Mr. Chips On Ice

It’s the hottest summer on record.  Yesterday it was 105 degrees.

Day One: Hold funeral for box fan.  I can do this.  I don’t need no stinkin air-conditioning!

Day Two: Standing outside doors of big hardware store at 6:25 am, while it’s still a cool 90 degrees. Open open open!  I need that fan.  6:30 am: hostile clerks hide behind counters: WE ARE OUT OF FANS PLEASE PLEASE LEAVE US ALONE. Do you..? NO WE DON’T KNOW WHERE THERE ARE ANY.  GO AWAY.  How about…? NO AIR CONDITIONERS! HAVE YOU BEEN IN A CAVE?!?

Day Three: Grid is overloading: there are rolling brownouts.  No air-conditioning at work.  We get permission to lose the nylon stockings.  Hallelujah.  It’s Thursday.  Going to the movies tomorrow.  All evening.  Get cool.

Day Four: I lose four pounds sweating at work.  I’m in air-conditioned heaven, watching Star Trek for the third time, with my fingers in my ears and my eyes closed. Only movie in the theater that hadn’t sold out.  I try to sleep.  The theater goes black.  It’s instantly boiling.  Power outage.  I will myself to bear the heat until the stampede for the door subsides.

Day Five: 115 degrees.  Starting to see things.  Pretty shimmery things. Oh.  It’s the heat on the tarmac.  There are black lumps on floors everywhere.  The tarmac is melting and sticking to people’s shoes.  We’re all running from store to store, in search of a balmy 95 degrees to cool off. Overheated cars line the side of the roads.  There’s a run on gallon bottles of water.

I’m worried about the horses.

Although, when I came home yesterday, a wilted Roz was standing inside the stock tank, water nearly to her belly, splashing the hairy, fuzzball pony with her nose.  His coat seems to be made of asbestos.  He’s appears impervious to the heat.

Day Six: Supposed to be 117.  No fans in 100 mile radius.  I checked on Day Two.  Even if I’d found one, there were power outages, and I couldn’t leave a fan unattended all day. I need a Plan B for the horses.  I can keep them wet all day (though I’m not sure how healthy this is), but what about when I go back to work tomorrow?

I’m mucking out stalls in a bikini and white, kiddie, rain galoshes.  Not pretty.  Bits of shavings and, um, stuff stick to my sweaty skin.

Hmmm.  I string a clothesline high up in the barn.  Soak some sheets and drape them over the line.  Roz gets it immediately, and stands under the dripping sheets.  Mr. Chips rears, pulls one down, and starts tearing it up with his teeth.  His barn is NOT a laundromat.

Fine.  I yank the sheets down, Roz pins her ears at Chips, and I switch to soaked towels, which he can’t reach.  Mr. Chips pins his ears.  Wrinkles his muzzle.  Crabby crabby.

Problem. By the time I hang the last towel, the first towel is a hot, stiff, scratchy board. Useful for sanding the side of the barn.  Not going to work.

I spend the next hour lugging hoses and installing a battery operated timer on the faucet. When I’m done, there’s a sprinkler head, face down, outside the big barn door. (Well out of horse reach) The timer only has 3 cycles.  But it’s the best I can do.  It will go off for an hour at 11 am, 2 pm, and 5 pm.  I get home tomorrow at 6:30.  It’s set.  I wait to see if it will turn on. It’s 10:30 am.

Roz and Mr. Chips have stood in the shade of the trees near the fence, watching.  I seem to be obsessed with their barn.  The look at each other.  I try not to wonder what they are thinking.

11 am.  The sprinkler turns on!  Hallelujah.  Neither of them moves.  I show them what a terrific thing this is, by jumping around and splashing in the fake rain.  Yup, still in the swimsuit and white rain galoshes. I’m ready to kiss the ground that I live in the middle of NoWhere.  I can do this stuff.  My nearest neighbor lives up a three-mile driveway that runs along the east fence line.  I turn to the horses, to see if they understood.

Something white flashes behind them.  A golf cart is stopped in the road. My neighbor is waving uncertainly, mail in hand.

I am not skinny.  The bikini was for personal heat emergencies.  I can’t even SEE the bikini bottom. The horses helpfully look at the waving mail, then back at me, creating a nice visual arrow that practically screams CRAZY PERSON OVER THERE.

Suicide is an option.  I wave back.  I can’t tell if it’s the shimmering heat from the tarmac, or if my neighbor is shaking with laughter.  He putt-putts back up  his first hill.

Roz ambles over, and Mr. Chips trots after her.  We all stand under the sprinkler.

It works!  They love it, dash in and out of the sprinkler.  I check to make sure it goes off at all the set times…now wearing shorts and a T-shirt.  I can go to work tomorrow knowing there’s a backup.  Already checked the float in the stock tank, and left extra buckets of water hung in the stalls. (Barn & stall doors stay open all summer, except at feeding time.)

Day Seven: Getting ready for work, I’m so over the heat.  Just put me in the freezer please. No one in the county has slept for days.  People are crabby, cranky Zombies with car problems.  On TV, the weatherman cheerfully banters with the sweat-less, helmet-haired anchorwoman.  It’s supposed to be somewhere between 115 and 118 today. They laugh.  They can laugh: they have a generator.

Something drips on my face.  Is that…my makeup melting?  Holy crap!  I scrub it off, slap on some waterproof mascara and lipstick.  I  grab my truck keys on the fly.  I’m late.

The work day is a dart thrown somewhere into one of the Circles of Hell.  At 5 pm, I call the ice-cream parlor across the street.  I can see there’s a line down the block.  I offer the clerk $20 if he’ll meet me at his service entrance with a giant cone of chocolate chip, and a bag of ice in 5 minutes.  I have to promise him I won’t drive back around the front. Done.

It is SO worth the $20.

The day topped out at 118.  At 6:30 pm, it’s still hovering around 104.  Not only are the horses bone dry, there is no sign of dampness on the ground proving the sprinkler went off.  But they look better, so I’m sure it has.  The stock tank is still clean, proving Roz didn’t spend the day standing in it.  I check their hydration.  Adequate.

Whew.  I’m brilliant.  I feed the horses.  Watch the news with a bag of thawing peas on the back of my neck.  Supposed to cool off.  Temps dropping down to the low 80’s tonight.  I don’t want to soak the horses with that big of a temperature change coming.  What to do?

I wipe them both down with a wet towels, before opening stall doors again.  Let them out, and  fill their water buckets for the third time.  The water is so warm it isn’t appealing.

Wait!  The ice.  I jog (I’m lying.  I stagger.) back up the hill to the house, grab the bag of ice out of the freezer, and go back to the barn.  Dump the water buckets.  This attracts both  horses attention: isn’t she usually done for the night by now?

I shake a four-inch layer of ice into each bucket, add water, and presto: water that should stay somewhat cool into the night.  The ice rattles as I hook the buckets back into place.

Now they are curious.  Roz ambles in, sniffs her bucket, looks closely at me: no mint?  No colorful paper umbrella? before pushing her muzzle through the ice and taking dainty sips.  Her eyes glaze with happiness.  She looks at me with adoration.

I’m ridiculously pleased.

Mr. Chips watches.  Goes into his own stall, with its pony high bucket. I wait for the gratitude.  He stares at the bucket, then suddenly lunges: stabbing and biting at ice hunks, striking at the bucket.  Kill!  Maim!  Destroy!

WHAT?!?

He is certain the ice chips are Evil Alien Pony Attackers.  It’s like watching a Karate Black Belt savagely chopping ice in a Ginsu Knife infomercial. Ice chips and water fly furiously as the crazed Shetland viciously fights his water bucket to the death.

The bucket is empty and Mr. Chips is completely soaked down his entire front.  Shreds of ice sparkle in his mane.

I think less than 60 seconds had gone by.

I snap out of it as he turns to kick the bucket to shreds.  Perhaps the previously benign bucket is in on the Evil Conspiracy to Lull Ponies Into Complacency? I lasso him with a lead rope and haul him out of the stall.  Stiff legged, he tries to strike at the ice chips in the bedding. He is one righteously furious pony.  Ice is going down in HIS barn.

It takes all my strength and horse skill to get the midget away from the bucket and out the door.

At that moment, I thanked God I had not called a Clydesdale rescue to find Roz’ companion.

Another life lesson learned: one person’s Mint Julep is another person’s Alien Invasion.

Be prepared.

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11 thoughts on “Mr. Chips On Ice

  1. Kandi

    I previously told you about Pistol, (I am now pretty sure he is Mr.Chips re-incarnated) He is OK with Ice in the water buckets, but he has to make it interesting. His solution to Ice in the water troughs is to throw his basket ball or traffic cone in to break it up. This winter I have had many a morning where I was wondering what the dark shape under the ice was… Feed pan, basket ball, traffic cone… You never know what he will put in there. If he gets his teeth on it, it goes into the water bucket!

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      I had to go visit. I didn’t see a place for comments, so I hope you come back and read this. Pistol is so full of attitude (and so gorgeous) I can see why you thought of him when reading about Mr. Chips. I love that he can break the ice in his own water trough, and likes to play with things. Your minis are all so beautiful. Congratulations on a new and full horse life! I’m sure you hear this all the time, but I have to ask: how did you find a farrier who will do little tiny hooves?
      (Hey guys, go visit Kandi’s, you are SO gonna fall in love with the minis!)

      Reply
  2. Amber

    Hahaha, I love Mr. Chips. He makes me want a pony really, really badly. This story is almost as amazing as the soccer ball story. I almost start crying I’m laughing so hard when I read that one 🙂

    Reply
  3. Marissa

    I really needed a Mr. Chips story this morning! Priceless. Oh, what I would give for a heat wave, as I look outside at all the ice and snow and wonder how I’m going to motivate myself to go see the horse today….

    Reply
  4. Marge Coates

    How wonderful to read about a heat wave! Here, now, we are sick to death of below-freezing nights, and days in the very low thirties! I live in Virginia, where water troughs have the ice cleared with pick-axes.

    Reply
  5. Brea

    I LOVED this story!~ I used to have a Shetland when I was a kid, his name was BW (for brown & white, how original). You described him to a “T”!

    Reply

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