Belgian Tails Part Two

Well, after Windsong’s dramatic first couple of days, life at the homestead settled into a very peaceful existence. Still lots of free time for coffee and hobbits. I continued caring for the horses and from the getgo, they became my charge. The snow held on for some time, although it was shallow enough for hiking. When outdoors, it seemed like I couldn’t go for more than two minutes without stopping and taking in my surroundings. Bald eagles were constantly in the air cruising around.

About a month after Windsong’s birth, Confidence told me one day I should put Blonde back in the same pasture with Bud. Horses have an eleven month gestation cycle and you want horses to be born in early spring so that they get all spring, summer, and fall to grow before winter hits. It was now time to put Bud and Blonde back together so that next spring we would have another colt. i picked up a lead rope to go get Blonde and walked down to the front pasture. Bud was in the back end of the property where the cabin was.

The following may be a little too risqué for some (I’ll avoid graphic descriptive images!), so I apologize, but this was a very real experience for me, who grew in a California suburb, and only was around a dog growing up. Now here I am with these huge animals. Anyways……… here I am with Blonde with a lead rope attached to her halter, opening the gate to the back pasture and walking in with her. I immediately hear a distant whinny and in a moment, galloping hoof beats. Bud is FLYING down on us at full speed ahead. As he arrives, blonde swings herself around and in about two seconds I’m looking straight up past Blonde’s head into Buds face. I actually said, “jeez Bud, give me a chance to get her undressed”, because I was trying to get her lead rope off while all this was going on with the three of our heads no more than two feet apart. Two minutes later they were both pawing through the snow looking for dry grass to eat.

I can’t remember the exact timing, but one day, Helpful, Dedication, and Nathanial arrived with the news that we were selling the homestead. The plan was to do very little for the summer, other than tidying up, but no projects. Shortly thereafter, Confidence and Vision (very pregnant) left and returned south. I decided I wanted to learn to harness and work with the horses. Thus began my relationship with Sunday.

She was a two year old and had never had a harness on her. I had never harnessed/worked a horse, so we both started out from square one. It turned out to be really easy to do. Once I figured out the collar and harness, I put them on her and she didn’t mind at all. Like it was in her dna. Then I just picked up the reins (lines in draft horse speak), flicked them lightly on her rump and she started walking. That was all there was to it. Stopping and steering took care of themselves. We repeated this off and on until it was time to send them south.

This was the time when Dan Gruener’s money had arrived, so we got word that we would ship the horses south on a container ship. We were given the use of this large rv type vehicle that was designed for transporting horses. One morning, we put the harnesses on Bud and Blonde, tethered Sunday, and with Windsong just following, we left the homestead and walked the miles long trail up to the road where the van was. We drove the 250 miles up to Anchorage. That night we arrived at the port and met with someone at SeaLand where we were shown to this special container that had stalls in it. We were assured that on the voyage they would be well cared for. We loaded them in, the doors were closed, and that was that…… as far as I knew, my time with the belgians was done.

Back at the homestead, our summer progressed in a very tranquil manner. The main event that happened that summer was our meeting laurie and diane (Listening and Radiance). They moved to the homestead and were instantly a hit (DUH!).

My time at the homestead ended abruptly with the arrival of LI in his new plane with the news that our new boat (abundance) was docked over on the other side of the peninsula in Seward. Just like that, many of us were instructed to pack up and head over to move aboard the ship. Goodbye to one of the greatest chapters in my life. Helpful, Dedication and I somehow were transported overland to Seward and thus began my only time served aboard HMS Abundance were I was involved in weeks of loading scrap metal on board and then a trip back to Seattle down the inside passage. Since this is a Belgian Tail, I’ll forgo any real details of that time, although it, in itself, is a great story.

We arrived in Seattle in the middle of the night, and before dawn, I had arrived back on the hill and was instructed to go to Encouragements house. I think I slept a little and then was awaken to be told breakfast was ready. I got up and walked into a room full of people who were basically all strangers to each other. I had just spent the past seven months or so living with extremely clear people who all were very much at ease with each other. Conversation had been constant and enjoyable. The room I walked into now held no familiarity for me. Poor Encouragement! I had spent several years living in his household before Alaska, but this current situation seemed to be a very difficult one for all involved. There was no conversation. Most just stared at there plates. There were so many thoughts in the air you could almost see them. I was freaked to say the least.

I got word of a milk run headed out to the ranch later that day and managed to get myself on it. At that time, we had been on the ranch for less than a year I believe. Confidence was running the household out there and I really wanted to see him as well as Vision who had recently given birth to Guidance. When arriving, I received a wonderful welcome. Right away a asked of the Belgians and we went for a walk and it was just fantastic to see them again here on the ranch. I can’t remember exactly how it played out, but the gist of it was I asked confidence if I could stay and permission came down that it was okay. Thus began my tenure at the ranch.

At that time, the ranch crew only numbered about 10-12 or so. Pretty much everyone was involved in taking care of the animals. At this time, we had cows, sheep, chickens, saddle horses (remember good old Sunset with the boney back that just about everyone rode at one time or another and Up ‘n Coming, who was reserved for advanced riders), and lastly, Bud, Blonde (now prego, once again), Sunday, and Windsong. I of course gravitated to their care.

This was now winter time, and there was no real work for the horses to do, plus no one new much about working them. I continued with Sunday, on and off. At a certain point, LI came out to the ranch and I told him of my inspiration to be the head wrangler for the draft horses. Permission was granted. Reuel was very much involved with the saddle horses and he taught me a lot about caring for horses. Right off the bat, the most important of lessons to be learned was about foot care, and in short order I had learned how to trim hooves. There was nothing like asking Bud to give me his back foot to be nipped on. One must remember that I was 6’3” and weighed about 160. I was nervous with this activity but ended up unscathed.

That spring, I began harnessing up Bud and Blonde and driving them around as a pair. At the same time, I began fixing up an old John Deere horse drawn hay mower we had acquired. I put a tongue on it made of a green pole. At a certain point, I decided it was time to work them as a team, so, one day, I hooked them up to the mower and we drove down from the barn to the meadow (our future group homesite) by the lake. I drove around in large circles for awhile, until I could see that the team was relaxed. So…… I stopped, lowered the cutting bar and put it into gear. When I told the team to step up, the cutting action began with a HUGE clacking sound as the teeth went back and forth. Both horses ears turned rearward (later a true signal that a runaway was eminent), they immediately took off at a gallop and the faster they went, the louder the machine got, which only frightened them more. I was bouncing along, right next to this cutting blade more than a little nervous. We were flying along, completely out of control, when the bottom of the mower hit a large rock. Luckily, due to my inexperience I had used a weak green pole for the tongue, so when we hit the rock, the machine broke in two, and the tongue broke off. The horses kept going on their own, and I went flying out of my seat landing some distance from the machine. They stopped on their own in a short distance, so I collected them and returned to the barn to un-harness them. This was the first of many runaways to come.

Sadly, this is my only memory of working Bud. He was such a majestic animal. A handsome face with a broad blaze on it. Beautiful long white feathers (the long hair draft horses have on their lower legs), muscular physique, and a way of moving that said “I’m the man!”. That fall, he suddenly went off his feed and showed signs of extreme discomfort. We brought out a vet and he told us he had a bowel impaction. He treated him as well as he could, but he told us chances were slight of his survival. We set up a vigil to stay with him. He passed before dawn the next morning. He was 18 years old.

The following spring, Golden Dawn was born to Blonde, bearing a very strong likeness to her father, the same wide blaze on her face and very white lower legs which turned out to be heavily feathered just like her father.