I know I made a blog a long while back about the time of the great water and flood, but have I ever told y’all about the night the County Island caught on fire? Well, not all of it, mind you, but some of it.
Y’know, a ranch colt’s first experience with fire likely comes when the brandin iron meets his butt. And the smell of that smoke never quite leaves a horse’s nostrils. Next time is when he’s fit with his first pair of horse shoes for work, hot from the farrier’s forge. And if you live on the ranch for long enough, eventually some of the ranch will catch on fire and inevitably burn up your favorite grazin area to a crisp, if you’re lucky to have good grazin. Or even further woe be it to the ranch horse whose hay barn burns down, especially if it’s got alfalfa in it, not as much the bermuda, but burnt bermuda would be sorrowful, too.
But in the eventuality of fire, a seasoned horse knows there’s nothin to do but stand around and wait for further instruction. If you got to go, the ranch hands will come get you. And if things get too hot to handle in the meantime, all a horse can do is giddy-up and go on his own, assuming he’s got a place to giddy-up to and ain’t stuck standin in a pen.
That’s a lesson Original Coors likely never learned growin up, to wait and to not worry, never havin experienced a rangeland fire. The County Island caught on fire in the time when it was just me and Coors livin here, before Coors Light showed up. Well, again, maybe not the entire County Island. But still.
It was durin the dead of night when a whiff of smoke first interrupted our equine slumber deep in the soft sand. I squeezed my eyes shut tighter against the irritation and tried to go back to sleep. But Coors jumped to his feet, kickin sand at my belly as he did, I might add by way of complaint, so I cracked one eye at him and pinned my ears, and then he jogged over to the far fence with his neck craned and his ears pricked. “Smoke!” he announced to the darkness. To which I replied sleepily, “Yeah, seems likely.”
Then, CRACK and then BOOM! went the night, and the sound made me jump to my feet, too, while it set Coors off leapin and buckin in circles and snortin. Back behind the fenceline of our ranch-corral, I saw flames shootin tall into the sky from one of the people-barns, which is called houses. “Fire, fire!” neighed Coors. I yawned and blinked my eyes, “Yep.”
On came our own people’s-barn light, and there was the bucket gal and her carrot guy inside their backyard-paddock, lookin at the fire just like us horses.
And I thought, well, I’m up, but I might as well stand and snooze, ‘cause there ain’t nothin a horse can do about a fire. So I set to tryin to sleep in place, but Coors kept snortin and blowin at the flames and the cracklin. And then the shrieky-sirens started comin close, and all the County Island dogs set to howlin and barkin, and then red and blue lights flashed up and down the road, and big, big rumbly trucks with flashin lights roared down to where the County Island burned bright.
Coors set to leapin and buckin around in earnest. Now it truly was damned near impossible for a horse to sleep! “Hey, quit that,” I shouted over all the County Island’s janglin and poppin and shriekin at Coors circlin around me. But he kept makin laps and snortin. So, ya see, I had to give chase, tryin to bite his big red butt, which makes a right easy target most of the time.
And I guess our adrenaline got to runnin, too, and then our runnin and buckin and leapin turned to teasin, ‘cause I started laughin at Coors for being scared of a little old fire like a greanbean colt, and then he was laughin at me buck-fartin like a creaky old-timer, and we was both neighin and bellowin loud as we could, so we could hear our own voices over the din, and then we was both whinnyin just to hear ourselves whinny, and tryin to imitate the sound of the sirens by squealin loud as we could. We was laughin and runnin so hard in the thick and heavy smoke that we set to coughin and wheezin, too, but the runnin was simply too much fun, so we kept goin! This was by far the best fire I’d ever been around!
And then I guess the bucket gal got sick of our shenanigans, so she done brought us our breakfast – in the middle of the night! And she told us to settle down, talkin to us soft and low, like maybe she thought we was scared or somethin? By that time, I was sweatin so hard, even my eyeballs was sweatin. And Coors was puffin so hard he could hardly catch a breath to chuckle. And the bucket gal looked more than a touch concerned, and we didn’t want her worryin. So, we settled into our piles of hay, selfless-like.
When daylight and feedin time finally rolled around, the fire had been quit and the smoke was settled, and I guess all the people was OK, ‘cause I never heard otherwise. And we also got fed breakfast again – that’s double breakfast!
So, I had to revise my opinion of how a horse should behave when the County Island catches fire, thanks to Original Coors’ example. In the eventuality of smellin smoke, a horse should likely make himself as grand a commotion as he can, in order that he may get fed additional hay. Extreme events call for extreme measures. And then if you got to be evacuated, you can go both calmly and with an extra full belly. That’s what I took from it, anyway.