by Laura Crum
All of us who keep our horses where we live are familiar with the magic that just the everyday chores can bring. I have written before about sitting in the barn listening to my horses munch hay and watching them graze along the driveway and the myriad of small ways in which living with horses delights me. Even if I could no longer ride, I would still take great pleasure in owning horses.
So today I want to write about another joy that comes of having horses to feed. Its called “What I Saw on the Way to the Barn.” Because I feed fairly early—usually between seven and eight-- every morning, as I step out my door and sniff the fresh air, I’m aware that I might see something special.
I live in a hollow of the brushy California coastal hills—the same hills that I trail ride through so often. My house and barn are surrounded by wild land, where the wild critters live, and I see them all the time. Some mornings it’s a buck with a six point rack, or a spotted fawn (in the spring). Sometimes its Cooper’s hawks mating in the top of a pine tree, sometimes it’s a coyote stalking my chickens. Even if its only a flock of California quail, or Cinders the barn cat climbing down from the liveoak where he spent the night, its always something.
Yesterday morning I saw something so unique and special that I just have to write about it, even though I guess its not directly horse related. But then, some of what I get from my horses is the peripheral stuff. And this was great.
Because when I stepped out the door I saw a bobcat walking up the driveway toward me. I knew this bobcat. She’s been living on my place all summer and I see her often. She is tall, for a bobcat, and more spotted than most of them are. I suspected she’d been raising her kittens out here. She’s certainly taken a good many of my chickens, climbing a tree and diving out of it with a rooster in her jaws (plummeting 20 feet to earth), in her most spectacular kill (that I witnessed). So, yeah, I knew the bobcat.
As she came toward me (adult bobcats don’t tend to be much afraid of you) she meowed several times, which is unusual in my experience. I have heard bobcats growl and snarl, but she was meowing just like a domestic cat—mewing. And then I saw why.
Behind her trotted her two small, grayish kittens, following mama on an expedition. Their paws were a little too big for them and they still waddled a bit, their fur was fuzzy. They toddled after their mother, stopping to sniff things or gambol about from time to time. I froze, wishing I had my camera. I called my son, who came to the porch and stood with me. And together we watched Mama Bobcat lead her children in a procession up the hill and into the brush.
It sounds so simple and unimportant, written down like that. It might sound to some that I should be angry because the bobcat had taken at least a dozen of my chickens. But the truth is it was magic. It makes me feel like I’ve been given a sign or a blessing. Call me silly if you want, but my property has sheltered (among many other things) two young bobcats who are now making their way out into the world. How cool is that?
In the dawn light, with little wisps of fog drifting by the oak trees, the two kittens followed their mama up the hill. And I was there to see it. I like to think she knew I was there and paraded her babies past on purpose. Who knows? Though she certainly saw me standing on my porch.
Anyway, that’s my topic for the day. What delightful things do you see in the course of feeding your horses? For me, that’s one of the greatest joys of horse ownership.