Jitterbug, our eighteen-year-old Foxtrotter mare, began her tenure here with us as a mute, more or less. She never nickered, never whinnied. At first, she wasn’t even very interested in eating. She’d sniff the blended sweet feed and beet pellets, then walk away. She grazed very little, spent most of her time standing inside the shed, staring out in a sort of quadra-ambulatory catatonic state.
Her personality has changed a bit over the past few months. Now, whenever one of us steps outside, she’ll nicker in a low, throaty call. Sometimes, it seems like a greeting of sorts, a “Hey, how’s it going?” kind of a thing. When she’s hungry, it’s just, “Hay. Hay. Now.”
Her nickers become more persistent, maybe even insistent, if she believes we are behind schedule on feeding. That was the source of my curiosity yesterday morning. I fed her around 6:30 and she started eating immediately, finishing up fifteen minutes later. Around seven, I went out to put some jugs of cider in the back of the truck, deliveries to the college as part of my tiny little fund drive for the local food bank. Jitterbug nickered at me. I nickered back. On my next three trips, same thing. She nickered, I nickered. I have no idea what either one of us was saying but it was clear that she was not satisfied with my answer.
When I headed out to the truck to actually leave for work, Jitterbug nickered yet again. “This is odd,” I thought to myself, “I think she’s actually trying to tell me something.” Feeling a bit foolish, I decided to walk around to the water trough that we keep at the edge of the pasture on the north side of the house. It was dry as could be with a bunch of fallen leaves plastered to the bottom.
I wiped out the leaves and dumped them on the ground, flipped the trough back over. Then, I plopped the hose into place and walked back to edge of the house, turned on the water. In less than a minute after I started, Jitterbug trotted around, shoved her nose in and started drinking. After a bit, she lifted her head and looked toward me, water dripping from her muzzle.
There are times when the nickerings of those around us are a bit unclear, maybe even misleading. Sometimes, listening effectively requires us to do a little bit of looking around. Fortunately for us, our Maker has no trouble understanding us, even when we don’t understand ourselves.
An empty trough can sure explain a lot.