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Frazzled away from the Farm

Published: 11/16/2011
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

Am I the only one who gets stressed when away from my herd?

Are you as comfortable in a crowd or a city as you are kicking around the barn?

This past week had me first at the Equine Affaire in Springfield, Massachusetts and then on to New Jersey to see my son in a NCAA Division III championship soccer match.

The Equine Affaire was darn fun.
And the game was thrilling.

But all along there was an undercurrent of unease:

-- How are my horses doing?  
-- Did my friend remember to close that gate?
-- It’s deer season and Sunday. I should be out in the woods riding!
-- My boots smell like asphalt, not manure. Something’s wrong.

This country girl malaise peaked with my George Washington Bridge episode in New York City:

After my son’s game, I got back on the New Jersey Turnpike and headed north. You would have noticed me: I was the one doing 60 miles per hour. Glancing desperately at road signs and trying valiantly to decipher my own hand-scrawled directions. Cars whizzing by on both sides. Someone honked. 
(Usually I’m in a car with Maine plates. Drivers are more sympathetic: “We can forgive her ineptitude. It’s probably the first time she’s seen stoplights. They only have dirt roads and stop signs up there.) But I was using my friend’s car with Connecticut plates.

Someone else honked at me.

I knew I needed to get to the George Washington Bridge and felt relieved to get in the correct lane for it.

But then:

-- Upper Deck or Lower Deck?  
-- Which one?
-- Does it matter?
-- What happens if I choose the wrong one?

I flipped a virtual coin, chose the Lower Deck, and bumbled on.

Then I started seeing the toll signs. Of course, I don’t do anything sensible like EZ Pass. With the booths looming 400 yards ahead, I saw the cost:

“Cars, $12”


I had money out and ready alright. I was figgurin’ it’d be a few bucks. I had a few bucks. No more.

-- Could I use a debit card?
-- Could I back up to the last exit?
-- Could I play the dumb farm girl from Maine?
-- Could my cute dog riding shotgun help sweet-talk the attendant?
Belle looked at me with those puppy-dog eyes, whimpered and licked my face as if to say, "Yes. Yes, I can!"

I pulled up to the attendant and tried to hand her my two bucks and then offered my debit card. Belle put her little legs on my legs and leaned forward to plead the case. The woman shook her head and sternly put out her hand like a crossing guard directing a school kid not to cross.

“Right now a camera is taking a picture of your license plate. They will contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and through them send you a bill.”

Well, they weren’t going to send a cop after me, drag me off in cuffs, and confiscate my dog and my friend’s car.
And, heck, I didn’t run out of gas. (Like the last time I was on Manhattan Island.)

I returned home and things were fine. The horses looked at me like I’d just gone in town on an errand. No big deal.

Do I want to go back to the Big City tomorrow? No, thanks.
I like stinky clothes and muddy paddocks just fine.

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11/17/2011 M. Langmeyer so-o-o-o-o many ways.
11/17/2011 Sara
ME too!!!!!!!! Leaving home is soooo stressful!! If I have to be out of town for overnight or more I am exhausted when I get home. I don't sleep well, don't eat well, and feel like I have to hold myself upright all the time. I would much rather stay home in my "barn clothes" and shovel horse sh**! The best kind of vacation for me is to have to take care of my friend's horses when she has to go out of town- she doesn't travel well either.
11/17/2011 Kathie
Totaly agree! My vacation days are more times then not with one or more in the trailer going with me, but there are those times when time spent with my horsey friends is good. Smelly boots and all!
11/18/2011 Amy
i agree!! does it have to do with having the equine virus? I've been in VA for the week, live in rural ME, and i'll go anywhere in the woods with my horse, get lost, etc, but heaven forbid if i have to go out of this house i'm in and deal with a city person!! Was that a knock on the door?? thank goodness my son has a BIG dog i can take to the door with me!!

"There are no problem horses, only problem riders" - Mary Twelveponies