So many potential subjects on this day — Terry Pratchett, the Ides of March, Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, the rather nasty illness that’s kept me from working or drawing or writing or generally being useful for several days. But instead, I’m going to just skip all that and go straight to a day at the farm. And on this halfway day, I’m going to crosspost between Drawn @ Random and Shetland + Pony, with some of the content and style of each.
It’s warm weather, as I’ve mentioned, and that means a trip out to the horse barn to be mobbed by various small warm-blooded creatures. Depending on the day and the season, the assault may consist chiefly of cats, or it may also include dogs, chickens, and/or a slightly irritable turkey tom. And of course, the horses.
I’ve mentioned this place before (there wasn’t much time for drawing then either), but I haven’t been back in a long while. Little “Merrylegs” (I’m afraid I still can’t remember the poor thing’s real name) was in full-on Fluffy Pony mode, somehow looking both twice normal size (due to fluffy) and even smaller than before (possibly due to my brain over-correcting for the extra fluff). Some other new and old faces, obscured to various degrees by winterfluff, were there as well, but the notable exception was good old Cinnamon. She was old, and was basically a living model of How to Excel At Being a Horse for the time I knew her (even if she didn’t always love that old brown bridle), but of course that just leaves more reasons to miss her.
I should take some time to dwell on the various furry animals, though. Now, I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word “barn cat,” but I find it doesn’t generally connote cuddliness. And I’ve personally learned that it’s often wise to get out of the way when a farm dog (or any dog) you’ve never been introduced to comes barreling your way in a racket of mad barks and jumping-about. But no, this is some sort of legendary Doctor Dolittle-style land of interspecies truce. If there were lions in Iowa, and lambs at this farm, I would fully expect to see them frolicking in the spring mud together, with barn cats underfoot.
Now, I’m sure it’s not all peace and puppies 24/7. It’s a farm, out in the country, and nature will be nature. But if you park your car (or more likely, your muddy truck — or your VROOM!!! as the newest toddler in the family will gleefully refer to it as she attempts to scale the bumper) next to the flowerbed, hop out, and sit for a moment on the small bench, you will be covered almost instantly in 1-5 cats that materialize from under the skeleton shrubs and behind the big decorative rocks. You can pick one up and carry it around like a teddy bear for a while, or you can just let them climb all over you until they get distracted by another visitor or a dragonfly or the sun, the way cats do.
You may find that one of the cats is actually a Papillon (given their similarity in size and coloring, it will give itself away mostly by its manner of stepping indiscriminately on all other animals and objects that get in its path, instead of keeping clear and waiting for an opportunity to gather for a leap and suddenly place all its weight onto a single dainty paw pressed into your eyeball or navel). Neither the cats nor the Papillon seem to mark the distinction between them for the moment, lost in the excitement of Greeting A New Person. Later, there is a good chance you will also see this same Papillon “tree” a large, speckled hound dog on top of a picnic table. It will not appear to occur to either of these dogs at any time that you are potentially anything more sinister than a new belly-scratching machine. It will not occur to the old dog, whom you just realized was there, to do anything more than shift slightly in the sunny spot and lift one foreleg to ensure maximum scritchy-scratch surface area should you choose to wander a bit closer. This might remind you of another old dog, a previous monarch of horse barn and henhouse, that venerable Duchess of Dogs, who proved a favorite literary line to be more than a piece of pretty poetry.
There are many more denizens of this little place, human and animal, past and present and hopefully far into the future. But for one visitor, a somewhat nervous child who had been bitten and barked at and rudely chased about by all manner of territorial city beasts all her life (and to this day will cross the street rather than having to confront a neighbor’s unleashed dogs), they’ve always been first and foremost a welcome respite from the rough unreliability of the “real” world. A small girl who fairly burst into tears on a young horse’s back because he neighed and walked (or rather, was led) downhill at the same time, could in this place tumble out of the saddle — nearly under her mount’s hooves — and, sensibly or not, feel more worried about the pony (did I scare her?!) than herself. Years later, she could watch an even littler girl, not much more than a babe in arms, reach out to pet a proud bay stallion, whose only reaction was to furnish a helpful, nickering reply to the grown-ups’ query of “What does a horse say?” (It’s worth noting that there are some pretty stallions right here in town for anyone to visit, and that they all have helpful signs constantly warning in alarming black letters, CAUTION: STALLIONS MAY BITE OR KICK. The mares and their foals have no such signage that I can discern. I have never ventured to pet the pretty stallions here in town, though I’m sure they’re nice enough fellows if you catch them on a good day.)
Of course, the animals have been inspirational as well — after all, it’s because of Cinnamon’s slightly-wobbly forehead marking that Pony’s stripe is topped off with that crescent-shaped star instead of a “perfect” little round blob. The little bay stallion was the subject of one of the first “real” digital paintings I ever made.
In honor of all that, and in the style of Shetland and Pony, here are a couple of old friends in their fields of clover to close a long blog post: