“Look what I brought!” Claire says as she shoves a clipboard in my face. It’s a grid with the names of the four mares; Bubbles, Summer, Strawberry and Gracie; who have been bred, on the horizontal and a list of symtoms; weight gain, waxing up of bags, teets are swollen, very moody, ignores stallions; on the vertical. (The was design and laid out on the computer with Claire’s name, in italics, in the bottom right corner.) Michelle has not done any blood tests on the mares yet, but three out of the four who were bred are considerably fatter than the five where were not.
Claire throws her sleeping bag and pillow into the back of the truck and bounces into the front seat of the cab. Next we pick up Maya, then Maggie and Victoria, who are waiting for us at Quail Lane. Right before we drive off, Victoria panics. “Oh no! My jeans are still in the dryer!” (She’s wearing gym shorts.) Fortunately there’s a spare pair of riding pants that fit her in the tack room. But it gives Maggie the opportunity to share how she showed up to her lesson the day before wearing a dress. She’d worn a dress to school and had not stopped at home to change. By the end of the lesson her legs were so chaffed that she had to walk home from arena and even then it was still painful. (Her dad, fortunately, was able to come a little early and pick her up part way home.)
Claire was, of course, full of her plans for working with the foals at the ranch (and checking on the mares). Victoria said she wanted to ride Myabar and Midnight (the pony) but then added, “and I’ve got to remember to shoot arrows with Colton. I forgot to do that last time.” Victoria doesn’t need Colton as a shoot partner. She already has a brother who serves that purpose. She said, “That’s why I like having a brother; you can have shootouts.” Claire said that her brothers had air soft guns, but that she had forbade them to shoot at her. In their desperation to get every possible person playing with them, the agreed to her demand, gave her the gun and asked her to go up on the balcony and try to shoot at them (while they practiced dodging shots). Maggie said, “I wish I had a brother. If I had a brother, I’d have some one to wrestle with. Rosalie is to small” (Rosalie is five)” and Olivia is weak. She pushed me and I pushed her back and she just fell over! Olivia is also Ms.Perfect in school.” Maggie then went on to make a hysterical imitation of the typical prissy suck up student. Maya, who is quiet, and, in fact, had not yet said a work, is also studious and focussed in school. Maya does not wish for a brother. She wishes her little sister, Amelia, was less of a rascally scamp. I said, “I know what Maya wants! Maya wants to trade Amelia for Olivia. Then she could watch Magnolia wrestle the feisty Amelia to the ground and sit on her.” Not a nice thought, I know, but as the saying goes, give them in fantasy what you can’t give them in reality and Maya, who has taken more than her fair share of abuse, truly did relish the thought.
Why at this point, it occurred to me that I really should see if my husband had actually made it home from China I did not know, but I did want to check. Victoria texted his phone and yes he’d made it home. I also wanted to know if he’d found the fried chicken, a message that Maggie got to text.
The conversation in the truck then returned to mares and foals and horses and the story of the Godolphin Arabian and then back to mares and foal and was there and still lively when the “classic turquoise ranch gate” appeared on the road. Claire paused mid sentence and then said, “Stop, stop! Everybody stop talking! I’m just so happy!!!!!” As she said this, her eyes were tearing up.
The next twenty four hours was a blur of barking dogs, blowing dust, dumping manure, spraying horses (for flies), biting kittens and trying to sort of which bit of this or that tack fit on this or that horse with a little bit of Clinton Anderson video watching tucked in. The highlight of the trip was the news that there have been foals born on the neighboring ranch, one in particular, a two month old paint filly, that Michelle has her eye on. The kids; Maggie, Maya, Victoria, Claire, Colton, Kailey and Maddi and the puppy dog Rosie; all piled into the bed of the pick up and we drove across the cow pastures to the neighbor’s property to view the filly. Having no desire to get scratched up by star thistle, Maddi,Kailey, Colton and myself (and Rosie, restrained against her will) stayed with the truck. When the baby horse lovers returned, they brought the news (and pictures) that there was now also two brand new, day old foals. Claire was nearly delirious.
I don’t think any of us slept that well at all. Rosie charged across the lawn, barking and growling at threats, real or imagined, about every half hour for almost half the night. Although Claire had the delightful experience of waking up with three kittens on her pillow, she’d had to sleep without her pillow and kitten number four had started in on Victoria’s toes an hour or two before sunrise. I don’t know what kept Maggie up, but she was tired enough to agree to try and take a nap. She chose to do so on the trampoline and when I checked on her half an hour later was very much not napping and instead playing with not only Michelle’s kids, but their friends and for the first time, I actually got everyone off the ranch without a fight, not because they wanted to leave, but because they were too tired to stay standing much longer.
Driving home consisted of mostly of Claire and Victoria challenging each other with lateral thinking puzzles; not as much talk of the horses. At one point Maggie talked some about what we did at the ranch and mentioned that she had to lose a halter. This was confusing until we realized she meant loosen. Maggie is Danish and speaks astoundingly good English for only having lived here a year. But she says that there are a lot of words that she finds hard to tell apart, like chicken and kitchen. I thought a minute and then said, “Maggie, when you texted the message to Erik, did you ask him about the fried chicken or the fried kitchen?” Claire checked the phone. Sure enough, it was fried kitchen.
Maggie fell asleep shortly there after and stayed that way all the way home as the rest of us played twenty questions. We arrived home safe and sound, but tired and, as Claire’s mom put it, in need of a power wash. I’m still laughing about the fried kitchen.