The other day I was late feeding the horses. I had gotten caught up writing an article for a client, and lost track of time. I zoomed through feeding as much as I could (I’m a notorious lingerer in the barn) and rushed out to run errands.
I got to my favorite hardware store a mere fifteen minutes before they closed. A high school student was sweeping up and the owner was running the counter. I stepped into the store in my muddy barn shoes completely without thinking and the owner helped me get what I needed. As I paid, he called over the high schooler and asked him to sweep the floor by the entrance again, as there was mud on it– mud that I had tracked in.
Let me tell you, I was pretty embarrassed. First, I make it a point not to go to any small business so close to closing time and my harried thoughts and muddy boots had delayed their closing time even more. Second, no one likes to feel dirty. After my barrage of apologies, to which the shopkeeper said it really wasn’t a big deal, I was off to the grocery store.
I wandered up and down every single fluorescent-lit aisle, mumbling to myself (as one does when grocery shopping) checked out, drove home, and put the groceries away before looking in the mirror while washing my hands. Hay. Hay everywhere. My curly hair seems to be a hay magnet and that evening was no exception.
Not only had I tracked mud throughout my favorite hardware store, but I had also spent an hour in the grocery store looking like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.
In a town with a whopping 1500 residents, I know there’s a very large chance I’ll see everyone I interacted with again.
It was one of those evenings where the checkout lady laughs with her friends and you find yourself wondering if she’s laughing at the cut of steak you bought (which one is the good one again?) and you’re slightly concerned that you’re not looking friendly enough (or maybe too friendly?). Did I say that word weird? What do I do with my hands? Am I being helpful? Am I speeding up her day or am I an annoying customer?
The list of questions that goes through my head goes on and on and on. So when I got home and discovered my scarecrow-like appearance, I was a bit dismayed and a bit tired of being covered in hay. But you know what? I’m also all out proud.
Since I brought my horses home, I spend the majority of my day covered in some sort of slop. The other day, my fiance was watching me throw grain when he suddenly stopped mid-conversation and said, “I now understand why your hair looks the way it does when you come back inside.”
I patted around the top of my head to figure out what happened, coming across a suspicious wet patch. LB had drooled her dinner all across the back of my hair. It’s at times like this you have to laugh and just be grateful that you were wearing your yard-sale-find Carhartt and not your “nice” barn jacket.
But my point is, there’s a reason I’m covered in hay, dirt, and (thankfully rarely) grain soup a far-too-high percentage of the time. That reason is that I put my animals first.
All that hay at the grocery store was a sign of the hard work I put in muscling around 750-lb bales and stuffing hay nets to a full 25 pounds each. My shoes are covered in mud because this constant rain has made mud season particularly bad this year and I need to go out into the paddock to find hay nets, treat thrush, and check eyes and legs — even if it is nine o’clock at night and I have a great bottle of wine waiting for me inside.
It takes hard work to take care of your animals. A lot of that work means doing whatever you can to make their lives better, even if you do have to be slightly embarrassed at the grocery store, and hardware store, and… maybe just cover up the mirrors in your house (kidding, kidding).
But I’m proud of the care that I give the animals that call my home, their home. I’m out there at least four times a day, counting eyes, and checking legs for cuts, scrapes, or sprains. Feeding treats, filling up and scrubbing the water, throwing grain, and filling hay nets. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, twelve degrees, or a swampy humid mess — as their primary caretaker, your horses need you and you better get out there.
Next time I’m in the grocery store and I spot someone with hay in their hair, I’m going to give them a high five and say nice job. Because running your own farm is a sacrifice. A beautiful sacrifice with huge benefits — but a sacrifice nonetheless. Vacations are difficult. Mud season sucks. My house will have a dirty floor no matter how much I clean. And, of course, there will most likely always be hay in my hair.
But you know what? I’m proud of that hay and the dirt under my fingernails. Because the reason for it is something to be proud of.
If you have dirt under your nails and hay in your hair: I’m proud of you too.