Talking Story

country living


mountain_lion“There’s a mountain lion near the haystack. It’s a big one.”

Kevin and I had just left the house and were headed to a late night movie when the cell phone rang. Kevin joked, “I bet the kids want us to bring them ice cream.”

“I bet they’re arguing over who has to get the eggs and who has to do the dishes,” I said.

Cougars were not in our top three. I’m not sure they were even on our list of possibilities.

“Dad? When Dylan went out to feed the horses, he saw a mountain lion. There’s a mountain lion near the haystack. It’s a big one. What do we do?” Shelby asked.

“Keep the dogs in the house,” Kevin said. “Don’t worry about the eggs. It’s after the deer that have come down from the hills looking for better forage. It’ll leave soon.”

Time to warn the neighbors and circle the wagons again.

Yep. It’s fall.





About once or twice a week I have to go through the fridge and pantry and weed out the limp celery, wizened apples, and suspiciously fuzzy baked goods. With two ravenous teens in the house it’s hard to strike the right balance between having enough fresh things on hand and schedules that often leave us eating out.

However, with six horses, fifteen chickens, two dogs, and three cats also at home few things go to waste. Peels, stale bagels, and nobody’s-gonna-eat-that leftovers get tossed in a bag or a bucket perched on the edge of the kitchen counter. It’s understood that the next time a kid heads out to gather eggs or toss hay to the horses, the bucket goes along, too. They’re supposed to share the wealth.

But sometimes I can’t wait to get things off the counter. It’s no surprise that like Pavlov’s dogs, all I have to do is step out on the back deck and all the chickens, dogs, and cats come running. They know I’m lazy and will huck things over the railing into a planting area instead of walking out to the corrals. The horses come to the fence line and whinny, but they know it’s unlikely I’ll walk out unless I have shoes on.

I rarely have shoes on. But they never give up hope.

Over the years we’ve learned a few things. If I thought I could get away with it I’d have one of my kids keep track and turn it in as a science fair project. Too bad none of their science teachers have caught the vision or seen the value. For the record:

One horse loves red grapes and will do anything to get them. The others don’t care.

All horses love watermelon and corn tortillas, but not even chickens will eat bell peppers, celery, or fresh pineapple.

If you hold out a stale loaf of French bread like a sword, horses will take bites.

Only dogs like peanut butter-flavored anything.

Cats want their own piece of whatever it is, even if they won’t eat it. Just having their own makes them happy.

Dogs will do tricks all day if you give them a little something. It doesn’t matter if it’s dry dog food from their bowl—if it’s coming from a person it’s a treat.

Chickens get excited over cherry tomatoes until they take a peck. They probably confuse them with strawberries. I’d be sad, too.

Horses really like granola bars unless they’re coated in chocolate. In fact, none of the animals really like chocolate, which proves they’re not as evolved as we thought.

What are some of the memorable things you’ve fed your pets?

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