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Not Even One Little Rodent In Sight

April 26, 2014

Years ago a guy I worked with told me a story that would make you shudder but it made me guffaw all over the place...

It was the first really warm day after a long Michigan winter and he was out in the woods in kind of a remote area along the shore of Lake Michigan. Now, most West Michigan woods are riddled with two tracks, or, what some call dirt roads. Two tracks are un-maintained roads that people have kind of made on their own through the woods. They are essentially two sandy paths about wheel distance apart. The sand comes from when Lake Michigan washed over what is now woods to use the term loosely. The sun had nicely warmed the sand in the two track and he decided to shuck his shoes and go for an exploratory barefoot walk up the two track. Kinda like on a beach.

He was walking along like a Cedar Savage Tom Sawyer, singing at the top of his lungs, which really didn't matter because there wasn't anyone for miles anyway, and scuffling along kicking up sand with his feet. He said it was cathartic, well, he really didn't, he had no idea what the word meant, but he did say he was really letting it go, kind of like a kid in a candy store.

The two track turned into a guard rail free wooden plank bridge over a little melodious stream. Up he went onto the bridge lost in bliss, well, lost in the beauty of the day and solitude.

Exactly halfway across the bridge, his words, there was a splinter sticking up at a 45. That's what he thought anyway, he didn't actually see the splinter before the meeting. He and the splinter met face to toe and the splinter went up under the nail of his big toe.

He said the meeting froze him solid in mid stride. He said the pain was so intense he forgot everything he ever knew. "I even forgot my name! My whole body instantly broke out in a very fine sweat!"

"The pain wouldn't let me go forward, wouldn't let me go back. As long as I was motionless in mid stride I could stand the pain but any breathing was agony!"

"The only way off that thing was back but my body was hang poised to go forward and the slightest direction change practically drowned me in tears."

I have to confess, I was in tears listening to him, his dazed recounting had my ribs splitting.

"I screamed until my ears hurt, clenched my fists til my fingernails felt like they were going to pop off and then jerked my foot backward as I continued forward onto my face sucking dirt off the boards with my gasping."

We had this horse, Max, at Brave Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center where I did some volunteering. He's got more matching swirls, whorls and strange hair patterns than a spa loaded with bathtubs. Nothing bothers him, he is as curious as a monkey and is a real pain because he's always getting into something. He has gone up the wheel chair mounting ramp all the way to the top and then turned around like a goat and came on back down.

We have a narrow aisle way between the paddocks to keep the occupants apart. Well, about a week ago Max found a hole about as big around as a barrel in the fence of the paddock he was in and he decided to slither through the hole and get caught in the brush in this narrow lane and had to be chopped out which he didn't find all that big a deal. Once freed and in his paddock right back to the hole and through it again.

He squeezed in and out of the brush filled aisle way pretty much at will - unless he thought he was trapped. Then he'd stand there and wait for someone to come and get him.

He was "trapped" to day and I grabbed the loppers and went to get him "free." I was half tempted to just fix the hole and leave him there but I fought the temptation.

That aisle way was filled with thorn bushes, and I mean the mother of all thorn bushes, with long extremely sharp thorns, big 'uns! I wondered as I was lopping why they didn't stick him.

And just as I finally had a path whacked out for him we started down it with him close behind with no room for him to get by without running me over or pushing me face first into the ice pick bushes. I was trying to watch him just in case he decided to push past and go from breathing down the back of my neck to kickin' stuff in my face after pushing me aside into the thorn bushes, when one of those thorns met the sole of my old Ariats on its way into the ball of my foot. Never even slowed down.


And then the thorn decided to break off and take up residence in my boot and my foot.


And there I was, all alone, a considerable distance from any sitting place. I didn't want to sit on the ground because it was all... well, you know, it's a barnyard. No one on the farm, couldn't even see a rat, but me and a bunch of horses with no thorn problems so it didn't make any sense to yell, "SOME ONE BRING THE TRUCK TO GET ME!!"

And there I was one legging it down the path with kind of a flailing, hopping gait which didn't seem to concern Max at all. I left him to his own devices as I hop-scotched a couple hundred hops to a decent place to sit and deal with the big old needle in my foot.

As I hopped along I was figuring I was going to have to cut the boot apart to get released from the breath taking thorn that was reminding me of its presence with every one legged. When I finally collapsed at a suitable sitting place visions of a barefooted trip to the hardware store for a new pair of Ariats flashed through my head. Cowboys don't go nowhere unbooted.

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