We're all on high alert now...
Husbeast and I rode out from the house with two goals in mind, but time on the clock for only one. We needed to get the bulls moved out of the main hay field and up on the bench behind the haystack. One, to keep them as far away from cows and heifers as possible and two, to do a little green stripping for fire prevention. We also needed to kick the first calf heifers and yearling heifers up on to the face of the switchback. Our local volunteer fire group also had an annual fire refresher course scheduled and we were creeping up on it being time to get there. So we decided to split the difference. The bulls would come first and we would see where we were based on time.
When we rode in to the meadow we only saw about half of the bulls we were after. As we got closer to them some of the others started popping out of willows and tall grass. We still needed the 3 Scotties. They had been hiding off on their own and finally showed up when we got to the bottom(or top if you like to base things on where the water comes in) of the meadow. The bulls actually cooperated and moved fairly easy toward the goal we had in mind. No one chose to pick a fight in the middle of the gate and no one chose to run the wrong direction on the other side of the big ditch. We called it a win and looked at the clock.
"It's 11:30 and we need to be leaving by 12:30."
"It'll take us that long just to ride back to the house. When are we going to move the heifers?"
"Fire school is only supposed to go to 5. Maybe when we get back?"
Our conversation brought us to the fence that surrounds the hay yard for that field. On our left was barbed wire and on our right was the main irrigation ditch that is about 4 feet wide and running bank to bank with water. As I was talking Husbeast rode past a bull snake that was headed to water from my side of the road. I pointed him out and made the comment that we have to remember to shut the quad off now because this means the devil worms are back too...you know, rattlesnakes....
About half a minute later, Husbeast's horse, Sam, locked up and blew his nose at the ground. There in front of him lay another, larger bull snake. We watched him for a minute because he had been just as surprised as we were and semi coiled his body into the standard "I'm pissed" position and raised his head. Our dog Ina (who has had heat stroke and doesn't always make properly timed or good decisions) chose to check out the snake. She stepped forward to sniff him and he blew up and hissed and raised his coils even higher. In that same moment, Sam did his best to spin out from under Husbeast and Maynard squatted like he was prepping to launch as far away as possible from the new threat. Naturally once we got all of our nerves and senses and horses gathered back up, we both told Ina how impressed we were with her choices. We attempted to ride past the snake and he protested our movements with more hissing. Sam wouldn't go by and Maynard took a second to that motion. Neither of us felt like jumping the ditch or ending up in the fence, but it was clear that neither horse felt much like walking past the hissing, coiled up snake.
So, I did what any person who is terrified of snakes would do. I stepped off of Maynard and led him past the snake. As I stepped down to volunteer for the rescue mission Husbeast said "throw that S.O.B. in the ditch!" to which I replied "hell no!! I am not touching him! I just want to get by him!"
Luckily the snake didn't choose to chase after me because this story would have had an entirely different ending. If it had been a rattlesnake I would have volunteered Husbeast to take care of the matter. As it was, both horses trusted my sacrifice (they owe me) and we made it by unscathed. The trip back to the yard became a little more entertaining with every stick posing as a snake and the dogs running through the brush making both horses jump. Husbeast and I both decided we would much rather have horses that can identify and choose to stay far away from snakes but their reactions to them mean we also better be watching for any sudden change in direction that might take place.
With all of us on high alert, it could prove to be an entertaining summer...