These days, I go pine cone hunting on a regular basis. Our roofer told me I should gather them up as fire starters, after giving me a tour of our property and pointing out other things we could consume, like mushrooms, and the like.
‘But you will have to hurry. Everyone is doing the same thing right now. Go out early with a basket after a windstorm. If they aren’t yet open, bring them in the house to dry.’ He advised. So I do just that. I am competing with all the neighborhood ladies in aprons and rubber boots. Aprons are great for pinecone gathering. Big pockets.
After the latest storm, I head out to see what Mother Nature has left for me, when I hear a whinny. The horses across the road have spotted me. Yes, the horses we wrangled, or Jeff wrangled, last summer. They know I have carrots. We feed them a couple big ones a few days a week. Sometimes apples.
Our road is lined with very tall pine trees, amongst other varieties, forming a shady canopy for walking on a summer day. Or a spooky stroll home without a flashlight, like the other night when we left the cafe in the village after sundown. We freaked ourselves out with the mention of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. The tall pine trees produce papaya-sized pinecones. When they fall as you’re walking in the dark, I would challenge anyone not to feel the need to run for the safety of home.
As I get closer on the road, the horses begin to stamp the ground and shake their heads up and down to get my attention. The whinnying grows louder. ‘Hey! Carrot lady! We’re over here!’ But I need to collect my pinecones before the other ladies come. Carrots will have to wait.
I take my treasure back to the house and tell Jeff the horses were yelling at me. He slips on his rubber boots, after grabbing more carrots. Jeff loves the horses, but its my voice they come to when called. If they are on the other side of the large wooded pasture, and can’t see us, all I have to do is click my tongue and say ‘Come on, girls’ in a high pitched voice. A few thousand pounds of horse flesh comes running out of the woods without fail. Stopping at the fence. They will give a brief whinny in greeting and a stamp. But then wait patiently for their treats.
These horses are not well cared for. No barn. Never brushed or bathed. Their hooves need a ferrier in the worst way. But they know we love them. Jeff suggested purchasing a curry brush to see if we can make a dent in their dusty, sometimes muddy, coats. But they aren’t our horses and I think it might be crossing a line in our rural corner of Galicia to start grooming them. But Jeff being Jeff, he will find a tack shop soon, I’m very sure.
Whenever we leave them, after two carrots each and a muzzle petting, they stand for a long time and watch us make our way back to our gate, following our progress down our driveway to the house. Jeff thinks it won’t be long before they’ve broken through their fence again and we find them knocking on the front door.
Yesterday, after our carrot stop with the horses, the cows seemed to want to get in on the ‘those people have treats’ act. Coming closer to the fence to inspect us further. But I don’t think we should start feeding a herd of cows carrots. Its a slippery slope. Quite literally.
We got back in the house and I caught Jeff smiling to himself in the kitchen looking out the window at the pasture. ‘Are you happy here?’ I asked him. He reached out and hugged me. ‘I am happy here. We wake up to roosters instead of church bells. So that’s different. And our friends might not all be human, but I like’em all the same.’ And I quite agree. As friends, these two horses will do just fine. But, I’ll admit, sometimes I do miss the church bells.