Suburban Girl Goes Rural: A Comedy of Errors

“I give up.”

It was the only thing left to say. Defeated, I looked toward my friends; they stared back at me – eyes wide, jaws dropped.

This was supposed to be a tranquil day in the country. A day so quintessentially American that Norman Rockwell, himself, could have been there to capture us enjoying our sandwiches and fresh lemonade amidst the rolling rural landscape.

This portrait of a perfect Saturday afternoon lasted about 30 minutes. Then my mazel kicked in.

The story begins the same way it ends: with an amorous llama named Chewie.

Newly Shorn Chewie

Chewie, I was forewarned, greets most visitors with a kiss on the cheek.  I am not most people. Chewie walked over to greet me, but there was no kiss. At least, no kiss on the cheek.

“Did a llama just motorboat me…?” I asked my friends in disbelief.

Their mouths were agape in a nonverbal yes. I took that as my cue to exit the enclosure.

It was a beautiful day, so I grabbed a seat and bathed in the sunlight, attempting to burn away the memories of a llama nuzzling my chest. I simply succeeded in searing the tops of my shoulders.

As I sat there debating how to break the news to my parents that my only potential suitor is a llama named Chewie, someone suggested we take the horses out for a ride.

I jumped at the opportunity, hoping the therapeutic powers of horseback riding could somehow change my mazel.

Except for the occasional slap in the face by a branch of leaves, the ride was uneventful, serene even. We returned to the farm, emerging from the narrow, wooded path into a vast, open field. Both horse and rider were ready to break free.

As I rode in rhythm with the gaited horse, I was in heaven. My mazel had changed, I could feel it.

And then I felt something else – the shifting weight of the horse beneath my legs as he got tangled in the loose hay.

I braced myself, clutching his mane as the horse reared back.

Two thoughts entered my mind:

1. Well, shit. This is going to hurt.

2. Add this to the list of reasons not to ride a mechanical bull in a bar.

But within a matter of seconds, the horse calmed and, triumphantly, I cantered back to the stable.

So what if my mazel hadn’t completely changed? I was unharmed and the day made for a good story. I joked that if anything else happened, it would simply provide me with more material.

I said this without knocking on wood or uttering “Kenahora.” I basically dared the universe to screw with me. With my mazel, what was I thinking?

After all, we hadn’t left the farm yet, and my boyfriend, Chewie, and his harem of goats still needed to be fed one last time before our departure.

Chewie standing guard during feeding time

I trudged toward them through the tall, streaming grass when I felt something graze the outside of my right calf.

I looked down. My heart stopped.

The serpentine body of a long, black snake was caressing my leg as it slithered past me.

I have no memory of the seconds which immediately followed. All I know is my body instinctively found the one patch completely absent grass in the entirety of the enclosure.

My friends looked at me quizzically. My heart was pounding so fast I could vocalize only one word: snake.

I said it just in time for a friend to evade the snake as it slinked toward her. Calmly, we were reminded black snakes are harmless. That it could have been much worse – it could have been a Copperhead.

I was having a hard time seeing the silver lining as tears welled in my eyes. I was not mentally prepared to confront my irrational fear of snakes that day. I was ready to get back to the safety of the car and to a suburban environment inhospitable to these formidable reptiles.

There was only one problem: Chewie still needed to be fed, and I was in charge of securing a secondary gate so the goats couldn’t pounce and steal his food.

Admittedly, after my encounter with the snake, I was paying closer attention to the surrounding grass than I was to the goats sticking their noses through the fence, vying for their protector’s meal.

Sensing my ambivalence, the goats jumped on the gate, forcing it open, at which point I became acutely aware that I was on a hill. Sliding backwards, digging my heels in, a friend soon came to my rescue. The absurdity of this comedy of errors day was not lost on us, as we struggled to close the gate amidst fits of laughter. Eventually we succeeded and Chewie finished his meal in peace.

At least I thought he was finished. It turns out Chewie may have been thirsty, because moments later he walked up to me and bit me right on the milk makers.

A ring of food – evidence of Chewie’s impropriety – clung to my shirt. I looked down, trying to wrap my mind around the events which transpired that day, and marveled.

To think, after all that, Chewie didn’t even have the decency to buy me a drink.

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Just My Mazel