Louise and the Tack Room Door

Miss Louise of the donkey ears and flapping lips.

Horses know when you’re in a hurry.

Nothing had gone as planned. I got home late, starving, of course, and racing the sun.  Scarfing a slice of cheese, I ran to the barn, hoping to ride Louise before dark.

The horses came at a gallop, same as every day, looking for carrots, apple slices, or fingernails against itchy withers.

“Hang on – I’ll get you cookies.” To my horses, “cookie” means anything that can be hand fed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tuft of grass or a store-bought horse treat.

I ducked past the trio and shoved my way into the feed room to grab brushes and tack.  Louise poked her head in after me, and I pushed her back into the aisle and pulled the door shut.

Louise knows where the cookies are.

It took a moment to collect everything I needed, and, arms laden with brushes, saddle, bridle, and halter, I gave the door a shove.

It didn’t budge.

“That’s weird.” I pushed a second time.

Nothing.

I pushed again and again, and the door refused to open.

“Louise!  What did you do?”

It’s always Louise.

The barn had recently been expanded to include two walk-out stalls and a loft, and it wasn’t finished. The new tack room door was temporarily latched by a hunk of wood on a spike, twisted vertically to allow the door to open, and horizontally to keep it shut. In her quest for cookies, Louise had twisted the board to the horizontal position.

I was locked in.

For a moment I was stunned. No way could I be trapped in my own barn by my own horse.  There must be a way out – I just needed to find it.

The windows were latched from the outside, and I wasn’t yet desperate enough to break one. There was a ladder to the hay loft. Maybe I could climb out the second-story hay doors. If I hung by my fingertips, I would only have to jump another three or four feet. I might sprain an ankle, but it would heal.

Eventually.

Or I could wave through the upstairs doors and try to flag down a passing motorist. The barn was mostly hidden behind oak and maple, and we didn’t get much traffic. If anyone did see me, they’d probably just wave back.

The tack room walls were built to allow maximum ventilation, and as such, did not go all the way to the ceiling. There was a space between the top of the wall and the rafters, just wide enough to wiggle through. But first I needed to climb up there.

I had Lyme disease, and my balance was not the best. I had a tendency to tip over, and there were times when I couldn’t tell up from down. Climbing wasn’t my best option.

Instead I ran as fast as I could and threw myself into the door.

“Ow! Shoot! Darn it!”

Why, with no one around, why was I trying not to swear? I walked back to the door and gave it a push. The impact had hurt like hell, but it had absolutely no effect. Jim and I are not the handiest of people, and I was surprised, and perversely proud, to discover we had built a very solid door.

Repeated attempts at self-mutilation were equally unsuccessful. My shoulder ached from the pounding, and the board did not budge.

I sat on a grain barrel and rubbed my shoulder. There was a tiny, tiny gap between the door and the wall. Maybe I could find something to shove through there and push the board upright.  It would have to be long enough to reach past the thick door, thin enough to pass through the narrow gap, and strong enough to move the board.

Metal. It had to be metal.

The hoof rasp!

Mentally crossing my fingers and toes, I pressed the tip of the rasp into the small gap and pushed as hard as I could. It slid a fraction of an inch and came to a stop. Too thick. But maybe I could force it.

I gave it a kick. The tip was driven a bit farther into the wood, and now it hung suspended, parallel to the floor. I kicked again, as hard as I could. It went no further into the gap, but it did send me hopping on one foot and trying not to curse.

Okay. Back to the loft.

I climbed up the ladder, hoisted myself to the smooth wood floor, and looked around. There were unused boards stored in the rafters – useless. I’d thrown away all my bailing twine, so any hope of braiding myself a rope ladder immediately faded. I could rip the twine off of maybe forty hay bales, but damn, that would be a mess.

Oh well. That was my best idea. Might as well get started.

I pulled the first bale from the top of the stack and reached for the hay knife.

Hay knife! I grabbed it and flew down the ladder.

The knife was thin enough to fit through the narrow crack and strong enough to shift the board. Unfortunately, it was too short.

By now it was getting dark. Jim would be home soon, but he wouldn’t look for me. He never looked for me. Jim always assumed I was having fun. Sometime after midnight he’d go to bed, and in the morning, he’d assume I’d gone out early, and he’d go back to work.

Make a rope, or climb the wall.

I didn’t like the idea of unstacking all that hay, so I chose the wall.

I dragged two grain barrels to the door, and with just a wee bit more exertion than I had hoped, I climbed on top of them. The barrels were nearly empty, and as such were not all that  steady. I reminded myself to keep my feet in the center of the now-dented lids.

If I stretched as high as I could, my fingers wrapped around the top of the wall. I hoisted myself up, hooked my elbow over the top, and hung. With the wall in my armpit, one foot against the opposite wall, and the other foot kicking air, I stuck my head through the gap and looked into the aisle.

I found myself looking directly into Louise’s wide eyes and flapping lips. Her donkey ears were lopped to the side, and she looked very, very hopeful.

Did I mention she knows where the cookies live?

“Louise!  Open the door!” I might as well have said, “Lassie!  Timmy’s in the well!” Louise sprang into action. She grabbed the board with her teeth and pulled. Chunks of wood and splinters fell at her feet. Her teeth clicked together as the board slipped free, and for a moment she looked very disappointed.

But Louise is persistent. She pulled and she bit. Each time the board got away from her, she stepped back and scrutinized it, ears listing at comical angles, chin quivering with mental gymnastics. She tilted her head to one side, then the other, trying again and again to get a better grip on that board.

She was unsuccessful. She pushed the door even more shut than it already was, and the board sagged deeper into the locked position. She’d worked hard, though, and now she reached toward me and flapped her lips, certain she’d earned a cookie.

If only she had opposable thumbs, or a longer attention span.

The board was now loose and easily moved, just a few feet below me.

Hmmmmm….

I climbed back down into the feed room and looked for a long stick – maybe one of those boards in the rafters….

That’s when I saw the broom.

Perfect.

I was on top of the barrels in record time, hooked my elbow over the top of the wall, and eased the broom through the gap. Louise tried to grab it, of course, because everything in the barn belonged to her. I wedged one foot against a window sill and pressed the other against the door. And somehow, amid Louise’s constant encouragement, I moved the board to the unlocked position and kicked the door open before the board could slip back.

It had been a long time since I’d done anything marginally athletic, and victory felt good. I allowed myself a moment to gloat as I let the broom fall to the aisle floor. When I finally climbed down and moved the barrels out of the way, pushed the door fully open, and stepped into the aisle, I found Louise devouring the broom. It came from the room where the food lives, after all. It was suppertime, and picky she is not.

It was now completely dark, and riding was out of the question. The horses enjoyed a slightly late supper and a thorough grooming. And while I wished I could have spent some time on Miss Louise’s back, I reminded myself that she and I have a lifetime of tomorrows.

This is the face that goes with the butt in Louise's picture. Miss Lucy, my Connemara mare.

6 thoughts on “Louise and the Tack Room Door

  1. Thank you Cheezit for the heart laugh I needed this evening.
    Your mom is a very special lady, and you are a very bad girl for having given her so much grief
    This story was was hysterical the first time, and only improves with mom’s polishing her considerable linguistic talents.

  2. you do know that we will insist on more piccies….. at work, at play, at mischief, and just chilled.
    we have been bereft for SOOOOO long.
    🙂

  3. If I get on her, we’ll have pictures of her ears. Then maybe one of her belly after the sound of the camera sends her into orbit. 😀

    Fortunately she’s not a spooky girl.

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