The horses were nervous tonight. The wind shifted this afternoon. An east wind is not the norm, it usually means something is brewing. Horses seem to sense when storms are coming. A couple days before a cold snap, their appetites spike. They don’t like the wind and move around more than usual. I am a little anxious too. Maybe it is because my arthritis is acting up but more likely it is because I watched the Weather Channel and learned about “Gandolf” a blizzard heading this direction. Honestly I can’t take a blizzard named after a wizard seriously. Old man winter storms should be called manly names like Bruce, Mike or Brutus. By using manly names we could use them again like Brutus Jr. A real “son of a blizzard”
I spent the week building a new sleigh with my buddy Duane. This project actually began about two years ago when the North Star Draft Horse Association did its first Winter Fun Fest at the Blackberry Tractor club show grounds. Club members donate their horses and time to give sleigh rides. This year the event is February 23. Last year club member Sam Yoder donated a large bobsled to Blackberry for the event. The sled was a fixer-upper. Club president and pretty good handy man, Duane Barrow, accepted the challenge. With some financial help from the tractor club to buy some of the wood and some red oak lumber sawn on the tractor club’s sawmill, Duane made up his mind to “get-er-done”.
We spent the week in his garage putting it together. Duane and I work well together because neither of us really has a plan. We look at our materials and make the rest up as we move forward. A week or two ago we finished a new sleigh at my place. Bolstered by that project we set out to make this one even better. Mine is 15 feet long. This one is 16 feet. Mine has one step. This one has three. Duane is already talking about the next one and what we should do to make it bigger and better.
The moment of truth came at 2:09 today when we hooked Bud and Duke, his awesome team of Belgium horses to the sled. After a quick start out of the garage, we headed out for the maiden voyage of the “Yoder Express”. Duane has a beautiful network of trails through the woods behind his house. The sun was warm, snow sticky, and the trails in perfect condition. As we wound through the woods we reflected on the moment and on horses and how they had been instrumental in the history of our forests. The sun was low on the horizon when we put the horses away. It was a good week with a satisfying ending.
Bring on the storm. Horses have it figured out. The don’t run and hide. They simply lower their heads and point their butts into the wind. Take that Gandolf!