If life sometimes imitates art, this week has been a bad remake of a Hitchcock movie. Gloomy, blustering days. Rain and wind and rotting leaves. Halloween. And a prowler in the neighborhood. Ugh.
About a week ago, I set out for the back barn to do night check on the two ponies living there. The back barn, which is the barn in the pastures of the new property, is set far off from the house. Way out. In the dark. Nestled up against the overgrown brush at the rear of our old property next door. The last owners didn't use this barn for anything but their lawnmower, so it didn't matter to them that the security light on the front doesn't work.
Anyway, I came around the corner of the house in the dark with my flashlight swinging in my hand. The light caught something tall and white in the brush. Just for a second. I moved the light back and it was gone. It happened so fast, I couldn't really see what it was, so I told myself it was a deer. Afterall, what else could it have been back there? Yeah, that's what I told myself. But I was sufficiently creeped out that I couldn't approach the barn.
This was a predicament -- I had to feed the ponies. I couldn't just wait for morning. So, I did what any good American would do. I went back to the house, got in my car, and drove the few hundred feet to the barn. With the car lights burning and the keys pinging in the ignition, I ran into the barn, threw the ponies some hay, slopped some water into their buckets and scrammed. The next day, same thing. My reaction to a deer in the trees seemed extreme, even to me. Within a couple of days, I was telling friends the story of my silly reaction to a deer and feeling a bit more settled.
Halloween came. The wind blew and rain poured down. I raced to dig out years of dirt and muck around the back barn just so I could close the barn's doors against that tropical storm that barreled through the Midwest last week. A pack of coyotes caught something in the back pasture at 4 in the morning and I found myself fully dressed and yelling into the gloom off the patio before I was even completely awake. The wind blew some more. The sun hid.
Still, every night I went out to the back barn to check the two ponies there and then circled around to the new barn to finish up the rest of the ponies, the sheep, the goats, the cats. To get to the new barn (the one I built myself last fall) from the new house (the one we just bought and moved into) I have two choices. I can cut through the 20 foot deep wooded boundary between the two properties -- I removed a 10 foot section of the old wire fence and carved out a small footpath leading to the back door of the new barn. Or I can drive. Down the new driveway, out to the road, 400 ft down the road, up the old driveway to the front door of the barn. Mostly I chose the car.
Then four nights ago, I was just lying down to sleep, when my phone rang. It was my friend across the street with the horse stable. Her voice was weird. It took me a few minutes to really tune in. It was late. She was alone. She was going down to do her own night check when she caught sight of someone entering her barn. Yet there were no cars in the driveway. We don't live anywhere that people could legitimately arrive on foot. She was terrified and she couldn't bring herself to go in the barn. Like me though, she had to feed the horses. So I got dressed and went over to help. We searched her barn. We found no one hiding. Nothing amiss. We finished up without a problem and convinced ourselves that whatever she thought she'd seen, it was just the wind playing tricks.
One of her staff arrived first thing the next morning. The staffer heard someone come in and leave the barn while she was busy in the feed room. The staffer called out, but no one answered. She assumed it was my friend. But it wasn't. Again, no car in the driveway. Then they found a horse blanket spread out in the middle of the tack room floor, as though someone had slept there. We had just searched that tack room at night check the night before. There was no horse blanket on the floor.
That was the first night we traded night check support. She came and helped me with my last feedings, then I followed her back across the road and helped her with hers.
Nothing has happened since then. No strange figures in the shadows. No bumps in the attic. But, the wind keeps blowing and the nights are d.a.r.k. We're seriously spooked. Last night was the third night of shared night checks with no end in sight. It takes twice as long to do night checks this way, but it's infinitely easier to navigate the dark with another soul for company.
Hitchcock is looking down on us chuckling, I'm sure.