Note: I started calling this series The Shetland Trajectory, because that’s how it felt: one day Roz and I are meandering along, the next I’m rocketing, hanging onto a pony for dear life, somewhat disoriented. Now that I know you like Mr. Chips stories, it seems awkward to start titling things: The Shetland Trajectory: Part 1,065. Thus the name change. So we can find the one we like again.
Following Dave’s lopsided departure (he wouldn’t let me drive him home), I had a stern talk with Mr. Chips, locked everything up tight, and ran to the hardware store for lengths of chain and bull snaps. Extra backup on the gates for when I was home.
At that point, I still hoped to keep a few friends. This was before I realized Dave could regale the Killer Horse story to mutual friends with aplomb. Especially if libations were involved.
Aw heck. Can we blame the guy? How would you feel if you were using your beloved day off to help a friend rototill, and were attacked in the butt by giant incisors attached to an evil, hairy looking My Little Pony?
My Little Pony, Mr. Chips was not.
In addition to his prolific gate and door opening skills, Mr. Chips had other hidden talents.
The day after the Real Estate Agent Tour of my house, I realized the Victorian mesh handbag that had been my Great Grandmother’s, was missing from its decorative place on the wall. There was the lonely little hook. It must have gotten knocked off and kicked under something in the Jane Drag-By. I couldn’t find it. I also didn’t look very hard. I had a fence to put up.
Dave had offered to help me section off the smaller portion of the pasture into a pony turn out, to prevent founder come spring.
I think we can all guess what happened to that offer: it drove off with Dave, sitting on a bag of rapidly thawing peas.
I was on my own. Over the next week, I hot wired the area to cordon it off from nosy equines, set the posts, poured the cement, and let it cure. Not crooked at all, if I was willing to cock my head slightly to the right. I can work with that. Mr. Chips and Roz are both standing on the other side of the hot wire, staring at the new fence posts. I look at them. Both their heads are also cocked to the right.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence”, I say. They both turn their heads questioningly in my direction. “The fence posts?” I say. I glance back at the posts. Cock my head to the right again. Works. All better. I turn around to take down the hot wire, and gather the rest of the materials. Both Roz and Mr. Chips are staring at the posts again, heads cocked to the right.
Everyone’s a critic.
I grab my tool box from the barn. Huh. Hammer is missing. I must have left it in the house? That’s okay, I’m putting the rails up with screws and a power drill. No popped nail heads after winter freezing and thawing. Nails around horses are generally a bad idea. I probably left the hammer in the house, since I rarely have occasion to use it down at the barn. I seem to be losing things a lot lately. A garden glove. A 10 lb salt lick I was sure I’d purchased at the feed store (probably left it there, dang it), a lead rope, and a plastic punch pitcher and tumbler set. That one was odd. I was having friends over, set the patio table, put the pitcher (tumblers stored inside) on the tablecloth, went to make dinner, and…must have set it down somewhere else along the way? The wind blew it off? I had a poltergeist?
Disturbingly, I was losing track of money also. The paper stuff, not the unimportant coinage.
Back to the task at hand. I turn off the hot box, and take down the wire. Last thing I need is for either of them to get hung up on it. I kept screws in a lidded box with a giant magnet in the bottom. I wasn’t too worried about Nosy Parker Syndrome while I put up a few wood rails. Roz hated the sound of power tools, and I was pretty sure Mr. Chips would feel the same way.
Ha. I bet every single one of you could have told me Mr. Chips would be completely unafraid of anything short of a submachine gun being fired from a helicopter.
Fine. I had company.
I put a handful of screws in my pocket, shut and latched the box lid, lined up the boards, and turned to pick up the drill. What drill? Oh lord. I am losing my mind. Didn’t I bring it out here? Mystified, I go back into the barn (carrying the latched box of screws, I’m not stupid). No drill. Great. Now what. I go back outside. Oh geeze, there it is. Over to the left. Funny. I’m right-handed. I almost always set it to the right. I trudge back over, pick up the drill and start attaching boards to posts. Good. Parallel to the string line! After awhile I’m hot, tired, thirsty, and mentally cursing Dave. (Note: I was not cursing Mr. Chips, who was the actual problem in that equation, because I’d fallen for him. Love really is blind.) I put the toolkit and drill out of reach beyond the fence, not that it matters: Roz and Chips are now grazing in the bottom of the pasture, the farthest corner. I go make myself some lemonade and do what I do best: procrastinate by eating.
An hour might just be a tad long for a lone lunch, even for me. I haul myself out of the chair, and go back to work. Roz and Chips haven’t moved. My toolkit hasn’t moved. The drill, however, is gone. I am CERTAIN I put the drill next to the tool kit. I did, didn’t I? Right? I sit down on the ground. I start feeling sorry for myself. Hot day, no help, losing my mind…oh god, don’t start crying! Something bumps me in the back, and I jump out of my skin before I realize, from the warm breath, that it’s Mr. Chips. How does he DO that? I can hear Roz coming from a mile away. Well, at least someone cares, snivel snivel. I start to break down again.
Bump bump. Um. Caring turning into annoying here. Can’t you see I’m crying?
I turn around. Because I’m sitting, I’m eye level with Mr. Chips. He’s staring at me with one beautiful liquid brown eye. Awwwww.
He flips his head up, and something swings strangely from his mouth.
My hammer. He drops it near my hand, and looks at me expectantly. When I don’t react, he stares at me, then stares at the hammer.
I’ve entered the twilight zone. That is what dogs do. Not horses.
I pick up the hammer. Mr. Chips shakes his mane, turns, and trots off to rejoin Roz. Problem fixed. I get the feeling he’s watched a number of fences being constructed in his life. With nails.
It all comes together. I start searching the bushes. Then the tall grass outside the fence. I feel a little crazy? The barn!
I tear apart the barn, looking. Mr. Chips stays conspicuously away from all this activity.
Finally, behind a locked trunk, I see a flash of yellow: Dewalt. The drill. Underneath the drill: a cracked pitcher and dusty plastic ware, green paper, in varying denominations, several single gloves, half an apple (ew), the Victorian purse, a paperback novel (?), the missing lead rope, and the chomped-off end of a picture key chain: Dave’s 2-year-old son proudly staring back at me.
Mr. Chips was a thief.
The lost salt lick? He’d managed to roll it down the hill, perfectly placed next to the water trough, where it would be handy when he got thirsty after licking.