The Horse Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 33 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
44 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I'm an author and awhile back got some great advice on a question regarding horses/ranch life (I understand this is "farming" not ranching, but I believe my question will be a basic generic one that applies to any variation.) I need to know what mistake a young kid, inexperienced around horses, ranches, etc., could make, that would really tick people off and create a lot of extra work for people. The boy will only be 5 or 6 at the time.

The situation is a family dealing with a lot of emotional baggage, things are already raw and sensitive, and this boy is trying to help, but screws up badly. My idea was something along the lines of his forgetting to close a gate or something, horses/animals get out (there are horses, cattle and chickens on this ranch), causing hours of wasted time rounding them up.

Will that work? I just need something simple; it's not a major plot point, just "something that happened" that will cause his grandpa to make an irritated comment that is hurtful to the boy.

Thanks for any advice!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,787 Posts
Almost founder the family horse? (Overfeeding it grain or feed)



Forget to lock the hens up in the hen house? (Thus allowing predators to get at the hens)


What era is this? If in an era of plumbed water sources:



Forget to fill the animal water troughs?


Forget to turn the water OFF thus wasting a lot of water and flooding out a horse pen and causing a soupy muddy mess?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,009 Posts
Kid feeds the animals, except it was too much/wrong kind/double feedings.

Waters the garden, but drowns the plants, or the runoff floods and area.

Scares a young/spooky horse someone is working with by trying to help.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
14,695 Posts
Kid trying to help and do good handles horse who escapes causing expensive damages to others property...


Kid falls off horse he should not of ridden, had no permission to ride and gets hurt.
Farming family loses the use of his labor working the farm for months while he heals...


Kid is injured by animals he should not of been near and gets knocked out...
Suffers lasting brain-damage that now puts a burden on his family forever.


All said...hope this is a story with a better ending than scenarios presented.
:runninghorse2:...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,105 Posts
Forgetting to close a gate, as was your original idea, is a good one. The animals could get sick from getting into a garden or orchard, cause problems if they get into crops or damage a neighbor's property, etc. Milk cattle that end up down the road or chased by a dog will not give milk well for a few days and for a farm family, depending on the time period, that could be a big loss of income due to milk and cheese and butter being the source of spending money. And every kid who has grown up on a farm or ranch has neglected this task at some point and learned a hard lesson from it.


When my mom was little, she forgot to latch the door on the chicken coop one night and several chickens were killed by a fox or ****. She felt awful, but what really taught her a lesson was that her special chore, tending the chickens, was then given to her sister and she was tasked with doing the dishes after breakfast and supper instead of the far more pleasant task of caring for the hens.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,511 Posts
I think forgetting to close the gate is a good idea, and definitely something that a little kid could mess up, with big consequences. If he forgot to close it at night, those animals could be miles down the road by the time people wake up and realize it. They could be on the highway. They could be injured. Somebody could have taken some of them.

Maybe this kid was trying to help by feeding all of the animals, and he did feed them, but on his way back he got distracted, as little kids will, and forgot to close the gate.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Knave

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,327 Posts
Something not mentioned, thirsting stock.
Animals can go a while without food but no water can mean death in a short amount of time compared to no feed.

Said boy not watering stock that are unable to water themselves from an irrigation ditch/creek/spring. The stock doesn't have to die in the storyline but family gets irritated with stock not being watered because of the possibility of death.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14,333 Posts
Forgetting to close a gate is actually an excellent one and one that a young child would probably do, maybe more than once which would really cause a blow up. Just an example of what can happen, I had a mare get injured and needed to be taken to the vet for euthanasia. Evidently a gate between our yearling filly and the stallion got left open, not sure how, he should not have been part of that equation at all. We didn't notice it and went to the vet. Fast forward 11 months and said filly, who's now a 2 year old, gives birth to another filly in a raging storm. Worked out ok, filly ended up healthy and no damage to mother but it could so easily have ended up in a very sad and sorry situation.

Not watering stock. Overfeeding or feeding wrong feed. Let the pigs out in the crops........that's a real disaster.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
44 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Everyone- thanks so much for these excellent suggestions! I need it to be really simple, and I think leaving a gate open is easily understandable by any reader.....so I've narrowed it down to two options: 1) he leaves a gate open and a bunch of horses get loose....the hands waste a whole afternoon rounding them up. If that's the case, which gate SPECIFICALLY would he leave open, and how many horses could reasonably get loose?

2) He leaves the hen house open, and a few get out and are eaten by coyotes (?)......I like this option because a kid would presumably feel terrible about causing the death of animals. If I use this option, what EXACTLY would the situation/wording be: For example, "Left the (such and such) open, and the $%$#! (hens?) got out, and we lost (2? 3? 6?) of them!"

Thanks so much in helping me not sound like a duffer......some kids who read the book (It's YA fiction) will be quite familiar w/ranch/farm life and I don't want them thinking "Oh please.....so ridiculous......"
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
26,876 Posts
Forget to turn the water OFF thus wasting a lot of water and flooding out a horse pen and causing a soupy muddy mess?
THAT! Leave the water running and flooding the paddocks! Or have the run-off go into the barn and flood the stalls!
 
  • Like
Reactions: AtokaGhosthorse

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,511 Posts
1. I guess, realistically, now that you ask and I think about it, he probably wouldn't have left the OUTER (property) gate open. I can imagine a scenario where certain animals are kept in a paddock and he leaves the gate from the paddock to the big pasture open. If they were ponies or overweight horses, this could possibly lead to them gorging on the rich grass in the pasture and getting founder or colic, both of which are terribly serious. Or if it were something like sheep or cattle, they could get out into the big pasture and be really hard to round up.

2. If he left the hen house open, more likely what would happen is a predator would get in, rather than the chickens getting out. Chickens are very light sensitive (they are only active when it's light) and aren't likely to leave their safe spot at night. One time when raccoons got into our coop, we rounded up the survivors (who had all fled toward the light) and because it was so dark, they were trying to go to sleep within 10 minutes, even though they had just been through a terrible experience. "You left the chicken coop gate open and something got in there and killed several of them." If it's a YA novel, rather than a child's novel, you could describe the result: clumps of feathers still stuck together, blood spots, chickens screeching and jumping around. Now that I think about it, if the coop were within hearing distance of the house, and they were light sleepers, the people would probably wake up when it happened. Then you spend the rest of the night worked up and unable to sleep, thinking about what you did and how you basically killed those animals. No one would have to say anything, just give the kid a frustrated look.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,511 Posts
I was in the middle of something when I posted my last suggestion. I wanted to add to it.

It's the middle of the night and this kid is tossing and turning for some reason. He has some sort of nagging feeling something isn't quite right. Then suddenly he hears a terrible commotion from the chicken coop. He gets up and runs out, waking the family in the process. They all follow him out there. Someone grabs a flashlight. Something shadowy runs off into the darkness. They point the light at the coop door, which is open and obviously was not latched closed. They look inside and see the carnage.

"Somebody must have left the chicken coop door open."

"Who was out here last?"

He gets a feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knows he must have been the one who did it. Should he say so? Will they find out if he doesn't? Surely someone will remember that he was the last one out there. He looks inside at the feathers and blood and feels like he wants to throw up. He can't believe how stupid he was. And then he notices that one of the hens who is missing is Susie, the most friendly hen in there, and everyone's favorite. Maybe they didn't get her, maybe she just ran out. Or maybe they got her and she'll get away. How could he have done this? Maybe she's OK somehow. But he knows she isn't. He knows she's dead, and it's all his fault, and soon everyone else is going to know it, too.

Does he volunteer that it was him or do they find out? Either way, probably all he would get is a really disappointed look from everyone. They're too tired (it's the middle of the night, remember) to say anything. His father shakes his head and closes and latches the door, looking pointedly at him as he does so. They all trudge back inside. Of course he can't go back to sleep. He just lies there thinking about all of the dead hens, and especially Susie. He remembers how she would always jump up on his arm if he held it out, and he'd give her little treats that he saved from dinner. He cries and cries and cries, but of course crying won't bring her back...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14,333 Posts
Everyone- thanks so much for these excellent suggestions! I need it to be really simple, and I think leaving a gate open is easily understandable by any reader.....so I've narrowed it down to two options: 1) he leaves a gate open and a bunch of horses get loose....the hands waste a whole afternoon rounding them up. If that's the case, which gate SPECIFICALLY would he leave open, and how many horses could reasonably get loose?

2) He leaves the hen house open, and a few get out and are eaten by coyotes (?)......I like this option because a kid would presumably feel terrible about causing the death of animals. If I use this option, what EXACTLY would the situation/wording be: For example, "Left the (such and such) open, and the $%$#! (hens?) got out, and we lost (2? 3? 6?) of them!"
#1 Gate - That's going to depend on how the place is set up and how big it is. If it's a huge place like the 4 Sixes down in TX, it could total 1/3 of a million acres. Not that big now, but it's still around 275,000 in 2 places. If the remuda gate got left open then you could have a LOT of horses milling around in places they didn't belong. If it was a pasture gate leading to the ranch house and it was daylight hours, those horses could potentially turn down the driveway and get out on to the road. I say daylight because a lot of places close the driveway gate at night. How many is a LOT? It would depend on the day and why the horses were all gathered up, call it 100? They put at least that many in their Return to the Remuda sale every year.

#2 Chickens - As others have said, if it's night time, more likely a predator (fox, dog, coyote, raccoon, skunk, 'possum, hawk, eagle, owl) got in. Day time, it's more likely to be dogs who have been dumped in the area. How many? Can be as little as 3 or 4 up to the entire flock. Birds of prey tend to only account for 1 or 2 at a time. We have problems with both hawks and owls. The birds are protected, you can't kill them regardless of how many they take. When dogs get in, the carnage is all over the place. Last time a dog got to my chooks, when I returned home it looked like a snow storm in my barnyard. Out of a small coop of about 50, I had 7 left. Especially frustrating because those birds had JUST reached point of lay. You raise them from hatchlings to about 6 months old before they start to lay, so VERY frustrating, not to mention expensive. Dogs don't just kill to eat. Chickens screaming and running all over triggers their prey drive and they run in, grab one by the neck, kill it and on to the next, and the next. Raccoons tend to behead them, skunks disembowel and given time, the skunks and ***** eat most of the bird. When it's birds, it looks like an explosion of feathers with no body. Other predators will usually leave the bones or carcass for you to find. The extent of the damage is also going to depend on whether the hens are in the coop (night) or if they are out free ranging (day and if the person free ranges their birds).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,477 Posts
I agree that the open gate is the most plausible and understandable. Leaves room for any number of scenarios. Large stock of any type can get out and into all manner of trouble. Lost, stolen, crippled or killed. Even a delay for gathering them again could be catastrophic if they had been collected for market or breeding. If money is tight, extra money paid in wages will be troublesome.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
44 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
You may be in the wrong profession! Very well written......I won't need to go into quite that much detail, but that is really close to the feeling I want......the people are ticked off, the kid feels terrible that he caused this, it's his fault, everyone's mad at him, chickens are dead.....and those details---seeing the damage--would hit him really hard. Perfect.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
44 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The ranch in question is 8,000 acres. How about this: he leaves the coop door open (is that what it's called? The "door to the coop?"), a dog or coyote gets in, 8-9 chickens killed. Does that work? One issue that occurred to me is whether or not the grandpa (patriarch- he's over 70, still fairly active) and his son (ranch supervisor, early 40's) would trust the kid to do something and not check on it to make sure. So it needs to be something that they would consider so basic that they wouldn't double-check on it....either that, or the kid did something he was clearly told not to do, but figured "Oh, I'll just take a look, etc.")

Would it be reasonable for them to just say, "You make sure you close that door/gate when you leave, you hear? Something gets in there, it's bad news," etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
44 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm thinking this mistake happens in the early evening as people are getting ready for dinner; say, 6:00'ish. It won't be discovered till morning......or, as someone suggested, a riot of noise wakes the house up in the middle of the night.....that would be ideal....maximum chaos, destruction, people losing a night's sleep, etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14,333 Posts
The ranch in question is 8,000 acres. How about this: he leaves the coop door open (is that what it's called? The "door to the coop?"), a dog or coyote gets in, 8-9 chickens killed. Does that work? One issue that occurred to me is whether or not the grandpa (patriarch- he's over 70, still fairly active) and his son (ranch supervisor, early 40's) would trust the kid to do something and not check on it to make sure. So it needs to be something that they would consider so basic that they wouldn't double-check on it....either that, or the kid did something he was clearly told not to do, but figured "Oh, I'll just take a look, etc.")

Would it be reasonable for them to just say, "You make sure you close that door/gate when you leave, you hear? Something gets in there, it's bad news," etc.
Every ranch kid knows, is practically born knowing, that if you open a gate or door (coop, barn) you close it again. By the time most kids are 4-5 years old, they're the ones jumping out of the car or off the tractor to open and close pasture gates as you go through to work. Same with the henhouse or coop, whichever you prefer, and barn. You open a stall door then close it when you step inside, open it to go out and shut it immediately. Open the main barn door, close it again (unless you live in OK and it's 105 F with humidity that makes it feel like 115 F then you leave that sucker open and turn on every fan you can find and pray the horses & cattle do ok. Same with chickens, some of them are very susceptible to heat. I've lost a couple birds this year to the heat. But yes, close the henhouse door and that's just a basic like no muddy boots in the house.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14,333 Posts
I'm thinking this mistake happens in the early evening as people are getting ready for dinner; say, 6:00'ish. It won't be discovered till morning......or, as someone suggested, a riot of noise wakes the house up in the middle of the night.....that would be ideal....maximum chaos, destruction, people losing a night's sleep, etc.
This will be dependent on the time of year. Right now, 6ish is broad daylight. 3 months from now it will be pitch dark by then.

And farm folk eat dinner at noon and supper at around 5 - 5:30.
 
1 - 20 of 33 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top