It's getting hot here in North Carolina as we head into summer. Soon I will be setting the thermostat to 81 when my wife and I head for bed, and the air conditioner will still run all night.
It's because the large farmhouse we're renting is insulated only by the forest of molds growing under the flooring and in the walls. Most of the windows are cracked. They rattle when the wind blows and leak when it rains. Very few of our doors close properly. During the winter it's all we can do to keep the house above 60 degrees. We sit huddled together on the couch wearing sweaters and knit hats watching movies about warm weather, fretting about the next electric bill.
I make our breakfast and lunch in the mornings before we leave for work. Today, like most other days, we are enjoying egg and cheese muffins for breakfast and ramen noodle soup for lunch. Admittedly, the novelty of these meals wore off sometime during early college. My wife and I do all right financially for a couple of young newlyweds; so why live in a house with so many problems? We could afford slightly greater indulgences, so why are we skimping?
Well, let's see: that slant-load, three-horse trailer with large dressing room isn't going to pay for itself, the truck we need to pull the trailer wasn't free, and neither was our recently acquired second horse. (I was informed that at a mere $9,000 the horse was a steal.) My boots leak, my stomach grumbles and my car needs a new starter, but I love my wife, and she loves horses and now I do, too. I've needed new footwear for six months, and our horses get shod every six weeks. I'm just confused by how this complete financial irrationality makes perfect sense to me.
Perhaps it's because horse owners understand the meaning of sacrifice as well as anyone. Gone is our disposable income--the supplements, accessories and vet bills see to that. No more are there Saturday and Sunday mornings when we slept until noon. Past are the times we could simply hop in the car and take off over a long weekend. Horses are a huge responsibility in every sense of the word. They need supervision. They need a schedule. They need love. They require open space. They need lots of expensive stuff. Even if our horses get all of these things they are still not easy or simple animals. Not just anyone can care for a horse.
So, what of trading our extra time and money for all of the challenges of caring for horses? The fact is that we really do get rich off of our equestrian investments. The money and time we would have spent looking for fulfillment or escaping uncertainty elsewhere is now given meaning and direction. We can't take wealth or possessions with us when we die, but we can take with us the memories of and experiences with our horses.
I think about this and I turn off the TV after an affordable, frozen-pizza dinner. My wife and I head out to the stables. Once outside, I struggle to shut the side door. Every window on that side of the house rattles, and I am sure that I can hear a new pane of glass break somewhere. The lights flicker, and the house groans as the air conditioner starts up again. Out at the barn, our boys are fed and watered, and the stalls are mucked. They seem genuinely happy to see us, which is certainly more than I could ever say for the TV.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in Grifton, N.C., with their two cats, two dogs and two horses.
Read Jeremy's other columns in EquiSearch's Humor section.