Thursday, September 09, 2004

A Horse's Tale

I spent my day off today volunteering for the United Way with people I work with. We went to a residential school for kids with behavioral problems. The place was huge, a big campus sprawled over more than 300 acres. We didn’t get to work with the kids though. In fact, we had to stay away from them, which was fine with me because I’m not very good with kids.

What I did do was clean out horse stalls.

This was a new E-Lo experience. I’ve never held a pitchfork in my hands, or shoveled horse shit and piss into a giant bucket. I’ve never even seen a manure spreader, which is what we dumped all of the shit/piss mixture into. I’d compare it to cleaning out a giant kitty litter box. The stalls had sawdust and hay spread through them, so you just scoop, sift, and dump. And just like cat piss, horse piss has an amazing aroma. At one point, I scraped up a big wet pile of sawdust, which unearthed the most amazing scent. I could actually taste it. It was like ammonia times ten, a sweet and sour redolence. Not something you’d bottle up and wear though. My nose, eyes, and throat burned from it.

At first I was freaked out about the whole experience, because our bucket (which was like one of those big plastic ice buckets that you would put a keg in) was sitting in the mess of horse feces and urine. Then we had to pick it up and dump it into the manure spreader, which involved grabbing the bottom of it. No gloves were provided for prissy little bitches like me. So I had poop on my hands. Eventually, I had poop all over me. And I borrowed some strange cowboy boots to keep my white sneakers from turning a lovely shade of horse poo brown. That was also gross. Like wearing rented bowling shoes, only ten times worse because they were not nearly as clean. Yes, I bowling shoes are clean compared to what I had on my feet. I was happy to keep my own shoes out of the crap though. Also freaky was when I was cleaning out a mare’s stall, and the pee was red. I was partnered up with a lady from work that has four horses of her own, and she informed me that the mare was probably "in season" or "coming fresh," horse-speak for being in heat. So I actually learned quite a bit about horses and horse maintenance that I never knew or cared to know. She told me that she cleans out her horse stalls three times a day, which I couldn’t imagine. It seems like so much work. She cleans, or "picks" (the proper horse person word) her horse stalls in the morning before work, in the afternoon when she gets home, and before she goes to bed at night. My back was aching before we were even done cleaning the first stall, and she’s old enough to be my grandma. Amazing.

Finally, I got into the shit cleaning groove. When we were done with that, we got to spread new sawdust in the stalls. Then we had a free lunch, which was a bonus. Free food is the way to my heart. I did have a good time, and I kind of wish that I could have spent more time there to see what all they do. They use the horses as animal therapy, teaching the kids to ride and getting them to open up using different exercises. Like, if a kid won’t talk to their therapist, they tell them, ok, ride one lap around the track, and then tell me one thing. Pretty cool, in my opinion. I like the idea of animal therapy. But I like animals, so maybe that’s just me.

I had the choice of cleaning windows, working in the kitchen, or cleaning horse poop. I chose horse poop, and I’m glad. I’m a better person today than I was yesterday.

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