Dec. 8th, 2017 | Rev. Don Underwood
Temperatures in north Texas will plummet tonight, reaching a level we refer to as a “hard freeze.” It will not be cold enough for long enough to freeze a stock tank or pond, but it will surely freeze my little automatic horse waterer unless I take precautionary steps. It has a thermostat that triggers a heating element in the water basin and a light bulb in the housing where the pipes are. Sometime tonight, after darkness has descended, I will be lying on my back in the dirt checking its functionality. If it’s not working properly, I will probably be in for a very cold and very frustrating work session.
In the event I have not made this clear through the years, I am not fond of freezing weather. When I left for the office early this morning, I was greeted by a 30-m.p.h. north wind that cut through my light jacket like a knife. When the temperature drops another 20 degrees, it will do the same thing to a heavy jacket. I will layer up with long johns, but no amount of clothing will be able to transform tonight’s trip to the ranch into a “pleasant” experience. I have observed that my animals feel the same way about frigid weather.
Here is a pretty good question: Given all I’ve said, why is there within me a spark of excitement and anticipation? After the complaining and the dread, why is there a part of me that can’t wait to meet the challenge of Mother Nature, to fend off the elements, to do the arduous work of protecting my animals as well as I can? I sometimes wonder if there is simply a primordial instinct that kicks in, a rush of adrenaline that dates to ancient ancestors who were herders and nomads, and whose very lives depended on their animals.
Or maybe it is as simple as this: there will be a moment tonight when, lying in the dirt, my mare Bella will come up to me and stick her muzzle in my face, blowing her warm breath into the frigid air around my neck. I will feel the whiskers on her nose and see the vapor rise from her nostrils. And, just for a moment, I might be transported back to another barn in another time and another place; a baby surrounded by gentle and curious animals; bright stars bejeweling a dark sky; the mystery of birth and love shrouded in the most ordinary of circumstances. And I will think about how that baby was born into a dark and cold world and changed it forever. How he changed us forever.