Married with Horses: The Knockingbird

A horsewoman's husband and his pets face off with a rambunctious mockingbird. By Jeremy Law for EquiSearch.com.
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A horsewoman's husband and his pets face off with a rambunctious mockingbird. By Jeremy Law for EquiSearch.com.

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.

"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

"Three," Hazel answered.

"Three security breaches?" I asked.

"No--just one in 3," she answered.

"So security breaches are down 66 percent?"

"What?" Hazel was now as confused as I was. "There's one breech in zone 3. It's a bird. It's making lots of noise and a big mess."

"I see. Can you deploy the feline troops for this one?"

"They're less than enthusiastic about the mission," Hazel said. "Also, it's nap time."

Hazel followed me as I crept around to the bathroom window on the east side of the house. The mockingbird was going to town, seemingly undeterred by the shirts' bright paisleys and plaids.

I returned to the garage to retrieve a hose with spray nozzle, and connected it to the spigot just around the corner from the bird. I turned the water on full and with hose in hand I crept in beneath the large butterfly bush by the bathroom window.

"I wouldn't do that," Hazel whispered as she peeked around the corner of the house.

"You had your chance," I whispered back and crept in further.

When the mockingbird came in for another attack I leapt from the bush, aimed the spray nozzle, and let loose the water. Unfortunately, when I leapt out, I pulled tight a kink in the hose. A rather anticlimactic spurt of water was followed by a brief, sputtering mist and then nothing.

The spurt of water was only sufficient to further agitate the already agitated mockingbird. He dove at my head. I tried to escape between the house and the butterfly bush, but my left pant leg tore and became caught on a thick and recently-pruned branch.

The mockingbird dove again and again. I was pecked and clawed and shrieked at as I tried to free myself. The kink in the hose must have loosened in the commotion, because the spray nozzle that was now jammed in among some branches let loose a powerful jet of water that instantly soaked and blinded me.

"Urg!" I shouted wetly.

"Retreat!" Hazel hollered and ran.

I fell to the dirt. I was beneath the jet of water and able to pull my left boot and pant leg loose. The water shooting from the bush kept the mockingbird at bay as I prepared my escape.

Again I leapt from the bush, this time with my pants half off, shouting and wildly swinging a boot around my head. The bird was gone.

Pickles and Jack had pushed aside the shirts and sat motionless in the bathroom window. Then they sat up and began clapping silently behind the glass. I heard other tiny applause behind me.

Macy and Sascha sat in the grass clapping as best they could with their little, well-padded paws.

"You came," I said.

"You woke us up," Macy responded. "What was all the racket?"

I pretended not to hear Macy's question. I turned off the water and looked around. The mockingbird was nowhere to be seen, and neither were any neighbors with cameras or video cameras.

"Nice job everybody!" I said. "That was a real team effort today."

I left the scene before anybody could say anything. I hung up the wet clothing, toweled off and crawled back into bed. I wondered if I should have ever gotten up. At least I had another hour before I needed to leave for the horse show. I set the alarm and lay back on my pillow.

"You sure showed that bird who's boss!" Pickles exclaimed before he and Jack curled up next to me. Pickles and Jack were both purring like motorboats, which was nice because I could barely hear the angry knocking on the window as I drifted to sleep.

Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina.

Read Jeremy's other columns in EquiSearch.com's Humor section.