I know many of you who travel on Route 23 past West Oneonta heading toward Morris have noticed my old horse standing on the hill above our barn. No matter what the weather, he watches over his domain to protect his territory.
The other day, my wife was brushing him down next to the fence. With every stroke of the curry comb, wads of old winter hair fell to the ground. The old appaloosa just stood there enjoying the moment, totally relaxed with his head down. Then his ears stood up straight as he turned his head toward the hill.
Pat looked up but didn't see anything. All was quiet, but Oso knew something wasn't right. Suddenly, a red fox appeared on the crest of the hill. He walked into view and sat down to watch what was happening. Was it strange that the fox was there, out in the open in the middle of the day?
Several moments passed as the three curiously watched each other.
After a while, my wife clapped her hands and old Renyard finally got up and walked across the pasture, unconcerned about what was happening at the bottom of the hill. I know if the horse had been up in his usual spot, things would have been a lot different. He would have chased that sneaky, red critter right back into the hedge row. He's like that. That's my pasture, so don't bother me!
Back when it was legal to feed deer, I'd put a pail of corn out every night when I fed the horse. Not long after feeding time, Oso would walk over to the corner of the fence and wait. He knew the deer would arrive before long.
After a while, a group of hungry deer would come down over the hill through his pasture. When they got close, the game was on. It was a nightly ritual for the horse to chase them one way and then the other until they all made it over the fence to the corn pile.
It's been quite a while since I had to stop feeding the deer, but it's not uncommon for Oso to walk over to that same corner after eating his grain and wait, maybe even hoping the deer would once again come down over the hill to play once more. Animals are creatures of habit, so I'm sure he misses the thrill of the chase.
If I'm out in the yard and don't put Oso's grain out on time, he'll nicker at me and even pick up his bucket and throw it over the fence, trying to get my attention. I've come to believe over the years that appaloosa is not just a color, it's an attitude _ and that old horse certainly has one.
As for the red fox, he went along his merry way, probably looking for a mouse or something to have for lunch.
Who knows? Maybe it was a female who has a den someplace up on the hill? I've seen several young foxes raised in our pasture over the years. Watching them learn to hunt and just frolic in the meadows is a great way to pass a summer evening.
I'll keep you posted.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.