front pasture don’t have any real cover, just a few scraggly trees that have lost all their leaves this time of year anyway. Normally they’re fine. I kept a horse in Missouri and in the winter I’d find icicles hanging from his chin and a hard crust of snow on his back. Horses can take the cold.

It’s not like that here. It hadn’t gone down to freezing much even at night before that ice storm. The horses were still wearing their fall coats, more like fluffy sweaters than down parkas. The cold hit them harder than I’ve ever seen. The only thing I could do was clean out the garage and let them hang out in there for the duration. I didn’t like the idea but I couldn’t come up with anything better. So I threw a bunch of hay on the floor, liberally mixed it with grain and invited the horses in.

Horses do not make good garage guests, let me tell you. They messed up the whole place. Food everywhere, trampled-on hay, horse manure. The garage looked like a barn! But I felt a better looking out the kitchen window and seeing their long faces lined up. At least they were dry if not exactly warm.

I could tell the weather had warmed up when I saw only one horse high and dry in the garage. A quick search of the property revealed incriminating evidence. The flood knocked the fence down where it goes over the creek and hoof prints were on both sides. The other two were gone, escaped onto sixty acres of cedar elm, oak, mesquite and juniper.

As I tramped through the woods tracking the rebels, the sounds of falling ice and creaking branches surrounded me. The weight of the ice had knocked down a lot of dead wood and caused low hanging limbs to hang even lower, blocking my path. I called to the missing horses but, of course, they didn’t answer.

Finally I spotted them, frisky as foals, running along the fence behind the neighbor’s house. No doubt they were visiting his horse. Tails in the air, they galloped toward me looking for breakfast. I locked them back up in their regular pen and filled their food bowls. They were knee deep in mud but hungry as horses.

Photo: View out the front porch of my house during the flood.

Photo: View out the front porch looking to the left. Somewhere through those trees is where the fence went down that the horses escaped through.
Photo: View out the front porch to the right. Our driveway runs along that right fence and through those raging waters.
Photo: This is poor little Phoenix with freezing rain in her mane.
Photo: Here is Buzz eating hay in the overhang of the garage. Notice all the icicles.
Photo: Phoenix has taken Buzz's place from the last photo with Buzz and Chesapeake in the garage. They always stand facing out. In fact, I saw them back in rather than go in and turn around.


Gary Godfrey said...

Wow - that looks like it was pretty close! Were you worried about your house?

I can understand hanging out on the porch. Your pictures really show the drama.

Typpy said...

The foundation adds about another two feet of height to the house so I don't think the water would ever make it inside. The land across the road would have to flood first and that's a lot of area.