Animals

The Interloper

Olive is our sweet, affable — but dimwitted — barn cat.

Of the farm’s five felines, Olive is slow to respond to kids, cars and other threats to life and limb. Dopey Olive, we often say. She’s a few bricks short of a load. 

But Olive does possess an unwavering desire to lounge indoors. Leave the screen door unlatched…. crack the mudroom door to unload groceries…. and she skulks in, and bee-lines for a bed.

Once detected, she is discharged.

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Lately however, Olive has adopted a new tactic. She is a stealth, nighttime interloper.

Let me set the scene. It is 5:30 am. The house is relatively dark and I stumble groggily around the kitchen — assembling lunches — while my mind pedals through the day’s to-do list.

It is cricket-quiet and I presume I’m alone, until an abrasive SCRATCH-SCRATCH-SCRATCH rings out. I stifle a startled cry before spying the cat, clawing the couch.

Unceremoniously, I heave Olive out the door.

The next morning I’m lost in thought, when the cat freaks me out again, her darkened shape writhing in the living room shadows.

“Hey!” I yell at the kids when they emerge later. “Someone keeps leaving the damn door open and the damn cat is in the house, scratching up the couches! Shut the door, okay?”

Blankly, the kids stare back; none of them fess up.

Olive announces her presence over four consecutive mornings — clawing a different piece of furniture each day — until it dawns on me: 

This cat is beating the odds.

In the cellar I discover her entry point: she has popped out a broken, jagged window pane. The same window that I featured in my second-ever blog post, way back in 2009.  

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At the time, wise old Drippy stalked me from a perch by the basement window. But he never breached the glass barrier. He never puzzled it out.

Perhaps Olive is not as dimwitted as I thought.

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The sorta new pony

 

We are no longer pony-less.

Rocky arrived last Monday.

Arrived sounds weird — like FedEx deposited him on the front porch. I retrieved him that day. And home from school, the girls bolted to the barn to see their new pony.

But his stall was empty.

In my absence, Rocky scuttled under his stall guard and ran into the front field.

The kids spent 15 minutes chasing runaway-Rocky — unsuccessfully — until I armed them with a bucket of grain.

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Ponies are inherently crafty and cunning, and Rocky will teach the girls a thing or two. But overall, he’s a good-natured soul. Oddly enough, I knew him 10 years ago. Actually, he lived at our farm for a summer.

Here’s my friend Hunter riding him, circa 2004. Rocky was 6 years old. None of our kids existed yet.

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And it’s not like I followed Rocky, or knew what happened to him through the years. But the horse world is like “6 degrees of separation.”

But more like 2 degrees of separation. Everyone knows everyone, hence the Rocky reunion.

In less than a week, he’s displayed a tolerance of sheep dog herding, skittish cows, kids on bikes and other nonsense.

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Hadley & Rocky’s maiden voyage

 

My one complaint: Rocky’s too much of a good thing.

Brynn has been incorrigible since he arrived; she just wants to ride. Her teacher reported that she was “unmanageable” on Tuesday. And Wednesday morning Brynn announced that she was sick. “My head,” she said. “It hurts. I’m sick.”

“You can stay home,” I said, then added, “but you can’t ride Rocky. If you’re sick, you can’t ride.”

She frowned. “Okay, then I’m not sick.”

It’s amazing how fast a pony can cure what ails you…

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Racing Homer

Kit of flying pigeons

Last Friday was a weird wildlife day. First, there was the raccoon encounter.

Then a few hours later, the pigeon showed up.

Not a typical pigeon, perched atop the barn cupola or fluttering inside our silo. This one was loitering in the driveway, gazing expectantly at the house. A pigeon with purpose.

Martin and I were packing for a weekend away and were running late, thanks to the raccoon episode. As I snatched the kids’ toothbrushes from the bathroom, I spied the bird out the window. He didn’t appear to be injured; he was standing there, occasionally pacing back and forth in sentry-fashion. Waiting.

“Hey, what’s the deal with that pigeon out there?” I asked Martin.

He watched for a moment. “No idea, but if he stands there much longer, he’s going to be cat food.”

We all headed outside and approached the bird. He wasn’t particularly frightened. He cooed and held his ground until we were in arm’s reach. When we retreated, he’d follow. “Look, he’s got a bracelet,” Brynn said, pointing to the tiny red band around his leg.

I called Chet, our neighbor and local birder. (Poor Chet, he’d already received a dozen calls from us concerning the raccoon.) Regarding the bird he proffered this: “Try to catch him — he probably won’t peck you — and read the number on his band. Then throw him in the air to help him fly away.”

I relayed these instructions to Martin who stared blankly at me. “You want me to do what? Are you serious?”

“Come on,” I said. “After roping a raccoon, catching a pigeon’s a piece of cake.”

As you’ll see in the video below, efforts to collect said pigeon were unsuccessful. And since we left shortly thereafter, I don’t know what happened to him. But the banded bird spurred my curiosity and yielded the following trivia:

Did you know that pigeon racing is a sport, with supporting organizations like the American Racing Pigeon Union and the National Pigeon Association? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

A “Racing Homer” is a pigeon selectively bred for speed and homing instinct, both critical to pigeon racing. Competitions range from 100 to several hundred miles in distance, and “good” homers can sustain 60 mph for hours and reach speeds of 110 mph. Those who breed them are called “pigeon fanciers.”

Want to learn more? I’m sure you do. Schedule a visit to the American Pigeon Museum in Oklahoma City. Really, it exists.

Our winged visitor might’ve been a race participant who lost his (or her) way. Or perhaps he was taking a breather from his charted course.

Who knows? He gave us the Heisman when we tried to help.

 

(For you email subscribers, if the video does not appear in your blog post, copy this link into your web browser: http://youtu.be/s9VIUfN3ukE)

 

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