Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blast from the Past

When I was in my mid-teens I worked as the stable hand at Camp Arowhon in Algonquin Park, Ontario. It was my responsibility to care for a well-used school string of 15 horses seven days per week, 10 weeks per year. This included feeding, mucking, grooming, tacking (the campers were not expected to do this for themselves), turning out, medicating, etc. I got paid $500/summer. The barn was well beyond the main part of the camp, and I lived alone there in a small cabin with mostly just the horses for company. Memories of this period are mixed. There is nothing quite like being greeted by the misty nickers of 15 horses (and the occasional moose) on a chilly July morning. There is also nothing quite like being a naturally-reserved teenager amongst dozens of naturally-gregarious teenagers. Especially when most of them only see you at meal times and you always smell like a horse.

But my favorite memory has nothing to do with horses or with people. Feed and hay were brought in twice over the course of the summer, so our feed bin was huge -- probably 3 cubic yards. One morning I noticed a small dip in the surface of the feed at the back of the bin. By the time evening rolled around the volume of the dip had doubled. The next morning the volume had increased 10-fold and several new dips had appeared. After finishing my chores I staked out the back of the barn. Sure enough a steady stream of empty-cheeked chipmunks was running under the floor boards and reappearing full-cheeked minutes later. My colleague Sean followed them back to their hiding place while I set to emptying the bin so that we could line it with sheet metal. The next day Sean and I went to see how much grain we could recover from the chipmunks and we were surprised to find 21 liters stockpiled in a hollow tree. We left them liter to acknowledge their hard work.

Over the past several days some creature (probably a rat) has been working hard to get into the Rubbermaid containing our black sunflower meats. The edges have been systematically shredded and sometime last night a hole into the main chamber was successfully chewed. There are bits of blue plastic everywhere. Depletion of the supply is not yet obvious, but I will switch the contents over to a metal tub or a chew-proof barrel whenever I find the right vessel. I will probably leave a salutatory supply available for this perpetrator too.


Funder said...

Those poor chipmunks made me giggle. You know they felt like the Beverly Hillbillies, then it was (almost) all snatched away again!

Anyway, good luck scrounging up a container!

Black Jack's Carol said...

A fun peek into your past! I enjoyed it.

Maybe not the mucking, medicating, turning out and feeding, but couldn't they have done the grooming and tacking? Those are two of my favorite memories.