Terri Farley
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March 1

Just when the snow in the ranch yard had turned into slush...Just when snow slid off the house room and melted into beautiful icicles . . . just when the horses rubbed on pasture fences, rushing the shedding of their winter coats -- another storm blew in.

All night the wind moaned and icicles shattered against the house.

This morning the trees and power lines were glazed icy silver. Blaze and I both slipped as we walked out to the pasture to see the horses were snorting plumes of hot breath. They looked like a herd of fuzzy dragons as they hung back by the run-in shed, not wanting to be caught and put to work.

All except Ace. He couldn't wait to get going. I mean, he didn't wait!

I hope Gram wasn't watching from the kitchen window, because I didn't even get to halter him. While I was trying to keep my balance, Ace went gliding over to the barn to be tacked up. I felt his heart beating under his long, soft hair as I got ready to tighten the cinch.

Even though he was excited, he didn't spook when I mounted with the digging bar. It's clumsy to carry, but it's the best thing to use to break the ice on the river, and I could hear the cattle mooing because they were thirsty.

Ace on ice is just amazing! He clopped across our wooden bridge like he was wearing those spiked shoes farriers' put on police horses that have to walk on slippery streets. Mustang sure-footedness is even better, I guess.

It looked like all our cattle had gathered at the river, but Ace didn't care. When a hundred Herefords with their curly red coats crowded around, Ace stood ground-tied.

I was about to slam the digging bar on the river's frozen surface, when I noticed the ice covering La Charla matched the gray morning sky. Before I got all poetic about it though, the wind blew my scarf over my eyes, blindfolding me and I almost fell in!

The ice crust wasn't that thick. That one slam made a zig-zag crack. It opened a hole as big as a hula hoop and the water ran so fast underneath, it swept away all the shards of ice before I caught my breath and my balance.

There was plenty of room to drink and the cattle knew it. I had to windmill my arms around to keep them back until I could reach Ace.

Though I was wearing my warmest gloves, I had to clap my hands against each other before so I could hold the reins and remount. It took me another minute to figure out why Ace wasn't paying attention to me.

He was watching as a young heifer trotting toward us. Why wasn't she with the rest of the cattle? And then I recognized her. It was Buddy, the calf I'd helped rescue and raise. A pair of twin calves were prancing -- no, more like ice skating, behind her.

Buddy stopped, blinking her white eyelashes as she studied me. I probably looked like a stranger with my old brown Stetson pulled down and my scarf wrapped around my face and neck, but she must have recognize me, because she made a sweet lowing sound as if she were making introductions.

"Sam, meet the twins," she mooed, but when I waved, all three of them bolted.

I was still smiling and I didn't feel so cold as I turned Ace toward home.

Guess there's more than one way to tell that it's almost Spring!