Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Mysterious Light

Over the New Year's weekend, Johnny was up north visiting kids and grandkid while I held down the fort, er farm, here at home. On Friday, after feeding horses and milking and feeding goats, I filled the goat water buckets behind the barn. This is usually Johnny's night time job. It was dark out, of course. It's dark in the morning when I go out to do morning chores and dark at night when I do evening chores. I will be *so* glad when the days are longer.

When I walked over to the faucet to turn off the water, I was startled by a very bright light coming from the direction of the orchard and horse barn, which I had left not half an hour earlier. It was not defuse, like the horse barn lights would have been if I'd left them on. It was a single bright beam of light, pointing right at me. Someone, I felt sure, was in either the orchard or the horse pasture. I stepped toward the barn and the light went off.

Was someone trying to steal one of my horses? Now this seemed a bit ridiculous, since we live way off the road and where were they going to take the horse, past the lit-up goat barn, me and my big white livestock guardian dog? No, probably it was someone spotlighting deer and they'd leave when they knew they'd been discovered. I took my dog and my flashlight and headed out toward the orchard. My big dog stayed glued to my leg. This is the dog, about the size of a small bear, who bravely ran off a deer in the orchard a few weeks ago.... but stayed behind me when a real bear was in the orchard. I decided to go no farther than the pond. Whoever was out there could see me but I couldn't see him. The horses were making no commotion so I decided whoever it was must have left. And if not, what was I going to do if I found him?

I was, um, shall we say, nervous as I walked back to the house. I left the big white dog out on patrol, locked the back door, and then tried to figure out what to do about the front door. It doesn't lock. It's a big sliding glass door into the greenhouse/jungle room. Johnny says we don't need a lock because my plants are so overgrown they would strangle anyone trying to get through there at night. I wasn't about to rely on that. I pushed Johnny's big, heavy, reclining chair against the latch, then added another chair so if a person managed to get the door open anyway, they'd make a terrific racket pushing chairs aside to get in. (I considered spreading jello on the floor, like Bill Cosby said he did as a child to trip up monsters when his parents left him alone, but decided against it.)

My bedroom door locks, so I locked it after moving into the bedroom anything I might want to take with me if I needed to leap out a window during the night. I slept in long johns. The motion sensor light in the back yard came on once before I was in bed and I dashed to the kitchen to look out the window: it was McCoy, the big white dog, walking by. Every little sound woke me up that night. The dogs never barked or I probably would have crawled under the bed.

The next day, New Year's Eve day, was a busy one for someone with so little sleep: a trip to town for an eye appointment, then a visit with friend and author Bonnie Morse. I bought her latest book, Bedlam's Child, but knew I should not start it until Johnny's return. Bonnie writes very well but her books are suspenseful. They're also impossible to put down once you pick them up and this would not be a good time to be reading a scary book all night.

As I sat at the computer before heading to the barn on that last evening of 2011, I looked out the window and saw that the loft light was on in the goat barn. I might have forgotten to turn it off the night before. But wouldn't I have noticed it that morning? Was someone lurking in the loft? If so, why did they leave the light on? And how did they get past McCoy, the big white dog who *is* brave around his goat family?

With my flashlight in hand, I braved the dark night and headed for the barns. No one was hiding out in either the horse barn loft or the goat barn loft. I finished chores except for watering the goats. I could not help but glance toward the orchard while standing at the faucet as I had done the previous night. The bright light was there again! I walked toward the barn and it went out, just like the night before. Hmm. I walked back to the faucet, looked toward the orchard, and the light reappeared.

Slowly, it dawned on me that the light might be a reflection from somewhere. I turned off the back barn light and walked again to the place where I had seen the mysterious light. It was gone. I turned the switch back on and checked. The light had reappeared. With the back light off again, I shone my flashlight toward where the mysterious light had been to see what a barn light could possibly have been reflected on. And there it was: the new goat barn under construction has a window from its milk room to the barn area. The back light of the old barn was being reflected in that window... and scaring the bejeesus out of me. I had not noticed it before because 1) Johnny does night watering usually and 2) the new goat barn window is, well, new. Here it is during daylight.

And here is the light bulb that caused the illusion. It looks pretty innocuous when it's off.

I felt a little silly. And very relieved. I slept much better that night... until the midnight revels began. I sat bolt upright as gun shots exploded around my house. Then remembered it was New Year's Eve, and that's how some of my neighbors celebrate it. I went back to sleep.

But I still didn't start Bonnie's novel until Johnny came home Sunday night. It's good, very good. But not something I'd want to read when I'm worried about bad guys outside in the dark.

Today Johnny showed me an article in the newspaper about a guy arrested in Southern Oregon for stealing and sacrificing goats right before the New Year. I am so glad I did not read that last week.


  1. A good way to scare someone is to move around in the dark without a light and sneak up behind. An even better way is to shine a light on something (especially if it moves in the wind) to draw the person's attention and then to move around in the dark. People pay attention to and concentrate on the lighted area. Last week while walking up the driveway to the mailbox after dark, I snuck up on a glowworm in the grass. Never would have seen it using a flashlight.

  2. Yeah, Johnny loves to jump out of the dark at me. He says he's just trying to condition me to not be afraid of sudden sights or noises. Obviously, it hasn't worked.

    I will admit that the only way I ever see the driveway glowworms is when he finds them first and takes me up to look.