Both ends of this large barn are open; huge wooden doors slid back along their tracks. Bright sunshine spills over the dusky interior in sharp contrast. Bales of hay are stacked six-feet high in one corner, and atop them sits a young man. Shoulders curved, he slouches against the barn wall, draped in shadow. Bright white earbud cords snake up beneath the hair screening his face. Everything about him is designed to ward off approach. I immediately set feet in his direction.
As I thread my way through knots of stablehands, three men in dark suits, fedoras, and sunglasses also enter the barn. They stare pointedly in the boy’s direction. The boy ignores them; the men look away, expressionless. They move past me like a slice of nightfall.
“Am I too late?” I’m breathless with anticipation once I’ve reached the corner.
With a slight shake of his head, the boy indicates there’s still time. He does not look at me, does not remove attention from the device in his hands. But, elated, I am unconcerned with manners and rush outside. Squinting against the light, I find the corral to the left. Easily, quickly I climb the six-foot fence, balance on the fence top. Contained within the corral below, is a small herd of horses. They move like fish, navigating the interior space and each other’s bodies in circling, eddying patterns.
Above the corral, suspended from thick cables are numerous large, clear tubes. Each must be three feet in length, and at their bases are four flat, brightly-colored plastic paddles — red, blue, yellow, green. I drop into a crouch on the fence top, leap to catch hold of one of the tubes. The cable is grooved beneath my hands and cool to the touch. Swinging gently from my perch above the milling horses, I depress one of the paddles with my foot — oats and grain pour out in a yellow stream. Horses gather below me to eat, shouldering each other aside. Before my momentum can slow, I leap to another tube, grip its cable, dispense more food. Again and again, I repeat this until I have made a circuit about the corral and all the horses are contentedly eating.
Except…that one… From this lofty height, I see a scruffy brown and white pinto edging toward me along the corral’s perimeter. Its extraordinarily long neck is thrust out and slung low over the ground. It bares large yellow teeth, eyes me balefully. In order to keep out of reach, I must continue leaping from one dispenser to another. And the horse, with grim intent, is determined to keep me from reaching the fence and climbing out to safety.
“Sticking One’s Neck Out” — C.Birde, 3/16