Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From the Farm

Hammer Time
Winter for us means hauling water, and opening frozen troughs. Some winters it’s absolutely brutal. Deep snow makes pulling a toboggan hard work, and strong wind bites exposed skin that can freeze in minutes under such conditions. This winter hasn’t been like that, thank goodness. Instead, it’s been almost balmy compared to what it could be. Sure, water troughs still need to be kept open with a handy hammer, but that’s not a big deal.
Whenever we’re fortunate enough to have a day that’s above freezing, we take full advantage of it. The snow is brushed off the water truck, it’s plugged in and to make sure we don’t have any issues, we put the charger on the battery for a little while. Sure it’s a bit risky. There’s always the chance the hose fittings will freeze if we’re not fast enough, but it’s worth the risk. After all, delivering water to the troughs with a truck surely beats dragging toboggan after toboggan of full, five gallon pails from the house to the back pens. It doesn’t hurt that the water truck is four-wheel drive either.
On these wonderful, bonus, above freezing days, we take full advantage of the opportunity to refill the troughs. As long as the weather doesn’t take a severe temperature turn, there’s water in the troughs for a few days. All we have to do is make sure, we open the ice that forms atop each trough. It’s not that difficult a task. A bit of well-placed blows with the hammer will usually open a hole big enough, for a horse to safely fit its head into.
While opening troughs this balmy, winter’s day, I was reminded of another time I was carefully placing hammer blows to the ice. Everything was going along quite swimmingly, when it happened. The hammer slipped from my mittened hand, and unerringly sank straight to the bottom of the large, rather full trough of freezing cold, incredibly icy water. What to do, what to do? I couldn’t very well leave it there all winter, could I? Of course I couldn’t. It would surely rust, and that couldn’t be good for the horses. On top of that, it had a rubber handle. I was sure that would make the water taste pretty awful, too. There really wasn’t a choice in the matter. I would have to retrieve the hammer. Off came the winter coat as well as my warm mittens. Rolling up my sleeve as far as I could, as I was pretty sure the water was armpit deep, I steeled myself for the plunge. Seriously, how bad could it be? I mean, people … way too many people … participate in polar bear swims every year. I only had to stick one arm in … easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
I learned that day that I will never, ever participate in any kind of polar bear swim. Even now, sitting in a recliner in a warmish house, my arm is aching at the memory of how darn cold that water was. From the tips of my fingers, to the top of my arm, muscles instantly contracted and ached. What am I saying? Even my shoulder and the side of my neck, hurt like blazes. I don’t know how my fingers managed to curl around the handle of the hammer to lift it out of the trough, but it did. I whipped my arm out of the water faster than was humanly possible, dropped the hammer and somehow got my sleeve down and jacket back on. It’s funny, how some things are so memorable, they make your body feel what it felt back then. The thumb I’ve hit countless times with the hammer while fencing, aches every time I pick up a hammer, and when I hold a hammer by freezing water, my whole arm remembers, and makes sure to let me know about it. I don’t know if a hammer will ever slip from my grasp and sink to the bottom of an icy trough again, but I do know this. I will probably leave it there … at least until spring.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB