Ride away, ride away. Johnny shall ride,
And he shall have little cat tied to one side,
And he shall have little dog tied to the other,
And Johnny shall ride to see his grandmother.
I emerged one Sunday morning from Dad’s basement and the “nest” I’ve arranged for my sleeping area. “We have visitors,” Dad announced. It must have been obvious that my thoughts turned instantly to my no-so-great appearance. I was dressed for breakfast with dad and my brother Jim, who have seen me at my worst, but I was not ready for company.
Dad continued, pleased that I “bit”, “Nine of them.” Seeing I still looked concerned, he clarified, “Nine horses.”
I looked past him through the dining room window, now seeing the stately forms of two, no three, maybe more, horses. They appeared especially large since I’m not accustomed to seeing horses standing beside the deck railing around the stoop outside dad’s kitchen door.
The group moved in closer to mom’s patch of purple irises that surrounds a yellow, old-fashioned rose bush rambling its way across that corner of the lawn. Surprised that our horsey guests weren’t put off by thorns, I watched them nuzzle their way close to something green that their big teeth crunched off at the ground.
“Ah, they were here yesterday morning,” Jim explained. They belonged to the neighbors to the west, but the neighbors to the east came up yesterday and moved them through the southeast field into their arena. “There must be a problem with their fence,” he said. Since their place had been built on stripped shale, this lawn, no doubt, was a treat. Jim spoke for the horses, imagining they said, “That place tasted pretty good. Let’s go back for Sunday breakfast!”
I glanced from window to window watching the unusual show as the horses casually made their way around the outside of the house. Though several of Jim’s 10 dogs were loose, they were remarkably quiet, considering this invasion.
Finally, around to the west of the house in the driveway, something spooked them, probably a dog, and at least a half dozen of them took off across the lawn toward the field west of the barn, skimming under a low maple across from the house, divots flying as they picked up speed.
“They went right under the tree. I hope Purdy’s OK,” Jim worried. He studied the tree, then shouted, “No, she’s down! They knocked her cage down!” He rushed to the scene where Purdy, Jim’s pigeon, stood, her red feet clutching the side of her cage lying in the grass. He righted it, cursing the situation.
Purdy became a pet after my brother nursed her along as a fledgling. She stays in a cage large enough for her to flap her wings. Since she doesn’t fly enough to build wing strength, she can’t fly outside like a normal pigeon, but she flies loose in the house regularly like a parakeet, landing on our heads and shoulders. We thought of her as a “he” for some time until she laid an egg. Now she’s laid three. The last one’s shell was rather soft – probably something’s deficient in her diet.
I wondered about the back of the horse that hit the metal cage hard enough to swing it off its branch and did my own imagining, “First time I ever saw anything like that in a tree,” it must have thought. “Downright sharp! Not natural.”
The horses disappeared over the hill toward their home, leaving the yard slightly worse for the wear, but, thankfully, few deposits to clean up. We were back to what my dad graciously tolerates as normal for Jim: too many cats, lots of dogs, and a pigeon.
(Oh, there was, also, a groundhog that escaped being roadkill with a bad bump on the head. Housed in a cat carrier, Jim took care of it for a few days. He let it loose the next morning as I was leaving.)