Bees at Midnight is a compilation of reflections during Mother Diane’s twelve-week internship on a farm in Oregon while on her journey to becoming a priest. This collection of short stories captures her beautiful experience and candid musings. In the coming weeks we will share one short story each week.
Preface (9/19) | Rock Festival (9/26) | The Parade (10/3) | Seeds and Weeds 10/10 | Cockcrow (10/17) | Housecats and Barncats (10/24) | Bees at Midnight (10/31) | Fancy That (11/7) | Swimming Upstream (coming 11/14)
“What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 7:9‐12)
When Father John was first telling me about the farm over the telephone, I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed to learn there were no horses at Taucross Farm. I have always loved horses and took riding lessons as a child.
Somehow it just seemed that if I were going to be on a farm for a whole summer, I should be able to have a horse. In the back of my mind, it just seemed to me that God should be able to listen to my secret request. I didn’t say anything to anyone, a little bit like a child who won’t really divulge what he or she really wants for Christmas because fulfilling the request would be quite impossible.
Not long after I got to the farm, Father John had the opportunity to go look at a horse for the farm. We all piled into the car and went to a neighboring farm, near Lyons. I wondered if I would see “my horse” there. As it turned out, Mocha was a good‐looking three‐year old mare, half Appaloosa and half quarter horse. She had not been broken, but she loved people. That was obvious from her manner that day. I stood in the corral with everyone else, watching her and her younger sister, as well as an old grey gelding and assorted cattle and other horses in the nearby pastures.
Mocha was a fine horse, and after some days of thought, John decided to buy her and bring her to the farm. I contributed my meager share to building the new fence for her corral, mainly holding the string plumb line. Julie dug out thistles from the pasture. Still, it was clear to me that Mocha was not the horse I had in mind. I rather set the thought about ”my horse” aside.
Frequently there are guests at the farm, and we eat meals together in the dining room in the main house. The room is arranged in such a way that we can see the acreage on the west side of the property. This year it included a permanent pasture for the sheep, the pumpkin patch in the draw with the very tall cottonwood in the center, the two oatfields, and then the blackberry vines and woods to the north, bordering the creek. One evening as we were eating dinner, Julie spotted a horse in the oats. She went out and then returned. The horse had trotted further out into the oats. “That darn horse…ruining the oats,” was all that Father John said as he turned to survey the scene. In the meantime Jan was already at the wall phone in the kitchen figuring out how to get ahold of the owners, who were also one of the four families on the party line.
Jan sat back down after her telephone call. By then the horse was down by the creek. She raced down to one end of the field and then to the other, her grey mane and tail flying in the wind. I asked Jan if she had any apples. “No.” I looked in the refrigerator for carrots. No carrots either. I didn’t exactly excuse myself from dinner. I just walked outside and put on my boots. Then I walked out to the county road and then started down the dirt road at the edge of the oat field. I grabbed a handful of oats.
By this time the grey Appaloosa mare had finished her run, and she was halfway back up the dirt road calmly eating oats by the fence. I approached her slowly, and I talked to her as I came up. I stopped about twenty feet away from her. She just looked up. She didn’t even seem interested in bolting. I guess she knew she had her share of freedom and it was time to go home. Anyway, I just walked up to her and took hold of her halter, easy as that. (There were a roomful of witnesses watching this drama from the dining room window.)
Almost the second I had my hand on her halter, I turned and saw the neighbor’s pickup truck coming down the dirt road. It stopped abruptly. Two men jumped out of the truck.
‘Well, that sure was easy, lady.” It was Larry Vetter, the neighbor. The man with him was Alvin, his hired hand, who it turned out had worked the rodeo circuit.
“I guess it was.” I was probably as amazed at what had just happened as they were.
Alvin had a bridle in his hand, and he proceeded to put it on her to take her home.
“Sure would be fun to ride her.” My request was an audible, wishful, impossible thought.
“Jump on.” It was Alvin speaking.
I laughed. “Oh, I’m not that good of a rider. I’d need a saddle.” That was true, and I thought that would be the end of my adventure.
To my astonishment, Larry said, “I’ll go get a saddle.” Before I could stop him he was wheeling his truck around and off to his tack shed for a saddle.
It turned out that the Appaloosa’s name was Fancy. Alvin and I talked as we walked her down the dirt road to the paved one. The name suited her well, I thought. She was just beautiful running against the backdrop of the berry vines and the trees at the creek. She was a very magical creature, appearing out of nowhere. Seeing her run and relish her freedom so much, I had guessed that maybe, just maybe, however improbable the idea would have sounded, that she was intended to be “my horse.”
Larry brought the saddle. He and Alvin saddled Fancy and shortened the stirrups for me. I rode her home.
Dennis Foster, the neighbor who does the oat field on shares with John, stopped to talk to Larry and Alvin. I was met by Larry’s father, who unsaddled Fancy and put her in with their other horses. Larry gave me a lift home in his pickup.
I have thought about that evening more than once. What an amazing way to meet “my horse” this summer. I think it says something about living in joyful expectation and the remarkable ways that God will fulfill the most fanciful requests in his own way. I was also struck by Larry’s spontaneous generosity. If a complete stranger can act in such a way, how much more our heavenly Father will give us if we dare to ask him.