Spring was firmly established. It was warm in the morning sunshine, cool when the breezes whirled by. The sky was bright and blue, the clouds puffy and white and the meadowlarks were singing. The farm teemed with new life – calves, little piglets and baby chicks. The barn cats had kittens, the pet dog produced puppies, and the resident wildlife followed suit in their own style.
This morning the big news was the birth, during the night, of a little colt. My Dad made the announcement at breakfast. Mother and offspring were well and enjoying the day in the fenced paddock behind the barn.
As with most farm kids, even little ones, there were chores to do. I attacked mine with a vengeance, then announced to my mother that I was going to the barn yard to see if I could catch a glimpse of the new colt. She nodded her consent but added “Be quiet, Marjie. The mare will be protective of the new colt, and you must not upset her”. With her admonition ringing in my ears, I hurried away. Up to this point my day’s record was unblemished. I had…
Done my chores,
Told Mother where I was going,
Said what I wished to do, and
Listened to her “Be careful” list …
I knew that she did not know the extent of my familiarity with the barn, the paddocks, and my access to same. I felt no need to discuss anything more with her and scurried off.
The paddock was a fenced area behind the barn and the attached cow shed. It was a temporary holding place for farm animals such as cows and horses. Looking through the fence I saw the mare, munching on some hay pulled from a small stack nearby. A few feet away was the new arrival, lying prone on some loose hay at the base of the stack, and apparently asleep. I used my usual place of entry, a narrow space between the last post in the fence and the wall of the barn, just wide enough for me to squeeze through. Once inside I moved forward slowly. The mare knew me, I was a fairly frequent visitor – but what about now with the new baby? The answer came quickly. She swished away some flies with her tail, took another mouthful of hay and went on eating.
I sank down into the hay beside the colt and started to rub his head behind his ears. He opened his eyes, tried to focus — and then –inched his head closer and placed his muzzle on my thigh. Giving a little sigh he went back to sleep. I sat there entranced. The mare glanced our way occasionally, seemingly content with the arrangement. The sun was warm, the smell of horses and hay filled the air, the wee colt slept on and soon, so did I.
How long we dozed I do not know but a sudden noise from the other side of the paddock woke the two of us up. My little friend struggled to his feet, and on wobbly legs made it over to his mother and started to nurse. The visit was over, the glorious moments gone and I knew the time to leave had come. Squeezing out through my entrance/exit hole I headed for the house with a strange, unfamiliar feeling – a mixture of joy and sadness. Something beautiful had happened that I sensed, but could not understand. I sat on the back porch with cookies and milk and thought back over my encounter and knew I felt so happy inside. A private and special memory was formed that I carried with me through the years.
Looking back at this from 82 years later it is still hard to explain. Let me try. Suppose someone pockets a shiny little stone while walking along beach when the sunset is gorgeous, the world quiet, the stars starting to twinkle, and everything seems magical. What will happen later? When he finds that stone in his pocket will it not trigger the memory of that perfect evening? I have no stone to act as trigger for my beautiful encounter but when the memory of it slips back from wherever it lies – I see, smell, hear and feel it all over again, and rejoice! Truly, as James M. Barrie wrote, “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December”. May it be so for all of us.