Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, February 22, 2021

Why I Love the Heartland Series on Netflix

An Artful Animal Alphabet ©MaryMontagueSikes

Several months ago, we discovered the Heartland series on Netflix. We've been hooked ever since. There are 13 seasons with 18 episodes for each. Not long ago, I started wondering why I so very much enjoyed the program with all the horses, shows, and challenges.

When I was a child growing up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, my uncle owned a horse farm and Oak Hill Stables on the outskirts of the city. I sometimes had the chance to accompany my cousin to the stables. We got to watch the horses being groomed and saw riders practicing on the jumps. It was an amazing experience for a five-year-old.

My cousin had a pony and a pony cart. One day we decided to take a ride in the cart, and we had a great time bumping over the hard-packed clay trail behind the little pony. Everything was fine until a bee stung the small animal, and he took off running with the cart bounding in all directions. I don't remember how we were rescued, but, after that day, we didn't go on any more rides in the pony cart. 

My uncle loved horses and participated in all the horse shows in the area. I remember Zero Hour, a tall brown stallion that was his special horse. He won many ribbons riding that horse. He also had a serious accident during a competition. We were at the show that day and saw it all happen.

Visiting the stables was one thing I especially missed when we moved away from Fredericksburg near the end of elementary school. However, when I went off to college at Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, it was ironic that we had four girls crammed into our dormitory room and all three of the other girls were riders. My father didn’t want me going to college to ride, so I never got to join them at the stables. For an entire year, my roommates came back from classes, dressed in jodhpurs and riding boots and smelling like horses. They were always chatting away about the horses, and each one had a favorite. The college horseback riders trained at Oak Hill Stables. My roommate for the rest of my college years was also a rider.

Although I never rode myself, I recall the excitement and the drama of taking riding lessons, mucking out horse stalls, and participating in shows. I feel right at home, watching Heartland and enjoying the days on the Canadian horse ranch.

When we finish with all the Heartland episodes, I’ll be sad and hope that baseball season has already started.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Yellow Barn

"The Yellow Barn" ©Mary Montague Sikes

 Several weeks ago, I saw an unfamiliar animal sitting near the little yellow barn that houses our riding mower and other lawn equipment. We consider the large expanse of woods we own between our house and the creek to be an animal preserve. Most of the year, a herd of deer lives there. We have a fox, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, possum, and the annoying red-headed woodpecker, that destroyed our redwood deck, all residing at various locations in our yard.

When I saw the unknown animal, I pulled out my binoculars to study it more closely. Although I never got a completely clear view, I could see a white chest and gray markings.

Could this be a coyote? I wondered. Coyotes had been spotted in other areas not far away. The pictures of coyotes I found on the Internet had a remarkable resemblance to this animal. At least, from what I could see with binoculars.

I was intrigued.

However, this animal behaved strangely for a wild animal. And it stayed close to the yellow barn. 

It was cold, and the heat from the sun was warming the metal barn, I reasoned. As the coyote returned day after day, I decided the animal was using heat reflected by the metal to stay warm. But even on cloudy days, the animal stayed near the barn. 

This went on for more than a week. I thought that the coyote would eventually go on its way. But, it didn't.

Then one day, I looked out the window and noticed the animal making its way up the hillside toward our house. That's when I realized it was not a coyote after all. 

It was a dog, a very thirsty dog, that started lapping water from a container we keep outside. I knew it must be very hungry, so I opened the door to call to it. The animal didn't notice me at first and didn't respond to my calls. When it finally did see me, it darted away through the woods toward the yellow barn where it disappeared.

It was late afternoon. I didn't know where the dog was, so I didn't call animal control. But all night long, I worried that the dog was cold and hungry. The next day, I went down to the yellow barn to see if I could find the dog. I stood near the barn and called out, hoping it would come to me. Nothing happened.

In the afternoon, I looked out and was happy to see the dog once again leaning against the side of the yellow barn. My husband called animal control. An officer came right away, but she could not catch the dog and made plans to bring a trap the next day. After she left, I took food out and the dog pressed tight against the yellow barn but didn't run away. I put the food container down a few feet from the animal and backed away. It approached the food, grabbed a piece and rushed back to the barn wall.

On my way back up the hill, I encountered the dog's owner and her little girl. The animal control officer had found her. She was thrilled.

"There's a little yellow barn in the back of our yard," she told me in passing. The dog is deaf, I also learned.

Later, as she headed for her car holding Gracie tightly in her arms, she shouted out in happiness and delight.

"Gracie" ©Mary Montague Sikes