Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Of Hitchcock and Halloween

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.


  1. If you had someone there and you have left your keys in the car they could take you car ..... Have a dog? Cell phone? Gun? Solar lights? Start with a dog, intruders do not like barking dogs giving them away. No cell phone? get a broken one, pretend you are talking to someone, intruder won't know it's a toy. Solar lights are cheap and easy to place where needed. Gun, that's up to you.

  2. Dog! Get a dog. It doesn't have to be a big, mean dog, my border collie is a super guard dog and I guarantee no one would be able to lurk about. I am out at night all the time and I would be seriously creeped out by the scenario you describe if not for my dog. With him at my side, it wouldn't happen, he'd never let anyone get that close without raising the alarm and chasing off the intruder.

  3. Oh yes, a dog. That was my first thought when I saw the shape in the brush. Go get the dog. We actually have three dogs. Two are too little to be of help, but one is a german shepherd cross. He's big. Ninety pounds and all energy. I feel safe enough inside the house with the dogs. The irony is that when I first saw the shape in the brush, I had JUST finished paying two THOUSAND dollars to have an invisible fence installed around the house to keep the german shepherd out of the barn and the pastures. He's not barn animal friendly. I can't take him to the barns. And I can't, at this point in his training, take him across the invisible fence line without screwing up the whole thing. Unlike the two little dogs, he's a slow learner. I still have to walk him on the leash when he goes out. So, the dog solution was unavailable, sadly. I have thought about getting an LGD, but seriously, another animal at the moment would have to pay back their keep in a major, major way. Maybe an LGD would. I'm thinking about it.

    Of course, TL, the first night, I was banking on the lights and the noise to keep any intruder away. But mostly just to keep the creeps away. I was happy with the deer explanation. :) Since then, I lock the car even when it's sitting in the driveway, or across the street at my friends. Really, really don't want somebody turning up in the backseat. And I have my cell phone with me all the time in the barns, but it doesn't make me feel safe. Another warm body makes me feel safe. Thank god for the neighbor friend.

    I'm also thinking a canister of pepper spray with me at night is not a bad idea. Guns aren't really an option.

    I guess I should say, rationally, I don't think this intruder is dangerous, just creepy. I think it's probably some local person who got kicked out of their house or apartment or trailer by a roommate or girlfriend and they're just looking for a warm, dry place to sleep.

  4. It probably is some homeless person but it sure would creep me out too! Be careful! The pepper spray sounds like a good idea but I really, really like my gun...
    I am home alone at the end of our dead-end road quite a bit during the day and you got me spooked just reading your post! Yikes!

  5. You've got ME spooked!!! Have you reported this all to the police? I'd at least file some sort of report. Yikes.

  6. Good gawd. My hair was standing on end at the end of this post! I think it's a good idea to have a night chore buddy. I also think a can of pepper spray isn't a bad idea, either. Have you thought of solar motion detector lights? I have one on my chicken house and it helps a lot. And I DO hope you reported it to the police - it's good to have it on file just in case.