When Ethan and Macon return, Leanna is lying on the couch, which she has pulled over to the wall, turning it completely around, so she is facing the wall as she reads her ever-present book.
Spotting her at once, Macon shucks his boots and outdoor gear, then saunters over, laying one icy cold hand on her bare neck. Her screech is everything he hoped for.
"Macon! You scared me spitless."
"Oh, I don't know about that! I doubt you could produce such a tremendous volume if you were SPITLESS."
Sitting up, she bangs the binding of the book against his arm.
"When did you get back? Scratch that. Stupid question. My NECK knows that one's answer."
Ethan and Macon pick up opposite ends of the couch, Leanna still half-recumbent on it, easily reversing it to face into the room.
"I swear you get more and more antisocial every time we leave. Who's bothering you NOW?"
"No... nobody. I guess it's just a habit."
"Good fences make good neighbors? I thought I took care of that Bruel character."
Putting a restraining hand on Macon's arm, Leanna says, "Really, Macon, nobody has done or said anything. I... I guess I'm just a more private person. But I realize I need human contact."
"Well, they'd have to do it from 20 paces from the placement of your couch."
Breaking in, Ethan adds, "No matter how outrageous the stunt Macon's pulled on you, I've never seen you get irate or even act genuinely nasty. What does it take to get you irritated?"
"Oh, I can guarantee you BRUEL could do it just by standing nearby and BREATHING."
"Other than Bruel?"
Stepping over the couch, Macon slides down beside her, cutting off her line of sight to Ethan, who had sat down on the end after they'd reversed the couch.
Leaning back, Leanna finds Macon's arm around her shoulders. Removing it and laying it in his lap, she ponders Ethan's question. "Back home, one old duffer infuriated me when I was having the first of the 6' native oak corrals installed. After a long discussion when we nearly lost our best stallion when he reared up right near a T-post to get at a mare on the other side of the fence, Despina allowed me to design and build a 'horse proof' pen to protect him, even though we couldn't afford it at the time. We put up a six board fence made up of five penetreated 1x6's starting from 6' to a foot and a half off the ground, depending on the dips and swells between 16' spans, ending with a 2x6 on top. A 4" gap between boards guaranteed that no horse’s hooves or noses would fit in between. As word got around, we ran a steady stream of local farmers examining our construction. The boards were on the inside of the fence, which prompted lots of comments, but I could easily deflect them by pointing out that the stallion had to CHARGE the fence and actually BREAK THE BOARDS, all of them, all at once, to escape. Nobody could think of a good comeback for that fact. This fence was not designed for pretty, but for function. But the oak weathered a lovely silver color, and in the end, was a very striking fence, even unpainted. I must have told each person in the entire county separately that penetreated fences were more likely to burn and discourage chewing than paint, which probably was just as toxic, if not more so, but had no disincentive to the animal accustomed to chewing.
"But the guy that got me the maddest was offensive. As we were slaving away to create pilot holes in that native oak, really having to lean into the drill to get the bit to bite, switching off as one wore out, we finally got the last 2x6 up on that first piece, separating the yard, which we used as an overflow pasture for the mares and their colts who were waiting to be rebreed, or checked to see if they'd settled, or not, he came up and said, 'All your pigs will escape. You'd better knock off that top board and put it around the bottom where it'll do some good.'"
Macon and Ethan's easy laughter echoed around the cavernous room. Macon slapped his leg in delight. "Now, there's a man with a one track mind. How many PIGS did he see out in your pastures?"
"I wish I'd thought of that line. I told him that when we lost the farm, the next owner could have that pleasure. Despina took it in stride, but it really galled me. All the old farmers were bringing their mares over to watch us girls handle the breeding, taking bets on how long it would be before we lost our shirts. As long as granddad was there, nobody said anything. He'd been too frail to do anything with the stallions for a LONG TIME -- I'd been doing the breeding since I turned 16, and Despina was even younger when she started helping me if the mare owner wasn't there. We did it to keep Granddad from getting hurt. He got knocked down once, and stepped on. Nothing was broken, but it scared me, so I began sneaking out before dawn and doing it with Despina, then telling him it was all taken care of, and most of the time, even if Granddad DID insist, the stud wasn't that hot to breed again that fast, bless his soul. But after Granddad died, lots of his so-called friends came over to 'see the show' sort of."
"That's just human nature. Not many of their wives were probably out there doing that."
"Oh, generally among my friends, it is the WOMEN who do the horse business. Some of the husbands get involved with the breeding, and some have hired help, but in general, it is the women from top to bottom who run the breeding farms, at least in the Arab horse world."
Last updated 5/28/06 (added horse to last line.) 11/30/04.
Word Count: 1006
Reading Level: 6.3