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- Over Prairie Trails - 28/28 -


of mine.

Now just the very fraction of a second when I got my feet up against the dashboard so as to throw my whole weight into my pull, they reared up as if for one tremendous and supreme bound, and simultaneously I saw a fence post straight under the cutter pole. Before I quite realized it, the horses had already cleared the fence. I expected the collision, the breaking of the drawbar and the bolting of the horses; but just then my desperate effort in holding them told, and dancing and fretting they stood. Then, in a flash, I mentally saw and understood the whole situation. The runners of the cutter, still held up by the snow of the drift which sloped down into the field and which the horses had churned into slabs and clods, had struck the fence wire and, lifting the whole of the conveyance, had placed me; cutter and all, balanced for a moment to a nicety, on top of the post. But already we began to settle back.

I felt that I could not delay, for a moment later the runners would slip off the wire and the cutter fall backward; that was the certain signal for the horses to bolt. The very paradoxicality of the situation seemed to give me a clue. I clicked my tongue and, holding the horses back with my last ounce of strength, made them slowly dance forward and pull me over the fence. In a moment I realized that I had made a mistake. A quick pull would have jerked me clear of the post. As it was, it slowly grated along the bottom of the box; then the cutter tilted forward, and when the runners slipped off the wire, the cutter with myself pitched back with a frightful knock against the post. The back panel of the box still shows the splintered tear that fence post made. The shock of it threw me forward, for a second I lost all purchase on the lines, and again the horses went off in a panic. It was quite dark now, for the clouds were thickening in the sky. While I attended to the horses, I reflected that probably something had broken back there in the cutter, but worst of all, I realized that this incident, for the time being at least, had completely broken my nerve. As soon as I had brought the horses to a stop, I turned in the knee-deep snow of the field and made for the fence.

Half a mile ahead there gleamed a light. I had, of course, to stay on the field, and I drove along, slowly and carefully, skirting the fence and watching it as closely as what light there was permitted.

I do not know why this incident affected me the way it did; but I presume that the cumulative effect of three mishaps, one following the other, had something to do with it; the same as it affected the horses. But more than that, I believe, it was the effect of the skies. I am rather subject to the influence of atmospheric conditions. There are not many things that I would rather watch. No matter what the aspect of the skies may be, they fascinate me. I have heard people say, "What a dull day!"--or, "What a sleepy day!"--and that when I was enjoying my own little paradise in yielding to the moods of cloud and sky. To this very hour I am convinced that the skies broke my nerve that night, that those incidents merely furnished them with an opportunity to get their work in more tellingly.

Of the remainder of the drive little needs to be said. I found a way out of the field, back to the road, drove into the yard of the farm where I had seen the light, knocked at the house, and asked for and obtained the night's accommodation for myself and for my horses.

At six o'clock next morning I was on the road again. Both I and the horses had shaken off the nightmare, and through a sprinkling, dusting fall of snow we made the correction line and finally home in the best of moods and conditions.

END


Over Prairie Trails - 28/28

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