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Married with Horses: The Knockingbird

A horsewoman's husband and his pets face off with a rambunctious mockingbird.

© Andy Myer
© Andy Myer

I was awakened just after sunrise by knocking on the bathroom window. After a week of this, I'd gotten into a routine. I stumbled to the bathroom and took down the two Hawaiian shirts hanging in the window. I walked to the closet, grabbed two other hangers with brightly patterned shirts, and hung them in the window. This would buy me at least another 45 minutes of sleep.

I suspected it was mating season for the mockingbird that insisted on throwing himself into the bathroom window for several hours each morning. He was apparently fighting with his reflection, which he mistook for a rival male.

The changing of the shirts seemed to confuse him for long enough for me to catch some more shut-eye. During this time he went around to the other "undressed" windows for more sparring. And this mockingbird pooped a lot when he fought his two-dimensional foes. I've never heard of this as a useful fighting technique for people, though I can see how it would be a quick way to get people to leave you alone.

Kimberly, Vander and Pepper were spending the weekend at a horse show, and I was going to join them that afternoon. Pickles and Jack were on Kimberly's side of the bed, staring at me when I awoke again to the sound of knocking at the window. I felt like I hadn't slept at all.

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"Hi, Dad!" Pickles purred.

"Prob'ly a liddle early for de entusiasm," I mumbled into my pillow.

"Nope!" Pickles responded. He sounded like a small motor boat as he scooted closer and curled up next to me. Pickles' purring drowned out the knocking on the window, and I fell back asleep.

When next I awoke, I felt even more exhausted, but forced myself out of bed anyway. I put on jeans and a T-shirt. The weather was cooling off, and I could finally wear long pants. When the daily temps drop below 80 degrees I start feeling more like myself. The North Carolina fall and winter bring wonderful layers of clothing, fires in the woodstove, and soup--lots of soup.

I could hear the mockingbird chirping angrily and throwing himself into the bathroom window as I walked from the house to the barn. I stopped to look at the windows on the back of the house. All the downstairs windows were streaked and smeared, the sills covered with bright blueberry-colored bird poop, and beneath each sill ran thin fingers of purplish bird mess.

I wondered if it wouldn't be easier to simply paint the entire house purple than to clean all the windows.

The horses were happily grazing in the pastures, so I set to work mucking the stalls. When I emptied the wheelbarrow I realized it was definitely time again to "neaten up" the manure pile with the tractor and bucket. By "neaten up" I mean push it further into the woods. It would be a few months before the farm would need large amounts of fertilizer. And by "farm" I mean a quiet and lovely place where one can literally spend days on poop-focused tasks.

The horses met me at the fence when I walked up with their buckets.

"Places, please!" I said, unlatching the main gate.

I closed the main gate behind me. The two interior gates that separated the three pastures were wide open and the ponies scrambled into their positions. Justin ran and stood in the northern pasture, Mandy in the eastern pasture, and Madison and Ellie moved to the western pasture.

I dropped their buckets and closed the interior gates so our slowest eaters, Mandy and Justin, could finish all their food without being bothered. Our self-appointed sentry dog, Hazel, met me as I exited the main gate.

"We have a security breach in zone 3," she reported, standing stiffly.

"At ease," I said. "Remind me again which is zone 3."

"From the air conditioner to the road and back along the hedgerow to the mulch pile."

"I thought that was zone 8," I said.

"Zones 8 and 22 are to the rear of our property along the soy field," Hazel said. "Last month I moved zones 31 through 46 to make patrolling easier for Macy and Sascha."

"Is it smart to take the cats from their barn posts to patrol the property?" I asked.

"No," Hazel responded, "but it's necessary. I'm spread a little thin since you bought the extra acreage."

"And what's the security breach in zone 8?" I asked

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