Saturday, September 17, 2005

Trail ride, and other activities.

(Sorry. This was supposed to have been posted several days ago. Thought I'd done it!)

This morning (Tuesday, 9/13) we went trail riding for about an hour. Carol and I discussed the issue and decided that the last time we had been on horseback was during our trip to Hawaii in 1998.

She opted for western gear, while I chose English tack. My sister Betty came too, along with her resident riding instructor Katrin, who did most of the work of collecting the horses, putting on saddles and bridles, and helping us older folks climb aboard.

The horses looked at us, looked at each other, and grinned. Well, they didn’t exactly grin, but that’s what it looked like to me. It seemed they were thinking, “Ah! Older riders who don’t look or smell like they’ve been around horses much. This could be fun!”

My sturdy mount Amber was determined to be in the front of the line and wanted to trot the entire hour. Every time I’d relax my constant back-pressure on the reins just a touch, she’d immediately start to trot.

Carol’s horse Toby was reluctant to go at all. He kept lagging behind and had to be urged on. He also wanted to grab mouthfuls of the lush grass along the roadside and munch a while.

Betty and Katrin both expertly controlled their mounts without issues while we other two had to remain vigilant.

Things changed a bit once Toby apparently realized we were more than halfway around the circular route and thus were getting closer to the barn instead of farther away. Once that happened he took the lead and Carol had to fight to slow him down. Amber, meanwhile, liked the look of what Toby was doing and decided she wanted to race the others to the barn. Or at least to the pasture.

At the end of the hour’s ride, my butt was ready to stop getting bounced around on hard leather. Now, some 10 hours later, I have the feeling that my thighs are going to be sore tomorrow. But the ride was enjoyable!

After lunch Betty asked me if I would help her hitch the hay wagon to the pickup truck and drive the truck and wagon to a nearby field. She was going to drive her tractor to the field and load round hay bales onto the wagon so we could put them in a barn. The forecast calls for rain tomorrow.

It was to be a half-hour chore. Or so.

But first we had to remove the ball from the pickup’s trailer hitch, since the hay wagon tongue simple pinned to the hitch (no ball). That task required a 1 5/8 inch wrench. We couldn’t find one amongst her tools. I found a 1 5/8 inch socket, but no ratchet or other drive handle to turn it. We searched. Finally we uncovered the drive handle (in a barn on a table near a tractor that had been worked on recently). I was able to remove the ball and hitch up the hay wagon.

We drove to the field, where Betty learned that the round bales were MUCH larger and heavier than any she had handled before. The hydraulics on her little tractor strained to lift them, and the wagon held only two instead of the six she expected us to haul each load. She thought there were 12 bales.

So I pulled the wagon with 2 bales on it the ½ mile to her hay barn while she followed me on the tractor carrying a third bale. As we were nearing the barn I realized that one of the wagon tires was flat, so pulled over to one side.

Betty has a compressor, but it’s at her house (not near the barn, where we were).

Oh, but she has a portable air tank that we could charge up at the compressor and haul to the wagon to air up the tire (in case it had a slow leak). Where was the air tank? Well, we looked.

We looked everywhere, from the house at the compressor, through the sheds and barns, and even out in the fields where a cart had recently had a flat and been filled with air.

No air tank.

And no spare tire.

By then over 2 hours had elapsed of our ½ hour chore, and we’d only brought in 3 bales!
Betty spent the rest of the afternoon hauling bales on the front of the tractor one at a time. It turned out that there were 15 bales, not 12.

Thus goes life on a farm, where Murphy is alive and well, and his law is especially active.

Tomorrow is our last day and night in Maryland, and then we head west toward Chicago for our last stop.

Maybe my sore butt and thighs will be feeling better by then.

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