Our kids grow up so fast these days. They're moving faster into life than I remember doing myself--in every respect. I don't know where the time goes.
Justin had gotten huge without me noticing. I was obviously spending way too much time at the restaurant. At least I had a chance to reacquaint myself with the horses while Kimberly spent the weekend taking in a horse show with her trainer.
Our new farmhand, Joe--together with our long-time horsey neighbors, Jack and Claudia--were taking care of the daytime farm duties. I was covering the late night snacks and bed checks.
Justin was growing up fast. In fact, he had grown so much that he could easily get his head over the top of the 5-foot-high no-climb fence. I barely recognized him. And apparently he barely recognized me.
"Who are you?" Justin said, tilting his head.
I was unshaven, without my glasses and still wearing my pinstriped skull cap. I couldn't shave, but I removed my hat and put on my glasses.
"Dad!" Justin shouted.
"Is that beef I smell?" Mandy said to me, making an unpleasant face with a wrinkled up nose.
"Ribeye steaks," I said, "among other things. I worked the grill station tonight."
"Ugh," Mandy added. "You stink. You stink as bad as those 1980s fast food television commercials."
"Where's the beef?" I asked.
"Where's the beef!" Justin shouted, seemingly amused with himself. "Where's the beef!"
"Alright, alright," I said.
"Where's the beef!" He exclaimed again. "Zoooooom!" he shouted as he disappeared into the darkness.
"Nice," I said. Mandy just smiled before turning and walking away.
Vander, Madison and Brownie were in their stalls. I gave them their late-night flakes of hay.
"Orchard grass?" Vander asked. "Where's the beef?" All three burst out laughing.
"You guys don't even know what you're saying," I commented.
"Wendy's," Madison responded.
"1984," Brownie added.
"It sure is a fluffy bun," Vander said. And with that, all three burst into another round of laughter.
"Touch?," I said.
"Never underestimate the power of the internet," said Vander.
"Or horses," said Brownie.
"You guys use the internet?" I asked.
"Mom leaves her iPhone in the barn a lot," Vander responded.
"Aren't your hooves a little big for the touch screen?" I asked.
"No," said Brownie. "There's an app for that, too."
"Granted," said Madison, "a laptop and WiFi in the barn would sure be nice."
I said nothing, but simply turned off the barn lights and retreated to the house.
I lay down on the living room couch and glanced at my watch. It was almost 1:30 a.m. I was nodding off when Pepper climbed up beside me on the couch.
"Mmmmm," she whispered. "New cologne? It sure is...beefy."
"Um...I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this," I said, sitting up.
Pickles and Jack appeared on the back of the couch. They both squinted and sniffed the air.
"HA!" Pickles exclaimed. "Where's the beef?"
"What did you say?" I asked.
"Vander texted me a link to that YouTube video the other day," Pickles answered. "So, I emailed him back with a link to 'I Can Has Cheezburger.' I love it!"
"Mom leaves her iPhone in the kitchen a lot," said Jack.
I don't remember falling asleep. But an earthshaking clap of thunder woke me up just before 5a.m. I was still on the couch. Pepper was snoring beside me. Pickles and Jack were asleep on my chest.
I pulled my phone from the pocket of my kitchen pants and checked the weather radar. Mandy and Justin usually stayed outside at night, but not during storms.
As horse owners, I think Kimberly and I used our phones to check the weather more than for making phone calls. In between television weather reports, and in the absence of internet access, cell phone weather forecasts were time--and life savers.
I glanced over the small, animated weather map. For such a tiny map, it looked pretty ominous with its bright patches of yellow and red. Also, a tornado watch had been issued for our county. Another clap of thunder woke the cats and dogs.
I slid out from under the groggy animals and into a rain coat and rubber boots. The rain was coming down in sheets and all routes to the barn were flooded. It would have almost been easier to swim.
As I grabbed halters for Justin and Mandy, I could just make out two miserable, soaked, horse-shaped forms in the rain.
When I reached them, Mandy threw herself into her halter. Justin's halter, however, barely fit over his head. His ears were mashed into his forehead and rain ran down into his eyes. I removed it.
Mandy had had enough and pushed forward through the open gate. I pulled it closed behind us.
"I'll be right back, Justin," I shouted through the downpour.
I had barely gotten Mandy into her old foaling stall before Justin began to whinny. Mandy whinnied back.
"What are you doing?" I asked. "He was weaned months ago!"
"I can't help it!" Mandy exclaimed. "My baby! My baby!"
I ran back to the pasture, but all the commotion had the entire herd in an uproar.
"My baby!" shouted Mandy
"My baby!" shouted Justin
"Where's the beef?" hollered Vander.
Justin was sufficiently soaked that I could slide the too-small halter over his head, though I couldn't clip it closed beneath his chin. I grabbed the cheek piece and led him to the foaling stall.
"My baby!" shouted Mandy.
"Who?" Justin responded. I pushed him into the stall and closed the door.
I glanced at the radar map as I lay down on a couple of folded turnouts in the barn aisle. We had at least a few more hours of storms to look forward to.
If I went inside and climbed into the warm, dry bed, I wouldn't want to come back out to the barn when the rain stopped. So, I covered up with a fleece cooler and went to sleep for almost two hours.
I dreamed that I was back in the rain. It was a hard rain. It felt like little pellets. It hurt. I awoke to Vander spitting bits of grain at my face.
"The rain stopped," he said dryly.
I led Mandy and Justin back outside. The pasture was muddy, but not flooded. They plodded off to the drier area near the center.
I plodded off to the bedroom, hoping to catch a few more winks before work.
I awoke when my phone rang a few hours later; it was Kimberly.
"How's the farm?" she asked
"A little wet, but good."
"That was a funny text you sent me," she giggled.
"Text?" I asked.
"The link to that funny old commercial," she said. "I'd almost forgotten about it. It gave me a good laugh."
"Oh," I said "That text."
"The final's about to start," Kimberly said, "but I'll call you again shortly. I love you."
"Love you, too--bye."
Pickles and Jack lay beside me on the comforter.
"We also sent it to every one of your contacts," added Jack.
"Where's my phone?" I asked.
"Over here!" said Pepper from the floor on the other side of the bed.
She jogged around to my side with the phone in her mouth. Pepper leapt up onto the bed and dropped the dripping, slobber-coated phone by my head.
"I had to upload some photos to my Facebook page," she said smugly. "You might want to plug your phone in, the battery's almost dead."
Joe was leading the other horses out when I left for work. Kimberly would be home when I returned that night and I was relieved.
I wasn't cut out to be a single parent. Also, I needed to talk to her about being more careful with where she leaves her cell phone.
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.