If you move to rural Spain, and want to meet your more skittish neighbors, I have a great suggestion.
I woke up this morning before Jeff. He is on holiday for the next two weeks and I thought I would let him sleep in. This lasted less than five minutes.
The sun was coming up and the honey colored light is so beautiful at this time of the morning, I thought I would sit out on the front patio and enjoy it.
When out of the bushes there arose such a clatter, I opened the door to see what was the matter.
The neighbor’s horses were out and had somehow gotten into our yard. Running like the devil was chasing them. First, they went this way. Then, they went that way.
I ran into the house and called for Jeff. Then watched from the kitchen window as they galloped out to the back forty to where my lavender crop is nestled. My mind raced. I know these horses. They live in the field across from our gate. But who owns that field?
Somehow, I have a big bag of carrots in the house and I grabbed a few of those as Jeff came down the stairs.
‘What do you mean we have horses in the yard?’
Just then they came roaring by again. Jeff’s eyes got big and he threw on a sweatshirt.
We went out and called to them. They know our voices. Every time we walk up to the village for a coffee or an evening beverage, we talk to them. They follow us as we walk up the road. Like pets.
‘When you said ‘we have horses in the yard’ I didn’t think you meant our yard! I thought you meant where the cows go.’
Jeff approached them calmly. They stopped running.
The carrots calmed them down before they moved on to eating the pears in our pear trees. At that point, we decided to divide and conquer. Jeff stayed with them while I ran down to the house I thought owned the field and the horses. It turns out they do not. But now I’ve met those people in their pajamas. And they’ve met me in mine. And, good news! My Emergency!! Your Horses are in my yard!! español is pretty damn good.
I ran up the road to the next house where the neighbors in their dressing gowns directed me, and I knocked. More than a few times. No one answered. Perhaps they saw the wild haired woman in her pajamas and thought better of answering the door. Ugh. By the time I got back down the lane to our house Jeff was in the road with the horses, but he was out of carrots and having no bridles, was unable to control a couple thousand pounds of horse flesh. They had jumped through the hedge.
‘What are we gonna do? We don’t know where their electric fence is broken and I can’t hold them.’ He said, as the horses bumped into him and each other, fighting to nuzzle his pockets for more carrots.
We were worried, as passing cars and trucks were spooking them, and the click-clacking of Pilgrim’s trekking poles on the pavement was unnerving the two mares further still. But I had an idea. Well, really it’s my only idea, every day.
‘I’ll ask Marie-Carmen. She’ll know what to do.’
So I headed over there. She was awake when I rang her bell, fully dressed and already engaged in useful employment. She didn’t even flinch at the sight of me in my pajamas and rubber boots on her door step. I explained the situation while she put on a clean apron. She has standards when leaving the house. Something I can not claim. It had me trying to straighten my pajamas and smoothing my hair for some form of respectability, but you can imagine how well that worked.
Jeff was still horse wrangling while we marched up the road to the neighbors who wouldn’t answer the door to me. When we walked through their courtyard, Marie-Carmen, all of 4 ft 10 inches tall, grabbed a long piece of metal from a slot in the stone facade (I had no idea that was there or what it was for) and began wailing on the door with it. They finally answered. She greeted them cordially, but then said something I’m pretty sure was ‘Your fucking horses are out and we can’t be responsible!’ Then she threw her arms in the air, turned on her heel and left. I ran after her. She’s like my security blanket.
I told her I had knocked several times but they never came to the door. Her response made me laugh.
‘This is Galicia. If you knock on a door you need to mean it.’
And apparently you need an ancient rusty iron rod. When we got back to where we’d left them, Jeff and the horses were gone. We continued on further down the road to some open land. By now a crowd is gathering. Cars are stopping and talking to Marie-Carmen and me. I’m grunting responses in Spanish like a boss. This while we all watch Jeff, the Horse Whisperer, try everything to keep the horses close by feeding them whatever he can find until the owners arrived. Which they finally did with a bucket of feed and a rope, after another half hour.
‘Your husband has a big heart.’ Marie-Carmen told me, chuckling.
I wanted to say ‘Tell me something I don’t already know.’ But I didn’t know how to say that in Spanish.
Excitement is finally over – we are home now. Jeff is cleaned up. And he’s made me a coffee. We are sat on the patio enjoying the morning. Pilgrims are waving as they go past. We will be keeping a Costco sized bag of carrots on hand at all times, in case of horse emergencies. The upside of all this is that we now know how to properly knock on a door in rural Galicia, like a local. And, while everyone in the neighborhood already knew who we were, we now know them, too. And that includes the horses.