Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Tuesday: November 18, 2008 (Thursday, Nov. 18)

On November 12, 2008, we were just beginning to settle into our new home here at Zephyr Hill Farm.  That morning I looked out, saw three deer in the Lower Pasture, and snapped this picture.  I was filled with awe and wonder at life in the country!
On November 15, we picked up Angel and Brandy from the farm where I had been boarding them and brought them home to the Lower Pasture.  When I wanted to ride or feed them, I could walk down to the pasture and lead them up to the barn.  Whenever they wandered down to the far end, I could see them from the house, and I was filled with joy and thankfulness for life in the country!  After seven years of boarding Angel--and Brandy's whole two years of life--I had my horses with me!

Tuesday, the 18th, I had to do some things up at our East Brow house on Lookout Mountain, and I took Zephyr with me.  It meant I would have to drive back to Chickamauga to take her home before I went back to Chattanooga for my belly dancing class that evening, but I didn't mind the drive.  I pulled in our driveway, put Zephyr in her crate in the house, and drove on around our house to go out Kara's road on the other side by the horses.  And then I stopped--WHERE were the horses?  I called, hoping they might be behind the run-in shed, but the field had an empty, desolate feel, and I knew they weren't there.  Since the main gate was closed, I ran down the road to the far gate, checking fence as I ran.  And there, clear at the far end of the pasture (just about where I stood to take the above photo), was an open gate.  I was so stunned to realize that Angel and Brandy were gone that it took me a minute to realize two things:  First, although they might have pushed the gate open and broken its chain, they could NEVER have swung it backward and wedged it wide open; and second, they could NEVER have neatly cut the chain in half.  That was when I realized they had been stolen.

We hadn't even had time to get phone service connected, and of course my cell phone wouldn't work.  So I drove to the neighbors' house and asked to use their phone.  That was how we met Mike and Judy--not exactly the way you'd choose to meet your neighbors, but a good way to find out how kind they are! 

A sheriff's deputy told me over the phone that of course my horses hadn't been stolen, no one steals horses--they had just gotten out.  But when she came and saw the cut chain and the trailer tire tracks into the field, she agreed incredulously that someone had, indeed, stolen my horses. 
That evening I called everyone I knew or could find in the phone book who had anything to do with horses, to ask them to keep an eye out for them.  Several of them warned me that stolen horses are almost never recovered.  One suggested checking a sale that night in Crossville, TN, because the thieves might try to get rid of them quickly.  Herb and Kara went with me and helped me peer into dark pens full of terrified horses, looking for a plain black horse or a very identifiable buckskin, calling "Angel, Brandy" over and over in choking voices.  I climbed along the rails between two pens of wildly milling horses, trying to get close enough to one black horse to see if she might be Angel.  We saw humans behaving like devils in hell, purposely whipping horses into a frenzy for the "fun" of watching them careen down the aisles, skidding and falling in their panic.  In the end, I left in hopeless tears, telling God that even if He didn't give Angel and Brandy back to me, to please not let them be in a place like that, please don't let them be scared and hurt.

After a nearly sleepless night, I woke up the next morning feeling dead and dull.  Herb had left me the Beast (our SUV) "just in case," but I had no illusions that "in case" would happen.  Then suddenly my cell phone rang.  One of the people I had called the night before had heard through Luther's local radio Lost and Found that someone near Chickamauga had three horses in her yard.  My phone rang again, and it was the sheriff's office telling me that my neighbor Judy had lost my phone number, but had called them to tell them the same news.
After only a week living near Chickamauga, the trailer park where the observant lady lived was about the only place I knew how to find!  I'm glad no deputies were around that morning as I covered the four miles of back roads.  I found her house, but the horses had gone.  From her description it didn't sound like they could be Angel and Brandy, but I had to keep trying.  Determined to check every road in the county, I drove on to the next road, "Hawg Holler" the sign said.  I bumped down a rugged dirt road past a decrepit trailer and a "No Trespassing" sign, ending up in a hollow where a long-haired man in an orange jumpsuit was revving a chainsaw, while something was smoked in a barrel nearby and six pit bulls came running toward me. 

It's an indication of how desperately I wanted to find my horses that I had the courage to get that far, but God had a pleasant surprise and a lesson for me.  The long-haired man, who looked like an extra from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," was one of the kindest, politest people I have ever met.  He and his sweet wife had seen the two stray horses with their own gelding and had tried to catch them, but they had run away.  Being actual horse people, they described them as a black mare and a buckskin mare--and I was pretty sure they were my girls!  He knew where he thought they would be, so we drove over there together--and there they were, flirting over the fence with a stallion!  I won't even try to describe my joy and thankfulness to God and to all the kind people He had sent to help get my horses back.  I led them to Hawg Holler where they were received royally by both humans and gelding alike until I could go home and get my trailer.

Brandy had been badly injured during her escapade, which is probably what saved both the horses.  This photo was taken Dec. 6 after a lot of healing had taken place, and it hardly gives the idea of the hideous wound she had on Nov. 19.  She had sliced a palm-sized chunk of flesh almost off (the vet eventually had to remove it), and she must have bled like a stuck pig.  The assumption is that Brandy panicked while skidding around in the trailer, slipped and hurt herself, and the thieves then panicked at all the blood and the need for vet care, dumping the horses out on the road near the trailer park where they wandered around until I found them.  Fortunately it was below freezing that night, which probably helped stanch the bleeding. 
Horse thieves and a badly injured horse had not been on our schedule, so we had nowhere warm and dry to keep Brandy.  Herb labored heroically to build her a stall in the barn so we could try to keep her in conditions conducive to healing.  Angel stayed right outside in the round pen until Herb could build a second stall.  It took over six weeks and three vet visits before Brandy was well on the way to recovery.  I joked with Dr. White that Brandy was going to make sure his kids had a good Christmas!
I could joke about it, though, because my Christmas was turning out a lot better than it had looked like it would on the afternoon of November 18!
For the next month, I refused to leave the property unless Herb was there, until we got gates installed across both driveways and a security camera pointed at the barn and the front gates.  (To paraphrase Paul Harvey, in another post you'll hear the rest of the story!)  I felt a lot happier with the horses in the Back Pasture where we could see them from the house--and I looked out frequently!

Angel and Brandy had their own after-effects, too.  When some (legitimate) men drove up in a utility trailer a few days after their return, both horses were friendly and eating out of the men's hands, until one of the men opened the trailer gate--and suddenly both horses went crazy, galloping around the round pen, obviously terrified of the men and completely wild.  A seasoned horsewoman who happened to be visiting us looked at me, I looked at her, and we said, "Aha!  That's how they were stolen!"  To this day Brandy hates to have someone walk on the other side of her head while being led, and she needs surgery on both stifles to repair damage that probably occured when she fell during the theft.  (That is the rest of another story!)
The end of this story is a happy one, like this picture taken four months later with Angel and Brandy galloping across the field.  But it's a good thing that November 18 is also my sister Barbara's birthday so there's something good to redeem it from the memory of Black Tuesday.


  1. I'm so glad we found the horses!! We had such a great ride on them the other day. I look forward to more ridding this Spring (once my BAR is over).

  2. It was a lovely ride, wasn't it? Maybe you can schedule some "down" time over Christmas to be "up" time on Angel because after Brandy's surgery, I have to ride her for an hour every day for six weeks! Of course, if the weather keeps on like it is now, you'd do better to wait till spring!


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