Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tag-You're IT!

Every once in a while, the farm provides you with some quality viewing at least as good as Avatar. You feel like you should pop some popcorn to enjoy with the show.

This morning our entertainment came in the form of our homebred Thoroughbred gelding Shawn, and pack of confused, if slightly thick, coyotes.

The thing to know about Shawn, is that he is a the prankster of the equine world. If I'd had more time to think about it, his registered name would be Jonny Knoxville, rather than Phoenix Secret. As a result of his rather singular sense of humor, he's had a lifetime of vet bills comparable to the ER bills of the Jackass crew.

When we lived in Virginia, our farm was surrounded by a neighborhood best described as Redneck Suburbia. And I don't use Redneck pejoratively you understand, but we had neighbors living in tract type houses who enjoyed such activities as 1) butchering deer while hanging from the front yard apple tree, 2) setting off fireworks to celebrate any and all holidays including Easter and Christmas, 3) and revving the engine of their classic cars at 50 cajillion decibles to a crowd of admirers at 7:30 am on a Saturday. So it goes without saying that their dog keeping moto was "Fences? We don't need no stinking fences!"

I'm not a big fan of loose dogs, they are a danger to themselves and others. And I was never happy to see dogs in the field with my horses.

Enter Shawn, who views everything that has ever happened in his life as part his own private Candid Camera episode.

A neighborhood hound would come trotting in to the field. Shawn would be grazing and his ears would flick towards the dog in full Red Alert mode. But he'd keep his head down, grazing, as though he hadn't noticed. He'd then casually, oh so casually, begin to drift towards the intruder, who was most likely engaged in the time-honored canine tradition of either eating, or rolling in, something disgusting.

When he'd get within about ten feet, usually the dog would notice the large animal that was now much closer. Sometimes they'd glance up briefly, and then go back to what they were doing. Sometimes they'd panic a little and take off running. And sometimes they'd try to confront him. It didn't really matter what they did, because he would begin to move towards them, head still down in the grazing position. He would build up a head of steam, and then explode towards them in full run. Now the dogs, no matter what their initial reaction was, would take off heading for the fence line at full speed.

Shawn would come roaring after them, often squealing with joy. The dog would shoot out from under the fence, tail between legs, traveling as fast as he could, and Shawn would turn at the last possible second, and take off bucking and pronging, his laughter all but audible.

Shawn hadn't gotten much of his game of Dog Tag in since we moved to California--our farm here is larger and more isolated, and our dogs all know better than to go in to the pastures. But this morning, he found a fun new variation--Coyote Tag.

As I sipped my morning Joe, I watched as four young coyotes attempted to trot through his field. I don't know where they were going, but an older female dens on the backside of the property, so my guess is these are last years cubs looking for a handout. Shawn immediately returned to his old game, only the coyotes didn't exactly know how to play. He would charge one, and it would take off running, tail between his legs, while the other three would sit together with a "What the-?" look on their faces.

The three watching would look for all the world like my father, uncle and grandfather trying to watch a cricket game (looks vaguely familiar, but totally incomprehensible). When the one getting chased would get tired, he'd bolt towards the watching three and one of them would end up in Shawn's sight line. Shawn was having a marvelous time--these California dogs didn't just head for the fence, they kept playing and playing and playing.

The coyotes, I'm certain, were trying to figure out how to get this stupid herbivore to understand the predator-play relationship, but none of them felt the need to stop running long enough to explain it to him.

It was a little early for popcorn, but a nice croissant with my coffee would have been a lovely post viewing snack.

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