I would like to take a moment to honor a few brave articles of clothing that sacrificed themselves in the name of equine caretaking.
1. Numerous white shirts--mostly long-sleeved, cotton, button-up shirts.
A friend warned me: the greater your desire to keep your clothing clean, the more dirt, manure, grass stains, rips and tears your clothing will attract. It took a while for this to sink in. Several white dress shirts were lost to the impossible notion of "just dropping the feed buckets." It always happened when Kimberly and I were headed out for dinner. (Fortunately, the cost of keeping horses prevents us from being able to dine out very often; it would only mean the demise of more shirts.)
On one occasion, the buckets had barely hit the ground before Vander filled his mouth with wet beet pulp and wiped his face across my chest. Examining the stain in the laundry room only moments later, I realized Vander's striking aptitude for soiling clothes. The stain was primarily macerated beet pulp and grain, but with expertly-incorporated splotches of dirt and streaks of grass with just a touch of slobber. Vander truly elevates staining clothes to an art form.
I lost another shirt the same way, though while Vander got my front, Skip got my back. Skip's stain was so amateurish, though. It was just dirt. Poor guy--he has so much to learn.
The most destructive incident involved Vander and Skip attempting a double-team stain attack. They both missed. I laughed and danced around while pointing and mocking them with childish taunts. They seemed disappointed until I got caught while climbing through a section of rough, wooden fencing. A split board snagged my collar and ripped the back right off my shirt. Needless to say, it also wiped the smug look from my face.
2. My favorite tie.
It had flowers on it, which may explain what happened. (Just let me add that these were tough, manly flowers.)
Yes, this was another pre-dining garment fatality. It had been weeks since the last mishap involving any clothing, and my guard was down. I dropped the loaded buckets and Vander seemed to be approaching with a calm air of camaraderie. I raised my hand to pet him; he stepped closer and lowered his head. I placed my hand affectionately just beneath his forelock. Vander reciprocated by taking my tie in his teeth and standing straight up. I struggled to pull the tie from his bite as the flowers tightened around my neck. He calmly chewed while I struggled to catch a breath. This was really, really "knot" how I wanted to die.
I jammed my thumb in the corner of his mouth and the tie slid from between his teeth. Sweaty and light-headed I yanked at my shirt collar and loosened the tie. The bottom four inches of the tie were now little more than colorful frayed threads. The sad, remaining flowers stared sappily up at me as if to say "goodbye." I got little sympathy from Kimberly. I suspected a conspiracy, but I couldn't prove it. Kimberly has never admitted it, but I know she hated that tie.
3. A leather wallet. Not everything I've lost to my being married with horses was an article of clothing. On one occasion, I was dressed in "horse appropriate" jeans, boots and a T-shirt. It was feeding time, and I entered the pasture where Vander and Skip were grazing. I placed the loaded buckets on the ground about 20 feet apart. Vander is usually the first to the buckets, but not this time. Because each horse gets a different set of supplements, I attempted to block Skip from eating out of Vander's bucket.
I stepped in front of Skip just as Vander came up and bit Skip in the behind. Skip lunged forward into me, knocking me back. I stepped right into Vander's feed bucket, lost my balance and tumbled backwards into the water trough. I was soaked, slightly scraped up, but thoroughly refreshed.
Unfortunately, my wallet didn't stand a chance against the shenanigans of two, 1100-pound paddock beasts. What few dollar bills it held quickly dried, but, alas, the wallet was ruined. I figured I didn't need it. We were about to buy a new load of hay and pallet of feed so I wasn't going to have anything to put back in the wallet anyway.
4. A wristwatch. See previous story.
5. A cell phone. See previous story (sigh), again.
6. Perhaps the strangest things sacrificed in the name of equine care are contained in the following list: one pair of frilly woman's underwear, one leather couch, a pizza, a really expensive Oriental rug and one pair of prescription glasses. The first four were ruined in less than five minutes on an evening I wish were longer ago than it is.
It was nearly feeding time, and I had just finished with some laundry. I brought a basket of clean clothes upstairs to the bedroom. On the way back down, I saw a pair of Kimberly's underwear on the stairs. Hoping to avoid embarrassment with any unannounced house guests, I stuffed it in my back pocket and headed out to the barn. Most of our boarders were there, finishing up with their rides and bringing the horses inside.
I still had time to set up the buckets and refill some troughs as the horses cooled down from their workouts. Candy's grumpy Dutch Warmblood, Tully, was not competing this season and spent his days in the pasture nearest the barn. A few of the boarders stood near the gate, engaged in chit-chat. As I refilled Tully's trough, I leaned over to pick out a few leaves swirling in the small whirlpool of fresh water.
I was unaware that Tully stood behind me until I felt a tug on my jeans. He nearly lifted me up by my pants. I buckled in the middle and landed on my ear. (If you ever fall down, I strongly recommend you avoid landing on your ear.) I was on the ground with Tully still tugging on my back pocket. Cowboy Jack ran into the pasture to assist me, but stopped short when Tully pulled the pair of pink panties from my pocket. I can only suspect that Jack thought Tully had yanked a pair of women's underwear I was not carrying, but actually wearing. I spit out a mouthful of dirt as Tully ran past Jack and out the gate he'd left open.
It was about this time that our landlady, Rachael, was in her truck heading down the gravel drive to the barn with a new, leather couch she intended to store in our already over-furnished house. Tully ran out in front of her. Rachael swerved and slammed on the brakes, launching the new, leather couch into the dusty, gravel drive.
Oblivious to the commotion, Candy was backing her trailer past us so she could turn around and head home. We yelled and waved to stop her before she ran over the couch with her gigantic trailer. She smiled and waved back as the trailer simply ground the now not-so-new couch into the gravel. Cracking wood and a trail of shredded leather accompanied Candy down the small hill past the hay barn. As she pulled out toward the road, she smiled and waved at Rachael who sat motionless and wide-eyed with her mouth hanging open.
Tully ran back to the barn and straight down the aisle. Our old, deaf Border Collie/Afghan mix, Kit, was standing in the barn and was nearly trampled by the crazed, pink panty-toting warmblood. Kit decided to call it a day and ran to the house. Fortunately, Tully was beginning to lose steam, now walking in circles in our front yard. I grabbed his bucket and shook it as I walked to his pasture. He casually trotted in and Jack closed the gate. He dropped the underwear and began eating. Jack shot me a suspicious glance as I retrieved the panties and put them in my pocket.
Back in the barn, Mike and Delores stood arguing about who ate the pepperoni and cheese off the pizza they brought for dinner. They went back and forth as I dropped the rest of the buckets and looked around for Rachael. That was going to be an awkward and expensive conversation. Luckily, she was gone. Perhaps we had scared her off for a few weeks this time. At least something good would come of this situation.
I wasn't eager to talk to Jack about underwear, so I headed back to the safety of the house. Kit was waiting for me on the porch. I let her in. Once inside, I stood at the kitchen window looking out at the barn, thinking, "This place might actually be the death of me. Who could be safe around horses with panty fetishes, angry, broken-furniture-toting landladies and suspicious boarders?" My moment of paranoia was interrupted by a strange sound in the living room.
Kit stood sheepishly on the Oriental rug in the living room. In front of her was a rather large pile of what looked like cheese with pepperoni. With an expanse of wood flooring and a mostly-red Oriental rug, she had chosen the one white section of the rug for her throw-up. I let her back outside so she could eat some grass. I was just able to finish cleaning up the rug as Kimberly arrived home.
"How are things?" she asked. "Anything interesting happen today?"
"Ummm, let's see," I replied, looking thoughtful. "No, not really."
"Are those my underwear in your pocket?"
"Oh, these? Heh, yeah. I just washed them."
I handed them to her. Kimberly made a face as if I had handed her roadkill. She held the panties out at arm's length, pinched between her thumb and forefinger. Her underwear was covered in dirt and half-chewed grass.
"My bad," I said. "I meant that I was about to wash them."
"Have you been drinking?" she asked, looking at me suspiciously.
"Absolutely not!" I responded.
"Maybe you should. And I don't know what you're fixing for dinner," she said as she walked from the room, "but I'm kind of in the mood for pizza. I'll take a shower first, though."
I listened to her footsteps as she walked upstairs. I sat down on the couch. I heard something crunch as I sat down and remembered only then where I'd set my new glasses while I was cleaning the rug. I just sat there on my broken glasses. I didn't move. I figured maybe I should spend a few, quiet minutes not getting into trouble or breaking anything.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina with their two cats, two dogs and two horses.
Read Jeremy's other columns in EquiSearch's Humor section and share your comments in the forum.