Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Greener Grass

Cowboy Cottage Cattle Pasture, East Napa, California, USA

January 28, 2018

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."
... anonymous English proverb derived from Ovid's "Ferilor seges est alienis semper in agris" (Latin) translated as "The harvest is always more fruitful in another man's field", circa 22 BC
This essay, Greener Grass, is the companion piece to Patient Horse.

It is also the ninth in the dectet Menagerie: I am indebted to Polo who inspired this conversation.

We had a dramatic moment with the horses today. It was the kind of incident which we locals may initially take for granted out here in the country ... until we realize how much good money city dwellers are willing to pay to experience something like this first hand on a dude  ranch.

Team of seven horses with "Goldie" in the center

Photography by Laurence Platt

Cowboy Cottage Cattle Pasture
East Napa, California, USA

6:40:02pm Thursday May 5, 2016
On the safe side of the fence

Just as Alexandra and I were arriving home from our hike in the west hills of the Napa Valley, they broke through a flimsy section of the cattle pasture fence (we were perfectly timed to witness them do it) then galloped through the gap, attracted by the ungrazed lush green grass growing on the other side, and then (to our immediate consternation) into the construction zone next door, heading for Peppergrass Street about half a mile away, and traffic - clearly a very dangerous situation for them.

The golden mare, the one I call "Goldie" (there's also "Blackie", and "Bully" who bites) was the only one of the team of seven who didn't cross over. Instead, she galloped this way and that way in the pasture, up to the fence, raising her head over the top, looking for the escapees, then galloped away toward the pasture owner's farmstead, then back to the fence again, then back to the farmstead again, and all the while she was making loud, distressed whinnying  sounds. She was ... sounding ... the ... alarm  - I realized. It was absolutely unmistakable - not to mention totally amazing being in her presence. Her frantic efforts quickly rendered her drenched in a lather of sweat.

I phoned the farmstead owner who quickly alerted the hostler (a "hostler", such a wonderful  word, if you didn't know it, is a person who takes care of horses). He arrived soon afterwards, walking slowly toward the horses so as not to spook them. As he walked, he coiled the lariat he was carrying which he would use to rope them if necessary. They were calmed by his presence. They actually followed him back to the fence ... but not all of them would cross through the gap and back into the cattle pasture again. Those who balked had become perturbed when they began slipping in mud, and getting spattered by it (where they breached the fence, the ground is muddy and slippery from the recent rains; it's also steep and rocky). It was easier for the horses to get out and down than it was for them to go up and back in.

In all the commotion, the bay and white tobiano-patterned one, bolted into the Cowboy Cottage garden. What  a privilege! "Thank  you!" I called after him, "Stay as long as you like!". But when he then exited out of the garden and headed down the east side of the property, the hostler had to go after him and rope him before he got into trouble in the steeply-embanked river. By the time they both returned to the fence, two more of the team had moved away, out of reach. We were getting nowhere fast: we assembled them near the gap in the fence, and then they moved away again. Then we assembled them again. Then they moved away again.

Suddenly, wondering why it hadn't occurred to me before, I removed my boots (by now, they too were covered in mud) and retrieved some carrots from the drawer in my fridge inside the Cowboy Cottage. With all my Levi's  pockets stuffed with carrots, I walked over to where the horses were now quietly grazing the greener grass which had lured them to the other side of the fence in the first place, having ignored our efforts to shoo them through the breached fence and back into the cattle pasture. Holding carrots under their noses would attract their interest, I assumed. It worked! Walking ahead of them toward the gap in the fence, dangling carrots inches from their mouths, I lured them one by one by one over milder terrain and back through the gap in the fence (it was my variant on the old carrot on a stick  trick, and it never worked better than this), which the hostler and I then repaired.

When they were all back in the cattle pasture and safe again, and the breach in the fence repaired, I walked over to and talked with Goldie, thanking her, praising her, and acknowledging her for being so great, and for being so responsible  for the other six. She got  it (believe me: I could tell). It's an extraordinary  experience being in communication with a horse. I stroked the bony ridge above her nose with the flat of my hand (she let me) whispering  her as I fed her an extra handful of carrots.


Be careful: if you think that's a typo which should be corrected to say "... whispering to  her ..." ... no, that's not it.


Just before I went inside to make my dinner, I saw the seven of them again. They were all grazing peacefully as expected, this time on the safe side of the fence.

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