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I watched from the window

Lead Summary

By Christine Tailer
HCP columnist

I watched from the kitchen window, the warm water rushing over my hands as I rinsed the breakfast dishes for what must have been the third, or maybe even the fourth, time.

I was in no rush to step outside and help Greg with the animal chores.

It was well below freezing. Snow was falling fast, and from my kitchen window it looked as though a good three to four inches was already covering the wooden rocking chairs and table on the side deck.

I watched as Greg trekked across the yard, making multiple trips to haul fresh water to the horses, goats, rabbits, chickens, and pigeons. The animals all seemed to watch him approach with snow-dusted anticipation. The snow gathered across their backs and on the bill of Greg's cap.

I could clearly see where Greg already had been, his footsteps following behind him in the snow. And just off to the side of Greg's trails, was the four footed path of his trusty dog, wandering a bit outside of Greg's straight line, and punctuated with occasional nose prints that dotted the snow here and there, where a good smell must have warranted investigation.

I watched from my window as Greg approached the former outhouse, now feed shed, and pulled the door open.

As he stepped inside, I saw a small gray-tailed critter skitter out the door and into the snow. Greg began to fill the various feed pails amid the plaintive calls of our hardly starving herd. His shadow dog lingered by his side for just a moment, and then turned, and dashed across the snow toward the still-skittering mouse.

I could clearly see the mouse as it hopped from deep footstep to deep footstep, scampering across the top of the fresh snow that lay in between the footprints, its little tail waving behind. Our dog put his nose almost to the snow and bounded after the mouse. Then suddenly the mouse stopped, and our dog skidded to a less than graceful stop, almost running over the little creature.

I watched as the mouse stayed perfectly still, certain that at any moment our dog would snap the diminutive creature up and swallow it whole, but our dog stood just as still as the mouse. Seconds passed, and then our dog could stand it no more and reached out with his forefoot and scooted the mouse forward. The mouse took off, once again followed closely by our dog, nose to the snow-covered ground.

I watched as the chase repeatedly paused and started again, until I could stand it no more.

I turned off the warm water, dried my hands, and put on my boots. With my water-warmed hands stuffed deep into my jacket pockets, I stepped outside. I found our dog, lying in the snow, just in front of the rabbit cages.

A very tired mouse lay just in front of him. The dog's giant paw was actually touching the little creature. As I walked closer, I could see that the mouse was breathing fast, its tiny chest rapidly rising and falling.

Even our dog seemed tuckered out. He looked up at me as if to say that they were just resting a bit before they started to play again, but I had my doubts as to how much more of the game the mouse could handle.

Greg came over to see what we were up to. He gently reached down and scooped up the tired little mouse. He carried it, in his gloved hand, across the yard to the wood shed, and deposited it on top of a stack of firewood. The mouse quickly scampered off into the wood, its tail following, and in a flash, it was out of sight.

Greg looked at me and smiled, and I realized that my warm dish-washing cover was completely blown. I took my hands out of my jacket pockets and followed him across the snow-covered yard to finish the animal chores together.

In my haste to check on the mouse, I had forgotten my gloves, but I could never admit the real reason for my dish washing delay. I simply pulled my flannel sleeves down over my hands as I spread straw for the chickens and pigeons, gathered the eggs, and brought in wood for the stove.

I wonder ... perhaps Greg will forget to read this week's story...

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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