Crazy Jobs ~ Stable Hand

Growing up, as with most young girls I loved horses. I still do, but the passion was much stronger back in the day. At age of 16, I was able to land a job as a stable hand at a horse ranch near Rogue River, Oregon for the summer. I was in sheer heaven. The owners raised all sorts of horses. From jumping to show. Their daughter was in charge of the stables. Sassy, that’s what I always thought of her. Sometimes when the family went out of town, I got to stay in the daughter’s apartment. A barn converted into living quarters. Oh I felt so grown up.

My daily routine was to feed, water, walk, clean horse stalls, inspect and generally care for the horses. I grew to love them all. The most disgusting job was not cleaning the horse stalls, but feeding the horses flakes of alfalfa. The alfalfa was stored in the huge barn with the horses. Shrews would make nests in the bales. Being that I tended to be a bit forgetful about these bald little creepy creatures, I often, accidentally, stab them with the pitchfork. It was disgusting. Sometimes I would grab a flake with my hands and see from the corner of my eye, squirming movements. I always screamed and jumped sky high. They were horrid little things. We also had to watch for mice. Double disgusting. Never a barn cat around when you needed one.

I really wanted to mimic everything the daughter did. I wanted to be just like her. One thing that always impressed me was that she could drive the farm tractor like it was a compact car. She could turn it on a dime. Back it up into the smallest spaces. AND, most importantly, dump loads of fresh saw dust into the stalls. The stalls were of rather large size however the opening to get a tractors bucket in to the stalls between the large beams that were attached to the ceiling seemed impossible. There was about a foot space between the tractor bucket and the beams to the right and left of it. Simple!

One day while alone, seems like the daughter was always off having fun whilst I was slaving away and doing both my jobs AND hers, I decided it was time for me to use that tractor. Being that she was gallivanting around town this day, I was about 2 hours behind. My normal routine of using shovel and wheel burrow to refresh the stalls with saw dust was not working for me. I hoped onto the tractor. Started it up. OH BABY! What a powerful machine that was. I was overjoyed. I would get all my work done and be home in time for dinner.

I practiced for several minutes out side of the barn. Piece of cake. Although I had butterflies, I felt confident that using this tractor would make my life better. More time to spend with the horses and all. I was ready. I loaded the bucket with sawdust. Pulled the tractor ever so slowly into the barn. I lined up the bucket with the stall beams. Slowly, painfully slowly, I inched towards the stall opening. Everything was going swell. Over the roar of the tractor I heard a very high pitched screeching sound. Like metal on metal. Or metal on wood? Hmm, I thought, this did not sound good. I stopped the tractor and listened. Nothing. I started her up again moved the tractor a milla-inch at a time. Again that blasted noise. At this time I realized I did not seem to be making much progress. I should have cleared the beams by now. For some reason I looked up. OMG! I hadn’t lined up the bucket well at all. I saw instantly where the noise was coming from. The tractor bucket was just barley touching the beam on the right. So much so that the bucket was pushing the beam from its place. The sounds I heard were the gigantic nails being pulled from their connection to the beam of the ceiling. There was about a three inch gap where the stall beam had separated from the ceiling beam. You could see the nails metallic bent forms in the gap. Freak out time. I shoved that tractor in reverse and hauled it out of there.

I seriously did not know what to do. I knew there was no way in heck the stall or barn would fall over. This was only one beam out of hundreds. And the beam did not completely separate from the ceiling. I fretted about it for hours. I went about my business and finished the stalls in record time. The adrenaline kept me going full speed. I paused every now and again to look at the mess I had made. I pushed and tried to jiggle the beam to see how loose it was. It did not move at all. It was still very very secure. With that I decided to hang my head in shame and not tell a soul.

I worked there the rest of the summer until school started back up. No one noticed a thing. The owners of the ranch loved my hard work and even gave me a letter of recommendation. I never used it though. I still feel ashamed that I never fessed up.

I do drive by on occasion to make sure that barn is still standing after all these years and it is. Thank the horse Gods!

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