Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Near misses part 2

The sun was sinking by the time the deputy let us go after our brush with disaster last night. The 13-year-old and I drove slowly up the road to home. We both spotted the horse poop in the road between our house and the stables across the road. We laughed. We agreed someone must have taken a horse for a trail ride. Not clear where they could have been going walking down the middle of this fast country road, but where else could it have come from?

Then I raised my eyes to our drive.

You know that moment when you see something that doesn't make sense? When something is wrong, but it takes a split second to realize what exactly.

I couldn't make sense of the big, spotted, appaloosa butt ambling casually across the front yard. The unfenced, residential front lawn.

The moment Josie's presence registered in my conscious mind as Josie, I also recognized the broad brown rump of Zeus next to her and the lovely creamy gleam of Shadowfax behind a tree. All three, muzzles down, in the new nubs of spring grass.

All this, while we waited just down the road for an hour feeling unpressed and unhurried. Wrongly it now seemed.

It also seems to me that the very best moments for photography on our farm are inevitably missed. Cause it's always just moments before doom.

I didn't even have time to wonder where the fourth back-pasture pony was and sent the worst case scenario -- the one that had to do with poop in the road -- packing before it even made it to the light of full consciousness.

I'll spare you all the details, but it wasn't pretty, as the sun set and all the (now ravenous) creatures at Tyche's Run reacted to the loose ponies. It took some wrangling to get everyone back where they belonged without anybody getting hurt. At one point the safest bet was to corral the big guys in the little girls' paddock -- even though the little girls were still there. Cause three loose, ambling ponies, even relatively mellow ponies, can easily turn into a panicked herd of thundering hooves straight into the road if you're not careful.

Zeus and Thyme found themselves face to face for the first time and can I just say love at first sight?  

Annie, bless her timid little Amish heart, was found pacing in the back pasture, too anxious to leave even though the gate was wide open and all of her pasture mates were gone.

The big, many-hundreds-of-pounds 10' by 10' sliding door that closes off the stalls in the back barn from the back pasture FELL OFF as I was finally, in the dark, putting the errant ponies away. Timid Annie, who lives in that barn aisle with the big door as her rear wall, was left to fend for herself against the night. That one detail alone nearly did me in after everything else that had happened. But even this had a silver lining. This morning, as the sun rose over the pasture, I looked out and saw Annie enjoying herself in the field all alone. She didn't have to wait for me and she got to savor being out alone without silly Shadow and Zeus pushing her around.

Josie could have taken off down the road with all her friends trailing. Zeus and Shadow could have kicked the beejezus out of Thyme and the other little girls, none of whom are known to suffer bratty geldings quietly. Annie could have panicked in her solitude. The darn door could have fallen on me. The chickens could have dispersed or been trampled in the chaos. Any of the ponies could have broken a leg, or one of my legs, in a hundred different ways.

This morning as I rounded the property doing my chores, I tried hard not to think about the hoof prints everywhere. The damp spring ground hides no secrets. No question, we dodged a second bullet last night.

Cars and ponies. Loaded guns sometimes, both of them.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Near misses

The  12- 13-year-old and I were driving up our road this evening on our way home. The sun was out. The air was warm and breezy. The teenager was in a rare happy mood. Homework done, no big worries. It was one of those ordinary altogether lovely moments that makes a day worthwhile.

We'd stopped to fill up the gas tank before heading home to do chores, but the station was full of commuters on their way home from the city, so we decided to skip it and come straight home.

I pulled up at the last stop sign before our stretch of road. Our road crosses another, slightly busier country road at a weird angle. At the intersection there are woods and fields and an overgrown hedge hiding an old white barn with a heavy hundred-year-old slate roof that is slowly pulling it down to the ground. From the direction of our house, it's hard to see the fast cars speeding down the busier road from the right at the weird angle, around the hedge and barn. The busier road doesn't stop. The cars just hurtle past.

I pulled up at this last stop from the direction of town. I could see all around from where we sat. I could see the black station wagon coming down the road toward me from the direction of our house. I could see the black sedan coming from my left past the fields and the hedge. I waited. Like I have a waited a thousand times before. Waited for the black station wagon to stop. Waited for the black sedan to slide past. Waited for my turn to cross.

Except the station wagon didn't stop. And the black sedan couldn't see him rolling out into the intersection from behind the hedge. And I covered my eyes and screamed. And I heard the crash and opened my eyes and saw the black sedan come careening straight at us as we sat at the intersection waiting. Waiting to cross. Waiting to get hit.

The driver of the sedan made a valiant attempt to miss us, but it was too much. The roads are narrow, the shoulders are non-existent. There was nowhere to go. She - it turned out to be an older woman -  pulled hard, trying to avoid us, but in the end her front end slammed into our front end and scraped down the length of our car before landing in the ditch. The teenager and I both had our seat belts on, we weren't moving when she hit us, and her first impact, with the station wagon, slowed her down quite a bit. So our airbags didn't even open. We were fine. And I'll say, before anyone worries, the woman seemed to be ok as well, though stunned. A passerby called the police and within minutes there was an ambulance and two or three firetrucks on scene. The sheriff's deputy who showed up did a great job taking statements and organizing the report and distributing the insurance information. The man in the station wagon, the one who ran the stop sign, was also ok.

We spent an hour sitting at that corner, in our dented and scraped car, waiting to be cleared by the deputy, talking about what we could have done differently, that would have put us at that intersection at a slightly different moment in time -- slightly before the crash or slightly after. We could have waited at the gas station. I could have driven faster. I could have gone to that late work meeting in the city, instead of heading home to work. So many tiny choices and unconscious decisions added up to put us at that stop sign at precisely the moment that those cars collided.

We're ok, but my lovely day was dampened.