Walking down the
long dirt driveway, after picking up the mail, I kick some of the stones loose
from the grey dirt. They skitter ahead of me, plinking off the electric fence
around our yard, installed so the horses could be let out during dry times. I
look up, I see my house, part of the barn, two paddocks, and the round pen. I
glance back at the house. The windows on the first floor are green, the rest
brown like the garage door. Mom hadn’t gotten a chance to reach them during the
fall and then the project was all but forgotten by the next summer. I walked up
the concrete slab that was the drive way. I glance at the row of square paint
splotches that ran along the right side of it. A memento from when my sister
and I got a bit loopy white washing the round pen. I look up from them to the
pen, my dad would sometimes train horses, or more specifically Cassy, in there.
Sometimes the horses would just hang out, given it was attached to the first
paddock. I walk up to the light pole in our yard and look it over. The walker
and the loafing shed stood tall as they always had. In front of the fence was
the trailer. We would play around it when we weren’t moving horses. I still
remember the second time we used it.
It was several
months after we bought our white Arabian, Precious. She had come from a small
breeder and was trained for new riders. We went to ride her on a warm summer
afternoon but found that even our biggest girth, the leather strap that holds
the saddle to the horse, was too small. My mom and dad took a look at her to
find she looked very much pregnant. Mind you this was not out of the realm of
possibilities considering she came from a breeder, a stallion could have gotten
out of his pen. Alarmed, they called the vet who told them that they would have
to bring her to them due to the large equipment that would be necessary for a thorough
investigation. She, like many other horses, was difficult to load but dad
managed it. When the vet initially looked at her she stated that not only was
she pregnant but very close to dropping. The vet put on one of those elbow
length gloves and reached in to check. She wasn’t able to find anything. She
went in with the ultrasound and found there was nothing. Turns out the stinker
bloated every summer and she only looked pregnant. On the way out of the vet’s
clinic Precious spotted the vet and proceeded to tuck her butt under herself,
something that, until that day, no one was aware a horse was capable of.
Needless to say my parents had a much easier time getting her back on.
creating a soothing thunder as they ran from the fourth to the third paddock.
This is home.
walk through my front door into the entry way. I place the mail on top of the rickety old
shelves. They looked like they would fall if you sneezed on them but they still
stand today. I look into the wash room as I walk past. I remember when my
brother was much smaller, he used to catch frogs.
Once when he
brought a large one inside, my mom told him he would have to let it go because
it had germs. Later, when we went to the store mom popped into the washroom before
we left and found the sink full of bubbles. She took a closer look at it and
found that the sink was staring back at her. We could hear her cries of alarm just before
she shouted my brother’s name. Turns out my 7-year-old brother had made the
logical leap that if the frog was germy then it needed to be cleaned. My mom
explained that that is not how this kind of thing worked, then helped him clean
up the poor creature before releasing into the back yard. We are not sure if it
was all right.
I walk past the
front closet which was mostly used to house our winter wardrobe, which was
extensive. It’s cold more than half the year in Minnesota, so unless you want
to walk into church wearing the same coat you had worn wile mucking stalls or
freezing your legs off with snow pants that are too thin you were going to need
a variety. With five people in one house they started to pile up. As I walk to the door that divided this room
from the rest of the house I look at the crack in the wavy frosted glass. My
brother had left it while rough housing with my sister. I think I was at the
computer on Barbie.com.
I walk into the living room and look around at
the wooden walls and old brown carpet. In front of me is the old striped couch
and next to me was the old futon. In another life, the latter had been mine and
my sister’s bed. By then we mostly only used it for sleepovers and days when any
of the kids were sick. I glance over the broken hockey table-now coffee table
to the giant back window that was also the back door. It over looked the lower
deck and the fifth paddock which contained the stock pond for the geo system.
Sometimes it was more fun to look out the window than the television. Most days if you looked out at about 1 in the
afternoon you would see a procession of our herd heading to the stock tank for
their drink. Cassy, our quarter horse filly, at the front, Cupcake, our
miniature show pony at the back and the rest intermixed in between. It hadn’t
always been our horses out there.
It was maybe a
week after we moved in, a Saturday. We wouldn’t have our own horses on the farm
for another year or so. As a kid I was an early riser. On weekends when I woke
up I would watch one of the few channels we got or I would put on a VHS. One
morning I was watching TV when I saw a white blur out of the corner of my eye.
I looked but saw nothing and went back to my show. A few moments later I saw a
brown blur followed by an older looking man in jeans and a t-shirt. After, I
dashed downstairs to wake up my parents. Turns out the old owners used to let
the neighbors put their horses out on what was now our pastures and forgot to
tell us. Our neighbors didn’t have as much land and they couldn’t grow grass
like we did. To date, we’re not sure how they had gotten out.
It was also
beautiful to look out at night. Like the night I had trouble sleeping. It
wasn’t for any particular reason my mind simply wouldn’t shut down. I was
wandering around the living room on and off the couch when my mom came up. She
asked me what was wrong and I told her. I had been standing by the back window
by then so she walked up to me, put an arm around my shoulder and looked up at
the moon. It was full and glowing blue in the chilled fall air. After a moment
she started swaying me gently, singing “Moon Shadow”. It was comforting and warm and fun. After she went back to bed, I
was able to sleep.
This is home.
I walk up the
stairs to the second floor. The wooden banister is wobbly from kids sliding
along the now polished ridge. I remember bumping down on my butt or shooting
Hot Wheels across the living room from the top. I turn back around to the
kitchen, living room and dining room. They are basically one big room with a
half wall between the living, and dining room. There was another large window
that also opened up to an upper deck. In the summer and early fall the window
would be covered in frogs. My brother, sister, and I loved it. Occasionally we
would bring one in and put it in a terrarium. I look at the kitchen. It’s small
and purple with ugly curtains over the window above the sink. We used to keep
monarch caterpillars there when we would find them on the milkweed that grew
around the round pen. We would raise them there and they would crawl up to the
top of the window frame to form their chrysalis and one morning we would wake
up and there it would be. Life here was often wonderful, but it wasn’t always
perfect these two rooms were where we often treated injuries too. One in
particular still bothers me today.
It had been a
fairly bad day for everyone. I was in 6th
grade and I had just attended the Young Authors Young Artist conference with a
select few from my school. It was longer than the school day so I had to wait
for my mom to come pick me up. I waited and waited. People started leaving one
by one, even the teachers. Finally I called my mom and the office phone and she
informed me that she had locked her purse with the all the keys in the house
and that I was going to have to wait for my dad to come get me from work. He
worked an hour away from home and he had to go through rush hour traffic. It
was another three hours before my dad arrived I was the only one in the school.
When I got in the car he was fit to be tied. He groused and complained the
whole way home. When we got back dad unlocked the door and we all stamped in
going to do our separate thing. I was going through the family room when I felt
a shocking pain in my foot. I looked down to find that I was gushing blood out
of one of my toes. I moved up stairs to the office where my mother was, leaving
a trail of blood behind me. I stood in the kitchen (because the carpet was
white and I didn’t want to bleed on it) and said “mom my toe is bleeding.” She
was in as bad a mood as the rest of us (and I tended to cry wolf at the time)
so she snapped, “Well, put a band aid on it!” Defeated I walked across the
white marbled linoleum to the pantry, leaving red footprints in front of spiny
chairs at the center island. I placed a paper towel to catch the blood while I
stretched to get the small cupboard above the double doored pantry. I tried to
stick the band aid down but it floated of on top the blood. “It’s not
sticking,” I called out meekly. The last thing I remember coherently was my mom
stomping around the corner saying, “oh fer…OH!” I vaguely remember sitting in
one of the old yellow stained chairs in the dining room and a bowl of water.
The next thing I truly remember was being in the car and talk of a tetanus
shot. Turns out when my brother had taken out the trash a stick from an
umbrella had fallen out and under the couch. When I walked by my cat, he bat it
out and I wound up skewering my toe. Strangely enough, the incident cut the
tension and everybody’s mood improved, even mine, and I had a hole going
through my toe.
This is home.
I walk upstairs to
the final floor, where my siblings’ and my rooms were. My brother’s is at the
end of the hall. My sister’s and mine is to the right, bathroom on the left.
You could also get to the attic, but I had never gone up before and I couldn’t
tell you what was there. I peek into my brother’s room to see if he’s in there.
It’s simple, with white walls and I giant book shelf on the wall opposite the
bathroom, always completely full. His bed was in the middle with toy boxes full
of rescue heroes, trains and toy cars all around. He had a walk in closet, like
the other bedrooms in the house, again full of toys. I remember it smelled so
bad one summer but we couldn’t place it. Apparently the Easter Bunny hid one
egg too well. My siblings and I would hang out in his room quite a bit because
it was the only room upstairs with a television. It was old, with little
buttons along the side to change the channels and a skinny silver turn nob for
on/off and volume. When we were young, we would sit on his bed and watch Yugioh
while finishing off candy from whatever holiday had been last. I walk through
his room to the door that connected to the bathroom. It has the same linoleum
as the kitchen which looked nice with the marble looking sink and teal toilet
and bathtub. My mom had done it up dolphin, with a stain glass corner
decoration on the window, soap dispenser, and shower gripes (that never
worked). I used to climb up on the sink
and play with the mirrors making look like I had a million faces. I walk across
the hall to mine and my sister’s room. I ring the cheap, pink, princess
doorbell as I pass by. Sometimes, during lightning storms, it would go off by
itself. The first time it happened it scared us stiff. I flip on the
glow-in-the-dark unicorn light switch and look around at our room. It’s small,
half of it taken up by out built in loft beds. Mine on the right, my sister’s
on the left. The one on the right was closer to the door and therefor warmer,
which is how I liked to sleep as a kid. I climbed the small flight of stairs to
my bed and looked over my room. The walls were purple, a compromise with my
sister. I wanted them pink, she wanted blue. So we painted the walls purple and
got the bedding in the colors we wanted. It looked nice with the green carpet,
not that you would know that. Our room was always a mess, clothing and stuffed
animals everywhere. The result of putting two people in a small space. Along
the top of our room was a border of running horses. We would say that the green
carpet was their pasture. There was a small shelf between the beds, also a mess
but we did manage to keep a radio there. During the school year our mom use to
wake us up by playing Disney songs with it, mainly “what’s this” and “seize the
day”. There was also the butterfly night light. I couldn’t sleep with it on she
couldn’t sleep with it off, so I would wait until she was asleep and unplug it.
It was part of living together. We had to make compromises and learn to be
civil with each other and get along even when we despised each other. We are
still close because of this arrangement.
This is home.
I run back through
the house and out the back patio. I run past the giant black starlight dish
that had no purpose beyond being a great target for snow balls. I run down the
small hill that is covered in sweet smelling clover and into the barn. I go in
through the apartment. It’s old looking and decrepit, with decors that looks
like it died in the 70’s. It smelled like moldy carpet, most likely because
there was a leak in the bedroom. The previous owners bred race horses and would
sometimes had a vet on hand who would live in there. By the time we moved in it
hadn’t been used in years. We mainly used it for storage given that we were not
breeders. I remember the first time we were in there, there was a dead mouse in
the toilet, and it freaked us out as kids. I run through into the main hall the
wooden screen door slamming like a gunshot behind me. I’m instantly hit with
its scent. Dust, old hay, horse apples, old leather, and grain all mixed
together. It was wonderful. I look at the giant white board next to the
apartment’s window. It’s covered in medical records for the horses as well as
doodles from kids who couldn’t keep away. Among it all was one name without a
purpose, Sodapop. The old owners left the name there when they left and we felt
that if it was that important to them then who were we to erase it. I walk past
the utility room and see my sister’s sighed photo of Clinton Anderson, the
horse trainer my dad learned from. My dad took his lessons to heart. With time
he could train a horse to do as he asked with a series of mouth clicks and the
gentle tap of his training stick. I walk
down the shed row, or the hallway between the stalls, running my hand along the
tack hung over the unused stall doors. They squeak under my touch, a soft
accompany to the clocking of my footsteps echoing ahead of me. The concrete
floors are thick, to hold the heat of summer in the winter and the cool of
winter in the summer. I look in some of the stalls we use when it got too cold
at night. They were bigger than the average stall, since they were meant for
race horses. On top of that there were two double wide stalls meant for
birthing. Generally we kept those open to the outside for loafing purposes. I
can still see our tiny Cupcake trying to push his little nose over the edge for
treats. I get to the second one down from the loafing stall to Bucky’s stall.
He was our quarter horse paint and our live in trouble maker.
One winter, it was
-45, I think, way to the point where we would bring in the horses. We were just
finishing tucking them in, giving water and grain from the large red and blue
bucket, placing hay in the corners and generally making them feel comfortable.
I was checking on Bucky, on my way to get more hay when he started lipping at
my coat. It had decorative frogs that I would never use so they wiggled and
dangled free. I thought he was just being friendly but no, he chomped on to one
and wouldn’t let go. I called for help mixed in with a shower of ‘let go!’ It
was a little scary, he was small but definitely strong enough to hurt me. But
my parents managed to get him off me and we still laugh about it today.
I hear Cassy
clanging on the gate at the end of the shed row, as she always does for
attention. I scold her, then pet her before pushing her back so that I could
get into the paddocks.
This is home.
I walk into the
mini paddock, which was a small pen area between the first and second paddocks.
I see the round feeder, a giant piece of metal that goes around rolls of hay to
keep animals from trampling it. It’s broken, the draft horses probably when
they tried to get further in. I look down the second paddock and at its red
gate. I think about my favorite horse, Blue.
She wasn’t the
smartest horse, too many reoccurring names in her pedigree, but she was sweet
and did what she was told. One winter my parents closed the gate to put hay in
the mini paddock. When they were done they opened the gate part way so the
horses wouldn’t get stuck against the manger. The others had no trouble getting
around it and to the hay, but not Blue. She looked down at the gate then at the
hay then back at the gate. Her face almost said “GATE! FOOD!” she couldn’t
figure it out. Cassy looked back at her and gave and audible sigh before
walking back and herding her in the right direction. She was so excited that
she almost forgot her place in the herd, which was not before Cassy. Blue
dashed up, realized what she was doing, stopped and backed up behind her.
I walk through the
gate following a path that was slightly worn by both me and my horses. I liked
to take long walks back there. I learned what was normal, what needed fixing. I
figured out where the nettles were, the back left corner or the third paddock.
I found wild hazel nuts by the old downed tree half way up the fourth paddock.
We found cassis berries growing in an old manger. On my routs I would sometimes
walk down to the edge of our stock pond. I didn’t even know it was there until
we got the bruisers (our draft horses) and they knocked down the skinny birch
trees so we could see it. I walk down to the edge holding onto one of the still
standing trees and peer in. It was full of leaves and debris from downed trees.
I watch for a while until I spot the gold fish my dad stocked back there to
control the mosquito population. They are mostly black, given that that is what
camouflaged best in the water. I was never sure how deep it was even though I
tried to measure it was tricky and I could never find a way that didn’t require
me to be out on it.
continue on, my walk turning into a run. My feet pounding on the solid clay
soil. I can hear the horse call from another paddock. My feet clunk over the
wooden plank from a broken fence I laid down so I could run over the drain off
from the stock tank. I’m working on dialogue for characters in my stories. Out
here among the trees, milkweed, and grass no one cares if I shout my
character’s frustration. If I run, skip, or jump as they would, or pull on the
squeaky wire fences. My neighbors are too far to hear, glorious isolation. The
only ones who care are my horses, who would sometimes come and find me if I
sounded too distressed. Out here I am
free to be myself, to write the way I need to write. To be with the animals I
love, surrounded by woods and plants and an open sky, bright blue in the day
and at night an endless ocean of stars.
is my own little world. A biosphere that shaped me, built me into the person I
am today. It nurtured my creativity and my spirit. This home was part of me. It
shattered me as I climbed into the truck for the last time. I watched it
disappear into the distance with tears in my eyes.
want to go home.