I didn't sleep well Saturday night and I got up early on Sunday. I wrote my weekly Sunday blog and decided to go and feed the horses early since I would then have time to go over my Sunday school lesson before leaving for the church. Walking out to the barn in the still dark predawn hours, I followed the beam of the flashlight to make sure that no snakes or other surprises might be along the way. The sky was interesting with large, broken clouds sailng by and heading north, following the tropical system we had the day before and I could see up the drive through the trees the first signs of daylight on the horizon as the distant skies were clear and the black night sky was turning to gray. It was breezy and pleasant, so I went about my duties of distributing grain and checking water for the horses in their individual stalls. Then I went to the gate, let them trot in as they eagerly went to their accustomed stalls and began the unforgettable munch and crunch sound that is actually soothing to the soul. While waiting for the horses to finish, I fed grain and took hay to the ponies who stayed in the pasture, put out some extra hay since it had previously been so dry, then fed the dogs and the barn cats.
As the four barn horses began to finish their feed, I started turning them out one at a time. The first three went uneventfully, but when I went to get the last one, a beautiful twelve year old mare who goes by the initials PJ for Pride and Joy, I would soon get the surprise that would only come because of her sixth sense. I put the lead line around her neck and started leading here out, but when we came to the far end of the barn and the walk around the wash rack she balked, stopping dead still and breathing heavily. Something was bothering her and she was uncomfortable and I carefully looked around the path to my front and there stretched out was a copperhead, just lying quietly and looking at us. The snake was no more than five feet to our front and right in our path and it raised up and just looked at us. I quickly had PJ back up and we turned and the snake just slithered off in the opposite direction toward the woods. Had not PJ signaled danger, I likely would have stepped right on the snake and found myself spending what was a beautiful Sunday in the emergency room with several very painful days to follow. I had made the mistake of not paying close enough attention as I did the chores that were overly familiar and PJ was the heroine of the day.
I thought about that when I went into the house to get ready for church and told my wife. She agreed with me that PJ had taken care of her caretaker on that day and when I went to church and the pastor called for any special praises that we congregants might have on that sunny morning, I told the congregation about our PJ. Getting a snake bite before Sunday school was not something that God wanted for me on that day and He used PJ to provide the saving grace. I'll remember that and try to be much more attentive in the future thanks to a beautiful mare who truly earned her keep. All in the day of being a "Horse Husband," I guess, but I thought it was worth sharing.