I put on boots and coat, pull my new imitation sharpa hat down low so its warm flaps cover the sides of my face. The yarn balls hanging at the ends of the strings would make me feel ridiculous if there were an audience and if the temperature wasn’t down into single digits. After zipping the coat, I put on my gloves and pick up the short lead rope, flip on the switch to the outside light and step out into the night.
The glare of halogen reaches across the driveway, over to the fence controller and even to the wire strand gate. I unfasten the lower two and leave the top wire connected. Dipping under it, I call to the horse and start through the pasture to his dark shape toward the southeast corner. He takes another few bites of grass and then heads toward me. I rub his neck and scratch between his ears, then clip the rope to the bottom ring of his halter. We stand for a moment, our breaths steaming in the low angle of the porch light.
As we walk toward the gate and the house, the light catches on frozen clumps of grass, ice crystals gleaming from dry shafts that rise above the snow. We stop for a few seconds as I unclip the last strand of wire, toss the connector onto the snow and frozen earth, then move on across the drive and toward the shed.
Tango moves with expectant step, sure that after his halter is off and the gate to the pen is chained, there will be sweet feed again, shaken into the heavy bucket hanging on the board beside the water trough just outside the shed that blocks the wind and gives him a place to spend the night. Or something to stand and look at should he choose to stay outside in the pale, thin harshness of this winter night.
It is not just horses that sometimes spurn the comfort and shelter that was intended for their good.